Gail in China Report #3

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. -RE

From Gail below:

Greetings from China again!

As I mentioned previously, it was Prof. Feng at China University of Petroleum in Beijing who invited me to come to China for the first two weeks. In the second two weeks I would be doing a variety of other things. I am now in the “other things” part of the visit.
One thing we did during the first two weeks is make video recordings of the talks I gave during the first two weeks. I also I have the PDF slides. After I get back I will work on putting those things up on
One thing that Prof. Feng has talked to me about is that he would like to host a “Finite World” conference in Beijing in 2016, if he can get the details worked out (and if the financial system stays together well enough, and if I would help with the endeavor). Because of the cost of transport and other details involved, he expects that the vast majority of the attendees would be from China–perhaps 80 Chinese attendees and 20 attendees from elsewhere in the world. Given the way Prof. Feng does things, I expect the plan would be to make videos of those talks available on line, to the many people who would not be able to travel to China.
I have been working on a number of other things. Together with Prof. Feng and a graduate student, I wrote an article called, “The Myth of Everlasting Oil from Shale Formations,” which we are hoping will run in the “People’s Daily.” The graduate student translated it into Chinese.
One morning, I gave a talk to a group of about 20 people doing research related to energy and the economy at an institute in Beijing. This is a photo of Prof. Feng, the director of the research group (Prof. Fan), and myself, standing in front of their buildings. They seemed to be interested in what I had to say. This talk was videotaped as well.
One evening, I met with the vice president in charge of international operations for BGP, which is the subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) that does the initial geological assessment of proposed new locations. He told us that the work of his staff is down by 50%, but that the company has held off in laying off workers, because they are hopeful that prices will rise in the next few months. He is also hopeful that technological innovation will solve our other problems. He said that he is hesitant to lay off staff, because if he loses his staff, he loses the heart of his operations. It is very hard to build the expertise back up again.
I visited Ordos, Inner Mongolia for a short time. I received a very warm welcome there, from the extended family of the graduate student who invited me to visit the area. This is a photo of me shaking hands (in a symbolic handshake of friendship) with the graduate student’s father, while the graduate student looks on.
Ordos is the gateway to many of China’s coal operations. One of the things we noticed was how few cars were on the road. The road was a new four lane highway, but we drove for miles without seeing another car or other vehicle. The Ordos airport had few patrons, and many spaces available for stores were not rented. The airport had been built at the time the growth in coal operations was at its highest, but growth has not continued as hoped. Another thing we noticed is that while apartments seem still to be being built in Ordos, many of the apartments seem to be unoccupied.
I am now in Daqing (pronounced Daching), China, the home of China’s largest oil field, Daqing Oil Field. The city is a very modern city that grew up after Daqing oil field began production in 1960. It now has about 2.5 million inhabitants. The economy is very much tied to oil–I have been told that there are something like 300,000 CNPC employees living in Daqing, and many more indirectly tied to the oil field. The production of Daqing Oil Field is now in decline. We (I am here with others from Petroleum University of China, Beijing) visited some of the oil field operations today. The question a person might ask is whether low oil prices will adversely affect Daqing operations. When we attempted to ask CNPC employees questions along this line, we were told that the oil field is profitable at $40 barrel. We were also told that the company is testing the use of fracking and long horizontal wells, in the hope of increasing production (or slowing the decline).
When I asked how long oil prices would have to stay low before Daqing employment would be affected, the CNBC employee I asked (who may not be knowledgeable about this) said “one to two years.” When I talk to people at Petroleum University of China in Beijing, the point is made that the Chinese government realizes that there is a need for employment for a huge number of people–laying off a large number of employees would simply turn one problem into a different one. That is probably the reason why employment at CNPC is as high as it is–300,000 employees is a huge number for a field producing less than 1 million barrels a day. A large number of people are involved with monitoring well production. This part of the operation could probably be significantly mechanized, reducing the needed number of workers–but then what would all of the laid-off workers do? We will be meeting with some of the folks at the Daqing branch of Petroleum University of China tomorrow–perhaps they will have some additional insights. If the numbers I quoted above are right, the employees are not earning very much a piece–or the story about being profitable at $40 barrel is not true.

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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187 Responses to Gail in China Report #3

    • Yes, it does look like the financial system is next. I am not sure that the buying this fellow’s book will save you from the problems, though.

      • Artleads says:

        Just posted it FYI. Buying his books would be the last thing I’d ever consider. 🙂

  1. Adam says:

    From “The Telegraph” (UK):

    IMF: oil price collapse will cripple North Sea producers
    Fund’s analysis suggests industry’s crisis is worse than feared, as IMF claims oil price slump has hit UK “earlier and more intensely” than in other countries.

    “Chancellor George Osborne extended a £1.3bn lifeline to the North Sea in the Budget by cutting the industry’s tax burden and providing more support for exploration in the UK Continental Shelf”.

    Which reminds me of a prediction from July 2013 by Steve Kopits:

    “The marginal consumer banged into the price of the marginal barrel, on a static basis, somewhere in 2011 at about $110-115 Brent. There was a price at which the marginal global consumer would rather reduce oil consumption than pay more, and that price is around $110-115 Brent.

