Oil and the Economy: Where are We Headed in 2015-16?

The price of oil is down. How should we expect the economy to perform in 2015 and 2016?

Newspapers in the United States seem to emphasize the positive aspects of the drop in prices. I have written Ten Reasons Why High Oil Prices are a Problem. If our only problem were high oil prices, then low oil prices would seem to be a solution. Unfortunately, the problem we are encountering now is extremely low prices. If prices continue at this low level, or go even lower, we are in deep trouble with respect to future oil extraction.

It seems to me that the situation is much more worrisome than most people would expect. Even if there are some temporary good effects, they will be more than offset by bad effects, some of which could be very bad indeed. We may be reaching limits of a finite world.

The Nature of Our Problem with Oil Prices

The low oil prices we are seeing are a symptom of serious problems within the economy–what I have called “increased inefficiency” (really diminishing returns) leading to low wages. See my post How increased inefficiency explains falling oil prices. While wages have been stagnating, the cost of oil extraction has been increasing by about ten percent a year, described in my post Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending.

Needless to say, stagnating wages together with rapidly rising costs of oil production leads to a mismatch between:

  • The amount consumers can afford for oil
  • The cost of oil, if oil price matches the cost of production

The fact that oil prices were not rising enough to support the higher extraction costs was already a problem back in February 2014, at the time the article Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending was written. (The drop in oil prices did not start until June 2014.)

Two different debt-related initiatives have helped cover up the growing mismatch between the cost of extraction and the amount consumers could afford:

  • Quantitative Easing (QE) in a number of countries. This creates artificially low interest rates and thus encourages borrowing for speculative activities.
  • Growth in Chinese spending on infrastructure. This program was funded by debt.

Both of these programs have been scaled-back significantly since June 2014, with US QE ending its taper in October 2014, and Chinese debt programs undergoing greater controls since early 2014. Chinese new home prices have been dropping since May 2014.

Figure 1. World Oil Supply (production including biofuels, natural gas liquids) and Brent monthly average spot prices, based on EIA data.

Figure 1. World Oil Supply (production including biofuels, natural gas liquids) and Brent monthly average spot prices, based on EIA data.

The effect of scaling back both of these programs in the same timeframe has been like a driver taking his foot off of the gasoline pedal. The already slowing world economy slowed further, bringing down oil prices. The prices of many other commodities, such as coal and iron ore, are down as well. Instead of oil prices staying up near the cost of extraction, they have fallen closer to the level consumers can afford. Needless to say, this is not good if the economy really needs the use of oil and other commodities.

It is not clear that either the US QE program or the Chinese program of infrastructure building can be restarted. Both programs were reaching the limits of their usefulness. At some point, additional funds begin going into investments with little return–buildings that would never be occupied or shale operations that would never be profitable. Or investments in Emerging Markets that cannot be profitable without higher commodity prices than are available today. 

First Layer of Bad Effects 

  1. Increased debt defaults. Increased debt defaults of many kinds can be expected, including (a) Businesses involved with oil extraction suffering from low prices (b) Laid off oil workers not able to pay their mortgages, (c) Debt repayable in US dollars from emerging markets, including Russia, Brazil, and South Africa, because with their currencies now very low relative to the US dollar, debt is difficult to repay (d) Chinese debt related to overbuilding there, and (e) Debt of failing economies, such as Greece and Venezuela.
  2. Rising interest rates. With defaults rising, interest rates can be expected to rise, so that those making the loans will be compensated for the rising risk of default. In fact, this is already happening with junk-rated oil loans. Furthermore, it is possible that the US Federal Reserve will raise target interest rates in 2015. This possibility has been mentioned for several months, as part of normalizing interest rates.
  3. Rising unemployment. We know that nearly all of the increased employment since 2008 in the US took place in states with shale oil and gas production. As these programs are cut back, US employment is likely to fall. The UK and Norway are likely to experience drops in employment related to oil production, as their oil programs are cut. Countries of South America and Africa dependent on commodity exports are likely to see their employment cut back as well.
  4. Increased recession. The combination of rising interest rates and rising unemployment will almost certainly lead to recession. At first, some of the effects may be offset by the impact of lower oil prices, but eventually recessionary effects will predominate. Eventually, broken supply chains may become a problem, if companies with poor credit ratings cannot get financing they need at reasonable rates.
  5. Decreased oil supply, starting perhaps in late 2015. The timing is not certain. Businesses are likely to continue extraction where wells are already in operation, since most costs have already been paid. Also, some businesses have purchased price protection in the derivative market. They will likely continue drilling.
  6. Disruptions in oil exporting countries, such as Venezuela, Russia, and Nigeria. Oil exporters generally get the majority of their government revenue from taxes on oil. If oil prices remain low, oil-related tax revenue will drop greatly, necessitating cutbacks   in food subsidies and other programs. Some countries may experience overthrows of existing governments and a sharp drop in oil exports. Central governments may even disband, as happened with the Soviet Union in 1991.
  7. Defaults on derivatives, because of sharp and long-lasting changes in oil prices, interest rates, and currency relativities. Securitized debt may also be at risk of default.
  8. Continued low oil prices, except for brief spikes, because of high interest rates, recession, and low “demand” (really affordability) for oil.
  9. Drop in stock market prices. Governments have been able to “pump up” stock market prices with their QE programs since 2008. At some point, though, higher interest rates may draw investors away from the stock market. Stock prices may also decline reflecting the poor prospects of the economy, with rising unemployment and fewer goods being manufactured.
  10. Drop in market value of bonds. When interest rates rise, the market value of existing bonds falls. Bonds are also likely to experience higher default rates. The combined effect is likely to lead to a drop in the equity of financial institutions. At least at first, this effect is likely to occur mostly outside the US, because the “flight to security” will tend to raise the level of the US dollar and lower US interest rates.
  11. Changes in international associations. Already, there is discussion of Greece dropping out of the Eurozone. Associations such as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund will find it increasingly difficult to handle problems, as their rich countries become poorer, and as loan defaults become increasing problems.

In total, eventually we are likely to experience a much worse situation than we did in the 2007-2009 period, although this may not be evident at first. It will be only over a period of time, after some of the initial “dominoes fall” that we will see what is really happening. Initially, economies of oil importing countries may appear to be doing fairly well, thanks to low oil prices. It will be later that the adverse impacts begin to take over, and eventually dominate.

Major Concerns

Inability to restart oil supply, even if prices should temporarily rise. The production of oil from US shale formations has been enabled by very low interest rates. If there is a major round of debt defaults by the shale industry, interest rates are unlikely to fall back to previously low levels. Because of the higher interest rates, oil prices will have to rise to an even a higher price than required in the past–in other words, to more than $100 barrel, say $125 to $140 barrel. There will also be a lag in restarting production, meaning that high prices will need to be maintained for some time. Bringing oil prices to a high level for a long time seems impossible without crashing the economies of oil importers. See my post, Ten Reasons Why High Oil Prices are a Problem.

Derivatives and Securitized Debt Defaults. The last time we had problems with these types of financial instruments was 2008. Governments around the world made huge payments to banks and other financial institutions, in order to bail them out of their difficulties. The financial services firm Lehman Brothers was allowed to go bankrupt.

Governments have declared that if this happens again, they will do things differently. Instead of bailing institutions out, they will make changes that will make these events less likely to happen. They will also make changes in how shortfalls are funded.  In many cases, the result will be a bail-in, where depositors share in the losses by “haircuts” to their deposits.

Unfortunately, from what I can see, the changes governments have made are basically too little, too late. The new sharing of losses will have as bad, or worse, impacts on the economy than the previous government bailouts of banks. Regulators do not seem to understand that models used in pricing derivatives and securitized debt are not designed for a finite world. The models appear to work reasonably well when the economy is distant from limits. Once the economy gets close to limits, many more adverse events occur than the models would have predicted, potentially causing huge problems for the system.1

What we are likely to be encountering now is a combination of defaults of many kinds simultaneously–derivatives, securitized debt, and “ordinary” debt. Many of these risks will be shared among institutions, so that banking problems will be widespread. The sizes of the losses are likely to be very large. Businesses may find that funds intended for payroll or needed to pay suppliers are subject to haircuts. How can they operate in such a situation?

It is even possible that accounts under deposit insurance limits will be subject to haircuts. While deposit insurance is available in theory, the amount held in reserve is not very great. It could easily be exhausted by a few large claims (the scenario in Iceland a few years ago). If governments choose not to make up for shortfalls in funding of the insurance programs, the shortfalls could end up with depositors.

Peak Oil. There seems to be a distinct possibility that we will be reaching the peak in world oil supply very soon–2014 or 2015, or even 2016. The way we reach this peak though, is different from what most people imagined: low oil prices, rather than high oil prices. Low oil prices are brought about by low wages and the inability to add sufficient new debt to offset the low wages. Because the issue is one of affordability, nearly all commodities are likely to be affected, including fossil fuels other than oil. In some sense, the issue is that a financial crash is bringing down the financial system, and is bringing commodities of all kinds with it.

Figure 2 shows an estimate of future energy production of various types. The steep downslope is likely because of the financial problems we are headed into.2

Figure 2. Estimate of future energy production by author. Historical data based on BP adjusted to IEA groupings.

Figure 2. Estimate of future energy production by author. Historical data based on BP adjusted to IEA groupings. Renewables in this chart includes hydroelectric, biofuels, and material such as dung gathered for fuel, in addition to renewables such as wind and solar. (It is based on an IEA inclusive definition.)

A major point of this chart is that all fuels are likely to decline simultaneously, because the cause is financial. For example, how does an oil company or a coal company continue to operate, if it cannot pay its employees and suppliers because of bank-related problems?

Our Long-Term Debt Problem. Long-term debt is an important part of our current system because (a) it enables buyers to afford products, and (b) it helps keep commodity prices high enough to encourage extraction. Unfortunately, long-term debt seems to require economic growth, so that we can repay debt with interest.

Figure 3. Repaying loans is easy in a growing economy, but much more difficult in a shrinking economy.

Figure 3. Repaying loans is easy in a growing economy, but much more difficult in a shrinking economy.

Economists conjecture that economic growth can continue, even if the extraction of fossil fuels and other commodities declines (as in Figure 2). But how likely is this in practice? Without fossil fuels, we can exchange baby-sitting services and we can give each other back rubs, but how much can we really do to grow the economy?

Almost any economic activity we can think of requires the use of petroleum or electricity and the use of commodities such as iron and copper. A more realistic view would seem to be that without the materials we generally use, our economy is likely to shrink. With this shrinkage, long-term debt will become increasingly impossible. This is one of the big problems we are encountering.

Our Physics Problem. Politicians and businesses of all types would like to advance the idea that our economy will continue forever; the politicians and businesses of every kind are in charge. Everything will turn out well.

Unfortunately, history is littered with examples of civilizations that hit diminishing returns, and then collapsed. Research indicates that when the early economies underwent collapse, the shape of the decline wasn’t straight down–declines tended to take a period of years. Not everyone died, either.

Figure 4. Shape of typical Secular Cycle, based on work of Peter Turkin and Sergey Nefedov in Secular Cycles.

Figure 4. Shape of typical Secular Cycle, based on work of Peter Turkin and Sergey Nefedov in Secular Cycles.

Physics gives us a reason as to why such a pattern is to be expected. Physics tells us that civilizations are dissipative structures. The world we live in is an open system, receiving energy from the sun. Examples of other dissipative structures include galaxy systems, the solar system, the lives of plants and animals, and hurricanes. They are born, grow, and eventually stop dissipating energy and die. New dissipative structures often arise, if sufficient energy sources are available to dissipate. Thus, there may be new economies in the future.

We would like to think that we can stop this process, but it is not clear that we can. Perhaps economies are expected to reach limits and eventually collapse. It is only if economies can add large amounts of inexpensive energy resources (for example, by discovering how to make use of fossil fuels, or by discovering a less-settled area of the world, or even by adding China to the World Trade Organization in 2001) that this scenario can be put off.

What Can We Do?

Renewable energy has recently been advertised as the solution to nearly all of our problems. If my analysis of our problems is correct, renewable energy is not a solution to our problems. I mentioned earlier that adding China to the World Trade Organization in 2001 temporarily helped solve world energy problems, with its ramp up of coal production after joining (note bulge in coal consumption after 2001 in Figure 5). In comparison, the impact of non-hydro renewables has been barely noticeable in the whole picture.

Figure 5. World energy consumption by source, based on data of BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014.

Figure 5. World energy consumption by source, based on data of BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014. Renewables are narrowly defined, excluding hydro-electric, liquid biofuels, and materials gathered by the user, such as branches and dung.

Guaranteed prices for renewable energy are likely to be an increasing problem, as the cost of fossil fuel energy falls, and as buyers become increasingly unable to afford high energy prices. Issues with banks, making it difficult to pay employees and suppliers, are likely to be a problem whether an energy company uses renewable energy sources or not.

The only renewable energy sources that may be helpful in the long term are ones that do not require buying goods from a distance, and thus do not require the use of banks. Trees growing in a local forest might be an example of such renewable energy.

Another solution to the problems we are reaching would seem to be figuring out a new financial system. Unfortunately, debt–and in fact growing debt–seems to be essential to our current system. We can’t extract fossil fuels without a debt-based system, in part because debt allows profits to be moved forward, and thus lightens the burden of paying for products made with a fossil-fuel based system. If a financial system depends on the accumulated profits of a system without fossil fuels, it can expand only very slowly. See my post Why Malthus Got His Forecast Wrong. Local currency systems have also been suggested, but they don’t fix the problem of, say, electricity companies not being able to pay their suppliers at a distance.

Adding more debt, or taking steps to hold interest rates even lower, is probably the closest we can come to a reasonable way of temporarily putting off financial collapse. It is not clear where more debt can be added, though. The reason current debt programs are being discontinued is because, after a certain level of expansion, they primarily seem to create stock market bubbles and encourage investments that can never pay back adequate returns.

One possible solution is that a small number of people with survivalist skills will make it through the bottleneck, in order to start civilization over again. Some of these individuals may be small-scale farmers. The availability of cheap, easy to use, local energy is likely to be a limiting factor on population size, however. World population was one billion or less before the widespread use of fossil fuels.

We don’t have much time to fix our problems. In the timeframe we are looking at, the only other solution would seem to be a religious one. I don’t know exactly what it would be; I am not a believer in The Rapture. There is great order underlying our current system. If the universe was formed in a big bang, there was no doubt a plan behind it.  We don’t know exactly what the plan for the future is. Perhaps what we are encountering is some sort of change or transformation that is in the best interests of mankind and the planet. More reading of religious scriptures might be in order. We truly live in interesting times!


[1] Derivatives and Securitized Debt are often priced using the Black-Scholes Pricing Model. It assumes a normal distribution and statistical independence of adverse results–something that is definitely not the case as we reach limits. See my 2008 post that correctly forecast the 2008 financial crash.

[2] Points are plotted at five-year intervals, so the chart is a bit more pointed than it would have been if I had plotted individual years. The upper limit at 2015 is an approximation–it could be a year or so different.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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1,152 Responses to Oil and the Economy: Where are We Headed in 2015-16?

  1. kushal kumar says:

    An unambiguous answer to the question is available in article – Stressful times for world economy in 2015 and 2016 – published as early as on 2 June 2014 at http://www.astrologyweekly.com. Already the prediction that global economy was likely to have a trend of turmoil mainly due to oil and gas commencing from November 2014 and on seems to have come right. Having said that, there is room for countering such trends through sufficient strategy.

