First Report from Gail in China

Greetings Finite Worlders!   Gail is on her 1 month lecture tour of China.  She’s unable to access WordPress from China, but does have access to email, so she’s sending me updates to publish here on OFW.  My Byline/About appears at the bottom here, but the China Travelogue articles are authored by her and all photos are from her  We will try to keep you updated as the trip progresses. -RE

Here’s the email Recap so far from Gail

Greeting from Beijing!

I am being treated well at China University of Petroleum in Beijing. I have given four lectures to my class so far, and will give four more lectures (and a short test) to my students next week. The classroom is not heated after March 15, so students have their coats on.

I understand cutting off the heat on March 15 is pretty much standard in Beijing. Some of the graduate students have reported that their apartments are quite cold at this time of year–the night temperature gets down below 40 degrees.

The apartment I am in has  a separate heating and cooling unit, in addition to central heat. So my apartment has been as warm as I have wanted it. My apartment is intended for guests that the university wants to treat well. The apartment is not luxurious by United States standards, but it is very adequate for my needs. It is conveniently located, in the middle of the campus, so it is easy to get wherever I want to go. It even has its own machine for washing clothes, plus a rack for drying clothes. It is quite large, with a big kitchen area, living room, bedroom, and bathroom.

I have given four lectures so far to my class, and will give another four lectures next week. I have discovered that students don’t like talking very much in class. Usually, they understand written English better than spoken English, so I have tried to see that copies of my presentations are available in class. Professor Feng who invited me occasionally spends a few minutes explaining something I have said in Chinese so that the student have another chance to understand what is being said.

The classes are being video taped. I understand that they will be edited (probably to remove the Chinese portion) so that I can put the videos of the lectures up on I am attaching here the first of the lectures I gave. I will try to do write-ups of these lectures as well.

On Saturday afternoon, I am giving a lecture to MBA students. This will be a shorter overview of our problems. Actually, that lecture will be very soon. I need go over to that lecture in a few minutes.

I am being treated very well, with graduate students going with me to meals and taking me sight seeing. This is a photo of a group of us, after the dinner we had the first day I was in Beijing.

A few Pics from the trip so far…

Group who had lunch together first day

students from my class

Note from RE: Gail also included an Acrobat file of her presentation slides, however I will leave that for Gail to add after she returns.

About Reverse Engineer

Reverse Engineer is Admin and Chief Cook & Bottlewasher on the Doomstead Diner Blog & Forum, and hosts the Collapse Cafe Video Discussions and Podcasts, and the Frostbite Falls Daily Rant spleen venting Collapse-tainment show. Fans of George Carlin, Bill Hicks and Rick Mercer tend to like the material, Academic folks, not so much.
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110 Responses to First Report from Gail in China

  1. When I was young there was extreme concern about the possibility of nuclear war. On occasion, I made limited plans to survive. I still maintain moderate supplies of water, food and critical medicines. But at my current age survival has less to offer. It is encouraging to know that nuclear war has been averted for almost 70 years. Curious factoid: Massive x-ray files and lead lined x-ray rooms might have made effective shielding, if not destroyed.

    • garand555 says:

      X-ray rooms, *GRUNT*

      In college, I did some construction on them. Code calls for lead lined sheet rock. 1/16″ of lead on a 4’x8′ sheet of the stuff (it only goes up 7′ of it) is kind of heavy and hard to handle. Code further requires that you put a little piece of lead over the screw. If 1 1/4″ of screw won’t stop it, something is wrong. But code says…

      • I was sort of joking about the lead lined radiographic rooms but I might have had some faith in the huge rooms containing X-ray files and of course the buildings. Or I could have attempted to shelter at home. Then there was my lead apron. One problem. From 1966 on I lived in Southern California fairly close to some important military installations. I own an old Geiger counter. Some posters might be interested in the NukAlert

  2. Here’s the latest 2 replies from Gail to the first 100 Comments. She is going to work on a new article to add here. I will post that when it arrives.


    To Glenn Stehle at March 23, 2015 at 8:36 am

    I agree that we seem to have a new religion that a huge number of people are following. Somehow, humans possess such great characteristics that we can solve all problems. The world economy can grow and grow. Our problems might be (1) a shortage of fossil fuels and (2) climate change, but with human ingenuity we can solve these. Wind and solar PV are believed to be a big part of the solution.

    To jeremy890 March 23, 2015 at 3:10 am

    I wrote an article a few years ago about electric cars that a person can probably get to by searching for “electric cars”. One of the problems I mentioned with electric cars was that resale value would be a problem. I received a lot of criticism from some The Oil Drum staff with respect to the view. (I am pretty sure they never published the article). One of the staff members couldn’t imagine why low resale value would be a problem that someone would worry about.

  3. J says:

    Even full scale conventional wars in Europe/Asia are hard to imagine these days. Doesn’t take much to take out a civilian nuclear plant and there are quite a few to choose from. But even in Ukraine they have left the plants intact.

    I guess you could take the fuel out of the reactor but the pools are not going anywhere anytime soon….

    So we have to resort to economic warfare and cyber attacks… There have been some reports on the UK preparing a first strike recently but they must know that this would be the end of the world. So why would they do this? It’s the MAD Mutually Assured Destruction scenario.

    • Indeed, you really don’t need to use Nukes to completely wipeout Industrial Civilization in short order.

      Even if you substituted conventional warheads on MIRV ICBMs, these could take out every Electric Power Plant and substation, as well as every Oil Refinery and Oil/Gas storage facility in every country around the globe.

      Besides that, all the Aircraft Carrier groups are Sitting Ducks for cheap Cruise Missiles that all the big players have, and Troop Transport ships as well. So as soon as you get into this type of all out warfare, all the hardware gets blown up in short order and there is no way to “Project Power” on the military level anymore. Any fighting that still goes on will be fought with Trebuchets and Atl-Atls, and be pretty localized.

      One can only hope TPTB grasp this fact of life and keep this bizness limited to smaller Proxy Wars, but they do seem bound and determined to keep escalating it up to the point the Ruskies simply have no choice other than to strike out. Same general scenario there as getting the Japanese to make the first strike on Pearl Harbor, just the equipment and technology today makes such a methodology unworkable. Nobody can “win”. It’s just Planetary Suicide.


  4. edpell says:

    I agree with Herman Kahn nuclear war is survivable. In the sense some people in the Andes will survive. If you live in Manhattan you are toast.

    If I were designing a nuclear strike first or second, either side, I would take the top 20 cities by population as a first choice, with an eight way MIRVed missile each.

    • edpell says:

      Just as the U.S. military goes for water supplies, sewage treatment plants, bridges and roads that deliver things like food, communications. Things that will kill the maximum number of people regardless of combatant status.

    • See my post above. Rather than target the population centers, you target all the electrical generating plants, oil refineries and oil storage tanks. The populations of the Big cities will die off rapidly after that simply because food won’t get delivered and the water will stop running from the taps.


      • edpell says:

        RE, I understand your point but I believe nuclear war is more of a belt and suspenders situation. Do both. Assured destruction.

    • garand555 says:

      If you google around, there is a declassified synopsis of interviews with former Soviet generals that occurred after the fall of of the USSR. It was conducted by BDM, if that’ll help your googleing. Their attitude and strategies were very different than what you describe. If I were planning a nuclear strike, I would look at how to get the bombs to detonate over the other side’s nuclear arsenal before they could use it, and that’s no easy feat.

  5. Rodster, I note that Steven Starr is a laboratory technologist and teacher involved with PSR. This is an anti-nuclear organization in favor of alternative energy and efficiency. Some might claim that Starr is not an unbiased observer. I leave that for others to decide.