    But since 2011, depending on rapidly rising oil prices is no longer a viable strategy. The global economy has said, “this is how much we’ll pay and no more.” At the same time, geology just kept marching along right down the back half of Hubbert’s peak, and costs have continued to rise.

    You are looking at a world in which the marginal consumer is beginning to reject the marginal barrel. And if you run this out for a period of time, you will peak out the oil supply. I think the peak occurs in a finite time frame—not 2030, not 2020. Maybe 2014 or 2016—I’m not exactly sure, but sometime pretty soon.

    But if the cost of production is increasing, then the value of reserves is falling. Put another way, current levels of government take are likely unsustainable. Oil companies will need tax relief in one form or another. Far from being able to raise taxes on oil companies, the sober reality is that governments are going to have to get used to getting less. Expect this theme to come front and center in the next couple of years. If government take is reduced quickly, then oil production levels could be sustained for a few more years.”

    • The big problem is that governments are desperate for tax revenue. They really can’t afford to give a break to oil companies. This is especially the case for oil exporters, but it is also true in places like the North Sea as well. Governments are the vulnerable link in the whole chain. If they don’t get enough revenue, they tend to collapse.

  2. Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

    So what does $50 oil mean?

    Big oil counts the cost of tapping new discoveries –

    “One hundred dollars per barrel is becoming the new $20, in our business.” With that pithy analysis, John Watson, chief executive of Chevron, summed up the oil industry’s plight.

    As companies pursue the ever more challenging oil reserves that they need to increase or merely sustain their production, their costs have risen to the point that the most expensive projects, such as deepwater developments or liquefied natural gas plants, need an oil price of at least $100 a barrel to be commercially viable.

    Now a growing number of oil executives are saying that has to change. As discussions at the IHS Cera Week conference in Houston made clear, cost-cutting is back at the top of the industry’s agenda.

    The issue has come to a head after three years in which the price of crude has drifted down, in part because of the extra supply coming on to the market from the US shale oil boom, while costs have continued to rise.

    The result has been a squeeze on margins, declining returns on capital, and underperforming share prices.

    Chevron and ExxonMobil’s shares have both risen 11 per cent in the past three years, and Total’s by 8 per cent, while Royal Dutch Shell’s have fallen 2 per cent. In the same period the S&P 500 index rose more than 40 per cent.

    Futures prices show oil is expected to fall further, with five-year Brent at about $91 a barrel, suggesting that the pressure on oil producers’ profits will intensify.

    Shares in companies such as Schlumberger and Halliburton, which provide services to the big oil groups, have over the past five years comfortably outperformed their customers. Under mounting pressure from their shareholders, oil companies are being forced to act.

    In part, the roots of the industry’s cost problem lie in part in the increasing technical difficulty of the new projects being developed, such as large LNG plants or offshore oilfields in deep water. They demand complex equipment such as drilling rigs, specialised materials such as sophisticated steel pipes, and highly-skilled engineers, all of which are in limited supply.

    As Peter Coleman, chief executive of Woodside Petroleum of Australia, put it when explaining the soaring cost inflation in the country’s LNG projects: “Everybody jumped into the pool at the same time, and we’re all trying to fight for the same floatable toys.”

    Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of Eni of Italy, argues that his rivals’ rising costs also reflect their failure to discover more easily-developed resources. Companies such as Exxon and Shell have been adding production in the oil sands of Canada and US shale, which generally have higher costs per barrel because of the need for techniques such as hydraulic fracturing to extract the resources from the shale, or processing to separate the oil from the sand.

    Exploration is more risky, but offers higher returns, Mr Scaroni says. Because with oil sands and shale the resources are known, “you are sure of everything, but the point is profitability is lower than if you make a discovery”.

    Christophe de Margerie, chief executive of Total, adds another explanation: companies – including his own – have lost sight of the need to control costs. When oil prices are rising, managers are tempted to relax on cost control because their projects will still be profitable.

    “If you have $110 [per barrel], and the budget is at $100, it’s easier. You can say ‘we’ve made it’. But what about the ten dollars? Where are they? Gone with the wind,” he says. “That’s not the way engineers or commercial people should behave.”

    All the large western oil companies have reached similar conclusions. Andrew Mackenzie, chief executive of BHP Billiton, the mining and energy group, suggests the oil companies have reached the same point the miners were at a couple of years ago: facing up to the need to improve productivity in an environment of weaker commodity prices.

    Total, Chevron and Shell have announced cuts in capital spending, and were joined on Wednesday by Exxon. Several companies have been “recycling” projects: delaying them to try to work on improving their economics.

    BP’s Mad Dog phase 2 development in the Gulf of Mexico, Chevron’s Rosebank oilfield in the Atlantic west of Shetland, and Woodside’s Browse LNG project in Western Australia are among the plans being reassessed.

    Mr Coleman told the Houston conference that as originally planned Browse had an estimated budget of $80bn, which was “not a commercially acceptable risk”.