  2. Quitollis says:

    I will never invent anything while you live with your big mouth open.

    Get used to death because that is how it is going to be.

  3. alturium says:

    Hi Gail,

    If we could picture the visible economy perhaps it would look like a galaxy:


    The intensity of red to white could indicate complexity or vertical integration of money structures.

    We could also perceive energy being used in the same economy with a different filter:


    And debt is really important to the economy too, with yet another filter we could perceive its effects:


    Perhaps energy and debt are a part of every transaction of our economy but are invisible (that is, not modeled) to our sight. Even though energy and debt appear invisible, they have an impact on the structure that we see with our naked eyes. One could create an equation to express the visible in relation to the invisible as:

    VisibleEconomy = E(work/productivity, energy, debt) = ?

    As both waves of energy and debt peak and then descend, our visible economy will dim in brightness.

  4. jphsd says:

    “World population was one billion or less before the widespread use of fossil fuels.”

    And 80+% of it was involved in food production.

    • Quitollis says:

      “And 80+% of it was involved in food production.”



      80-plus percent of the “world” is about to die.

      Good thing too!

      Invent your own industrial revolution!

  5. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All
    I post this not because I necessarily believe it, but just because it is just about the opposite of Gail’s opinion, and comes from a thoughtful guy…Charles Hugh Smith.

    Don Stewart

    There is no way to painlessly unmanipulate an economy that has grown dependent on manipulation. Addiction can only be broken by going cold turkey: ending all the manipulation and forcing the economy to adjust to the discipline of reality and an unfettered market for money, credit and risk.

    The U.S. can survive the demise of its bloated, unproductive banking sector, the Federal Reserve that enforces the sector’s power, and the eradication of its numerous classes of parasites and leeches. Every parasitic vested interest will claim it is essential to the well-being of the nation; the truth is entirely the opposite–each is terribly and intrinsically destructive to the fabric of the nation.

    Each parasitic vested interest will sob and moan and threaten to hold its breath, whimpering that the discipline of reality and the unfettered market will kill it. If the discipline of reality and the unfettered market will kill the vested interest, then it is in the best interests of the nation to hurry its demise, as breaking the stranglehold of vested interests is the essential step to rebuilding an economy that isn’t dysfunctionally dependent on manipulated money and statistics.

  6. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All
    An interesting story at Zero Hedge about the rapid shrinkage of the dollar economy:

    Note the IMF study of the connection between dollar appreciation and commodity price declines.

    Don Stewart

  7. Fred says:

    Dear Gail,

    It would be very useful if you could write an article explaining why you expect such a rapid contraction in global energy use. I think most of us will agree that we face problems with fossil fuel energy production, but your projection effectively implies that civilization will begin to collapse in the coming months, which seems to me like a worst case scenario.

    Could you write more about the methods you use to calculate your estimate of future energy production?

  8. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All
    This will be an attempt to address a number of issues raised by several people.

    Let’s begin with the soil scientist Elaine Ingham’s speech at the Organic Grower’s School in Asheville, NC in about 6 weeks: ‘How can we use science to come up with restorative solutions?’ This is after she has noted the great destruction science has wrought…’catastrophic effects’.

    Move on to Mobus and Kalton’s Principles of Systems Science and their focus on Adaptation and Evolution and positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement and self-regulating systems or systems which spin out of control.

    Now let’s consider an agricultural webinar I participated in yesterday. The subject was flea beetles. Flea beetles begin life in the soil where they eat root hairs of plants. The instructor, a college researcher, noted that the immature flea beetles don’t seem to do any ultimate damage so long as they are underground. But as the soil warms, they emerge above ground in their adult form and can devastate a field of broccoli. Broccoli is an important cash crop, so the researcher evaluated different methods of keeping flea beetles off your broccoli.

    I’m going to summarize some complicated research, and hope I won’t get it terribly wrong. The main idea she was exploring was to use a ‘trap crop’. That is, you plant something which will attract the flea beetles away from your cash crop. The farmer might devote ten percent of his land to the trap crop. She explored both monoculture trap crops and diversified trap crops. The conclusion was that trap crops of other brassica plants (broccoli is a brassica) would lure the flea beetles away from the broccoli cash crop, even at great distances (tens of meters). Diversified trap crops performed better than mono crop trap crops.

    But, she noted, we have no real idea where the synergy is coming from in the diversified trap crops.

    As an aside, she dropped the statement that the flea beetles are attracted to the glucosinolates in the brassica. The trap crops have more glucosinolates and so will be the food of choice for the flea beetles. (Aside: the science of Holistic Grazing also uses the tendency of cows to go after their favorite grasses and forbs first.)

    Now, I want us to step back and think like Mobus and Kalton. Why has broccoli become an important cash crop? Because in the late 1990s a researcher at Johns Hopkins showed that brassica could prevent cancerous cells from growing into full blown tumors. And what were the magic ingredients in the broccoli that performed this wonderful service? The glucosinolates. In fact, the researcher found that broccoli sprouts were the densest source of glucosinolates, and Johns Hopkins tried, in vain, to monopolize the broccoli sprout business.

    So, let’s step back 10 yards and survey this scene with the eyes of M&K. If the ‘junk brassica’ that the agricultural researcher was planting have more glucosinolates than broccoli, why don’t the farmers just grow the junky crops? Why try to make a perfect head of broccoli with no insect damage which can be refrigerated in the field as it is harvested and shipped, under refrigeration, thousands of miles and sold in a refrigerated case in a grocery store in Miami? Are the farmers growing the wrong crop? But if the farmers try to change crops, they have a whole marketing issue, which an individual farmer can’t really deal with. Of course, gardeners and market farmers can deal with the issue much better, but all the science money goes into the Big Ag side of the business.

    But M&K would want us to peel another layer off this onion. Is more glucosinolates necessarily a good thing? Are there declining returns. I remember when an Italian PhD candidate first showed that eating brassica caused the body to increase it’s production of glutathione. Glutathione is an essential element in what is called Phase II detox, which protects us from the growth of tumors. The body naturally makes glutathione, but the sulfur compounds in the brassica cause us to make more. So far as anyone knows, more glutathione is better. As George Mateljan alerted us, we now understand the path from the gut and the gut bacteria to more glutathione and the prevention of oxidative stress….which lies at the heart of much of chronic disease.

    Now I will try to summarize a few of my conclusions:
    A. I hope Elaine Ingham has some good ideas about making science more productive.
    B. Much of scientific research seems poorly focused.
    C. Marketing is the big issue for industrial agriculture.
    D. Gardeners and market gardeners are way more flexible than the industrial system.
    E. As we get poorer, the extravagant methods used to deliver broccoli will fail.
    F. Weeds are generally more nutrient dense than finely bred garden plants. The future?
    G. The best organic farms are not the huge mono crops in California, but the small plots carved out of a natural setting. We can observe the synergy, but we don’t know exactly how to duplicate it.
    H. Glucosinolates are defensive molecules made to deter predators (except flea beetles and cabbage worms, which love them). Kill Them All chemical sprays are counterproductive.
    I. Why do humans make more glutathione when the diet includes glucosinolates? Think of M&K style feedback loops. Falsely detected as a toxin, calling forth a more vigorous immune response?
    J. Does feeding your children more glucosinolates and stopping tumors and oxidative stress and keeping them healthier really cause them to grow up to be liberals?

    Don Stewart

    • Wee Willy Winky says:

      Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. Does anyone actually read this stuff? Koombaya my Lord. Koombaya. So long as this crap makes you feel good go with it.

      • Don Stewart says:

        We are all musicians in a great human orchestra, and it is now time to play the Save the World Symphony. You are not required to play a solo, but you are required to know what instrument you hold and play it as well as you can. You are required to find your place in the score. What we love we must protect. That’s what love means. From the right to know and the duty to inquire flows the obligation to act.

        Sandra Steingraber

        • Quitollis says:

          Here we go, “save the world!” Really who do you think that you are? Jesus Christ or Bon f Geldoff? You can Geldoff now!

          The sooner that we tell your “world” to shove it the better!


      • Quitollis says:

        Hopefully no one pays attention to Don’s rubbish.

        But should we be so fortunate? Fools are ten a penny.

  9. The comment earlier about prisoners picking apples inefficiently reminded me of what happened with the Gulag system under Stalin. It seems that such forced labor is going to have any point at all if excess population is being used that could not be used effectively anyway, at least on the way down the energy cliff. On the way up, the wealth available subsidizes forced labor.

    The conclusion from one study on the Soviet Gulag: “Unfinished and useless construction was only one example of the negative impact of the Gulag economy on the country’s development. The extreme exploitation of prisoners, even if economically profitable from a short-term perspective, caused enormous damage in the long run. The untimely death of hundreds of thousands of people in the Gulag and the senseless waste at their labor and talents, such as the use of skilled workers for the wrong purpose, and in heavy physical work, a common complaint in NKVD and MVD documents substantially weakened the country’s human capital. In addition, tens of thousands of able-bodied persons guarding prisoners were not engaged in production.”

    Gregory gives us some numbers on guards: “…it employed guards in a ratio that rose as high as one to ten inmates, but many of the guards were themselves inmates.” http://eh.net/book_reviews/the-economics-of-forced-labor-the-soviet-gulag/

    Kunstler deals with the topic in his latest World Made By Hand novel, where the old canal locks on the Erie Canal are being rebuilt by forced labor.

  10. Billy Zabinkski says:

    Posted especially for WWW
    Six Pack and gas money

  11. Quitollis says:

    After the oil population crash we will have loads of land to raise cattle. That is very good news. Everyone loves a roast dinner. Red meat is very good for us and the anti-meat prop has been discredited. Obviously we have been eating meat for hundreds of thousands of years (at least) and we are well adapted to it.



    As a nutrient dense red meat, beef contains a number of nutrients that are critical to the development and maintenance of key functions in the human body. In fact, several of these nutrients are not found in any other type of food in the abundance and correct proportion that human physiology demands.

    Nutritionists argue that the most common nutritional deficiency on the planet is iron deficiency.

    It is estimated that 2/3 to 3/4 of the human population is deficient in iron to some extent.

    Beef is a very good source of iron, with perhaps the highest concentration of iron than any other commonly consumed meat.

    Additionally, the iron in beef is more biologically available than iron from other sources. Since this iron is already in the heme form needed by mammals, upwards of one quarter of the iron in beef is absorbed by the human body, as opposed to 1-2 percent from non-heme iron sources, such as green vegetables.

    Another common human nutritional deficiency is zinc, with an estimated one fourth of the population deficient. Foods that are rich in zinc are also typically rich in iron. Thus, beef is a very good source of zinc, with approximately 25 percent absorbed by the human body.

    Moreover, beef provides a notable amount of selenium to the diet, a nutrient critical to the human antioxidant defense system.

    Vitamin B12 is essential to development and can only be found in animal derived foods such as beef. Additionally, vitamin B6 is necessary for the absorption of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Beef is a good source of both of these B vitamins.

    Regarding amino acids, red meats such as beef are a dense source of these protein precursors, and are in the same proportion needed by humans. Access to high quality protein sources such as beef allows for the proper development of the major structure and functional systems in the human body.

    Fat consumption has a negative stigma, but a closer evaluation indicates that properly proportioned fat consumption plays a very important role in the maintenance of human physiology and development. There has been a great deal of recent interest in the beneficial effects of the very long chain polyunsaturated acids, in particular eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).. Anti-atherogenic, anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory effects have been noted with consumption of these specific nutrients.

    Additionally, there is some evidence that increased maternal polyunsaturated fatty acid intake during pregnancy may produce beneficial effects.

    Impact on human health is among the primary concerns of the consumer when considering consumption of beef and other red meat products. Lean beef not only provides a positive eating experience, it is a very nutrient dense food with many benefits to human health. With high concentrations of nutrients such as biologically available iron and vitamins needed for proper metabolism, beef also contains a noted amount of healthy fats that are important to human functions.

    Mmmmmmmmm, yes please!


    • Billy Zabinkski says:

      How does long pork compare nutritionally?

      • Quitollis says:

        Lol, pass, though it is likely a more viable diet than kalecopia.

        I have as much flesh protein in my diet as possible. It keeps down the carbs that just make us hungry again and fat. Plenty of roast beef and chicken, smoked fish, sausages, ham. Europeans have always been meat eaters, only the poorest would go without meat.

        Vegetarian diets tend to be high in phytoestrogen. The men grow breasts and start talking lefty.

        • Billy Zabinski says:

          Im pretty much vegetarian, I eat meat if over a friends and food is served. Usually I notice it results in less energy. I lift weight 4 or 5 times a week. My aerobics are excellent. Dug two ditches today in fractured rock soil. Peanut butter, kale, lentils, rice, barley wheat is what I live on. I do have a bit of a bit of a gut but it doesnt hinder anything important.

          Honestly I think your right a bit of meat in the diet makes for healthier body. I wouldnt eat store boughten even if I could afford it and afraid Ive grown too softhearted to get the rifle out of the closet. Last animal I harvested was about 16 years ago and it about broke my heart to see it grazing living life and me taking that life for meat when I can get by without. My little belly is a lot less painful than doing that. No man breasts after omost two decades of next to no meat.. wait i better check, Ok if they are man breasts they are damn sexy ones.

          • Interguru says:

            I enjoy meat and have it a few times a month. My answer to all these debates is that every meat eater should have to slaughter, or at least watch a slaughter every so often. I suspect that would lower the consumption level. Here is a post I put on another site

            At the headquarters of Denali National Park, there is an exhibit on caribou. They do not have an easy life. Four-fifths of the calves never make it to adulthood, mostly falling to predators who rip them apart and eat them alive. The survivors are plagued by swarms of biting flies and parasites that burrow tunnels in the haunches before they are weakened by age or disease, and ripped apart by a predator.

            This contrasts with responsibly-raised farm animals, who have room, board, and medical care, live much longer than their cousins in the wild. They certainly die more humanely than being eaten alive, in fact they die more humanely than most of us do hooked up to machines.

            I grew up in the country and saw how wild animals lived. I suspect that most animal rights peoples’ experience with animals is limited to dog, cats, and zoos. While on a bus at Denali, we saw a fox walk by with a bloody squirrel dripping from his jaws. This was a revelation to my wife who was raised in a genteel suburb. From the oohs and aahs it caused it seemed to be a revelation to most of the passengers.

            While I certainly back humane treatment of captive animals, I think at the further end, animal rights people, isolated from nature, are projecting their human selves on animals.

            • InAlaska says:

              I have the privilege and great responsibility of killing my own wild game. It is what we eat every day. The processing of the carcass of a large moose, where you’re standing up to your ankles in blood and viscera is quite sobering. Killing any large animal is both a sad and joyous event. It matters that you know your food and where it comes from. It is true that wild animals usually die from two causes: predation or starvation. Perhaps my hunter’s bullet is the easiest way out.

    • John Doyle says:

      Red meat is IMO just like you say. However best use only pasture raised beef without the feedlot fattening with grains etc. So by this standard even Kobe or wagyu beef is an inferior product. Although its tender and fatty it the wrong fat. I saw a piece recently that says eating saturated fat, you know – the demonised type, is preferable;
      I use only coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for cold oil uses.
      We’re a bit off topic so I won’t add more.