  6. Rodster, I have been listening to experts on nuclear war for about 60 years. Books that I have read include On Thermonuclear War by Herman Kahn, The Curve of Binding Energy by John McPfee, With Enough Shovels by Robert Scheer and Blessed Assurance ( about Pantex near Amarillo, my home town). I recently ordered the book Left of Boom. I have served on disaster committees and have toured fall-out shelters in Dallas and Salt Lake City.

    • Rodster says:

      And what was their conclusions, anything different to what Steven Starr claims?

      • Not easy to recall or describe 60 years of conclusions. The late Herman Kahn was scary. He was also too much of a petroleum and material cornucopian for my taste. McPhee did a profile of the late Theodore Taylor. Taylor had suggested that a terrorist might plant a nuclear bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center. Close but no cigar. The shovel title came from an old joke that we should carry a shovel and water in the trunk of our cars. In case of nuclear war dig a foxhole and cover it with the metal car to catch the early fallout. Stay in the foxhole for a few days! The Pantex protestors were concerned about the bombs being dismantled. I have not yet read Boom. However I suspect that if a “dirty” bomb goes off in NY or DC, the panic will be worse than the low level radiation. Ted Taylor + nuclear is worth a google.

        • garand555 says:

          That’s pretty funny that you mention shovels and water. I do keep them in my vehicle, but not out of fear of nuclear war. More like fear of breaking down in the middle of nowhere or getting stuck.

          As for fallout, areas that get a lot of it would be safe for travel and decontamination after 7 days, unless they really got hammered. The nice thing about the really radioactive stuff is that it is the fastest to decay into something harmless. The place that you really wouldn’t want to be is downwind of the missile silos. Those would be likely to get hit the hardest, and those silos being hardened, would likely require ground bursts. Ground bursts cause the worst fallout.

          The other thing to keep in mind is what the targets would be: Government centers, military targets and financial centers. The Russians or the Chinese aren’t going to target your house just to kill everybody, they would aim to disable our capabilities. NYC, DC, LA and a few other large cities would probably get hit, along with military bases and places like Los Alamos as well as NSA and CIA facilities. You can get a pretty good idea of what fallout patterns would be like from that. Keep in mind that it would also destroy enough infrastructure to knock out the electricity for good, so if you managed to be in a place that didn’t get hit and didn’t catch a lot of fallout, you still have to contend with a much more primitive lifestyle. Even with them not targeting the population just to kill everybody, it would still destroy us as a nation.

          • It’s mainly the infrastructure damage and ensuing chaos that would kill off most of the people, rather than directly dieing from radiation poisoning. The obvious thing for both sides to target is the Electrical Generating plants and Oil Refineries and Storage Tanks of the other side. Then you instantly lose your communications and transportation networks. Food would run out in the Big Cities in a few days, and the water would stop flowing from the taps. Then your Zombie Apocalypse begins.

            If they weren’t Nuked to begin with, all the Nuclear Plants would melt down and radioactive material would seep into the groundwater in the vicinity of the plant. Anyone drinking water in those neighborhoods would have constant radiation exposure from ingested radionucleotides.

            Some people out in Rural areas might survive, but you will have your roving gangs out there also, so your community would need a good defense plan for that.

            Generally, the only survivors of a full on Thermonuclear War between the 3 Majors would be a few tribes in Amazonia, Kalahari Bushmen and Inuit living in Nunavut. Maybe New Zealand also if they are not targeted for a few Nukes also.


            • garand555 says:

              I very much doubt that they’d need to target power generation to bring down the power grid. You’re getting a lot of Compton scattering and free electrons in the vicinity of a detonation, and that is likely to put a huge pulse into the portions of the power grid that aren’t vaporized, burned or torn to shreds by the shockwave. There would also be a lot of power lines that cease to exist, and that is something that could bring down the grid all by itself. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if 10 or 20 nukes were enough to bring down the grid, even without hitting power plants.

              And I know exactly where I would go in the event of a nuclear war. It has water, places to hide, is unlikely to get a lot of fallout and the best part is that very few people even know that it exists. There isn’t a lot about on the internet. If I told you the region, you’d have to really dig to even find out that there is water.

        • edpell says:

          I agree the linear no threshold assumption is wrong. I am a graduate of the nuclear engineering department of Columbia University School of Engineering and have a masters degree from the Columbia University Physics Department. I am not trying to sell nuclear wars so maybe more objective.

        • Stefeun says:

          “However I suspect that if a “dirty” bomb goes off in NY or DC, the panic will be worse than the low level radiation.”
          IMHO we could make same remark about many other threats: financial default, electricity shutdown, food shortage, etc…The exagerated reaction or panic is likely to cause more damage than the problem in itself.
          What I wonder is how the effects of several panics are cumulating. I guess it depends on many factors (nature of the danger, intensity, pace, area, …) and it’s probably quite uneasy to quantify irrational phenomena.

  7. Stefeun says:

    A sort of plea for small communities. Chose this passage as a wink to MG:

    “Christopher Alexander seizes on the same example as Williams in a bit more detail in his 1964 book Notes on the Synthesis of Form to elucidate a model of cultural evolution, which I quote at length:

    The Slovakian peasants used to be famous for the shawls they made. These shawls were wonderfully colored and patterned, woven of yarns which had been dipped in homemade dyes. Early in the twentieth century aniline dyes were made available to them. And at once the glory of the shawls was spoiled; they were now no longer delicate and subtle, but crude. This change cannot have come about because the new dyes were somehow inferior. They were as brilliant, and the variety of colors was much greater than fefore. Yet somehow the new shawls turned out vulgar and uninteresting.

    Now if, as it is so pleasant to suppose, the shawlmakers had had some innate artistry, had been so gifted that they were simply “able” to make beautiful shawls, it would be almost impossible to explain their later clumsiness. But if we look at the situation differently, it is very easy to explain. The shawlmakers were simply able, as many of us are, to recognize bad shawls, and their own mistakes.

    Over the generations, the shawls had doubtless often been made extremely badly. But whenever a bad one was made, it was recognized as such, and therefore not repeated. And though nothing is to say that the change made would be for the better, it would still be a change. When the results of such changes were still bad, further changes would be made. The changes would go on until the shawls were good. And only at this point would the incentive to go on changing the patterns disappear.

    So we do not need to pretend that these craftsman had special ability. They made beautiful shawls by standing in a long tradition, and by making minor changes whenever something seemed to need improvement. But once presented with more complicated choices, their apparent mastery and judgement disappeared. Faced with the complex unfamiliar task of actually inventing such forms from scratch, they were unsuccessful.

    It is frequently observed that constraints and obstructions are precisely where great art comes from; far from limiting art, they allow it to happen and feed it – the more demanding the constraints, the better. This paradoxical relationship between constraint and expression is the subject of the movie The Five Obstructions (which I highly recommend). An aesthetic is one form of a constraint, and aesthetics tend to be developed, elaborated, and enjoyed in small groups. Certain aspects of reality are excluded in order to focus on the ones within the aesthetic. An aesthetic also provides a context in which forms can exist, fit, and be beautiful (or fail to be).

    The work of elaborating an aesthetic together, as a small group, providing context for each other’s selves, is some of the fundamental work of being human, a way for humans to be valuable to each other that markets cannot supply.”

    From this article by Sarah Perry:

    NB: I haven’t fully wrapped my mind around this article yet. Let alone exploring the Ribbonfarm ( or Sarah Perry’s website The View From Hell (
    I found these links on Ran Prieur’s blog

  8. Here are a couple of more replies to comments from Gail:

    To Tolstoy’s Degenerate Grandson

    March 22, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    You are right about this being a fairly disturbing story. I agreed to teach the course before I realized that it would include fairly young students–some are freshmen in college. I have not been focusing on what all bad things are likely to happen, but I am still concerned that this material is really for mature audiences. In fact, mature audiences don’t necessarily handle it well either.