    The prospect of an investment slowdown already appears to be having an impact. David Vaucher, an analyst at IHS, says the firm’s survey of oil and gas production costs shows they levelled off last year, in a sign that the industry is moving into a more sustainable balance.

    Day rates for drilling rigs have started to fall, even for advanced deepwater rigs. The prospect of further falls has helped send shares in Transocean, one of the largest rig operators, down 20 per cent in the past 12 months.

    However, Mr Vaucher observes that costs tend to be easier to raise than to cut.

    At Total, Mr de Margerie still sees a lot of work to be done. He is promising a cost-saving plan throughout the company, a new process for designing projects to build in cost control right from the start, and reshaped relationships with service companies.

    “You need to create a new culture,” he says. “Yes, safety first, yes environment. But also at the same time, yes cost is important. And to achieve a project with lower cost is good.”

  3. Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

    The price of wind and solar power continues to plummet, and is now on par or cheaper than grid electricity in many areas of the world. Solar, the newest major source of energy in the mix, makes up less than 1 percent of the electricity market today but will be the world’s biggest single source by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.

    The question is no longer if the world will transition to cleaner energy, but how long it will take. In the chart below, BNEF forecasts the billions of dollars that need to be invested each year in order to avoid the most severe consequences of climate change, represented by a benchmark increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius.

    The sheer idiocy of this. Imagine the amount of fossil fuels that would need to be burned to create the solar panels and other gear required for this miracle to happen.

    Renewable energy ‘simply won’t work’: Top Google engineers

    Two highly qualified Google engineers who have spent years studying and trying to improve renewable energy technology have stated quite bluntly that whatever the future holds, it is not a renewables-powered civilisation: such a thing is impossible.

    Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear.

    All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.

    In reality, well before any such stage was reached, energy would become horrifyingly expensive – which means that everything would become horrifyingly expensive (even the present well-under-one-per-cent renewables level in the UK has pushed up utility bills very considerably).

  4. Rodster says:

    China has become the worlds #1 polluter, eclipsing the US.

  5. Stefeun says:

    “Africa: the world’s poorest continent and, arguably, its richest. While accounting for just 2 percent of global GDP, it is home to 15 per cent of the planet’s crude oil, 40 per cent of its gold and 80 per cent of its platinum. A third of the earth’s mineral deposits lie beneath its soil. But far from being a salvation, this buried treasure has been a curse.”

    Tom Burgis atempts to explain why in his book “The Looting Machine”:

    “… will make you think twice about what goes into the mobile phone in your pocket and the tank of your car.”
    and… do nothing, because we’re all trapped.

    • edpell says:

      We are all little mice scurrying to avoid being squished by the herd of elephants (corporations, governments, militaries). As they stripe the vegetation down to bare rock.

  6. edpell says:

    Coal reserves
    U.S. 23%
    Russia 14%
    China 13%
    Australia 9%
    India 7%
    Germany 5%
    Kazakhstan 4%
    Ukraine 4%
    South Africa 4%
    The last nations standing due to their indigenous coal reserves.

    BRICS 38%
    U.S. and vassals 37%
    in play Kazakhstan and Ukraine 8%

  7. Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

    Keep it in the Ground

    The editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger calls the team to arms and challenges them: can they find a new way to report on climate change? He outlines why this is the most important story in the world and why most of the fossil fuels we already know about need to be kept in the ground. Given six months, can they succeed to engage readers in a new way?

    Might as well be asking for the moon to crash into the Earth. The effect would be similar

    • Stefeun says:

      The moon, or aliens:
      “some wishful thinkers say that if we stopped our fossil fuel binge cold turkey right now, then perhaps we could stabilize the damage to 2°-3.5°C warming which would be four to six times the warming the Earth has already experienced in the last century (0.5°C). Yet any prospect of pulling the plug on industrial civilization is more remote than aliens from outer space intervening to save humans from themselves.”

      • Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

        Germany Proves Life With Less Fossil Fuel Getting Easier

        Going green works

        I guess the google people were wrong. Maybe they should drop another billion dollars into solar:

        Renewable energy ‘simply won’t work’: Top Google engineers
        Two highly qualified Google engineers who have spent years studying and trying to improve renewable energy technology have stated quite bluntly that whatever the future holds, it is not a renewables-powered civilisation: such a thing is impossible.

        Both men are Stanford PhDs, Ross Koningstein having trained in aerospace engineering and David Fork in applied physics. These aren’t guys who fiddle about with websites or data analytics or “technology” of that sort: they are real engineers who understand difficult maths and physics, and top-bracket even among that distinguished company. The duo were employed at Google on the RE<C project, which sought to enhance renewable technology to the point where it could produce energy more cheaply than coal.

        Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear.

        All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.

        In reality, well before any such stage was reached, energy would become horrifyingly expensive – which means that everything would become horrifyingly expensive (even the present well-under-one-per-cent renewables level in the UK has pushed up utility bills very considerably).