      • Jarvis says:

        Not off topic at all. What you have laid out will go a long way to maintaining good health in the event of collapse.. That way of eating has kept me doctor and medication free for 3 years now.

        • Quitollis says:

          I have never been to the doctor. Just eat normally like the English do.

          Pay no attention to the vegan American Judaeo-homosexuals.

  12. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All
    Over the past months and years, I have promoted the notion of backyard gardens. Periodically, someone ridicules the idea because backyard gardens usually don’t provide a lot of calories. And calories are the bedrock religion for lots of people on this blog. I call your attention to George Mateljan’s weekly email:

    ‘Kale is a rich source of two important groups of antioxidants: carotenoids and flavonoids. Within the carotenoids, lutein and beta-carotene are its standout antioxidants. Researchers have actually followed the passage of these two carotenoids in kale from the human digestive tract up into the blood stream and they have demonstrated the ability of kale to raise blood levels of these carotenoid nutrients. That finding is important because lutein and beta-carotene are key nutrients in the protection of our body from oxidative stress and health problems related to oxidative stress. Increased risk of cataracts, atherosclerosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are three such problems. Also among these chronic health problems is cancer since our overall risk of cells becoming cancerous is partly related to oxidative stress. Within the flavonoids, kaempferol is a spotlight antioxidant in kale, followed by a flavonoid called quercitin. But recent research has also made it clear that at least 45 different antioxidant flavonoids are provided in measurable amounts in kale!’

    Kale is a low calorie but high nutrient density, perishable leafy green. Shipping it from California in its fresh state is expensive, as it begins to degrade quickly once it is harvested and must be refrigerated at all times. It is also mostly water.

    For health, we need not only calories but also the carotenoids and flavonoids which are abundant in leafy greens, but are scare or non-existent in animal tissue and high calorie density grains. Oversimplified, we can think of the calorie dense foods as keeping us fueled and the low calorie density leafy greens as keeping us healthy. In order to thrive, we need both. It is my contention that growing the leafy greens very close by and harvesting them just before eating them is not only the best way to preserve our health, but also the most economical and the most resilient in case of collapse.

    Don Stewart

    • VPK says:

      Don, What you fail to realize is the need for calories has been much increased over the last few generations of humans. I remember visiting Salem, Massachusetts and the guide stressing that the people were smaller in the past due to that reason.
      Also, I remember reading an excellent account of the battle of Stalingrad in WWII and one fact that has stuck with me is the long term survivors after being captured were NOT the big strong husky “Aryan” males that required much in the way of foodstuffs to maintain their body weight, but the runts that required very little!
      Another point that should be obvious; it is much easier to be born in a society before modern conveniences and adopting the “good life” than having to revert the opposite.
      I doubt most young have no idea on how go about starting a “garden”, other than pushing a button. As Peter Bane, Permacuture Guru, stated in one of his talks, in the USA we are mainly consumers at the household level and produce nothing at all, other than garbage.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear VPK
        I very much do understand the issues around gardening. We still have too many hostile governments and neighborhood associations, we have a clueless US government that thinks that destroying soils in Africa is somehow ‘foreign aid’, we have a new checker at my food co-op who can’t recognize a beet, we have far too many people dreaming cornucopian dreams. I’m just trying to talk sense to those who are willing to listen and act.

        I take the same tack on the ‘simple living’ issues such as the culture of Edo, Japan. Those who understand and do something are certainly not guaranteed a life of ease and safety…but maybe they get an edge that the clueless who do nothing don’t have. In the meantime, I find the activities rewarding.

        I’m also not downplaying the need for calories. But calorie dense crops are usually shipped dry, without refrigeration. When Cuba’s economy collapsed with the collapse of the Soviet system, the government put its resources into providing calories, and made it clear that each family was responsible for its own garden vegetables–grow or trade. Such a response would make sense for the US government as resources are scarce…which doesn’t mean that DC will have enough sense to do it. But hope springs eternal. Plus, dry staples can be stored, as the Mormons do.

        But what about the spent fuel rods? And my response is to work on the problems I can do something about.

        Don Stewart

        • VPK says:

          Don, thank you for your response.
          I had a Spanish teacher once from Spain and he commented that folks intact of vino there was for this reason:
          Hard liquor was common as well among the English colonists, though Germans preferred beer and had somewhat less drunkenness than the Brits. Rum was cheap and a perennial favorite. The typical colonist in 1770 slurped down almost four gallons of hard liquor each year. Water was often foul, infected and generally suspect, so they chased all the hard liquor with gallons of beer, cider and wine each day.
          One might wonder why the typical colonist wasn’t an obese drunkard, but you have to consider the hard lives they led, and the amount of calories burned off in a day. A typical colonist might take in 6,000 calories in alcoholic beverages alone daily, but obesity was fairly rare, which gives you an idea of the number of calories they must have been burning off. Today, the generally accepted caloric intake is put around 2,000.
          The hard stuff was typically purchased from distillers, as the only hard liquor made on the premises was applejack, made by letting hard cider freeze, which then separated into ice and whiskey
          So, I suppose future generations that survive will resort to the drink!

          • Don Stewart says:

            Dear VPK
            Johnny Appleseed became famous for bringing alcohol, in the form of applejack, to the early settlers in Ohio. In North Carolina, the tradition seemed more to lean toward corn liquor.

            If you remember The Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania. It was a reaction to a whiskey tax imposed by the British. A young British officer named George Washington was sent with troops to suppress the rebellion.

            My previous post about the book The Ground Breakers gives you a clue about the importance of whiskey. Roads on the frontier were bad, and driving stock to market took a large toll in terms of lost weight, and the risk of losing everything crossing mountains and swollen rivers and so forth…besides being hard work. One could pack a mule with quite a lot of whiskey and take it to market much easier.

            By the time of the Revolution, the county I lived in had a tavern every 6 or 8 miles. They provided lodging for the humans and you could buy provisions for your stock if you were driving any. Besides being a place to go for company with other people.

            I have seen apple cider made in ‘old timer’ days at a historical farm. It is an awful lot of work for not very much. But cherry brandy was even more work for very little…but easy to transport.

            Don Stewart

            • interguruI says:

              Against the US, not the British govt.

              from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskey_Rebellion

              The Whiskey Rebellion, or Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States beginning in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington.


            • Don Stewart says:

              You’re right.

              I have an excuse. I learned about this 65 years ago in school. The rebels were the good guys. If the only decent way to get your crops to market was in the form of whiskey, then any government that interfered was immoral and should, according to the Declaration of Independence, be overthrown. How times have changed.

              Thanks for the correction. Don Stewart

    • Rodster says:

      I’ve never tried Kale. I have to look for it when I go to the Supermarket.

  13. Interguru says:

    Someone gets it.


    The Oil Lesson of 1986 is Wrong

    The biggest difference today is the supply picture. In 1986, the world faced an overhang of conventional oil production capacity. Today, it is buffeted by a surge in tight oil production. The difference is stark. Once investment in tight oil stops, output from existing wells drops sharply, which is very different from what happens with conventional wells. This can, in principle, balance the market much more quickly than was possible in the 1980s.

    See especially the first comment posted by Steve from Virginia

    Another analysis regarding output/extraction. That is never the problem, there is always oil to extract.

    Affording to do so is another matter altogether.

    – There is no organic return on the use of the oil: driving a car does not pay for it unless you drive a taxi or delivery vehicle, tractor or fire truck.

    – In the place of organic returns is (monumental amounts of) credit. Credit expansion is predicated on organic returns on fuel use sometime in the future.

    – More credit = higher cost of fuel to satisfy the requirements of drillers … and lenders. However both fuel extraction AND credit incur exponentially increasing costs.

    – Credit has become too costly for fuel customers => they do not buy => price crashes.

    – In order for price to rise customer credit must increase but the increase itself makes credit even less affordable. Taxi drivers and farmers cannot support a trillion-dollar venture, only the banks can do so: it is now drillers vs. their own lenders.

    – Declining fuel price does not make customers solvent although some that are will foolishly squander their solvency on fuel waste entertainment.

    – Because price reflects productive return on fuel use- minus extraction costs, the ‘real’ settlement price of fuel is a negative number.

    Not like 1986 at all …

    • Wee Willy Winky says:

      Thanks for that.

      I think another way this is different is that the consumer is completely tapped out. Not only are real wages down significantly, but debt loads both public and private are enormous.

      So I don’t think the big drop in oil prices will have much of an impact on growth. It’s like trying to apply a band-aid to someone who’s just been beheaded, all a little too late and too little.

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  15. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All

    Relative to the Hill Group model. Here is a note I sent a friend of mine. Comments welcome. Don Stewart

    Let me take another crack at the Hill Group Model. You are an ecologist. Tell me what you think.

    The natural world depends on, primarily, two sources of energy. The first is gravity, which just continues to do its thing, and so mostly gets ignored. But it’s the reason rain fails instead of drifting out into space, so it’s critical for life.

    The second source is the sun. The sun works basically in two ways. First, it heats Earth, which makes the place habitable and powers things like the water cycle, ocean currents, and weather. The other way the sun works is through photosynthesis. The energy made in green leaves powers everything from microbes to whales. I suppose an ecologist could work out a ratio of energy expended to raw photosynthesis. Nature is pretty good at recycling energy, as critters eat critters. Lets suppose that the ratio turned out to be 10 to 1. That tells us that the ‘natural economy’ is 10 times the rate of raw photosynthesis…the recycling must be very good to support such an economy.

    But a couple of hundred years ago, humans discovered fossil sunlight: coal, oil, and gas (ignoring nuclear). Just as raw photosynthesis can support an ‘economy’, fossil sunlight can support an economy. We measure that and call it GDP. It overlaps a little with the part of GDP accounted for by photosynthesis, but let’s keep it simple.

    Humans make fossil sunlight go a long way. I think only about 5 percent of our GDP is spent on fossil sunlight extraction. So let’s assume that one unit of fossil sunlight will power 20 units of GDP.

    If the sun were to dim and less sunlight were available for photosynthesis, what would be the effect on the natural life on Earth? I think that the shrinkage would be 10 times the reduction in photosynthesis. Nature isn’t suddenly going to get a lot more efficient in terms of recycling.

    Now apply that reasoning to fossil sunlight. The Hill Group pays a lot of attention to factors such as water cut…how much water has to be lifted in order to get a barrel of oil to the surface. As wells age, the water cut increases. Which means that we are spending more fossil sunlight to get a barrel of fossil sunlight. We have a non-linear depletion effect.

    At the present time, we have a lot of big, old oil fields which were discovered in the 1930s to the 1970s. These fields were once pretty efficient, but they are now being overtaken by water cut and natural decline and other factors which make them yield less Net Energy. The important metric for the world GDP is the total Net Energy, because that is analogous to the total photosynthesis. It is the base on which the multiplier can work.

    The Net Energy at any time in history, or projections for the future, is the integral of all the producing fields. So we have some fields which are still efficient, and we have some which are not very efficient. The Hill Group, for example, says that shale and tar sands and ultra-deep water and high-sulfur oil are all low Net Energy. Adding a barrel of low Net Energy oil does not replace a barrel of lost high Net Energy oil, because of the multiplier effect. In practice, we have tried to cover up the decline by printing money (debt) and jiggering the statistics. In theory, we could all start gardening and increase the multiplier to 40 to 1. The effect of electronics is disputed, but I think electronics also increases the multiplier.

    Financialization (the jobs your guys do) is problematic. If we do not succeed in increasing the multiplier enough to offset the loss of Net Energy, then the financial system will fail. The financial system may fail even if we just reach stability, and fail to grow.

    Militaries are another problem. There is no doubt in my mind that most military expenditures are related to the dominance of fossil sunlight sources. If we not only take into account the water cut costs, but also the cost of the military which fights to assure us of access to fossil sunlight, then the loss of Net Energy begins to look like a Seneca Cliff.

    What do you think?

    • Calista says:

      So I sow my oats, and yes, I will be a biologist first and foremost, always have been, always will be. I discover that I have a number of problems and this analogy goes back to me trying to understand the decline and what types of decline and return I get because, sadly, my brain frames things in terms of plantings and harvests (and cooking and eating).

      First I have lower germination which means I have to plant more oats to get the same harvest as I used to get. (drill more wells, water cut, etc. etc.) (This “use more to get the same” is what Gail speaks of above). That means I need to set aside more of my harvest every year as seed oats that I cannot eat, which means I need to plant more every year because for some reason my germination rate is declining. (oil exploration?)

      Second, when I do harvest my oats I find that they don’t feed my hogs or my humans as well as they used to. I have to give double rations to get the hogs to put on the same weight they used to put on. (declining value of energy in oil, or in this example declining nutritional value both in actual nutrients as well as energy value of oats)

      So my response is to rent some land from a neighbor to sow more oats, invest in another silo to store enough for planting, maybe raise fewer hogs this year. But the decline keeps happening, slowing and fairly insidiously. As a farmer or as a biologist the answer is not obvious. I can fertilize more, rent more land, raise fewer hogs, change from one variety of oats to another or switch to wheat or corn, or whatever I think might grow a bit better but the underlying issues don’t seem to go away.

      So I think overall there are a few things the above view can help with.

      1) The standard adjustments are already being made by our societies ie fewer children, lower consumption and it is incremental, hidden and lands upon the poorer people/countries.

      2) We don’t actually know where the bottom is ie the lowest energy level we will get as a society because we don’t have the ability to predict how much less energy the oats will have this year so we may be selling less than full weight hogs on the market early, or making less bacon than planned or starving or migrating.


      What the analogy is meant to help with, is mostly for me to understand that a) it costs more to get the same amount of oil out of the ground b) even when we do get that oil out it has less energy. There is a decline on two levels at the same time and those together seem to act as a positive feedback spiral that is less than ideal in terms of supporting our current society system. The synergy of the positive feedback spiral seems to be a missing key in much of the analysis that would help people go “aha”

      I put this up so that maybe someone else who cannot follow the financial analysis can see the underlying problem more clearly first. Then if you look at the fact that it costs the farmer more to rent the extra land, costs more for seed oats or for storage of additional seed retained, costs more to plant (another tractor and someone to drive it) then you can see how the farmer took out another loan or financialized his operation to keep going you begin to see the problem more clearly. Maybe.

      • The situation we are currently in is that the farmer plants three times as many fields of oats, to grow twice as many hogs. The number of hogs would continue to increase, and the amount of oats as well, if the market would continue to pay more for hogs.

        Due to borrowing money to consume, it appears that the total production of hogs has increased, but the consumers are eating a bit less bacon.

        Someone told the consumers if they eat twice as much bacon today as yesterday, tomorrow they will be able to eat even more bacon, instead of the truth, which is if you eat an extra strip of bacon today, you must eat one less strip tomorrow.

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  17. VPK says:

    On a lighter note.
    It can and did HAPPEN once more! LOL
    Taiwanese man dies after Internet gaming binge
    A 32-year-old Taiwanese man has died after a three-day gaming binge at an Internet cafe in the island’s south, the second such case this year, a report said.
    The man, identified by his family name Hsieh, was found slumped motionless in his chair in the cafe in Kaohsiung city.
    Other patrons initially thought he was sleeping, but when an employee realised he was not breathing he was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the Taipei Times reported.
    Doctors confirmed he had suffered cardiac failure, ruling it a “sudden death” from prolonged computer gaming, the report said.

    and we are worried about the SHTF?