    To RobinP March 22, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    I think the key to my acceptance was being right about some things (correctly predicting that there would be a very severe 2008 recession, and also talking more recently about how low oil prices could be a problem). I haven’t been willing to take anything that was decreed by “the establishment” as being correct–instead looked at the data and thought things through for myself, and very often came to different conclusions. Also, I usually don’t usually get angry at people, and try not to “burn bridges.” I have learned a lot from many people coming from different backgrounds–including some who are convinced that we have enough oil for many years in the future.

    Furthermore, I couldn’t do everything by myself. I depend on my readers to give me “tips” regarding ideas that I might overlook and new happenings that I should be aware of.

    I am afraid that is all I have time for now.


    • Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

      That’s probably why the majority of commentators on this subject have rolled out a message of hope. Plant a garden, wait for solar/thorium/co fart capture/god to save the day.

      Since there is no solution here (and only very frightening outcomes) might as well feed the masses their soma, whatever form that takes.

      • You have two choices in ways to go through life. You can be hopeful or you can be hopeless. Being hopeless tends to be very depressing and negative. Why bother doing anything at all if you are hopeless?

        Will planting a garden save the world? Probably not, but it might save a few people. What better thing do you have to do with your time anyhow? Play the X-Box?

        I definitely do not agree there is “no solution”, just no solution that includes high per capita energy consumption and a 7B Homo Sap biomass load on the planet. The main questions revolve around precisely how many people the planet can support at once and how much the climate will change over how long a period of time? You can’t answer either of those questions with any precision, so this leaves room for hope. Unless of course you prefer to go through what is left of your life in a hopeless state, in which case you should be commenting on Nature Bats Last.


        • Glenn Stehle says:

          How is it possible to fall into such a rampage of doom and despair?

          Reinhold Niebuhr discussed this topic at length in his essay “Optimism, Pessimism, and Religious Faith.” For him, such abject pessimism is a compensatory reaction that occurs when the unrealistic promises of secular humanism, Modernism and the Enlightenment are not fulfilled.

          “The religion of modern culture is,” Niebuhr says, “a superficial religion which has discovered a meaningful world without having discovered the perils to meaning in death, sin and catastrophe.”

          “History has an immediate, an obvious, meaning [for modernists] because it spells progress,” Niebuhr continues. “Human ideals are read into the natural process.” The other-worldly paradise promised by mainstream Judaism and Christianity, therefore, becomes this-worldly, achievable in this world.

          But progress in the human enterprise is in no way, form or fashion assured. “Thus the optimism of pure naturalism degenerates into a fairly consistent pessimism” when defied by “nature’s caprices,” Niebuhr observes.

          As Niebuhr goes on to point out, Bertrand Russell’s now justly famous ‘Free Man’s Worship’ is a perfect and moving expression of this pessimism:

          “Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way; for Man, condemned today to lose his dearest, to-morrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day; disdaining the coward terrors of the slave of Fate, to worship at the shrine that his own hands have built;undismayed by the empire of chance, to preserve a mind free from the wanton tyranny that rules his outward life; proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious power.”

        • J says:

          I think Gail ranks pretty high in the doom category based on how soon we’ll not have any energy. In the Nature Bats Last world we’re all wiped out in 5-8 years by 6-10 C increase in temp. In Gails world there is 10% energy available by 2025.

          But these are summary statistics. My belief, subject to revision, is that the collapse is going to be one family at the time. God bless – anything helps mode.

      • Glenn Stehle says:

        There is a solution alright:

        It’s a solution we’ve seen repeated over and over throughout man’s history. It is, nevertheless, a “solution” which most children of the Occident, and especially of Modernism, find unacceptable. As John Gray notes:

        “Hegel and a Marx followed Judaism and Christianity in seeing history as a moral drama whose last act is salvation. In other cultures this view is unknown.. For the Greeks and Romans as for the Indians and the Chinese, history has no overarching meaning. It is a series of cycles, no different from those we find in the natural world.”

        But doesn’t this “solution” pale in comparison to the existential threat which we now face?

        Personally, I’m sort of fond of my own species, and would hate to see its final extermination.

        • The Four Horsemen Solution in the modern era suffers from the problem of Nuclear Weapons. It remains unclear whether Homo Saps will resist the temptation to use these WMDs and exactly how much of the Planet would remain inhabitable if they are used in any great quantities. I think the Earth and Homo Sap could survive a few tactical Nukes being blown off and a few more Fukushimas, but not a full on Thermonuclear war with the Chinese and Ruskies, and a full meltdown of all the Nuke Power plants and research reactors on the face of the Earth.

          I remain hopeful that the Idiots in Charge will not Push the Button in my lifetime.


          • Glenn Stehle says:

            In his lecture to The Science Network, Tony Haymet speaks of several threats, one of which is nuclear annihilation, which place a huge question mark over the continued survival of the human species. Nevertheless, he manages to remain optimistic.

          • Rodster says:

            Steven Starr who has studied the threat of Nuclear Warfare states that you don’t even want the prospect of just 1% of the total nuclear weapons being used in any engagement.


            “Nuclear War threatens human existence

            If 1% of the nuclear weapons now ready for war were detonated in large cities, they would utterly devastate the environment, climate, ecosystems and inhabitants of Earth. A war fought with thousands of strategic nuclear weapons would leave the Earth uninhabitable. “

            • IMHO low level radiation dangers are exaggerated. I do not claim to be a certified radiation biologist but: In 1948 I spent a summer training as an x-ray technician. While in medical school I worked nights and weekends as a technician. During my late 50’s radiology residency I encountered the LNT (Linear No-Threshold) arguments. I then had a long career as a radiologist which included among other things nuclear medicine and handling radium needles. In 1980 I discovered T. D. Luckey and his arguments for radiation hormesis. I have followed the situation since that time. This subject was discussed on several occasions at TOD. One example:

            • Rodster says:

              “IMHO low level radiation dangers are exaggerated. I do not claim to be a certified radiation biologist”

              In that case lets listen to the experts who study nuclear warfare shall we. 😉

            • garand555 says:

              “In that case lets listen to the experts who study nuclear warfare shall we.”

              There is not a lot of human testing being done on that for obvious reasons. What we know comes directly from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, early stupidity in radioactive products and the few accidents that occured. What we know from that is that a brief and intense exposure either kills you or not, but if you survive, you’re probably OK. Ingesting some radioactive material is what is going to cause cancer. It is the prolonged exposure that does that.

            • Rodster says:

              “What we know from that is that a brief and intense exposure either kills you or not, but if you survive, you’re probably OK.”

              My point is if you believe in Global Warming or CC you are going to take what Sen Inhofe says with a bag of salt. If you don’t believe in GW or CC you’re going to take what Guy McPherson says with a bag of salt.

              I’ll leave it to the individuals who study a certain science to try and come up with different scenarios on things could play out. I’m sure someone lie Steven Starr has probably factored in all the different scenarios suggested here on OFW. 😉

          • Glenn Stehle says:

            Have you seen the first part of Adam Curtis’s “The Trap”?


            Here are some excepts from the transcript:

            “And in the rules of this game, fear and self-interest stop the Russians from attacking. But it created a stable equilibrium called the delicate balance of terror.