        • Stefeun says:

          there’s a lot of noise at the moment in France about this report, supposedly “leaked”:

          I haven’t digged into the report, but I’d bet there’s something flawed in the calculation. However, electricity is only 25% of the energy consumption, and the target is in 35 years… Let’s talk again in 2050 :-/

          • Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

            Renewable energy ‘simply won’t work’: Top Google engineers


            Two highly qualified Google engineers who have spent years studying and trying to improve renewable energy technology have stated quite bluntly that whatever the future holds, it is not a renewables-powered civilisation: such a thing is impossible.

            Both men are Stanford PhDs, Ross Koningstein having trained in aerospace engineering and David Fork in applied physics. These aren’t guys who fiddle about with websites or data analytics or “technology” of that sort: they are real engineers who understand difficult maths and physics, and top-bracket even among that distinguished company. The duo were employed at Google on the RE<C project, which sought to enhance renewable technology to the point where it could produce energy more cheaply than coal.

            Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear.

            All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.

            In reality, well before any such stage was reached, energy would become horrifyingly expensive – which means that everything would become horrifyingly expensive (even the present well-under-one-per-cent renewables level in the UK has pushed up utility bills very considerably).

        • edpell says:

          TDG, thanks for the info on Google giving up on RE. That is disturbing, yes we already knew it would not workk but it still gave me some hope.

            • edpell says:

              I wonder what the EROEI is for wood fired steam engines for trains, backhoes, etc? I wonder also for wood fired electric generation. This gives us a lower limit. Any proposed technology will have to do better.

            • I rode on steam trains the first 25 years of my life. They were fun and romantic. I didn’t mind the smoke or the smell. They were still being used in Quebec as late as 1958. One can assume that they were replaced by diesel (electric hybrids) due to a a better EROI. And that coal replaced wood for the same reason. I would guess that the electric trains used in the New York City underground lines had a lower EROI??

            • Stefeun says:

              Thank you Robert,
              the responses (to criticisms) given by Pedro Prieto are interesting.
              “And an important part of the rest (excluding perhaps a part of biomass in underdeveloped countries) is also being produced because the energy subsidies given by fossil fuels to the other sources, like nuclear, or hydro, that we could not have dreamt of having them, if a well endowed fossil fueled society and its related machinery and technology wouldn’t have been available. Nuclear, hydro, solar PV, solar thermal or wind energies are underpinned (or absolutely underpinned) by a fossil fueled society, not the vice versa. The global society has been making its growing economic, industrial and technological life basically without those energy sources. But we could not imagine these sources working and feeding themselves in all the complex value chain, and besides giving an important net energy surplus to the global society. Not now, neither in a foreseeable horizon.
              Of course, one has to accept that in this complex world, all energy sources are somehow interrelated, but, as Orwell said in The Animal Farm, ‘all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’. This is exactly what is happening with the energy sources and its properties and qualities: they can all be measured in EJ or in TWh or whatever, but some are more equal than others. Meaning that there is an obvious ASYMMETRIC interdependence of energy sources, being in the last century, the fossil fuels (and oil in a very first place), the ones responsible for our present global status.
              If we had included these financial (even just the additional money created and having to pay back in the form of interests by the requested credits or leasing) and labor energy input cost, the solar PV EROI would have probably plummeted to <1:1."

              I also notice there's a link to Gail's "8 pitfalls" article.

          • Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

            What I find astounding is that when I pass that Google article to anyone in the green brigade they reject the conclusions.

            That leads me to believe that renewable energy has a god-like status. People want to believe and retain hope so badly that they will throw all logic out the window.

        • Jarvis says:

          The only use for renewable energy that I can see is that it could drastically lower our use of oil and possibly slow the inevitable collapse to a point where some of us can make the adjustment to a medieval lifestyle.

  8. Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

    Is this what collapse will look like?

    • hisboyelroy says:

      “Is this what collapse will look like?” No less police more shooting. WTF was wrong with those people? Police were very restrained by todays standard. If that was LA i guarantee you there would be a lot more than one dead, When the police show up they are going to take charge. Who doesnt know that? You brawl with them because …??? I will say one thing. Those hillbillys took more pepper spray and stun guns than I ever could.. What no tasers in Arizona? Good god.

      • Creedon says:

        As collapse happens there will be more “hillbillies”. It’s inevitable. The more people that there are with no means of a middle class living, the more people for the police to “take charge of”.

    • Artleads says:

      THIS is shocking??? Try being black any day of the week. No guns? No killings? Please!

  9. I am finally back in the United States–actually replying from the Detroit airport. I expect to be home in a few hours. It may take me a little time to get back up to speed. For instance, I need to work on my income taxes (due April 15).

  10. Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

    California’s New Era of Heat Destroys All Previous Records

    Sadly, this is only the beginning

    The death watch is on.

    • VPK says:

      But, of course, it’s all hoax and blown out of proportion to get government research grant monies.

    • edpell says:

      TDG, what do you think is causing this? There is a “blob” of warm water in the Pacific off the California coast. What caused that? Is it in turn causing the drought? Can global warming reach that deep, 300 feet, into the ocean this fast? Why localized off California? Why not whole ocean?