  18. Matthew Cordes says:

    Gail, nice work, as always. I was just reading Leonhardt’s piece in the Times about wage/income stagnation in capitalist democracies, and he notes that Canada and Australia seem to be exceptions to the trend. Many reasons are given for this, mostly based on policy. But it occurred to me that there could conceivably be an energy connection. These two countries are among the very few capitalist economies that are net energy exporters. I was wondering if you (and/or others commenting here) think there could be any connection.

  19. Billy Zabinski says:

    “So sure I am interested in what others are telling the kids.”
    I leave it bland
    “i am teaching you this just in case’
    “you never know what might come in handy”
    “The future might be different than our circomstances now”

    teacher says solar will save the world
    “well its a difficult technical problem, here are the numbers”

    Then depending on their maturity 13 to 16 I go ahead and tell them we ae F*****-, If they have demonstrated they can keep their mouth shut and havnt bought into the matrix. If they have bought into the matrix bland is forever.

    Bland is a real skill especially in the work place. Always be aware of peoples emotional energy and go with the flow. Dont pass out tin foil underwear at the office party.

    I have come to enjoy bland and the truth is who really knows.

    • InAlaska says:

      Yes, you have to play it cool or you look like the crazy guy in the room. You have to test people out subtly.

  20. Rodster says:

    Chris Martenson posted his podcast interview with Gail:

    “Gail Tverberg: This Is The Beginning Of The End For Oil Production”


    • Thanks! I did that a few days ago, and wasn’t sure when it would up.

      • Rodster says:

        One interesting thing I learned during the interview was your take on Peak Oil with regard to Hubbert Curve which seemed to take Chris off guard. If I understand his position, he believes Peak Oil is resource depeletion first, and an economic problem, second because there isn’t enough of it to keep things going.

        If I understood it correctly, your definition of Peak Oil is not from resource availability or depleation which is what Hubbert’s Curve defines but one of ECONOMIC VIABILITY, which is interesting. In other words if the price of oil gets too high it hurts the economy. If the economy gets damaged then the funding is NOT there to restart oil projects to get it out of the ground. So it stays in the ground and then the whole system collapses becuase the world is designed to run on CHEAP OIL !

        I hope I understood it correctly?

        • Hubbert assumed that nuclear would take over the oil in terms of potential expansion, so the right side of the curve is confined to this context. I enjoyed the interview very much as well. I can’t speak for Gail, but she said it clearly in the interview, the end of affordability of expensive oil proped up by cheap credit/low to negative IR (cheap oil exhausted) is in fact THE PeakOil. Simply the severe economic contraction – deflation comes first as the most opnely visible issue, perhaps in the following chaos people won’t even connect the dots towards “finite world” dependencies.

          However, as we discussed it earlier, someone and or something will step up and create order of that deflationary chaos. My estimate is that “governments” (including the west) will turn openly repressive. So, preparation might be useless. For instance, let’s say you are in progress of developing permaculture faming enterprise, this takes around two decades, and now in the near future a command economy will suddenly order you to stop your little silly experiments and deliver ordinary food/produce NOW or severe consequences follow, i.e. pushing people into old mods of destructive ways of farming/production. Similarly in other sectors. You can’t hide. Add some climate volatility issues, water problems etc., and in few decades the place is barely recognizable from now.

    • gerryhiles says:

      Excellent interview Gail.

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  22. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All
    Here is some suggested reading for those who like to look at the past to get some ideas about how to survive, and possibly thrive, in the future.

    John Ehle will be 90 this year:

    His book The Land Breakers has been republished by the New York Review of Books. Michael Ondaatje described the novel as ‘a great American novel, well beyond anything most New York literary icons have produced.’

    The Land Breakers tells the story of the settlement of a valley in the mountains of western North Carolina, beginning in 1777. The initial characters are two Scots-Irish Americans, formerly indentured servants, who marry and begin to walk south from Pennsylvania seeking a place to make a home. They know nothing about the American Revolution. When they arrive in Morganton, North Carolina, they go into a general store and inquire about land for sale. They leave with ownership of a thousand acres of land and the simple tools they will need to make a homestead. They walk across the mountains with their livestock and seeds, and find the place. Later, they are joined by a handful of other settlers. The man’s wife dies, and he needs a wife to replace her. There are two eligible women in the valley, and he is torn between them. Finally, he selects a woman who has two boys, but whose husband left her to go to Kentucky.

    Ehle was a skillful dramatist, so this is not a Disney-like story of settling the West. It is very realistic in terms of the relationships between the people, and gives a very good description of the physical challenges they faced. For example, I will tell you what happens on page 98 and several following pages.

    ‘The boys (of his new wife) needed shoes, so he made them shoes. He had a piece of leather which was big enough for the two boys. He traced out each boy’s foot on the cabin floor and carved a last out of poplar, one for each foot. He cut soles to fit the marks on the floor, then cut top leather for the tops and, using the poplar last, he was able to peg the two pieces together properly, using maple pegs, which would go into leather easily but, once the leather was soaked and swelled wouldn’t come out. A man would have to split the leather to get one of them out.

    He used whang leather to sew the uppers together; he had a piece which he had made out of the hide of a groundhog. He cut threads of it and waxed them well. Then he cut leather insoles to fit into the shoes. ‘You’ll need these shoes, boys, when we go up on the mountain hunting or to pick berries.’ So he told them. They didn’t need them on the paths, but they would need them at places where the paths ran out.’

    This is an extraordinarily complex scene. One of the factors in choosing the woman with two boys is that the boys are almost old enough to be useful on the homestead. These people are living close enough to the bone that practicality is never far from being a central concern. You will also see that the knowledge of exactly how to make leather shoes is a cultural knowledge. The man did not invent this on the fly…he had learned it from his elders. And everyone knew that shoes were valuable and should not be worn out by wearing them when they were not needed. There has also been a scene where the new husband establishes his authority by slapping one of the boys.

    We read a scene where the young woman who was not selected for his wife meets one of his wife’s sons outside the cabin and tells him that she has seen his long lost father. She goes on, pulling lots of emotional strings in the boy. Then she tells him not to tell his mother. (This is not Disney).

    Cold weather descends and there is a heavy snowfall. The father of the young woman not selected has wasted his time and has not built a proper cabin. The lean-to that they have been living in collapses with the weight of the snow. Only a few logs have been cut for the cabin. The father decides to have a cabin raising, getting help from the neighbors. The neighbors do help, but they only cut two logs for every one that the father cuts. A few days later, the cabin is up (without a floor), and they have a party with a fiddle and dancing. Everyone feels good. Nowadays, we might speak knowingly about the oxytocin bond. In those days, they probably just said ‘many hands makes light work’. The joint work project has papered over the conflicts in the group. at least temporarily.

    If you read this novel analytically, you can begin to piece together the complex adaptive system that the settlers were dependent upon (e.g., getting an axe in Morganton), frugality (e.g., doing without salt, not wearing shoes unless necessary), the complicated feelings mediated by hormones (which have not changed), the abundance of wood and water and plants and animals, the sophisticated culture which they brought with them in their brains, etc.

    The book does not give you a recipe for surviving in New York City after a collapse, or even for surviving in Asheville, North Carolina after a collapse. Instead, it helps you understand what challenges you can expect: physical, emotional, and social.

    Don Stewart

    • InAlaska says:

      I will read this book as it is the story of my family in general. Scots-Irish who arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1720s and walked to Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, settling the valleys and leaving their names on the creeks and mountains around them.

  23. Wee Willy Winky says:

    The shiny new distractions disguised as energy breakthroughs I mentioned here two weeks ago have also started to show up. A glossy puff piece touting oceanic thermal energy conversion (OTEC), a white-elephant technology which was tested back in the 1970s and shown to be hopelessly uneconomical, shared space in the cornucopian end of the blogosphere over the last week with an equally disingenuous puff piece touting yet another rehash of nuclear fission as the answer to our energy woes. (Like every fission technology, of course, this one will be safe, clean, and affordable until someone actually tries to build it.)


    • “Like every fission technology, of course, this one will be safe, clean, and affordable until someone actually tries to build it.”

      What the idea will do is generate a lot of funding for research dollars for the folks testing the idea. The people researching this, and the folks funding the research, don’t really care very much how feasible the idea is. The politicians want to be able to show that they are studying the idea. And the universities and start up companies want funding that will take them through several stages of development, before everyone agrees that the new approach is hopelessly expensive and impractical.

      • Wee Willy Winky says:

        Amusingly later in the article the author starts to bang a drum for renewable energy. As if solar panels grew on trees and were not made by burning massive amounts of the filthiest coal.

  24. VPK says:

    What about the Swiss franc?
    Currency wars?

    • “What about the Swiss franc?
      Currency wars?”

      The Swiss are not starting a war, they just surrendered. The battle was to keep the Swiss Franc from appreciating too much against the Euro, but it is futile since the Euro is about to go into QE. The Franc is not so much rising, as the Euro is falling as they prepare to print more.

    • Or a different way to bring the financial system down with derivatives?

      • I guess we can all agree the frantic dance of the important systemic players recently means we are near some sort of milestone event, reset, it could be a series of steps or the big one. Frankly, as realist I can’t argue for the “big bang” stuff, the system of past 300-400yrs will come undone or be revised most likely by series of twists and many steps. However, one has to anticipate that even long staircase can be at certain steps very bumpy road indeed.

        I was blown away by this very clear quote, especially the concluding part about the preasure build-up among TPTB,

        “But I agree that the economy is faulty under the bonnet. My book explains this as a divergence between the twin economies – the physical economy of goods and services, and the financial economy consisting of created “claims” on these goods and services. Aggregate claims far exceed what the real economy can deliver, but central bankers and govts cannot face the implied destruction of value within the financial economy, where I put excess claims at well in excess of USD 70 trillion. Bluntly, how are you going to take that away from people who “own” those claims on a real economy that can’t deliver?”

  25. MG says:

    How the debt of the poorest citizens is solved in Croatia today:


    • Interesting!

    • Christian says:

      Haircuts everywhere… That’s how you get Jubilee

      Remember, after day J it’s lending to the monkeys

      Or we can lend to some aliens and so we get the motive for Star Wars and explain why cities and countries beguin to disappear

  26. MG says:

    Chief of Russia’s LUKoil Predicts $25 Oil


    If we take into account that the oil is all the Middle East can sell (no technology, products or services to export, even worse situation than Russia), then we have a big problem: the oil prices can recover only after a big decline of production, caused by the inslovency of oil companies or the riots in the oil producing countries.

    It seems that the imminent riots in the overpopulated Middle East countries are the only thing that can push the prices up. Stronger demand on the world market is less possible. Maybe both of them can create the pressure for a higher price.

    The Middle East countries really need the revenues. They still have some money cushion, but the riots start before this cusion is spent. Lybia is the example of such implosion of the country into internal fights. Maybe that is why Saudi Arabia does not want to lower the oil production: it would be very hard to regain the market share, as the example of some African countries after the shale oil and tar sands boom amid low demand growth has shown.

    • Wee Willy Winky says:

      Libya is a good example of what happens when collapse arrives http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/19/natos-destruction-of-libya/

      Of course such a thing could not happen in our peaceful western nations because we would never behave like that.

      It will be interesting to see what happens when central governments collapse and the military is no longer able to slap down the factions that will surely attempt to challenge the centre.

      Again, survival of the fittest. This will be a world of chaos and violence. Not one of peaceful hamlets of farmers who just get along and want to be left alone.

      • Libya still has the ability to export oil and import food, so it is an unstable mess made by outsiders, but the resource flows allow it to stay unstable.

        If a country still has oil and electricity infrastructure operating, unless it goes into civil war, it should be able to maintain more control. If the electricity and oil stop, the population drops much faster and the warring ends more quickly. Of course, tropical countries where it is possible to clear more land and make more farms will be different from deserts and places with freezing temperatures in winter.

        • Wee Willy Winky says:

          Yes of course Libya is still functioning, kinda of.

          So it is not a very good example of what the world is going to look like when the Super Bowl of collapses gets underway.

          What is coming is far, far, far worse than Libya or Haiti, or Somalia.

          And do not expect Bono or the UN to help. This collapse will be global and it will be final, and there will be no help coming.

          How much worse than this can things get?


          A lot.

          • “What is coming is far, far, far worse than Libya or Haiti, or Somalia.”

            Yes, except it will only last months or a few years, not drag on for decades. Without outside resources and people to keep the situation unstable, the collapse will probably be quite quick and efficient and then a stable state at a much lower population will form.

            Whether there is doomsday or they have a functioning society, I guess they’ll find out.

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              Why would it not drag on for decades? Or even forever?

              I fail to see how things improve much even after billions die because it will be a world without energy. There will be no oil, there may be a bit of coal available in a scattering of places. There may be trees but we will quickly deforest what is left.

              Industrialization will be finished. There will be little or no surpluses. Life will be a brutally hard meat grinder (but without much meat).

              Energy is everything that people here appear to be taking for granted. None of this will exist. You won’t be able to buy a nail clipper or a toothbrush.

              I actually think things will degrade as we move along because the ‘stuff’ left behind by 7 billion people will degrade over the years, we will have no way to produce more, and we will end up living like primitives.

              A glass bottle will be a novelty at some point.

            • “I fail to see how things improve much even after billions die because it will be a world without energy. ”

              “There may be trees but we will quickly deforest what is left.”

              Have you ever tried to clear cut a forest without power tools? With hand tools it takes a huge amount of energy. If you don’t have food, swinging an ax is hard. A European Male of average height and build needs around 3500 calories a day to do hard labour. That’s about 3 pounds of long pork per day so you can spend all day cutting trees.

              There is plenty of energy coming from the sun and being absorbed into plants; the population will fall until there is once again a surplus of energy. Once people get below 1000 calories per day, they probably won’t have the energy to go harvest more food, so I think they’ll go downhill pretty fast.

              I would stay away from the Atlantic, since America plus France make up half the world’s reactors. So far, the Pacific seems ok, it seems Fukushima is diluting pretty well. I would not recommend having children for at least a couple decades after, and maybe move to South America or Africa if you really must have kids, since they are the ones who will really absorb isotopes.

            • John Doyle says:

              Remember the downfall will be patchy. The most highly strung economies will be the most brittle so they will suffer the most precipitous falls. Tribal societies in Africa and parts of Asia which are not strongly connected to our western economies will likely fare best, although they will have to bear invasions to some extent. Word will get around that they are coping, so they will be a magnet.
              It really depends on having some plans in place to manage the earliest phases so the governments must survive to ration oil for essential uses like farming and essential transport, and services like the police, and so on. It may not be a long term answer because oil will eventually dry up but alternatives might be up and running by then. We aren’t showing much inclination to plan though!

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              The prehistoric and preindustrial deforestation of Europe

              Dark ages and dark areas: global deforestation in the deep past

              They did a pretty good job of cutting down forests before the chain saw was available.

              7 billion people will leave behind millions of axes and saws made of the finest steel that BAU has on offer.

              Imagine what the tools were like that pre-industry people used to hack down the forests that once covered Europe.

              It’s a good thing that coal was discovered, because if not, we would have long ago cut down every tree on the planet.

              Now we get a second chance!

            • Burning down trees seems to be work very well. It was the method of choice back in hunter-gatherer days.