            At the heart of game theory was a dark vision of human beings who are driven only by self interest, constantly distrustful of those around them. There was a mathematician at the RAND Corp. who would take this dark vision further he set out to show that one could create stability of suspicion and self-interest not just in the Cold War but in the whole of human society. He was the mathematical genius John Nash. Nash was portrayed in the Hollywood film beautiful mind as a tortured hero. In reality Nash was difficult and spiky. He was the Tories at RAND for inventing a series of cruel games the most he called, F–K YOU BUDDY in which the only way to win was to ruthlessly betray your game partner.

            Nash took game theory and try to apply to all forms of human direction. To do this he made a fundamental assumption that all human behavior was exactly like that involved in a hostile competitive world of the nuclear standoff. That human beings can’t be watched and monitored each other to get and to get what they wanted they would adjust the strategies to each other. In a series of equations for which he would win the Nobel Prize national that a system driven by suspicion and self-interest did not have to lead to chaos. He proved that there could always be a point of equilibrium in which everyone self interest was perfectly balanced against each other’s.

            A famous game was developed at RAND to show that in any direction selfishness always loved to the safer outcome. It was called the prisoners dilemma. There are many versions, all of them involve two players having to decide whether to trust or betray each other.

            When the prisoners dilemma game was tested on the secretaries of the RAND Corporation, none of them play the rational strategy. Instead of betray each other they always trust each other, and decided to cooperate. And what no one realized was John Nash himself was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. He had delusions in which you believe that those around him who wore red ties were communist spies, and that he was part of the secret organization that could save the world.

            In 1959 Nash was forcibly committed to a mental hospital. And he would spend the next 10 years battling schizophrenia. But despite the obvious problems with Nash’s theory, the young technocrats of RAND were convinced that in them, laid the seeds of a new form of ordering society based on the free individual. Because the quotations provided a scientific basis for the alternative vision that Friedrich von Hayek had called for. But for the moment these ideas remain confined to a few thinkers at the heart of the nuclear establishment.

            But Nash’s ideas were about to spread the most surprising way. Thousand miles away was a radical psychiatrists who had a vision, see want to make people free of all constraints that he believed control their minds without them realizing it. And to make them free, like Nash, he would fundamentally question and undermine the old ideas of trust and love.

            • I don’t think Nash actually “proved” anything, he just made a case which a lot of folks at Rand accepted as true. Nash’s work also predates Chaos Theory, and I don’t think really accounts for systemic instability and the “Butterfly’s Wings” effect of cascading failure.

              It is interesting that Nash was Paranoid Schizophrenic, and this probably drove him to making the kind of analysis he did. Bright guy for sure there, but he had an agenda he was trying to prove. It doesn’t all hold up that well now though when you lok at modern mathematical theory, or even just real world outcomes so far.


  9. Latest from Gail in China:

    As far as I can tell, my problem is that the WiFi connection I am using is very weak. I can get some websites and e-mail, but not OFW. One time today, OFW did come up, but when I tried to switch to the view that would show comments, I lost it again. If my computer were set up for an Ethernet connection, I could use an Ethernet connection instead of WiFi, and that would likely solve most of my Internet problems (except of course the problem with blocked web sites)

    With respect to further comments, you might add

    > Mike says:
    > March 22, 2015 at 2:39 am
    Yes, I did get a chance to try Peking Duck. It was quite good.

    I think you are right about not being able to get energy companies ( or others) in China to disclose any secrets to a visiting foreigner. The graduate students here have made similar remarks, when there have been discussions about my visiting one or another energy site. I will have to see how this works out. We are making plans to see some things that are available to the public in Inner Mongolia and also at Daching oil field.

    Also, one woman from Saturday’s MBA class works at a coal company. She asked for my card, and wanted to know how long I would be here. She planned to ask her employer about the possibility of my visiting the company to give a talk. So something of that sort may work out. Otherwise, I will probably end up spending most of my time at the University, conferring with graduate students and faculty here.

    To Stefeun says:
    March 22, 2015 at 4:05 am

    Thanks for the link. I will probably have to wait until I get back to look at it, because my internet connection is not very good. Most people are connected by Ethernet cable here at the University and, but my computer is not set up for an Ethernet cable. There is WiFi as well, but it tends to be very weak, and it was down completely part of this past week-end. I was able to successfully get to OFW the first weekend I was here, because I happened to hit a time of very low internet use.

    Regarding Roddier’s comments, I know from previous discussion with him that he was looking at using another currency, in case the Euro failed. I agree that a failing Euro is one (of many) concerns we should have in the case of economic collapse. But I don’t think that substituting something like the Swiss Frank will get us very far, in the long run. The big problem we have is that our financial system essentially makes promises for the future that cannot be kept, regardless of the currency. Paper investments are likely to have little value, if there aren’t enough goods and services being produced in total. Money can only divide up what is really available.


    • yt75 says:

      Hello Gail,

      About François Roddier, watched the presentation very quickly (and on and off somehow) and needs to watch it again, but his two currencies proposal isn’t about two(or more) “general currencies”, it comes from his thermodynamics towards economics comparisons (or translations), where money translates to temperature if I remember well, and his two currencies thing is about one for a type of good and services (non renewables more or less), and one for the other (including services like renting some durable goods), with some stuff in the exchange rate.
      But again would have to listen to it again and go through the presentation to understand/explain it. (and not sure I see the point)

    • Daddio7 says:

      You are in China, maker of all things electronic, get a USB to Ethernet adapter. I enjoy your posts and want all you can get out.

    • Stefeun says:

      I agree with you that F.Roddier’s proposal of additional currency(ies) shouldn’t take us very far, because of resource depletion.
      His proposal is (for EU) to keep the Euro for material and/or non-renewable resource (raw material, ores, fossil fuels, non-living), and introduce a second currency for non-material and/or renewable resource (wages, services, food, living).

      According to him, the use of 2 currencies should allow to adjust a sort of difference of potential, in order to have the econmy run better and reduce inequalities. I think that having different currencies for different uses can be a very good idea (as suggested by e.g. Bernard Lietaer, see his blog in English: ) but could work only in absence of energy problems (let alone the fact that the haves are not interested in reducing inequalities).

      Aditionally, Roddier says, because of the (inert) resource depletion, the economy would naturally tend to gradualy move its center of gravity towards the renewable and living. Maybe I haven’t read/listened carefully enough, but I didn’t hear about the necessary drastic reduction of the global economy output, due to the much lower energy (and matter) input. As Dave Pollard says, the story doesn’t tell how we’ll get from here to there, but we’ll have to go anyway.

      And I think this is the real point in F.Roddier’s presentation: imagine a way to transition instead of collapse. He took inspiration from the many local complementary currencies that are currently helping improve the wellbeing in (most of) the communities that are using them, and he tries to see if something similar could be implemented on a bigger scale (my speculation).

      I’m very doubtful it could be, because the success of such currencies is actually due to that they are local. Moreover, our low-energy future will have to be local anyway, so better put our efforts in strengthening the short circuits in small communities.
      I think that, due to our high level of interconnection (and tight coupling and accumulated tensions/debt), what’s ahead will be a hard landing for most of us, not a transition that can be softened.

      NB: as usual, I disagree on the “Solutions” chapter, but the rest of F.Roddier’s analysis is highly valuable, to say the least.

  10. Dear Gail. Wonderful to read your day-to-day field experiences and lectures in China. Beautiful that you take the care and efforts to widen the awareness on the problems we face and the solutions we need to find. On Energy & Sustainability that is. Best if we can provide and instil the young people and students with hope- and not only fear: that- collectively- and in good collaboration- we may create the conditions for an energy revolution- befit to all.