      • I’ve heard it has a lot to do with changes in the “polar vortex” — in the antarctic, this blows clockwise around the South Pole — in the arctic,it’s more complicated, but now, western North America is generally getting warmer & dryer — maybe someone back east can give us an update on their weather, but it’s un-funny around here in Fremont, CA (“Silicon Valley”).

        • edpell says:

          The winter here in the east, New York state, was long and hard. The roads are now a mess from deep frost heaves. Spring is late in coming. We had snow flurries on Easter day.

      • Creedon says:

        I’ve believed for a long time that volcanism is causing at least some of the warming of the Pacific. The weather scientists absolutely deny this however.

  11. Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

    Fukushima Chiefs: The Technology Needed To Decommission 3 China-Syndromed Reactors Doesn’t Exist … Maybe In 200 Years?

    The chief of the Fukushima nuclear power station has admitted that the technology needed to decommission three melted-down reactors does not exist, and he has no idea how it will be developed.

    In a stark reminder of the challenge facing the Japanese authorities, Akira Ono conceded that the stated goal of decommissioning the plant by 2051 may be impossible without a giant technological leap. “There are so many uncertainties involved. We need to develop many, many technologies,” Mr. Ono said.

    Throw in the thousands of spent fuel ponds that are going to blow sky high releasing massive amounts of radioactivity when civilization collapses and you have the makings of an extinction event.

    • VPK says:

      Just need a way to pack it all up and dump it somewhere that no one will care about…any ideas?

  12. Artleads says:

    Alfalfa is a superfood of sorts for cows, and it’s in high demand in the Golden State, which leads the country in dairy production and is also a major beef producer. (fact: It takes nearly 700 gallons of water to grow the alfalfa necessary to produce one gallon of milk, and 425 gallons of water to produce 4 ounces of beef.)

  13. Rodster says:

    Maybe Gail could share these two articles with her class.

    1) California: A Microcosm For Impending Global Water Crisis

    2) Rice 2.0? The search for a more sustainable staple food

  14. Rodster says:

    When you get desperate you do this: “Underground Coal Gasification, the next extreme energy front?”

    • Rodster says:

      Excerpt: “After over a century of coal ash and colliery waste dumping, the Tyne and Wear coastline is no stranger to industrial pollution. But soon a horrific new technology – underground coal gasification (UCG) – will endanger human health and the environment, backed by unflinching Government support and generous lashings of taxpayers’ money.

      The toxic by-products of ‘under ground coal gasification’ can move freely in the environment, back towards the surface, made buoyant by the heat liberated from the process.”

  15. Stefeun says:

    Thank you Gail,
    sometimes, stating the obvious can be surprising.

    A commenter (Eddie) on the Diner starts with “The commons has been commodified for the last ten thousand years.”
    I agree that the process started with the agriculture, but I wouldn’t say it was “commodification” in the early stages. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think we have started to appropriate the land and domesticate other species (along with ourselves, by the way) for subsistence purposes, i.e. just to stay alive, not yet to get more power. It’s only once we’ve been able to produce more than the bare minimum to feed the family (i.e. surpluses) that we started to develop trading (or have it racketeered by some warlord).
    In this way, the process of appropriation would be older than the economy, which would thus be an additional mechanism meant to rule the transfers of property (of available surpluses).
    Obvious again, or..?

    RE, this was my only remark, that’s why I put it here and didn’t register on the Diner (yet).

    • Domestication of animals (and plants) itself is a form of power-taking. Besides that though, absolutely the moment you start cultivating land and staying sedentary is the moment you need to start protecting it, from both human and animal “thieves”. You’ve declared “ownership” over that piece of land and all it produces. Thus you get your military, then conquest of others as your society grows in size, etc.

      I don’t think Eddie reads the commentariat over here, so if you want any feedback from him you’ll need to check in at the Diner.


      • Here is a new initiative to take down our entire civilization for a return to a hunter/gatherer-level:

        • Rodster says:

          So they want to return to a hunter/gatherer society, shun the techno industry but have created a website to get their message out? Oh the irony. 😛

          • This is nonsense criticism. It’s like saying you can’t come online and advocate for an Amish way of living either. Or you can’t take a plane flight to a conference on sustainability. etc, etc, etc.

            While the Internet exists and Planes still Fly, to NOT use them is silly. Both means allow you to reach more people.

            Eventually, both the Internet and the Planes will no longer function. Then all the solutions will be local ones. Until then though, it is foolish not to use these means as a method to disseminate the information.

            Is Gail a Hypocrite because she flew in a Jet to China to enlighten people on the fact that flying in a Jet to China will be increasingly unlikely in the future? What?


            • Rodster says:

              My mind wanders at the thought of hunters/gatherers who have shunned the techno lifestyle climbing out of their Cadillac Escalade’s with a yearly On*Star subscription. Unpacking their their iPad’s and iPhone’s so they can respond to forum and twitter posts while in the middle of hunting and gathering. 🙂

            • edpell says:

              RE, the difference is Gail does not want jet travel to end she is just reporting the fact. The group that wants the world to return to hunter gatherer is using means they say they hate. That makes for the irony.

          • Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

            I wonder if any of the proponents of Wildism have actually attempted to live as a hunter gatherer.

            If they are going to reject industrial society that means they would be going into the bush with nothing — no guns, no knives, no sleeping bags, no clothes, no hiking boots, no lighters — nothing.

            My guess is they’d come rushing back to the arms of the despised techno-industrial society within 24 hours.

            This is utterly ridiculous and naive

            • “I, Bob Hansler, am retiring from public school teaching at the age of 30 so I can once again find myself, go back to my roots.”

              Follow wildernist Hansler’s retirement to a hunter/garherer-lifestyle at the wildernist blog here:

              No, the hunter/gatherers had knives of flintstone, sleeping bags of fur, and moccasins. And they knew how to make a fire without lighters. For the gun it makes toooooo much noise anyway, like the rest of industrial society!

            • hisboyelroy says:

              “This is utterly ridiculous and naive”
              Dead on as usual. Take the wildest and woolliest, they are using fossil fuel products. To deny fossil fuels is to deny all that we are. Now sure you can start poaching away and get by inbetween that and some dry goods produced by fossil fuels. Thats the wildest and wolliest most not so much. As long as there are only a few poachers it works for a bit as son as there are more than a few the resource gets depleted. Then its long pork time.

            • @hisboyelroy, who do you think will be most likely to bring on the human genome after a collapse: Bob Hansler or Oprah Winfrey?

            • hisboyelroy says:

              “@hisboyelroy, who do you think will be most likely to bring on the human genome after a collapse: Bob Hansler or Oprah Winfrey?”

              Your question is intended not as a serious inquiry but to extend a false dichotomy. Bring on the humam genome? Is that a important goal to you?

              Trying to find an appropriate place in the world for a human is impossible at this point. The use of fossil fuels and the illusion their power creates is our essence as a species at this point. Well intentioned attempts at connectedness by living primitive lifestyles ignore the fact that 6.75 billion people will have to die for a sustainable population existing using HG. Only collapse can reveal any true possibility for human connectedness. Only collapse can reveal any true possibility for realizing the human potential.

              @Øyvind Holmstad

              Do you think that the things consumed in a HG lifestyle are infinite and can not be depleted?

            • Yes, of course they can, because they can’t pass the carrying capacity without appropriate technology. At once they do so they are not HG anymore.

              Anyway, the attempt to take down technological civilisation is a noble one, the sooner the better. This way some of the ecosystem services can be left functioning for eventually survivors.

              And yes, I think it’s very important some people develop extreme surviving skills, so that they might be able to bring forward a small remnant of humanity.

              The wildernists have my full support!


            • “However, these outlined principles suggest a clear goal: the complete destruction of the techno-industrial system. If the techno-industrial form of society is the form of society that most threatens the autonomy of the Wild, then this society must be eliminated. Therefore, a movement that is based on the above principles must have as its fundamental objective the end of techno-industrial society.”

              So it is!


            • hisboyelroy says:

              “However, these outlined principles suggest a clear goal: the complete destruction of the techno-industrial system.”

              While I am sympathetic to this I am afraid this is not my path. I might point out that this statement is somewhat symptomatic of the arrogance of our species and our need to attempt to control destiny. Once you accept that collapse is inevitable why try to hasten it?

              One; rather than collapse being seen as a natural phenomana of overpopulation and resource depletion it can be blamed on the actions of individuals or groups.

              two; I am not unmindful of the suffering that will occur when collapse occurs and while I see it as being inevitable I would not seek to hasten it.

              three; I enjoy my life it is simple and uncomplicated, If collapse occurs I will accept it, if it doesnt I will accept it, regardless i will try to cope and adapt but realistically the chances of a meaningful life post collapse for me are very very slim.

              What I have defined as appropriate for me is not action but acceptance. I have used quite a bit of this worlds resources far more than my fair share. . Ultimately the way to stop my consumption of the worlds resources lies in my death. My belief is that every single person who lives in the techno industrial system is contributing to the problem of unsustainability. The solution is quite simple but I would hope to avoid that. I believe in personal responsibility. Pointing fingers is a cop out. It would seem to me to be self evident that we have control over our own destiny but to try to assert our will over others destiny in a radical way is incorrect. We are all guilty here some more than others but all guilty. personal responsibility.

              A single poacher can effect game populations. They arrested a bear poacher in Oregon a few years back. He had over 100 bear gall bladders in his freezer. I have no doubt whatsoever that if even a small portion of the population were to try to live a HG lifestyle wildlife would be decimated, Then its long pork time. We deplete resources beyond the planets capability at current population levels yet we continue to increase our population. I was created in the same manner. We deplete resources.. You. Me. All of us. Its what we do. We know not balance. There is no path to balance in our lifetimes. If we find balance in the far future so it shall be. If we do not so it shall be. I will not try to affect others. I claim birthright for my life. I accept my personal responsibility for my contribution to resource depletion . I see no path to balance of those two statements yet I perceive both as truth. . The usual way of our species in this illusion we live in is to point fingers. We are good they are bad. Very very few accept personal responsibility. I enjoy my simple life. I enjoy my relationships. I enjoy nature and the planet. I wish none of that to end. As there is a beginning there is always a end. My actions in the end will reflect my perception of my personal responsibility not my perception of others responsibility. The reality is unpleasant. The thought that birthright is not without peer for correct action is unpleasant. Many deceptions and delusions are created in order to avoid that unpleasantness.