            • gerryhiles says:

              Sorry Gail, but you are completely wrong about hunter-gatherers.

              Still extant tribes in the Amazon and in Papua-New Guinea live within and from forests, without ever having done what we do today.

              Some Australian Aboriginal tribes used to burn grassland to encourage new growth and attract game, but they were doing this for maybe 40,000 years and could have gone on indefinitely, but for the arrival of Europeans a couple of centuries ago.

              In some parts of the world tribes practiced “slash and burn”. An area of forest would be cleared and a settlement built. Usually this lasted about five years, then the tribe moved on and the forest regenerated.

              There were many different cultures amongst hunter-gatherers around the world and, as far as we know, our species lived sustainably in these various ways for at least 250,000 years.

              Instinctively, I think, our species remains a hunter-gatherer one, but something has gone horribly wrong when the male of the species ‘hunts’ for ever new technologies. whilst the female of the species ‘gathers’ the results in shopping centres.

              Of course I over-simplify, but it really only during the last few centuries – decades in some places – that we have become unsustainable.

            • I didn’t say all hunter-gatherers did this, but I am pretty sure it happened in Australia, back not long after it was first settled. Certainly slash and burn agriculture is practiced in many places.

              We killed off the large wild animals, as soon as we entered new continents, so we clearly not living in a sustainable way. The large animals were important for ecosystems, because they helped fertilize crops and kept the balance among the various species. (In Africa, we evolved together, so it wasn’t really an issue.) Burning forests was a technique used in burning down forests. Paleontologist Miles Eldredge, when talking about the Sixth Mass Extinction, said

              Phase One began when the first modern humans began to disperse to different parts of the world about 100,000 years ago.
              Phase Two began about 10,000 years ago when humans turned to agriculture.

              I talk about this in http://ourfiniteworld.com/2011/09/12/european-debt-crisis-and-sustainability/

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              Fukushima is doing ‘ok’?

              It’s all relative isn’t it.

              Keep in mind that Fukushima is a controlled disaster. Controlled because BAU is still functioning and allowing TEPCO to use electricity to run powerful pumps that are showering the melted cores with tonnes of water each day (which runs off into the sea)

              We won’t see the full force of Fukushima until the pumps stop pumping the cooling waters onto the roiling hot cores:

              Nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi station in Japan are critically endangered but have not reached full meltdown status. Our nuclear primer explains what that means and how the situation compares with past nuclear accidents

              Without a steady coolant supply, a hot reactor core will continuously boil off the water surrounding it until the fuel is no longer immersed. If fuel rods remain uncovered, they may begin to melt, and hot, radioactive fuel can pool at the bottom of the vessel containing the reactor.

              In a worst-case meltdown scenario the puddle of hot fuel could melt through the steel containment vessel and through subsequent barriers meant to contain the nuclear material, exposing massive quantities of radioactivity to the outside world.


              We are only just getting started with respect to Fukushima.

            • “In a worst-case meltdown scenario the puddle of hot fuel could melt through the steel containment vessel and through subsequent barriers meant to contain the nuclear material, exposing massive quantities of radioactivity to the outside world.”

              I don’t think you have to worry about them melting through the bottom, the tops of the buildings are blown off. As soon as they go dry, they’ll burn off a toxic, radioactive plume that will go straight into the air.

              Secondly, I suspect those are lies; there are reports that one or more of the reactors did meltdown, and have begun melting through the reinforced concrete underneath.

              This does give me a couple interesting thoughts. First, Chernobyl; how is it able to not simply build up pressure from so much trapped heat and explode? Is there just so much borax and zeolite jammed in there that it stays cool enough?

              Second, all these claims that a molten-salt reactor cannot meltdown because it is already a liquid, won’t that liquid boil off or turn into pressurized steam if it runs too hot? Or the reactor becomes soft and starts to deform from overheating?

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              If you are going to dispute this then instead of saying ‘I believe those are lies’ why don’t you take a moment and find some facts that counter what the Scientific American has published.

              Can you find anything that supports your claim that melted cores left without cooling are not a great danger?

              I will save you some time. I googled this from various angles and found nothing of the sort. I did find a series of research articles that support the position that if you turn off the water, all hell will break lose.

              We know that if we leave SPENT fuel rods without cooling they will release massive levels of radiation so anyone with half a brain could work out that LIVE fuel rods that are not cooled will result in at least as bad a release.

            • gerryhiles says:

              I am really fed up with you taking over Gail’s blog, along with the Thorium evangelist and sundry other individuals with a personal barrow to push.

              Give it a rest WEE WILLY WINKY, like most children’s nursery rhymes and stories, Wee Willy Winky was designed to scare children and has implications of a man flashing his “wee wilily” to scare children to bed, like you are now trying to scare everyone into doing nothing.

              Give it a rest WWW.

            • interguru says:

              If you don’t like certain blog poster(s), just don’t read them. I get new postings by mail and skip the ones I don’t want to read. It saves a lot or time.

            • WWW often has good articles and other information to point out. I agree that he can be a little “over the top” in talking about what can happen in the future. In fact, some of his comments end up in the trash as a result of my moderation.

              The issue I struggle with is that we need input from a range of individuals. Even the thorium evangelist’s input can be helpful, if it gets me to figure out how far time-wise thorium is still away. And criticism is not necessarily bad either–it gets me to think about my points, and why some people find them unconvincing.

              I don’t really see that talking about how terrible things could turn out is really helpful, however. I have young readers writing to me, talking about how depressed they are, and how worried they are about the future. If nothing else, these readers are not really up to reading this kind of material. I don’t really think it helps others either. So toning down this aspect of the comments wouldn’t hurt.

            • gerryhiles says:


              No one agrees with anyone else 100% and I have points of difference with you, e.g. I reject “Big Bang” and I reason that, overall, the Universe is infinite and in “Steady State”, but locally things are finite and so it is pointless for me to go on at length about cosmology, which does not affect the here and now.

              I agree that WWW and just about everyone has something interesting to say – well except Kim Kardashian et al – but it’s the tub-thumping that I object to, which is really just a distraction and clutter to either wade through in the hope of some decent insight, or to just ignore. – which is not always easy to do.

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              Gerry – you have this strange habit of pulling your ball from the game when the score doesn’t go your way. Recall that you ran home when I pointed out that gold was indeed money.

              With respect post-collapse world outcomes, I read day after day after day about how there will be love and peace (but only after the alpha males and elites who run the world die off), cooperation, some sort of utopian commune where everyone gets along.

              This is sheer nonsense.

              And the minute anyone posts facts that shatter the utopian dream not only is the ball pulled, but the referee is asked to throw the person out of the game.

              Seriously, if anyone thinks that when the world gets unplugged from its power source and the lights go dark that there is not going to be an endless nightmare that will last for at least the lifetimes of anyone alive today, then they are in a dream world.

              I bought into the permaculture dream at one point but then when I thought it through, I realized how utterly pointless it was.

              Clearly many people are in denial on this topic because they need to grasp at something to fend off despair.

              But does that mean topics such as managing nuclear fuel ponds, growing food in soil that has been destroyed by industrial farming, and mankind’s violent, competitive nature should be off-limits?

              I leave you with this thought.

              I have pondered the questions ‘Why are the PTB doing absolutely nothing to prepare for the post-collapse world. What do they know that I don’t know’

              It is the pursuit of plausible explanations to these questions that has lead me to the dystopian outcomes that I have posted on this site.

              I am not certain what the Think Tanks have pin-pointed as the extinction even (I strongly suspect the fuel ponds are the problem, but perhaps AGW is far worse than we told) but without a doubt they have determined there is no point in making preparations for the post-collapse world because there is not going to be a post-collapse world.

              Rant and rave all you like about what I have posted.

              But we are on the precipice (the PTB could lose control of this at any moment) and instead of announcing a massive plan to gird the world for cataclysmic changes, we get nodda, zilch, nothing. The only response is to push a few keys on a computer at one of the central banks and release more 1’s and 0’s into the global economy.

              That is the reality. Those are the facts. I reckon everything else is just white noise otherwise known as hopium.

            • gerryhiles says:

              I have told you before that I agree with you on nearly everything, just not keeping on keeping on about the more gory aspects of what you think is coming and often monopolizing the board.

              At no point have I “taken my ball and gone home”, I just don’t post nearly as much as you and don’t keep pushing particular points others might not agree with, such as the Universe being in “Steady State” overall and that waves-as-such do not exist … and I stated my case that gold is not money unless minted as coinage and haven’t bothered to argue that further with you, because it would be futile.

            • ” ‘Why are the PTB doing absolutely nothing to prepare for the post-collapse world. What do they know that I don’t know’”

              Done nothing to prepare everyone else for the post-collapse world. For themselves, some have large compounds on huge ranch lands in places like Paraguay. Some have massive underground bunkers.

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              There are a few anecdotal stories like this such as Zuckerberg and Ellison buying islands. That may or may not be related to the imminent collapse; billionaires have been buying island long before these two guys.

              The only plan that I can see is the one that involves doing absolutely anything to keep BAU operating for as long as possible.

              Until I am made aware of some other plan, then I assume there is no other plan, because there is the masterminds have concluded there is nothing to plan for.

            • “Can you find anything that supports your claim that melted cores left without cooling are not a great danger?”

              While I did not make any such claim, Chernobyl seems to be without any active cooling.

              The lies part is about the claim there was no meltdown at Fukushima;

              TEPCO was working very hard to mask how bad it really was/is.

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              Chernobyl is entombed in massive amounts of concrete, something that is not possible with Fukushima.

              Fukushima did suffer a melt down and the cores are not contained. But they are being kept cool by pumping tonnes of sea water onto the fuel. Nobody, including TEPCO, is disputing that. As we know, a lot of the water that is being pumped onto the cores is pouring into the Pacific Ocean day after day year after year.

              Now why would they be bothering to pour water onto these cores (polluting the ocean) if they did not fear some sort of catastrophic event should the cores be left alone?

            • John Doyle says:

              I have a photo of the “medusa” a large blob of radioactive material weighing hundreds of tons in the basement at Chernobyl.
              It’s called the “medusa” because to look at it is instant death. The camera originally sent in to take its picture was destroyed by the radiation, so the photo is taken from a mirror

            • Wee Willy Winky says:
            • Storing up stuff now – say, solar panels plus a pump for water–pretty much guarantees that at some point in the future it will fail. A person needs to consider what he or she will do when this happens. This is part of the reason for the constant downslope. Of course, if you are now 70 years old, maybe that doesn’t matter.

            • Gail,
              I found the post below to be very instructive and useful.
              Hope some of your ‘Young’ readers can identify with some of solutions presented, as well.

              By Ezrydermike, at Peak Oil Barrel:
              It’s hard for me to convey meaning in this blog format and my intermittent access to it.
              My initial response was to Ron’s original blog. I went to look at some of the web pages I have bookmarked and I stopped by at truthout first and the linked article was right there. Seemed a bit amazing as it is very similar to Ron’s post.
              I am not a newbie wrt to the topics brought up here and it isn’t shocking. Disturbing to say the least but not shocking.
              I am a single parent. My daughter’s mother is out of the picture with substance abuse issues. I have raised my daughter from day one essentially by myself.
              She is well grounded and a very good person. She understands and is knowledgeable about many resource topics including peak oil / resources. She has a good understanding of the shit storm we are experiencing.
              I meet with her and some of her close friends about once a month to discuss stuff. We call this our roundtable. This is a great group of kids. I am trying to help them.
              This kind of started with this list of things I told them might be useful to learn about.
              Gardening – food. Urban gardening. Permaculture
              Wild food recognition and harvesting
              Medicinal plants – recognition, harvesting and use
              Food preparation and storage. Canning, curing.
              Making beer, mead, wine, distilling
              Animal husbandry. Horseback riding, milking cows and goats. Field dressing and butchery.
              Gun use and repair. Hunting skills.
              Archery – hunting, arrow fletching
              First aid and basic medical skills.
              Insect and poisonous animal recognition, prevention and treatment
              Sewing, quilting, clothing repair, shoes
              Basic electrical especially dc power systems
              Basic electronics
              Basic plumbing – pipes, pumps and valves
              Basic metallurgy – welding, smithing
              Field weather recognition and seasonal variations.
              Geology and mineral recognition – copper, iron ore, shales, flints, quartz
              Paper making.
              Book binding
              Leather working
              The thing is some of the potential future outcomes are just so effing dark. My daughter has already decided that she isn’t going to have children because she sees that there are too many people and the world is too messed up. How f..d is that for a 22 yr old to say? Drag as she would be a great mother
              I have found that the further one goes down this path of pondering collapse the darker it gets. Some real questions. If it is all going to be some sort of Mad Max scenario and there is nothing to be done to avoid it, why do anything at all? Why not just live as large as possible for as long as possible? And on and on….
              So we try and talk about it as if there may be future outcomes that could be rewarding and pleasant to live in. We work on trying to do what we can do. We try to build community and networks. She gardens and grows a bit of food.
              She has completed 3 yrs of community college and has an AA in psychology. She has built up 2 yrs worth of transferable university credits and she is thinking hard about going to Humboldt State in northern CA. Both of think that maybe a better place to live than were we are now.
              She is working with Adam Navidi of Future Foods Farm and Green2Go restaurant.
              Sometimes I feel like I need to apologize to her.
              So I don’t know is this makes any sense. My original reply was a bit of a spur of the moment, but it is a subject that is near and dear to me.
              So sure I am interested in what others are telling the kids.



            • Christian says:

              “The large animals were important for ecosystems, because they helped fertilize crops and kept the balance among the various species. ”

              This goes along with some of Don’s stuff on intensive grazing. It sounds nice, may be true to some extent and very possibly happens to be useful in rapid regeneration but it doesn’t stand very much as the leading explanation on the formation of grasslands. The invalidating case is South America, where there were no big mamifers nor animals in general before the arrival of the Europeans. Camelids were the biggest animals and were confined to highlands, and they seem to make a great deal explaning why most complex cultures in the continent took place there. Nevertheless, the plain known as Pampa is one of the more fertile of the world.

              Reg. hunting gatherers in the southamerican forests, at least, I found it very difficult to imagine they could ever had advanced very much in the path of agriculture and deforestation taking account they have never been able to use metals, because there is none in an area of millions of square km, and that even stone is a rare resource in most of this flat zone.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Christian


              ‘Once the site of over 300 grasses and other forage plants’
              If there were no animals, what was doing the foraging?

              If the perennial grasses are like those in North America, they co-evolved with heavy herbivores (such as bison in North America). As Alan Savory claims, perennial grasses are most vigorous when periodically grazed. Problems arise when they are grazed TOO FREQUENTLY. That is, not allowed to regrow before being grazed again. Which is the purpose of rotation through fenced paddocks.

              On the other hand, perhaps fire did the trick:
              ‘There are not very many trees because fires frequently occur in the pampas. The fires do not kill the grasses, which regenerate from their root crowns, but destroy the trees, which have shallow root systems.’

              It seems to me that either frequent periodic fires OR grazing can keep a perennial grassland healthy. In terms of human needs, the grazing is obviously more productive. However,, as above, I would emphasize that continuous grazing will result in desertification. The grass has to be permitted to regrow.

              As you may recall, the Australian Aborigines regularly burned their grasslands, which resulted in a very rich ecosystem. (Gail would not agree.)