    If students, and based on your lectures, are left with a mind of scarcity, of limits (also e.g. in shales) – I am afraid that this may yield some stronger protectionists and competitive behaviours in the world of energy (coal, oil, gas,etc.)

    Let’s not underestimate our duty of care- for sure- to properly address the issues as they are (you do that), but also give insight in what pathways we have available to unlock our very best (work I do with UN SDSN).

    Wish you every joy, amazement and success!

  11. jeremy890 says:

    Just read this concerning the Nissan Leaf electric car and what to look for when buying used.
    Of course the main concerns are both charging rate and able to hold a charge afterward.
    Seems Nissan is dumping them at auction and is considering to lease them used.
    Confirms Electric cars are not What greenies think they are

  12. jeremy890 says:

    Thank you for the update and it is my opinion Gail may be overqualified for the task at hand. Sorry, could not resist. Notice these articles about hot water, which Gail mentioned in her email.
    China’s passive systems cost are generally inexpensive costing only about $300 and needless to say, are the worldwide leaders in their use and production. A recent article writes manufactures in India feel the squeeze in price competition
    Another interesting story regarding a neighbor, Vietnam, and its efforts in sustainable tourism.
    Perhaps one day Gail may be invited there!
    Please “RE” keep us posted and again most appreciated!

  13. No problem on doing some Housekeeping for Gail while she is away and leap frogging the Chinese censorship problem. Gail and me both run WP based blogs, in fact the versions are almost identical so I can do maintenance here while doing my usual Diner shtick. 🙂 It popped into my head to suggest we try this when she said she probably would not be able to post from China for a month, and leaving a Blog Fallow for a month is just not a good practice, regular blog followers want regular updates. Besides, it’s very interesting to get Real Time reports from China.

    So far it seems to be working pretty good. I did send Gail another update with the last 50 or so comments, but haven’t heard back from her today yet.


  14. edpell says:

    Most university students in the US live sheltered lives. From the picture I am guessing the same is true in China. I think most people are happy not to worry about the big picture.

  15. Right of Boom. Interesting new book. If it is a dirty bomb there will likely be unwarranted radiation hysteria.

  16. I got an Email from Gail with Responses to the early posting in the commentariat. Here they are:

    The Internet has been down completely here for most of the last day. Now I am getting e-mail, but still am having trouble reading web sites. The network seems to have been down for everyone. As far a I know, others are not having the same problems with web sites that I am. It will be easier to check on website problems tomorrow (Monday).

    Regarding responses to these comments:

    To RobinP (4:41am)

    I am not sure where you come to the conclusion that I am not qualified and might become brainwashed or become a secret agent. I have had as much schooling as most of the so-called experts, but not in exactly the same fields. I have known Prof. Lianyong Feng since 2009. Prof. Feng met me in 2009, when Prof. Charles Hall invited me to speak at his Biophysical Economics Conference in Syracuse, NY. I first visited Petroleum University in Beijing, at Prof. Feng’s request in 2011. Since then, I have written (by myself) two peer reviewed academic papers on energy-related topics, and have co-authored two other energy-related academic papers. The two papers I have co-authored have been with Prof Feng and his former student, Prof. Jianliang Wang. So I know these folks fairly well. I also have peer reviewed a number of energy-related academic papers, since academic journals consider me capable in this field. My papers have been cited by many other academic papers.

    To Stefeun (3:49 am)

    Regarding the number of student I will have talked to, I am not certain I know yet. The class has about 60 registered students. There are also a number of professors and graduate students who have sat in on my class, when their schedule permitted–the room my class is in holds about 80 students. I spoke to a group of about 30 MBA students on Friday. Both my regular class, and the lecture for the MBA class, were recorded, with the idea that folks who could not attend could see the recordings. I am not quite certain how the next three weeks will work out in terns of who I talk to when, but I am sure that there will be more people involved.

    With respect to answering questions, I have probably answered more questions of graduate students and faculty than students in my class so far. The students are quite unsure of their English, and worried about asking questions. Prof. Feng has been involved to some extent in three way discussions, with Prof. Feng providing an English-Chinese translation of what I am saying to the them, and also telling me what questions they have in English. Even the graduate students have some difficulty with spoken English.

    The pollution level was high one day, but generally hasn’t been bad. (I expect not having the heat on in buildings has helped, as has breezy spring weather.) The pollution level was far worse when I visited Mumbai, India.

    To yt75 (8:18 am)

    I am not sure I have a good answer to your question. The students in the class are students in a new major called “Energy Economics and Management”. So they come with more interest in this subject than the average student. The course does not have a stated prerequisite, so I have a mixture of different levels of undergraduate students, plus graduate students and faculty members sitting in. I have been providing copies of my PowerPoint slides in advance, so that the students can take them home and look up words they don’t understand. The more conscientious students seem to be using them in this way. But they are still pretty hesitant about asking questions in English during the class period.

    To kakatoa (9:41 am)

    The building I am staying in has hot water central heat, plus a mini heat pump both in the living room and bed room of my apartment. The class rooms and offices also seemed to have hot water heat. The heat was on the first day I was here, and both the classroom and the graduate student office were way too hot. The large number of people in fairly small rooms tended to raise the temperature a lot. I found I needed to take off layers of clothing to be comfortable. Once the heat was turned off, both the graduate student office and the classroom were a bit on the cool side, but more comfortable. It is easier to live with a room being a little cool, especially if a person has a jacket that can be worn, than it is to live with a room that is way too hot. I expect that they are not able to regulate the amount of heat very well, and cutting off the heat on March 15 “works” fairly well for quite a few buildings, especially if there are a lot of people in small rooms.

    (I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that the hot water heat comes from burning coal. I know i have read in the past that the really bad pollution days in Beijing occurred when the heat was turned on in the fall. On a related subject, someone here remarked to me that the level of pollution did not change much when most of the cars were off the road for the Chinese New Year, suggesting that the ultimate cause of pollution was not so much vehicles as other types of pollution, particularly coal. )

    • Stefeun says:

      Many Thanks RE for doing the messenger job (and house-keeper, emcee, ..!)
      And of course, thanks to Gail for taking time to read us and write answers.

      Just ran across a not-so-bad article in the we-should-start-doing-something-but-we-dont-know-what series. (of course, nothing about the “why”, esp.nothing about energy)

      The author suggests Utopia:
      “SOME quake in terror as we approach the Terminator scenario, in which clever machines take over the world. After all, it isn’t sci-fi when Stephen Hawking says things like, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

      But before the robots replace us, we face the challenge of decreasing real wages resulting, among other factors, from automation and outsourcing, which will itself be automated before long. Inequality (you don’t need more statistics on this, do you?) is the biggest social challenge facing us. (Let’s call climate change, which has the potential to be apocalyptic rather than just awful, a scientific challenge.) And since wealthy people don’t spend nearly as high a percentage of their incomes as poor people do, much wealth is sitting around not doing its job.

    • RobinP says:

      Thanks Gail for your replies, and thanks RE for unqualifiedly reversing the engineering problems of the internet connection to-from Beijing. So if I understand your reply correctly, you have been granted recognition as something of an expert even though you haven’t had formal “qualifications” such as any degree in the subject. While your expertise has long been obvious to many of us following since oildrum times, I am guessing the key factor in your gaining “official” acceptance as an expert has hanged on publishing a significant amount in the high readership theoildrum and subsequently your own blog here? Or perhaps you could elaborate/correct my impression? Cheers, RobinP

    • richard says:

      Thanks for the replies Gail, I’ll suggest that you might have more success downloading the website and reading the file off the hard disk if your connection is really bad.

  17. My latest attempt to actually DO something, rather than just Rant.

    House of the RISING SUN


    • richard says:

      Thanks for posting RE, good to hear that all is well with Gail.