            • “Clearly there is much to be said, and I can only give here the barest outline of the case against technology. Kaczynski’s core argument is based on four simple points:

              1)Humans evolved under primitive, low-tech conditions. This constitutes our natural state of existence.
              2)Modern society is radically different than this, and imposes unprecedented stress upon us.
              3)The situation is bad now, and will get much worse. We will either be humiliated into conforming to technology’s demands, or be crushed by the system.
              4)There is no way to reform the system to avoid the negative outcomes.

              His conclusion, then, is straightforward and rational: bring the system to an end, as soon as possible. Granted, the odds of success are slim, but the longer we wait the lower they become and the worse the outcome will be—for both humanity and nature. We have essentially two choices: big, but survivable, pain now, or catastrophic pain later.”


              Following the logic of Kaczynski, the most ethical thing to do for minimizing human suffering and further destruction of the wild, is to work actively for taking down the system.

              – Technological Slavery: The Collected Writings of Theodore J. Kaczynski:

            • Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

              He is a fool.

              Tearing down the system will almost certainly be an extinction event.

              BAU is required to maintain all nuclear facilities and spent fuel ponds. If you tear down this system they will blow sky high and spew radiation for decades.

              He clearly has not thought this through but then most people who wish for BAU to end have not the slightest idea of what that means.

            • JMG says:

              «…or do something about the steadily increasing stockpiles of nuclear waste that are going to sicken and kill people for the next quarter of a million years unless the waste gets put someplace safe—if there is anywhere safe to put it at all?»


              So the longer we wait to take down industrial civilisation, the larger the stockpiles of nuclear waste will grow.

              Anyway, I hope the problem of nuclear waste will become an issue at the “Finite World”-conference in Beijing. As technological civilization soon is to come to an end, whether you support Kaczynski or BAU, we should really try to solve this problem now, while we have the possibility to do something about it!

            • I agree that stockpiles of nuclear waste are a problem. I am not sure that there is a real solution; we don’t have a good way of handling the waste. Even reprocessing takes significant energy, and doesn’t really put an end to the problem.

            • Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

              The problem is if the spent fuel gets too close, they will produce a fission reaction and explode with a force much larger than any fission bomb given the total amount of fuel on the site. All the fuel in all the reactors and all the storage pools at this site (1760 tons of Uranium per slide #4) would be consumed in such a mega-explosion.

              In comparison, Fat Man and Little Boy weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki contained less than a hundred pounds each of fissile material – See more at:

              A typical 1 GWe PWR core contains about 80 t fuels. Each year about one third of the core fuel is discharged into the pool. A pool with 15 year storage capacity will hold about 400 t spent fuel.

              To estimate the Cs-137 inventory in the pool, for example, we assume the Cs137 inventory at shutdown is about 0.1 MCi/tU with a burn-up of 50,000 MWt-day/tU, thus the pool with 400 t of ten year old SNF would hold about 33 MCi Cs-137. [7]

              Assuming a 50-100% Cs137 release during a spent fuel fire, [8] the consequence of the Cs-137 exceed those of the Chernobyl accident 8-17 times (2MCi release from Chernobyl). Based on the wedge model, the contaminated land areas can be estimated. [9] For example, for a scenario of a 50% Cs-137 release from a 400 t SNF pool, about 95,000 km² (as far as 1,350 km) would be contaminated above 15 Ci/km² (as compared to 10,000 km² contaminated area above 15 Ci/km² at Chernobyl).


              We have thousands of these ponds around the world. It really does not matter if we had 1 or 100,000 more spent fuel rods to the ponds.

              Because when the existing storage systems fail when we collapse back to a primitive state, we are all dead.

              Now you have you answers at to a) why the PTB are doing everything possible to kick the can and b) the PTB are doing absolutely nothing to prepare for economic collapse.

            • hisboyelroy says:

              Kaczynski sums up the paradoxes of our existence well. I am not sure how this equivocates to advocating indulging in possibly our species greatest flaw, appetite for destruction. I do not see Bob Hanslers actions as destructive in their intent or effect. Nor did I see Christopher McCandless’s actions as destructive in their intent or effect. IMHO both reflect the same motive yearning for balance. Both individuals attempted to find their own way to take responsibility for the impact of their existance. This is admirable.

              “However, these outlined principles suggest a clear goal: the complete destruction of the techno-industrial system. If the techno-industrial form of society is the form of society that most threatens the autonomy of the Wild, then this society must be eliminated. Therefore, a movement that is based on the above principles must have as its fundamental objective the end of techno-industrial society.”