              Don Stewart

            • Christian says:

              Reg. Paul W, it’s an interesting case, to say the least.

              Hypothesis 1: it is a troll or a team of trolls. Gets empowered doing what he/they do by money

              Hypothesis 2: it is an individual having been gifted with multiple personalities, heavily harmed in childhood and trying now to deal with it playing Big Fish in the sea of finite world issues. Gets empowered by knocking down everybody else

            • Christian says:

              “I have pondered the questions: Why are the PTB doing absolutely nothing to prepare for the post-collapse world, what do they know that I don’t know’

              Paul, I’ll tell you the answer for the third and last time: PTB doesn’t prepare to go beyond capitalism because it is absolutely impossible for them. Their signature will be less worth than a fly’s s..t, and they will never pick up a shovel. Never.

              As we know, PTB are those that will lose more when TSHF, they will be left not even their bodies, because those would not result able of doing anything. Less than anything. The difference with some (very peculiar and well known at some scale) politicians is that these may count with what sociologist Max Weber called Charisma, which is a social asset they can imagine using in a non capitalist context. In fact, the way Weber analyzed capitalism it is somewhat opposed to charismatic authority. Monetary or financial assets will be worth zero, or less than zero (be a “social liability”) if the masses happen to get someone was a PTB and suppose (not really correctly, but I’m affraid they won’t be hearing much arguments about it) that he was at the roots of their demise…

              Paul W, you insist posting those questions and I’m affraid I have again to conclude you are troll. A very profesional troll indeed, my compliments.

              Btw, Gail perhaps you would like to read a short piece of the same author. A summary and the text:



            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              I do not agree.

              You speak of these people as if they were machines. Robots. Computers. Emotionless automatons who are do not see past ROI and their nett worth.

              The PTB have children and grandchildren. And wives. And husbands.

              They are driven by their survival instincts, just as all animals are.

              They do not want to die any more than you are I. They do not want their offspring to perish.

              if there were a way to soft land this they would be pursuing it.

              I have outlined the issue of the spent fuel ponds in great detail. There are literally thousands of these scattered around the world and they are ticking mega bombs.

              Unless someone can explain how we manage such high-tech facilities in a world without energy, in a world where spare parts are going to be impossible to manufacture, in a world of chaos, then all these conversations about growing food, and cooperation vs competition, are absolutely pointless.

              The PTB will definitely know if they nuclear issue is a deal breaker. They would have looked at this from every possible angle. And I suspect they have determined there is nothing that can be done.

              If you need evidence of this look no further than Fukushima. They cannot even resolve that problem.

              And people think they will be able to control thousands of Fukushimas when the world is in pieces?

              If I am a troll then what is my agenda? What do I gain from pointing out out the obvious?

            • gerryhiles says:

              You gain the dubious honour of stating the bleedin’ obvious (on many things) to the point of being very tedious, because you are a pompous wind-bag who never knows when to shut up, is always ‘right’ and who belittles anyone deviating from your gospel of utter nihilism.

              But, oddly enough, you have made it abundantly clear, very often, that you idolize the PTB and long to be amongst their company when everything collapses … and you have just given us a lecture on the PTB as, more or less, truly loving folks only looking after their families.

              What a load of nonsense.

              Clearly you know zero about the European Dark Ages and Medieval period, when the PTB (royal families) thought nothing of killing wives, husbands, children, cousins or anyone else standing in the way of his, or her psychopathic drive for dominance over all.

              That you are in that club – in your petty way in this blog – speaks volumes about you..

              If it is any consolation to you, I have been banned from Enenews for nearly four years for saying that Fukushima is a global extinction event, a permanent “radioactive volcano” and that all those proposing ‘alternative energy’ are Muppets.

              Yes I have done my fair share of debunking false hope, but I do not make a crusade of it (as you do) because I woke up to a lot of things years ago … in fact about sixty years ago to, at least, the PTB in Europe.

              Perhaps you should read Shakespeare and find out what those you admire were really doing and will do again when TSHTF.

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              Yes yes Gerry. Shall we also revisit the topic of gold is money? Because you never did respond to my argument on that other than to state gold is not currency, which is a completely different topic (which you don’t seem to comprehend). Shall I copy and paste my response to you on that so you can get a second chance?

              You have missed my point completely.

              To reiterate, the PTB have families. And they value their own lives. In fact they believe that they and their families deserve to live more than you or me or anyone else. because they believe everyone else is riffraff, dispensable.

              In fact if killing every single one of us meant that their clan got to survive the collapse I have no doubt whatsoever that they would to that.

              And I also think when it came right down to it that a great many of us, if given the choice, would make the exact same choice. Because we are no different than the PTB. We are human. They are human. We all want to survive. They have power. We do not.

              It is utter nonsense to think that the PTB are so focused on making more money out of this crisis that they are ignoring ways to soft land and survive. Survival trumps all else.

              These are not fools we are talking about. They would know that adding another billion dollars to the pile is pointless when we are facing the end of BAU.

              If there were a way out, they’d be pursuing it (and of course if they thought they could make money from it at the same time, they’d be doing that as well).

            • I think what is not much understood about PTBs is the simple fact “they are specialized” in the craft of ruling over the (citizen) sheep. After surviving many dozen generations, several profound social and technological changes it must have had an impact, they are different.

              For instance, lets take the family of Sax(ony)-Coburg, if not sooner we know they started to be noticed in the middle ages as knights and local princes in the area of Central Europe. After aprox. milenium in recorded existence the message is clear, they produced many imperial and royal dynasties, most visible today is the british royal family.

              Obviously today these circles co-chair the events, often have to share power with the new one generation money (ala Gates) and other power factions like post Napoleonic bankster families, so their influence and presence is more subtle. However, they are very much up to the latest stuff, incl. PeakOil, permaculture, overpopulation, “finite earth” issues etc.

              What to make of it all for us mere mortals?
              You can bet your dear life on the fact, that their know-how “to rule” is being consulted how to proceed at given turbolent historical junctions. And most of the new money blood around is eager to listen, learn a trick or two from them, worshiping them like little pupils they are.

            • Christian says:

              Good morning Mr. Troll. It is utter nonsense to think PTB can ever exist beyond USD. Suppose you were one of them and the rods could be controlled. How do you’ll prepare to live without bank accounts, signatures, police enforcement, the ideology that makes you powerful (more than that, the ideology that makes you somebody, a person)?
              How do you’ll get anybody to do anything for you? Give you a potato? Not taking your shovel? Protecting you?

              Remember the Simpsons chapter in which Smithers is out and Mr. Burns discovers he is unable to even make a phone call by himself. He is ignorant on how to do a thousand of little things everybody else knows. He is so high in the social structure he is even unable of living as an average person within BAU, so imagine Mr. Burns living in Middle Ages but not as a king nor a tradesman but as a peasant (at best)

              Worst than Burns, if you were real PTB you could look back on several generations of your fathers and will find absolutely nothing helpful. You have no chance at all but invest everything in delaying the end of BAU, because that day you’re a dead man. And you know it far better than these little people asking themselves “why do these terrestrial gods we call PTB are doing nothing?”

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              And greetings morons and koombay thumbing idiots who think that growing some turnips in the garden and tossing fuel rods into your swimming pool will save the world.

              And Gerry, have you figured out that gold is money yet? Seriously Gerry have you ever had your face so rammed into the mud so eloquently as I did with that crushing mockery of you and your oh so smug heroes at Zero Hedge who suggest gold is not money

              Gail, sadly your incredible efforts to provide a platform for the few that understand the complex issues that you patiently attempt to explain (again and again and again and again) has been invaded by the Idiocracy,

              Of course the participants that I refer to have not a clue who they are because the stupid are so stupid they do not realize they are stupid, and ignorant. They just spew their utter rubbish endlessly wasting space and bandwith.

              It really is too bad that the pollution has spoiled things because there are many who contribute such insightful posts here — interguru, quintellas, b9k9, and a select few others… hats off to you for your frequent brilliance

              The board has been overwhelmed with Idiocy — by people who think that nuclear fuel ponds are little more than swimming pools… by imbeciles who believe that if we all just plant a veg garden all will be ok…

              Imbeciles that LOT of you. And Gail — I cannot imagine how many times you have had to bite your tongue when reading the obscene drivel that gets posted here

              As we can see the posts from the above-mentioned voices of reason have been overwhelmed by Idiocracy, there is little to be gained from participation on these forums. Little to be learned these days

              Good luck with your tomatoes and your swimming pools.

              The only value here is in reading the brilliant insights form the host. The majority of other contributors are an insult to the attempts of the author to present an alternative platform to discuss issues that the MSM refuses to acknowledge

              Adieu, goodbye, piss off… this site has been ruined by fools.

              Post Comment

            • Interguru says:

              Just cool it!!!

            • VPK says:

            • That’s brilliant. Just put one rack of spent fuel rods into each community swimming pool, thus providing safe clean heating for decades, while simultaneously removing the threat of the rods overheating and melting, and removing the need for constant water circulation.

              Now we just need a simple, cost effective solution for greenhouse gases and presto! No more need to worry about The End Of Days.

            • Michael Jones says:

              Debbie the DOWNER! LOL

            • Calista says:

              I suspect that the PTB as you call them can be separated into a few categories. The ones who are paranoid and who see unrest growing around the world have the bunkers would be one category. I would argue that they don’t actually get the whole picture. The next category are the ones who actually get it. You won’t see them in the PTB anymore but instead retiring to their ranch, farm etc. and taking all of the advice we discuss here and other places that pay attention to the system as a whole. Count how many leave PTB for the farm, those are the ones who get it. This would be my test. If you actually understand what is happening in the system you would get out the best you can.

              I think the assumption you make is a blind spot that builds upon the blind spot of those in PTB. If you ever come from outside of BAU and then meet someone from PTB their thought process, understanding of how the world works, and their base assumptions sound unreal to someone like me. They live in non-sense world. If your world has filters so very different from what the average middle class person the BAU struggles with (again, unread to someone from outside of BAU) then understand that all the information that you or I would look at is going through that filter. Do not discount the limiting effect of filters upon someone’s understanding of the world. I think discounting that really does your argument and analysis a disservice.

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              Retiring to their farms does not sound like a very good option because they run into the same problems as everyone else who tries this. How do you protect your farm from those who want to steal your crops?

              Also because spent fuel ponds will not be cooled when there is no energy available to cool them, the PTB and their families will be breathing, drinking and eating radiation just like everyone else.

              I fail to see how anyone can plan for that.

              Sure they could go underground and store years of food, but the radiation that will be emitted from these fuel ponds will go on for many decades.

            • InAlaska says:

              Yes, Calista and gerryhiles. I agree with you. The PTB are not a monolithic group marching and thinking in lockstep, and I suspect have as much diversity of opinion as any other group. Bill and Melinda Gates, perhaps the wealthiest couple in the world run a foundation that focuses on eliminating disease and poverty in the developing world through better seed and fertilizer, education for women, access to clean drinking water, closing the digital divide, etc. etc. They are as smart and connected to the power structure as it gets,and they obviously still see a future where those things are worth pursuing and matter. Some people on this site should stop tossing around the term “PTB” as if it is a word you can find in the dictionary.

            • VPK says:

              ROBOTS to the rescue!
              British robot maps radiation at Fukushima
              A robot developed by a UK start-up is helping to locate hazardous radiation sources at the scene of the Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
              Createc, a small imaging company based in Cumbria, has developed camera technology called N-Visage for robots that can detect and draw a 3D map of high radiation locations that are too contaminated for human workers
              On our way to building a more perfect world!

            • Christian says:

              Hope this one won’t blow up

            • “Unless someone can explain how we manage such high-tech facilities in a world without energy,”

              What is so high tech about a spent fuel pond? Originally, they were just swimming pools. Now, if high density packing, their like hot tubs. All they need is constant water circulation.

            • VPK says:

              Start wading in that their spent fuel pond, Matthew.

            • According to Galen Windsor, Manager of Safety at a nuclear plant, it is perfectly OK to swim around in spent fuel ponds, doesn’t need heating or lighting like regular community pools:

            • VPK says:

              Good News for YOU! Just be sure the water doesn’t evaporate.

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              Can you do us a favour and not just post the first bit of nonsense that comes into your head. This is like arguing with an 8 year old.

            • Christian says:

              Imagine Windsors and Orange lose their fossil revenues and their thrones. How does it looks like? Now imagine they also lose actual civilization. What are they left with? I am talking about these people:



              Btw, what’s the purpose on talking about Masterminds, my dear troll? Remember phycisists refer to the global system as a self organized entity, with no mastermind behind it. In case there is a master, it’s thermodynamics. This is critical to all analysis and it’s highlighted by Korowicz.

              If you’re truly Paul, perhaps you just got depressed when you learned Bali’s ag is on steroids, which worsened the prospects for you. And perhaps you project it as a dark shade over the whole world, which is already in the dark anyway. If you’re truly Paul, do as most of us and try to accept death is unavoidable at some point. And try to integrate in something broader, wholeheartedly, not as in the answer you gave me once “I will look for a community of skilled people in NZ”, as if people were just a tool for your egoistic survival and not fellows to share something with, be it death in the end.

            • gerryhiles says:

              I concur Christian, though I am currently avoiding making comments, for fairly obvious reasons.

            • michael jones says:

            • gerryhiles says:

              Yes, sums it up.

          • Brunswickian says:

            It will be grim in high density areas, but I don’t think TPTB will allow the mob to escape the cities while they still have reserves. Mike Ruppert said as much years ago. A few tanks and machine gun units would suffice. Collapse won’t be overnight. Depopulation will be rapid.

          • Billy Zabinkski says:

            Gee WWW. just a guy out checking his gill nets for a couple oil sodden quahogs, BAU. Give the poor quahog fisherman a break.

            • InAlaska says:

              Paul’s problem (I mean Wee Willy) is that he persists in believing (without supporting evidence) that the PTB act in concert with one another. That somehow all of these disparate super-billionaires some how coordinate their efforts to either “prepare” for the post-industrial world, or to “do nothing” because it is hopeless. But the PTB don’t act in concert with each other. They are all pursuing self-interested agendas. There is no deep state coalition of the elites. The system is too complex, the issues to difficult, the scope of the enterprise too broad. We are all alone. All of us: rich and poor, born into a deeply compromised and hopelessly corrupted system with no future. It was several generations in the making and was not anyone’s fault. Ergo, there is no cabal or cartel or braintrust that is deeply thinking about how to prepare for or prevent a post-collapse world. It will collapse along some unknown arc that is either stunningly quick or generationally slow. The predicament has been studied by individual governments and by military establishments, but it isn’t being actively managed by any individual or group. Anyone who has worked in government knows that government is too incompetent at the macro level to affect this type of response. Anyone who is, or knows someone who is super-rich, knows that by and large (to generalize) they are generally narcissistic or disinterested in the larger world around them. The world is blindly stumbling toward collapse with different parts of it more aware than others, but each overwhelmed or over-matched by the magnitude of the issues.

  27. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All
    Geoff Lawton has issued a video today which illustrates many of the points I have been shamelessly copying from Mobus and Kalton. The entire video is about 18 minutes. The first 10 minutes show what this property looked like 6 years ago when it underwent a permaculture makeover, and what it looks like today. The property is in Minnesota. There is also a tip on dealing with irrational local governments.