      Looked at your link, you maybe need to explain the money angle a bit more.

      • Obviously you do not follow the Diner. I have gone into great detail to explain the “Money Angle”. Try the Money Valve Series for a start.
        I have gobs of articles up which explain how this works. I can’t rehash it in every post. It gets redundant after a while. Either you read it and get it, or you do not.


        • richard says:

          Thanks for the link to the Money Valve.
          I should perhaps explain that money comment a bit more. I recall reading a blog – “extremeearlyretirement” – where the guy priced everything he did, including the cost of his daily porridge, and built a spreadsheet to forecast how long it would take him to become a millionaire. Extreme certainly, but I had to admire his focus and determination. I look at some seedlings I buy, and think, It would be chaper just to buy the vegetables already washed and prepared from the shop, if all costs are included.

  18. Stefeun says:

    On March 12, François RODDIER made a conference at The Shift Project, called:
    “Thermodynamics of Economic Transitions”.

    Here’s an introduction text, Google translation of the latest post on his blog:

    F. Roddier thinks we cannot avoid the collapse, but we could smoothen the landing by using additional alternative currencies (and provided that we have time to implement them at sufficient scale before the crash…).

    There’s a link to the slides of his presentation (128 slides) at the end of his post ; both are in French, but it seems that you can get them in auto-translated English if you open them from the translated post linked above (should work at least for the written version).

    Here’s another link to the slides (in French):
    The description of alternative currency is in chapter VII “Que Faire?” (“What should we do?”), slide #96 and followings (see also §.13 page 12 of the written version, “The use of Two Currencies”).

    Also available on Youtube (1h17min video, French only):

  19. Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

    Why Cheap Oil Doesn’t Stop The Drilling

    • glennstehle says:

      Bloomberg, the EIA, the IEA, and pretty much the entirely of the MSM, along with even some of the alternate press like Wolf Richter, faithfully evangelize the talking points being spun by the likes of Obama and Rex Tillerson, chairman of ExxoMobil.

      Production figures from the Texas RRC, however, tell a quite different story. Here, for instance, is a graph of EIA production figures for Texas, along with TRRC figures, from a link ( ) Don Stewart provided the other day. Notice how production as reported by the TRRC began differing from EIA production figures last June, with the difference growing more pronounced every month since.

      TRRC figures show Texas production declined in January, whereas the EIA claims an increase.

      The fiction Bloomberg, the EIA, IEA, the MSM and folks like Wolf Richter are propagating is what Art Berman, in this video, calls “a beautiful story.” For those fond of fairy tales, the official storyline is great stuff.

      • Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

        I have traded emails with Wolf Richter and he does not want to or is incapable of understanding this situation. I believe he is a retired banker so that would explain it.

        Likewise whomever Tyler Durden is at Zero Hedge.

        He has half the story correct (i.e. that a collapse is coming) but refuses to understand, in spite of the evidence, that it is oil related. I have also corresponded with this person Durden and his position is pretty much the same as the fools who rant about the Fed day after day, year after year: ‘the PTB are stupid and that is why we are going to collapse’

        If one suggests that when collapse strikes it will be a death blow to BAU and that QE and ZIRP and all these other policies that the ZHers despise, have kept food on the table for the past 6+ years, that is dismissed with a simpleton’s response of ‘they are stupid – we will recover when the stupidity and corruption stop’

        When the evidence is put in front of your face (ZH runs Gail’s articles) and you refuse to acknowledge facts, then there is most definitely stupidity involved.

        Either that or self-preservation both psychologically and financially.

        If ZH acknowledges the obvious then the entire site may as well be incinerated because it is nothing more than white noise; it is irrelevant, and it is just plain wrong. Rather than attacking the central bankers it should be worshiping them.

        There would also be mental toll to pay because recognizing that this is an incurable, terminal disease is devastating for most people.

        Tough to get up for work if your work involves believing that there is hope for a recovery.

        • Gail writes in an Academic style acceptable enough for the Tyler Durdens on ZH to publish her. I am not so fortunate of course. The only Website that picks up my stuff periodically is Global Economic Intersection.

          These guys, and Wolf Richter also have a very conventional view, and like most people believe the Industrial Economy will continue onward, just we will have a Financial Collapse here for a while. They don’t see the connection between Resource Depletion and the Economic system. Actually, they REFUSE to see this connection, it causes too much Cognitive Dissonance.

          Also similar in this regard is Neil Howe, who wrote The Fourth Turning handbook of collapse. He charts a pattern of crashes and repeated recoveries. He doesn’t seem to grasp that this time REALLY IS DIFFERENT. There won’t be a recovery, at least not of Industrial Civilization. How many people can actually make it through the Zero Point remains an open question though.


        • Glenn Stehle says:

          Speaking of the nexus of energy, banking and China, there was a great article in the “Democracy” journal the other day on the subject of banking and China.

          “The Coming China Crisis”

          The author, Richard Vague, gets a lot right in his analysis. He doesn’t, for instance, succumb to the defactualized nonsense we hear from both sides of the ideological divide in the United States. To wit:

          “Neither of the two dominant economic theories of our time forecast the coming storm. The doves—those more in favor of lower interest rates and government stimulus—were sanguine, unconcerned by rapid loan growth. The hawks—those more focused on curbing the money-supply expansion through higher interest rates—were sounding dire warnings of inflation. Both were wrong, but neither has since changed its theory.”

          However, missing from Vague’s analysis are the factors which Gail Tverberg brings to the conversation: depleting natural resources and environmental degredation.

          Unmistakable is the correlation between 1) the rapid run-up of private debt in the world’s major economic powers and 2) the onset of high oil prices. Both began in the early 1970s.

          I suppose the million dollar question is this: “Is the run-up in private debt being caused by high oil prices, or is it just another run-of-the-mill crisis of capitalism?”

          Gail argues the former. If she is right, then the problems facing the world are far more intractable than Vauge forsees. His solution to the surfeit of private debt: “If too much capacity and too many bad loans are the problems, the solutions are time and capital: time for organic growth to absorb the excess capacity, and capital to repair banks and borrowers.” But if Gail is right, then the “organic growth” Vague speaks of will be extremely difficult to achieve, unless people can find some way of being productive without consuming large quantities of fossil fuels. And what are the possiblities of that?

          For those on the left, of course, the transition to a carbon-free existence will be a snap. It will be painless and sacrifice-free. The future, they tell us, is all peaches and cream. And in fact, their future carbon-free utopia will be a fairer, more just and equitable place than what we live in now.

          Utopia, therefore, is just as alive and well on the left as it is on the right, even though the left’s utopia is quite different from Rex Tillerson’s carbon utopia, described by Michael Klare here:

          “Perpetuating the Reign of Carbon”

          “Put together,” Klare concludes of Tillerson’s theology, “this represents a dazzling vision of a future in which growing numbers of people enjoy the benefits of abundant energy and unlimited growth,” and are “the futuristic fantasies deployed by the fossil fuel companies to perpetuate their dominance.”

          But here’s the rub. Klare, being a darling of the left, never takes a similar wrecking ball to the “futuristic fantasies” of the left which are used to “perpetuate +their+ dominance.”

          Here is a good example of the “futuristic fantasies” being peddled by the left:

          “The present global energy system (85% fossil fuels) under the rule of capital is unsustainable on multiple grounds, in a world of extreme inequality and ever closer to the tipping points for climate hell. The challenge posed to all committed to multidimensional class struggle is the rapid phaseout of this system and the simultaneous creation of a global wind/solar power infrastructure with the capacity to deliver the minimum energy consumption required for the world standard life expectancy for all children born on our planet (roughly 3.5 kilowatt/person). We demonstrate that this goal is achievable in 20-30 years using current technology, with a projected 9 billion people in a world with primary energy production corresponding to roughly 32 trillion watts (now it is 18 trillion watts); go to for our 2011 ‘A solar transition is possible’ and much more.”

          That’s a pretty tall order. In 20-30 years the world will have a population of 9 billion people, who will consume roughly 32 trillion total watts of energy, an 80% increase over current consumption of 18 trillion watts. Furthermore, 90% of the world’s current energy system of 18 trillion watts — that is fossil and nuclear — will be phased out and abandoned. This leaves the total sum of new wind and solar infrastructure to be built out in the next 20-30 years with a capacity that exceeds 30 trillion watts. And on top of that, all this can be done “using current technology.”

          So what we see is that the left’s future wind and solar energy utopia is just as much of a “futuristic fantasy” as Rex Tillerson’s future carbon energy utopia. (But of course don’t tell darlings of the left like Michael Klare or Naomi Klein that.)

          The underlying problem is this: The US left and right are not the opposite of each other, but the mirror image of each other. They are twins, but wearing different hats. They are both sects of an overarching stealth religion, the religion of “Positivism.”

          In “Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern,” John Gray gives a little bit of the history of how Positivism evolved, and how it came to be the underlying faith of both the US left and the US right. Here’s Gray:

          “From the eighteenth century onwards, it came to be believed that the growth of scientific knowledge and the emancipation of mankind marched hand in hand. This Enlightenment faith — for it soon acquired the trappings of religion — was most clearly expressed in an exotic, sometimes grotesque but vastly and enduringly influential early nineteenth.century intellectual movement that called itself Positivism.”

          “The Positivists believed that as societies came to be based on science they were bound to become more alike. Scientific knowledge would engender a universal morality in which the aim of society was as much production as possible. Through the use of technology, humanity would extend its power over the Earth’s resources and overcome the worst forms of natural scarcity. Poverty and war could be abolished. Through the power given it by science, humanity would be able to create a new world.

          “There has always been disagreement about the nature of this new world. For Marx and Lenin, it would be a classless egalitarian anarchy, for Fukuyama and the neo-liberals a universal free market. These views of a future founded on science are very different; but that has in no way weakened the hold of the faith they express.

          “Through their deep influence on Marx, Positivist ideas inspired the disastrous Soviet experiment in central economic planning. When the Soviet system collapsed, they re-emerged in the cult of the free market. It came to be believed that only American style ‘democratic capitalism’ is truly modern, and that it is destined to spread everywhere….”

          “This may seem a fantastical creed, and so it is. What is more fantastic is that it is still widely believed. It shapes the programmes of mainstream political parties throughout the world. It guides the policies of agencies such as the International Monetary Fund. It animates the ‘war on terror’, in which Al Qaeda is viewed as a relic of the past.”

          “This view is simply wrong…. Like Marxists and neo-liberals, radical Islamists see history as a prelude to a new world. All are convinced they can remake the human condition. If there is a uniquely modern myth, this is it.”

          • edpell says:

            Yes, the utopian left never talks dollar cost. It drives me crazy. 30TW built in the next 30 years.

            Let’s see at $2/watt. That is 60 trillion dollars. 2 Trillion dollars per year. More than supposed combined war budget of all the nations on the planet.

            Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
            Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
            Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya,
            O Lord, kum bay ya.

            Someone’s laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
            Someone’s laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
            Someone’s laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya,
            O Lord, kum bay ya.

            Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
            Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
            Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum bay ya,
            O Lord, kum bay ya.

            Hear me singing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
            Hear me singing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
            Hear me singing, my Lord, kum bay ya,
            O Lord, kum bay ya.

            Someone’s praying, Lord, kum bay ya;
            Someone’s praying, Lord, kum bay ya;
            Someone’s praying, Lord, kum bay ya,
            O Lord, kum bay ya.

            Oh, I need you, my Lord, kum bay ya;
            Oh, I need you, my Lord, kum bay ya;
            Oh, I need you, my Lord, kum bay ya,
            O Lord, kum bay ya.

          • Stefeun says:

            Thank you Glenn for your interesting post.
            Appreciate the remarks about faith and dogma, how they’re artificial fabrications aiming to achieve some delusional utopia in the best (worst?) case, more often to serve particular interests. And how science, language, etc.. are hijacked and twisted in this purpose.

          • richard says:

            Our energy situation is very simple: Suspend disbelief for a few moments and believe that clean nuclear fusion is proven today. It will take ten years until the first viable plant is online, and twenty to thirty years to make a sizeable impact on our needs.
            It is already too late, and it will not solve most of the problems that flow from oil unaffordability.

  20. Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

    One of the best documentaries in recent years. This has some powerful and relevant messages about humanity

  21. Mike says:

    Thank you Reverse Engineer for keeping us informed.
    I went to Beijing last year around february, while it was
    difficult to experience chinese opinon of the rest of the
    world, I believe many are aware of the current issues
    specially those with family overseas. However I am not
    sure how to feel about the chinese government intentions
    it is like they allow some information in and out except anything
    subversive, also I would like to see how much first hand
    information is handed out to Ms. Tverberg in regards
    to political plans for the future of energy.

    I hope Ms. Tverberg has a fruitful time over there, and hope
    she is able to try peking duck, which is quite nice.

  22. Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:


  23. I had a big surprise this morning. For several years I have been tweeting on twitter, mostly about energy. I frequently post brief notes about oily blogs such as peakoilbarrel and ourfiniteworld, with links. My followers have grown to 70+, not many. Today I received an e-mail noting:

    “Bill Gates (@bbillgatess) is now following you on Twitter!”
    It is thus possible that Gates is aware of this blog. He and Melinda have previously shown great interest in energy, population issues, and China..

  24. RobinP says:

    The story I constantly hear from our media is that in China the air is not fit to breathe and the food is not fit to eat. Bu shi?

    • Daniel Hood says:

      Google “China’s Food-Energy-Water RoadMap” A Global Choke Point Report Feb 2015
      Beyond excellent!

      Answers your questions in depth!

      • RobinP says:

        Wow! Meanwhile there are rumours that Califormia is going to run out of water in a few months. So probably best to hijack the plane home and land it in Hawaii?

        • It is no rumour/rumor (British vs American English). I have lived in Ventura County, CA since 1966. Have seen floods and drought. This is the worst. Our rainy season is nearing an end. I heard a local farmer lecture on the situation recently. California population is close to 39 million and growing. Bad

        • Daniel Hood says:

          Think that’s where Obama’s bugging out to post Presidency. Rumours are that a lawyer linked to Obama recently purchased a place out there with land.

          Cali’s in serious trouble, but hey Climate Change is a myth right, doesn’t exist.

          • Last year I attended an excellent lecture at the Camarillo Library given by the director of the Agricultural Museum. I don’t recall all of the details but there have been recurrent droughts in Ventura County dating back to the 19th Century. Primary crops have changed many times. The Oxnard Plain has excellent farm land but has been subject to salt water intrusion and residential development. There has been an emphasis on very high value crops such as strawberries managed by huge numbers of workers. Of course there has been massive population growth since the 19th Century

  25. Noticed RE’s piece from 3/20, at
    I hope Gail T. doesn’t do Falung Gong or something, while she’s there (we wouldn’t want her stuck in the Gulag).

  26. Degringolade says:

    You are living quite nicely. I haven’t been to Beijing for 10 years but the description that you give is heartwarming and allows me some fond memories.