    I particularly want to call your attention to the events from the 10 minute mark to the end. At 10 minutes, Dan Halsey, the owner, gives a good demonstration of why he uses a scythe rather than a power mower. This is an example of how energy use tends to get more efficient with adaptation over time. However, the increased efficiency is dependent on Halsey actually paying attention rather than just listening to corporate propaganda.

    I want to call to your remembrance that M&K tell us that adaptation and evolution tend to work over time to create structure which most effectively dissipates the energy flowing through the system. In this case, the energy is mostly sunlight, but it manifests in many ways such as warmth, photosynthesis, the activity of soil microbes, rainfall, animals and birds and insects, and, of course, the plants. Given a thousand years, Nature would transform the bare piece of land shown at the beginning of the video into something like the productive land you can see it has become in 6 years.

    Beginning at the 11:15 point, Dan Halsey gives us a tutorial on how he accelerates the ‘survival of the fittest’ paradigm played out over a thousand years into an efficient design which owes its legitimacy to human culture.

    Notice how he designs with very simple geometric tools to maximize the use of the sunlight and water and gravity and human access. He tells us that it is a mistake to look at the property and think ‘I want a big pecan tree right here’, because we need to keep our initial focus on the ecological function. Big trees have a different function than understory trees which have a different function than shrubs, etc. Once he has the structure ‘adapted’ to the landscape as best he can, then he begins the process of selecting particular plants. You will see that he uses computer databases to help him select plants. On very large properties, he uses computerized design tools to help. The basic knowledge of how to use sunlight to grow plants which benefit humans, the invention of the scythe, the paper and pencils he uses, the knowledge of plant properties which is embodied in the database, and the computerized design tools are all products of human culture. In fact, most everything you see here is a product of human culture, which has been following M&Ks rules in terms of adaptation and evolution. As a footnote, the recent abundance of fossil fuels has allowed humans to stray very far from the efficiency goals which are enforced by scarcity. Fossil fuels enabled the desert which this land was 6 years ago. Fossil fuels enable people to use inefficient mowing machines rather than scythes.

    One final question for you to think about. Is Dan Halsey a ‘complex structure’ which would be threatened if fossil fuels or the Big Banks go away? Does our political structure have anything to do with your answer? Would the infrastructures which Halsey has built likely survive and continue to be productive (even if Halsey can no longer do what he does today)? The answer to these questions is similar to Dmitry Orlov’s work on Stages of Collapse. There is much to ponder.

    Don Stewart

    • Wee Willy Winky says:

      Can advise where I should fast forward to where they discuss how the gang of vicious murderers show up and enslave the permaculture experts forcing them to grow food for them?

      Survival of the fittest really means who is willing to commit the most vile atrocities in order to feed himself and his army.


      • Don Stewart says:

        Wee Willy
        There are a number of permaculture sites which feature lots of guns in addition to growing plants.

        Don Stewart

        • Jarvis says:

          Don, If we use recent near extinction events and famines here’s how the dark days of collapse could possibly play out. With our native peoples of Canada our government of the time set up feeding station with inadequate food supply thereby weakening the population and leaving them open to disease and in many places the disease did the dirty deed and that’s what killed off so many of our first nations people even though we never had the Custer vs the Indian battles you Americans had but the effect was the same. If history serves the marauders will be the surviving children as the parents will forgo food to enable their children to survive. I’m sure populations will cluster around feeding stations and when they run out the weaken populations won’t get too far.
          I’m in the process of setting up a second farm on a remote location if thing get too ugly. Last summer 1.7 million sockeye salmon swam past our island (minus the 30 I took) so I think an island off the pacific northwest is a far better place to be than is some water stressed state – FYI I’ll be neighbours with your 1% who are moving here in droves!

        • Wee Willy Winky says:

          I wonder how far a few farmers with rifles trying to defend a piece of land against trained brutes versed in military tactics will get.

          Keep in mind the brutes will not be interested in becoming farmers, rather they will only want the food provisions and crops that ready for harvesting. They will kill, rape, pillage, then move on.

          Of course if the farmers are not killed they will be left to starve.

          • “I wonder how far a few farmers with rifles trying to defend a piece of land against trained brutes versed in military tactics will get.”

            If you are referring to the United States, much of the trained military men come from the countryside, and many of the farmers were soldiers. If the central state collapses, I think ex-soldiers will be more loyal to their family and local town than to a random bunch of other soldiers.

            Guerrilla warfare now is much different; IED really help level the field. Either the oil system is working to provide fuel for MRAP, in which case there is likely still some government, otherwise they may have trouble fueling and maintaining armored vehicles.

          • Don Stewart says:

            Dear Wee Willy
            I am reluctant to interfere with your setting up straw men and knocking them over. However, you should be aware that some of the people who advocate permaculture and guns are military men and women.

            Don Stewart

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              Then they would know that it would virtually impossible to defend a farm (open land) against an attack by a force of motivated, trained, armed men.

              You say that the permaculture crowd is comprised of killers.

              From the vibe I am getting from the permaculture proponents on this site I sense that they are primarily pseudo 1960 hippies who believe that mankind will magically be transformed into docile peace loving, sharing, loving beings.

              I have looked at a few of these ‘communes’ and I have even spoken to a couple of people who are in existing communes. They are vehemently pacifist.

              Can you point me to some info on a commune that has a war machine in place?

            • Good point!

          • Billy Zabinkski- says:

            There are certainly groups of people who are capable of such morally depraved behavior. I would characterize the criminal gangs as such. Whether people with military training will behave in the fashion you describe remains unknown. Whether unit cohesion can adapt to the behavior you describe is unknown. Many of the tools of the modern military , laser guided ordnance, heavy weapons will not be available post collapse to rogue military elements. Farmers at least as we regard the term today are wealthy and have lots of guns and ammunition. I say this not because civilians can stand against a professional military- they cant a professional military does not engage in the actions you describe however. Esprit d cor can not be maintained.

            Not everyone is cut out to be a pirate. People will not instantly flip a switch and become puppy rapers.

            I generally prefer Pauls viewpoint to Dons. I would guess the truth is somewhere in between. I would note that Dons posts generally provide information or sources of information.. Dons posts both in there style and chosen content denote the emotional content that things will be ok. Paul believes thinks will not be OK. I also believe that the underlying situation is such that there is no chance that turmoil can not be avoided. Most of the debate on this forum is polarized into one of these two camps and the choice of camps is largely based on emotional factors. Dons writings are very sophisticated but the undercurrent to them is things will be ok. This goes against the grain of those who pretty much sure we are all f*****. buttons are pushed reaction occurs. We waste precious time that could be spent with loved ones. Such is our condition as humans. At various different times I have found myself reacting to eithor of these two themes that are prevalent on this blog. The themes are emotional in their nature and my response to them is emotional also.

            Those are the two hummed tunes you hear here in essence. The content and style vary but there are only two tunes being hummed. When one camp hears the other camps tune being hummed it contradicts with their emotional essence and a reaction comes forth.

            What is interesting is that the information presented on this blog is devoid of the tell tale emotional content of eithor camp. Kudos to Gail.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Billy Zabinkski
              If you think that I am saying ‘everything will be OK’, then I don’t want to argue with you. One reason is that the term ‘going to be OK’ is ill-defined. I have, for example, said that a reasonable scenario is that 500 million people survive through the bottleneck. Then, after some period of time, the population may grow to perhaps 2 billion as we gain complexity again. Whether the death of 6.7 billion people is ‘OK’ or not depends on how you think about it. As I said recently, if you are able to think that 500 million people surviving and then rebuilding a society is ‘positive’, then maybe you qualify as an ‘optimist’. I well remember that when Toby Hemenway quoted that scenario to a filled auditorium at Duke, the room got very quiet. I don’t think they thought it was ‘optimistic’.

              But I think that simply laying out the challenges and the opportunities and being realistic about outcomes is better than trying to characterize someone’s attitude. Personally, I prefer to keep busy and to associate with people who are keeping busy doing whatever we can do.

              Don Stewart

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              I see that as an overwhelmingly optimistic outcome.

              “Then, after some period of time, the population may grow to perhaps 2 billion as we gain complexity again.”

              Sure maybe something will emerge from this but I fail to see how it would be very complex considering we have burned through all the accessible energy, and even with the full force of BAU we are having trouble getting at what is left.

              Let’s face it, we are headed for a ‘year zero’ situation here. This is going to be hell on earth.

              I am not overly interested in speculating what comes out of that in 20 or 50 or 100 years.

              If we are not wiped out my radiation and I am alive in 5 years, my life is going to be absolutely brutal whatever I do.

              And that is why I am cheering wildly for the PTB to keep BAU going for as long as possible. Once it stops, life will not be worth living. It will be all about suffering and deprivation.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Wee Willy

              ‘Sure maybe something will emerge from this but I fail to see how it would be very complex considering we have burned through all the accessible energy,’

              You fail to understand that, even today, the great majority of energy comes from the sun, and that complexity emerges from social organization…not only from fossil fuel burning.

              I have no interest in pursuing this with you, since your mind is made up and it would just be a waste of my time.

              Neither do I have any interest in pursuing Quitollis ridiculous assertions about veganism and permaculture, since his mind is similarly made up,

              Don Stewart

            • Our current built infrastructure is built on fossil fuels. Using solar alone, we are highly unlikely to be able to reproduce it again. Don is speculating about what different can be done with solar energy, plus probably wood and a few other small sources of energy.

            • Don Stewart says:

              I am mostly talking about using solar energy either directly (e.g., warming from the sun with passive solar) or indirectly (e.g., photosynthesis) along with other forces such as gravity. I also take into account the fact that, if one goes into a collapse with PV panels powering a stand-alone system, or a solar hot water system, those will operate for some number of years.

              I think it is a deadly mistake to think that we are dependent on fossil fuels for survival. Those who think so probably won’t survive.

              Don Stewart

            • Billy Zabinkski- says:

              Dearest sweetest Donald Stewart

              Comunication takes many forms and emotional content trumps logical content everytime..

              yours Truly
              Billy Zabinkski

  28. Jarvis says:

    Gail, Just heard a news report that the big oil companies are stock piling oil using super tankers. At first this struck me as a dumb idea as they only hold around 2 million barrels each but then that could be a way to tighten up the oil supply. With so many super tanks filled and anchored in some bay won’t that have an effect on OPEC’s ability to ship? Do you know if there is an huge surplus of super tankers?

    • Ever heard of Mr. Onasis? Shipping especially in crude could be beyond profitable, buying cheap selling high, galactic fortunes made “easy”. In a way the current situation is a rehash of 2008/9 and also in previous times the ships can be used as additional storage.

    • There is a pretty big surplus of supertankers. I don’t remember the details. We are now shipping less crude oil around the world than before, so don’t need as many, for one thing. Something else happened to increase supply–more of the most jumbo ones, I believe.

      Storing oil tightens up supply, but pushes more supply out a month or two or three. It is expensive to store oil this way ($10 month, someone claimed), so companies don’t plan long-term storage. There are futures contracts that a company can buy that guarantee a certain price at a given date. If this price is high enough relative to today’s price, the oil company can guarantee itself a higher price in the future, by storing the oil. This seems to be happening now.

      This may stop the downward trend, at least for a while. If there really is an underlying problem, it will not fix that, though. We could get a stair step in prices. The future could be flat for a while, but then start downward again later, if the sale of the stored supply tends to make total supply for that period excessive.

  29. Quitollis says:

    It is only the sun rising.

    Never say that acid house did nothing for your culture.


    London-style bass-driven funky version.


    Original version.

  30. trillileaks says:

    Reblogged this on trillileaks.

    • Yes, the markets went rather crazy in response!

      However, the problem is the interpretation of this event, one possibility is that the Swiss-peg-anchor was ended on the call/push from ECB/EU because of the forthcoming massive stimulus package to be announced alegedly next week or so. The other option is that despite all the Central Bankster longterm promises, the Swiss just panicked best and first, because of the overall deflationary turmoil and ECB printfest on schedule or maybe even looked at some highlevel intel we are entering likely replay of 2011-2012 when eurozone was near collapse into national currencies.

      For the first outcome if you are in stocks, chances are there will be another liftathlon for few more minutes/hours/days/months afterwards, EUR might go way lower. And the second previously mentioned outcome just means we are way closer to overall carnage.

      In any case it’s a new fresh dent in credibility of already very uncredible individuals, institutions, and politics.

      • Billy Zabinkski says:

        Some say this is a break from the SNB toward representation of a sovereign and single economy- which you describe in your second scenario . I suppose it could be but I doubt it. More likely your first scenario above rather than the second scenario i would guess.. It could also be Switzerland being the center of international settlements the separation was done to insulate the usual players if war is on the horizon.

        Attempts at interpreting a event this huge, this large a deviation from what has become the norm in the past eight years are beyond my capacity to interpret. My only guess is something big is in the future.

  31. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All

    This will be an examination and reflection on the difficulties our society will encounter as we try to adjust to any collapse of the financial system and petroleum production. I will use a food initiative in Charleston, SC to identify some of the issues.

    The last paragraph in Mobus and Kalton’s Principles of Systems Science:
    ‘More and more of the problems that our civilization faces are inherently complex and hence, systemic. Their solution, if they can be solved, will involve systems engineering. We will need the application of systems engineering for what we often take for granted—sustainable living systems in a world beset by extraordinarily complex problems. Our current society is based on the availability of fossil fuels (over 80 percent of our energy comes from fossil fuels) and those fuels are a finite and diminishing resource. The burning of fossil fuels has dumped an amazing amount of carbon into the atmosphere and oceans and has contributed to heating the planet and changing the basic climate systems. The change in climate and human uses of freshwater is already changing the availability of water for drinking and agriculture. There are other resource threats that we have to consider.’

    Now, let’s consider a proposal in Chareston, SC to purchase a school bus and retrofit it as a mobile grocery store to specifically serve food deserts in the Charleston area.

    Click this link. Scroll down until you get to the article on Lowcountry Street Grocery.


    I call your attention to these particular statements:

    ‘we will be able to streamline and perfect our production, inventory, and marketing procedures – ultimately learning how to maximize the opportunities we seek to create for local farmers and businesses. ‘

    ‘CFSA: How will you define long-term success?

    LSG: As a community health initiative, our ultimate metric for success is the health and wellness of the communities we serve. We aim to affect real, systemic changes in community health over time by changing the way that healthy, local food is distributed for purchase.’

    ‘From our perspective, one of the most important factors is and will continue to be the sharing of knowledge and best practices. We love our community of farmers here in Charleston, which is made up of many beginning farmers – and we love learning from one another. Collaborative efforts, like workshops, town halls, and seminars, can go a long way toward making local and organic production a reality – especially for those who are just beginning.

    The establishment of additional food hubs will also be integral to increasing local and organic production. We need more food hubs that are designed to cater to small farms, and that help them overcome the obstacles they often face in reaching the markets they need to become viable and sustainable as businesses.’

    ‘Healthy Meal Kits & Recipes
    Food Storage, Preparation, and Cooking Demonstrations
    Nutrition Information
    Corner Store Restock Initiative
    School Gardens, Mobile Gardens, and At-Home Garden Starter Kits’

    Back to me. There are so many issues here that I suspect even M&K might feel challenged. Even listing all the challenges would make this an exceedingly long post. So I’ll just confine myself to a generality: It is fortunate that the young people driving this school bus don’t understand that it can’t be done. That the government, or the banks, or the corporations and their manipulation of the science of addiction, or the complete collapse of law and order or fossil fuels, or climate change simply drowning Charleston, or just inertia will make change impossible.