    I never really minded the heat shut off in may, though I was always careful to bring my slippers so my feet wouldn’t freeze. A stocking cap and slippers make almost anything tolerable.

    The thing that made me smile most is the big bottle of YanJing beer in the dinner picture. I drank more than a few of those with Comrade Frank and Tony sitting with the coworkers around a big lazy susan

    Sounds like you are having fun….be well


  27. kakatoa says:


    It’s been 20 years since I was in Beijing. I was a bit surprised to hear that central heating is still being shut off on March 15th. I imagine the rule/mandate will be changed in the future. I find I need it a tad warmer than 45 to 50 degrees to be comfortable these days. Back in 1995 a lot of the older stock of dwellings had alternative heating sources. By now I take it those older single story dwellings have been pulled down and replaced with high rise apartments. I take it the new high rise apartment blocks have some central heat sources.

    It sounds like the place you are staying in must have a small mini split heat pump system to provide HVAC- which is what I recall was the primary HVAC option in Hong Kong a couple of decades ago. Does the spot you are staying in have 1) central heating, 2) a mini split system 3) baseboard electric heaters or a combination of 1, 2 and 3?

  28. yt75 says:

    Thanks a lot for this update Gail.

    How do you perceive the level of awareness of your students to the “issues”(or situation) you present ?
    (by that I mean knowledge of these issues before the course and overall reactions)
    And how would you compare that to similar groups in the states if possible.

  29. I will try to collect some of the posts to send to Gail. Not sure how well that will work though.


    • Siobhan says:

      Many thanks for posting the blog RE!

      think Gail may be geting all of the comments by email. She was able to post a couple of replies on the previous blog without logging in.

      When is the next CC video discussion?

    • RobinP says:

      Reverse Engineering is what people do when they weren’t smart enough to non-reverse-engineer it in the first place!

  30. Stefeun says:

    Thanks RE, and thank you Gail for keeping us informed.
    Glad to see everything seems to go as fine as possible.

    Two short questions:
    – how many students will you have talked to in total during this month?
    – do you have opportunities to answer their questions, after your lectures or otherwise?

    I’ll conclude with a veiled message to you (pun int.):
    “Air pollution in Paris was worse than in any city in the world for a brief moment this week – putting it above regular offenders such as Delhi and Peking –
    (…) According to Kinney, pollution in Paris is more noticeable than in big cities in the US because of the much larger number of diesel vehicles on French roads.”

    • RobinP says:

      Meanwhile you overlook that air pollution is making people’s IQs go up a lot, just as in China, as per this study just published (free link will only work for 50 days…):

      • Stefeun says:

        Thanks for this surprising article, worth reading.
        However, the author discusses an apparent correlation between capacities of abstraction and the rate of atmospheric Mercury, generated by burning coal.
        While diesel particles just make me cough, I don’t feel any smarter…
        PS: watch ” Under the Dome”, if not made yet.

  31. Daniel Hood says:

    Fantastic Gail! Have a great time, we’re heading out to China next month, so exciting.

    Really keen to hear about your experiences, what perception of the world the students have given the changes, issues, challenges we face across, food, energy, water security nexus and their role within it. I see China as the rapidly rising 21st century superpower.

    It’s quite prophetic you’re there as many Western nations join AIIB and parallel institutions as we speak designed to circumvent the existing US world order. SWIFT, WTO, WB etc.

    Power really is shifting!

    You’re an inspiration, so leave them with a positive perspective of those in the West not seeking confrontation!

  32. Eugenia says:

    I think Chinese students are so lucky as they have your lectures. Thank you for you commitment,Gail!

    • RobinP says:

      I am most intrigued as to how Gail came to be invited to do these lectures. Surely she has no qualifications in the subject. And it can’t be because the profs there have been following her blog if it is not visible in China anyway. Maybe things aren’t quite what they seem.
      Also will Gail have been brainwashed into becoming a secret agent on her return?

      • Robin P, I know of no one more qualified. Gail is a well-organized open-minded genius. She is a professional actuary and has studied peak oil for the insurance industry. For almost a decade she has worked with petroleum experts and non-experts at The Oil Drum, ASPO, her blog, and elsewhere. She has traveled to various energy producing regions including Ecuador.

      • There is nothing I DESPISE more than “Credentialism”. No Books you wrote? No Ph.D.? Off with you, your ideas and analysis are not worthwhile! Goes further than that though, if you have scarfed up a few Billion as a Hedge Fund manager like Crispin Odey or Bill Gross, everyone hangs on your every word like it is straight from God.

        Gail is/was an Actuary. She demonstrates her skills in this regard in all her posting. She knows Numbers. The posting she makes speaks for itself, there is no need for any prior books written or anything else. You either understand what she writes or you do not. I do not agree with Gail on some things, but she definitely does know her numbers, that’s for sure.

        Gail drops her real identity on the net, I do not. Why not? Because who I am, what my credentials are, they matter not at all. All that matters are the IDEAS, and they are open to debate here on OFW, and on the Diner also.

        Credentials are complete bullshit.


        • RobinP says:

          R.E.: Haha got you comfortably warmed up there! Saved a bit off your heating bill.
          But what you’ve just now written is exactly what I myself was thinking of the matter anyway. But vanishingly few others do, especially in “universities”. So that’s why my questions arose.

          In fact I’ve almost finished writing about about this very subject of credentials being complete bs (the first ever as far as I can tell). Titled “Experts lying to you” and the first chapter is an extended analysis of how people get selected and trained to be leading experts, or more accurately leading “experts”. And in later chapters I document some huge catastrophes these “leading experts” have caused. And here’s my latest paper which shows that all the world’s leading experts were wrong about a major global environmental question…..

        • RobinP says:

          On that same credentials theme, look in any issue of New Scientist mag and you will see EVERY news report includes a mention that blah blah at xyz UNIVERSITY was doing this research. Likewise, look in any bookshop and see all the books going on about the author is professor of this or nobel prizewinner of that, or “award-winning” author etc.. And try applying for ANY research/science job without not only credentials but in practice at least a PhD. Even though in my experience it guarantees nothing in terms of research competence anyway*! (* as evidenced in link above)
          Cheers, Robin B.S. (DisHons)

          • Yes, in every Knewz Report you read, an “expert” of some type will be cited as a source, and being “expert” demands one of two things. Either you have a Doctorate Degree from some ACCREDITED University, or you made Gobs of Money doing something. Nobody else can be taken seriously, only if you jump though all the University Hoops or scarf up a lot of debt money are you WORTHY.

            It is unbelievably STUPID.

            Here’s a good one for you. The Saudi Oil Minister in addressing the Bank of England and Mark Carney told them “Nobody saw the Oil Price Crash coming”. He’s an Expert because he is a Saudi Prince you see.

            Excuse me? My good friend Steve Ludlum from Economic Undertow (Steve from Virginia) pegged the crash TO THE MONTH from more than TWO YEARS in advance! See the series of Triangle of Doom posts. I nailed the Sovereign Debt crisis oncoming 6 years in advance. Nobody pays attention to us though. Why not? Because we are not Credentialed “EXPERTS”.


            • Stilgar Wilcox says:

              Thanks Robert Wilson and Reverse Engineering for setting RobinP straight.

            • RobinP says:

              Stilgar – I didn’t need setting straight. I already agreed with them all along. No one has ever been more contemptuous of “credentials” than myself, indeed as I just explained I’ve even written a book about the subject (nearly finished). I just asked some questions, from which certain persons falsely inferred beliefs I’ve never actually had.

        • Daniel Hood says:

          I would completely agree with that assessment, for evidence look no further than nobel prize winning Krugman as a classic example of an overqualified idiot.

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