    It is also interesting that Systems Science may be useful to manage incremental change, but may be impotent to deal with the fundamental changes we face. Part of the impotence comes from the statement that 80 percent of our energy comes from fossil fuels. No, 89 percent of our energy comes from the sun. It seems to me that any thinking about solutions has to start from solar energy, much of it filtered through photosynthesis. Which leads me to gardens as the only truly viable solution, with dried calorie crops (such as grains and beans) being distributed in bulk amounts. The school bus will provide kits for school and community and private gardens. If you are an optimist, you envision an evolutionary pathway from distributing collard greens in a school bus to growing collard greens in your own garden. The school bus may not survive in the long haul, but might be a useful bridge.

    Don Stewart
    PS I contribute to CFSA. Is my rather modest contribution well spent, a waste of money, or just a way of keeping me in touch with some amazing young people and avoiding the pessimistic vortex which swallows old people?

    • Wee Willy Winky says:

      Wisdom often comes with age.

      What this post suggests is pie in the sky nonsense. It is not going to happen.

      Starvation, disease, and suffering (and likely extinction) are what are in store for the human race.

      Mobile grocery stores? Really?

      • Rodster says:

        I’m all for people and communities trying. It’s better than doing nothing i.e. standing on a railway track waiting for the 100 MPH freight train to make impact. You get out of the way as soon as you can.

        That said, we got a recent glimpse as to what happens when BAU breaks down. It recently happened in Venezuela. When an angry, hungry, desperate mob loses it, there’s no telling what they are capable of, in order to survive and feed their families.

        • Wee Willy Winky says:

          Agree. Better to do something that nothing even if it just makes you feel better.

          But I am doubt it will make a difference. The foundation of the world, energy, is about to end.

          This is beyond profound.

          • Rodster says:

            I also have a feeling that THIS won’t end well. But at least humanity can look back and say their were some, a small group who tried to make a difference.

  32. Rodster says:

    Things just got a wee bit more serious with Russia cutting off 60% of its supplies to Europe as a protest to sanctions and Ukraine stealing gas supplies.

    • As I understand it, it’s only about the southern part of that large east-west pipeline network, i.e. that cut today is about the Balkans (EU) link only. Most of Western and Central Europe should be well supplied via NordStream and pipes going north of Ukraine via Belarus-Poland/SK?

      But the stunner is that just day or two before Orlov wrote about it.
      It exactly follows Orlov’s narrative as the russian energy people now reasoned, the next pipeline (Southstream replacement) will go to Turkey/Greek border full stop and it’s up to EU to deal with any projects how to get it from that point more inland. Haha!

      So, people who asked what the hell is with Russia last year doing nothing, well it takes time, now it’s January and the next move has been announced, lolz.

    • Quitollis says:

      Putin is starting to get it, but if your basic attitude to life is “anti-fascist” BS then don’t be surprised when you get BS in response. The planet has had enough of BS and it is time to grow up. Bolshevism was BS. We all know that now. Liberalism is also BS. If Putin wants to lead the way then he needs to cut _all_ of the BS. (Sort out RT.) Europe will follow along with him if he does. If he wants to keep the ultra-lefty RT BS going then he can expect BS in response. That is life.

      • Rodster says:

        That’s the problem with Putin and Xi, they want it both ways. They want to have bigger say in what goes on economically in their parts of the world but are not going far enough to change the way money works. They learned how to make money by following the West and they are too tied into the Western system. If they pull the rug out it all comes crashing down. It’s similar to the illustration Gail uses with the Leonardo Stick Toy.

        • Quitollis says:

          Yes if the best that Russia can do is to pull the whole thing down, then let them do it. That is democracy for you. If they want to grow up and to make the best of a f* bad situation, then they need to start talking sense. As long as they push a Commie Party USA agenda then they will be recognised for exactly what they are, an enemy. If they ever want to be interpreted as anything different then they need to sort their heads out now. No one is f* stupid and no one is going to present their arse to Putin. The “you are all stupid and young” game is over. Russia needs to grow up and to start talking sense to Europe. As long as RT continues its ultra-lefty cr\p we will all know that Putin wants to arse rape us all. If Russia wants to be an equal European nation then it needs to start to talking sense and to cut out all of the obnoxious BS. RT will be the end of Russia.

    • Yes, I saw that. https://euobserver.com/news/127216 At least the cut-off isn’t immediate.

  33. Wee Willy Winky says:

    Some might say that those who bang on about AGW are idiots.

    Because they do not seem to realize that the only way to slow or stop AGW is to stop burning fossil fuels, which would result in the immediate collapse of civilization.

    • Quitollis says:

      You hit the nail on the head there W. There is no way that the planet can support the plague of locust that is mass, industrial, liberal egalitarian humanity.

      We must needs re-orientate our societies toward human quality and away from human quantity after the collapse. Industrial capitalism that mass breeds the human masses is the worst thing that has ever happened to this planet. We should rather breed the best among us as the nucleus of the future.

      The planet itself must utter a Nietzschean prayer. It is as if the planet itself penned Zarathustra.

      Far too many live, and far too long hang they on their branches. Would that a storm came and shook all this rottenness and worm-eatenness from the tree!
      Would that there came preachers of SPEEDY death! Those would be the appropriate storms and agitators of the trees of life! But I hear only slow death preached, and patience with all that is “earthly.”
      Ah! ye preach patience with what is earthly? This earthly is it that hath too much patience with you, ye blasphemers!


      • Wee Willy Winky says:

        I don’t think there was any other possible outcome. We have behaved as any organism would.

        And I do not think what comes after us will behave any differently.

        The only difference is (assuming anyone survives) will be that that they will not have access to the one-off energy supply that we have had.

        They will live like wild savages. Top of the food chain, but beasts.

        I was reading an article in the Atlantic about how high achievers are having to deal with lack of opportunities. Imagine an alpha human 20 years from now with an IQ of 150.

        What to do with that when there are no more corner offices and private jets?

        • “They will live like wild savages. Top of the food chain, but beasts.”

          Oh come on, sixteenth century Italy was not that bad.

          “What to do with that when there are no more corner offices and private jets?”

          There is always aristocracy, or joining a monastery. If enough people survive and things are not too horrible, there will probably be trading companies.

          • Wee Willy Winky says:

            In the 16th century 7 billion humans were not suddenly faced with a situation where there was no way to feed themselves, no way to keep themselves warm.

            In the 16th century the world’s farmland had not been destroyed by chemical farming. Most people lived a self-sufficient life working small plots and feeding their families from these.

            In the 16th century there were no spent nuclear fuel ponds.

            Also there were not hundreds of millions of guns in the hands of anyone who wanted one.

            I’ve posted video of the way people behave during these Black Friday discount days. They resemble wild animals fighting over a scrap of meat. Because at the end of the day, that is what we are.

            When resources are abundant, our true nature does not often reveal itself, but these events give us a glimpse of what we are capable of.

            Imagine what will happen when 7 billion people are left to fight over scraps of meat. The gloves will come off.

            Survival of the fittest is going to kick in very hard and very fast.

            The most vicious and violent will rise to the top, the meek and gentle will be slaughtered, enslaved (eaten?); most will just die because the strong will get the scraps and the rest will starve or die of disease.

            • “Imagine what will happen when 7 billion people are left to fight over scraps of meat. The gloves will come off.

              Survival of the fittest is going to kick in very hard and very fast.”

              You think it will take 20 years for the population to fall and some form of stability to arise?

              As I said, barring doomsday – spent fuel rod meltdowns, Guy McPherson-style rapid global warming, etc, If there is a total collapse, I expect 50 to 90% mortality within the first year in northern climes. I think we’ll be down to 5 to 10 percent within 5 years. Africa outside of the oil rich Arab states may have little to no change at all. Some places it may drag out slowly. In places where we have 40 below in winter, the readjustment will be much quicker. Either way, in 20 years things will be mostly sorted out one way or the other I suspect.

            • Wee Willy Winky says:

              When BAU snaps, I expect most people will be dead within weeks because there will be no food available.

              There will be a frenzy as people try to get their hands on whatever is available. First from the grocery stores then from the few organic farms that are in operation. Hunters will kill everything that moves in order to try to feed their families. Ever deer, elk, rabbit, moose will be shot and eaten.

              There are plenty of instances where men, when faced with starvation, ate humans. I see no reason why this will not happen on a large scale.

              And anyone who thinks we in the west are civil, that we are different is going either learn very quickly that we are not, or they will be dead.

              Friendliness only works during times of plenty. During famine it is a massive weakness that will be exploited.

              Survival of the fittest leaves no room for kindness. If the lion doesn’t kill the young antelope because he feels sorry for him, he will soon be dead himself.

  34. Wee Willy Winky says:

    AGW is ignored because there is nothing that we can do about it.

    We either continue to burn fossil fuels, or we collapse in a heap of rubble.

    What are your solutions to AGW?

    • “What are your solutions to AGW?”

      Aluminum foil in Low Earth Orbit to reduce sunlight a couple percent. Expensive, and it probably means no more space stations, telescopes, probes, rovers, GPS, satellite TV, no more warning for meteors, no warning for CME. There would need to be a lot of desperation and a great deal of certainty for such a method to be implemented.

      The only other choice is potentially increasing organic matter in soil in grasslands through intensive herding, but whether it is enough and whether enough resources will go into it, and whether it really works as suggested, no idea.

  35. VPK says:

    Drum roll PLEASE!
    “At $50, it just doesn’t make sense,” James Henderson, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, said in a Jan. 12 phone interview. “Arctic exploration has almost certainly been significantly undermined for the rest of this decade.”
    The Arctic — spanning Russia, Norway, Greenland, the U.S. and Canada — accounts for more than 20 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas resources, including an estimated 134 billion barrels of crude and other liquids and 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s almost as much oil as Iraq’s proved reserves at the end of 2013 and 50 percent more gas than Russia had booked, BP Plc (BP/)’s Statistical Review of World Energy shows.”


    • Thanks! It is hard to believe that the natural gas ever had a chance, but there was at least a little chance for the oil, with the prices high.

      • VPK says:

        Gail. I posted another link stating that the last large undiscovered/untapped elephant fields are located in these regions.

  36. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All

    I will try to tie up a few items with respect to modeling future scenarios for human social and economic organizations. This will all derive from Mobus and Kalton’s Principles of Systems Science, and particularly the chapter on Systems Modeling.

    First, someone took me to task for using the word ‘autonomous’. M&K discuss that issue on page 674. They conclude:
    ‘Can systems that respond with internal activation guided by information have more than a single possibility when the complex of contradictory and complementary informed motives is summed up? That must be left up to the reader; no one as yet even knows how to do such a calculation. For our purposes, we will take autonomy to be a condition where a very complex, adaptive system is capable of taking decisions in the sense described above.’

    Second, agent based modeling (assuming the agents have some autonomy as M&K are using the word). Page 677:
    ‘One example of the the problems with agent-based models where unrealistic assumptions about human decision processes have been made is the neoclassical economics model of Homo Economicus. Numerous psychological investigators have now shown that the basic assumptions about how humans make economic decision are quite wrong—mere conveniences to make the modeling simpler. Agent-based modeling is promising but, perhaps, still in its infancy. … However, research is active and vigorous in this arena.’

    Third, evolutionary models. Page 681:
    ‘The common feature of these models is the use of environmental selection forces to eliminate poor outcomes…The objective is to do the same kind of gradient following as we saw in Operations Research as the program iterates over ‘generations’ of solution attempts….What we are looking for is to evolve a circuit that can solve the problem directly Many circuits are generated in a single generation. All are tested, and only one or a few that produce the ‘best’ solutions are kept as the base for the next iteration (generation)’

    I’ll make a few comments here. Let us assume that there is a financial/energy crash and the population of humans on Earth declines rather rapidly to 500 million. Those 500 million will begin an evolutionary process seeking to find the best ‘circuits’ to survive in the new (really, very old) world. Evolution will tend to find the best circuits and small groups will copy from each other and complexity and thus the ability to extract resources from the new environment will increase. My guess is that the population might increase to 2 billion, based on a very crude projection from Edo Japan. At that point, the population would probably stabilize, but that will be long after I am gone. The evolution here is distinguished from adaptation, which M&K discuss and which I described in a previous note. Humans would not evolve appreciably in terms of physiology, but their knowledge and social and economic relationships would evolve rather rapidly.

    Fourth, on page 696:
    ‘Our analysis of human brains and societies continues and will for the foreseeable future. At the end of each iteration, though, we do understand better….Modeling brings us full circle in the quest for understanding. One particular complex adaptive and evolvable system is the human brain, and a population of these systems is attempting to understand other systems, as well as themselves.’
    (Footnote on the ‘evolvable brain’. That doesn’t mean physiologically evolvable in terms of the nuts and bolts from which it is made. I am pretty sure they mean that brains ‘learn’, by reconfiguring synapse connections. That’s one of the key things we do on this website.)

    M&K conclude the chapter with a description of the ideal modeling system that they hope some ambitious student will tackle.

    I want to conclude with just a general observation about dogmatism and discovery, and pessimism and optimism. There are many voices on this site who are dogmatic (humans are just vicious) and pessimistic (the way we do things now is the only way to do things). I think that perhaps a watershed divide is whether one can think of 500 million human survivors inventing a better future as something positive. (If you are really ambitious, you visualize 7.2 billion humans becoming enlightened.) I don’t really have much interest in dogmatic pessimism, so I incline to look at the potential. I find the animal studies of Frans de Waal and others to be a good antidote to the Viciousness religion (*), and the modeling studies described by M&K as hopeful signs that there may be a potential for humans on this planet. I suspect that the ability to respect what others are doing in terms of Evolution and the search for good circuits, and to learn from each other, will be a key survival trait.

    Don Stewart
    * de Waal began with the then-popular Viciousness religion, and changed his mind by engaging with the evidence

  37. Pingback: SEF News-Views Digest No. 78 (1-15-15) | Citizens for Sustainability

  38. Stilgar Wilcox says:

    Additional to the oil price plunge, is the parallel dive copper is taking. It cascaded 6.2% in Tuesday’s trading.

    Copper suffers meltdown on growth anxiety, euro on defensive

    Unease over the global economy engulfed commodities and dented Asian equities on Wednesday, while the euro loitered near nine-year lows as investors bet the European Central Bank was just a week away from launching a new stimulus campaign.

    As if the plunge in oil prices is not enough of a worry for global policymakers, copper futures dived 6.2 percent to $5,499 a tonne when major chart support cracked and triggered a host of stop-loss sales.

    The metal is often considered a barometer of industrial demand, so the slump leant extra gravitas to news the World Bank had cut its 2015 growth forecasts blaming sluggishness in the euro zone, Japan and some major emerging economies.

    “The global economy is at a disconcerting juncture,” World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu told reporters. “It is as challenging a moment as it gets for economic forecasting.”

    • gerryhiles says:

      Well done on a relevant, on topic post, whilst others push their quasi-messianic ‘answers’ to keeping things going much as they are on a finite planet.

      The Baltic Dry Index and the price of copper are irrefutable indicators of real conditions, not fringe horticultural movements and especially not thorium evangelists..

    • Thanks! People don’t realize that our problem is with all commodities.

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