              This statement detracts very significantly from Kaczynskis writings in my opinion if indeed it was written by him. It changes his work from one of suggesting personal responsibility for ones impact to a classical formula. Separate a group, villianize them, indulge in destruction based on the separateness, justify your consumption. This classic and ubiquitous formula is always suspect IMHO and works against personal responsibility for ones impact. People attempt to seek balance but it does not exist. Somtimes they delude themselves they want it so bad. Sometimes they just want to indulge in consumption creation or destruction using the power of fossil fuel. If you pick up your responsibility, yes yours no one elses, attempt to bear it, do the best you can thats good work IMHO. Wantonly disregarding impact under the banner of “wildism” and villifying “techno-industrial society” is no different from one of many different cop outs fitting the classical formula IMHO.

      • Stefeun says:

        RE, I agree with what you say, though I meant the described phenomena are rooted before what we call Economy (which is made of surpluses).

        I’d even speculate and revise a little bit my above comment about what came first, economy or ownership, going backwards:
        We can imagine some kind of commerce between tribes of hunter-gatherers, they could barter skins/pelts, salt, ivory, jewels, … which means they had some sense of ownership (if such trades ever happened).

        More plausible, those who followed the big herds of herbivores in their migration could, by selective (or over-) hunting, have an impact on the shape of the herd(1).
        Similarly for plants, they could take special care of gathering areas, for example weed off some interesting zones and expect more berries when they pass through again next year.
        This cannot be called domestication (“dom” = home), but is nevertheles some kind of control over other species.

        Even talking of the land, HG-tribes had a territory ; this is a sort of collective ownership of a geographical area. They could also have some influence on the landscape (e.g. burning trees) and use some dedicated areas for special purposes (information, warnings, “religious” tricks, etc..)

        So I’d tend to think that these concepts (ownership, trade(?), domestication) pre-existed, although in archaic forms, and that the difference with modern times is in degrees, not in nature.
        We could even consider those traits exist also among all other species of predators (and why not among any species, to some extent).

        The real change is maybe due to the increase in density(2) of the most successful species, humans, and the connected depletion of resource, that pushed to progressively shrink the territories and, along with it, reinforce the boundaries, in order to secure the resource, as well as the rules(3), to avoid permanent slaughter (within said boundaries, firstly).
        Then, concepts that were rather blurred in the past, had to become more accurate over time, and the formerly permeable boundaries had to be tightened.
        And today we have all kinds of impassables fences of all kinds everywhere.

        During this process, we also had to reinforce our links with the domesticated species and with the piece of land we lived on, making us always more dependant of these couplings, first for our subsistence and then for raising needs such as security and defence (there’s always a neighbour whose resource is depleting faster than ours! hence the race for power increase).

        We have expanded this interdependance pattern well beyond the land and the food, to metal ores and energy sources, until today we find ourselves as being slaves of so many (unsustainable) things, prisoners of an increasingly tight-coupled (thus brittle)(4) global system that threatens to fall apart entirely as soon as the energy input weakens or another shock happens meanwhile.

        Just thoughts, maybe flawed.
        (1): “Almost as soon as behaviorally modern humans appeared, about 50,000 years ago, they began to cause the second worst extinction of the last 55 million years, the LQE (Late Quaternary Extinction) that eliminated the vast majority of megafauna (≥ 44 Kg ) as well as much of the slow breeding fauna and all surviving members of their own gender (Koch & Barnosky 2006, Late Quaternary Extinctions: State of the Debate). And all that before reaching a million humans. Not a bad start for such a brilliant species.”
        from chapter 6 (carrying capacity) of (already linked in OFW comments)

        (2): “In 1977 Mark N. Cohen in his book “The Food Crisis in Prehistory: Overpopulation and the Origins of Agriculture” suggested that agriculture was imposed to humanity despite entailed major work, poorer health, higher mortality and higher risk due to population pressures worldwide demanding an increase in the number of calories obtained per unit of space” (same source as (1))

        (3): “Basically, we assume that market relations are natural, but you need a huge institutional structure to make people behave the way that economists say they are “supposed” to behave. So, for example, think about the way the consumer market works. The market is supposed to work on grounds of pure competition. Nobody has moral ties to each other other than to obey the rules. But, on the other hand, people are supposed to do anything they can to get as much as possible off the other guy — but won’t simply steal the stuff or shoot the person.
        Historically, that’s just silly; if you don’t care at all about a guy, you might as well steal his stuff. In fact, they’re encouraging people to act essentially how most human societies, historically, treated their enemies — but to still never resort to violence, trickery or theft. Obviously that’s not going to happen. You can only do that if you set up a very strictly enforced police force. That’s just one example.”
        From an interview of David Graeber about his book “The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy”,

        (4): ” ‘Coupling’ refers to the ability of one part of a complex system to influence another… In all sorts of complex systems, this is the general trend: increasing the coupling between the parts seems harmless enough at first. But then, abruptly, when the coupling crosses a critical value, everything changes… With our cell phones and GPS trackers and social media, with globalization, with the coming Internet of things, we’re becoming more tightly connected than ever… But the math suggests that increasing coupling is a siren’s song. Too much makes a complex system brittle.”
        Steven Strogatz,

        • xabier says:


          Jared Diamond in ‘The World Before Yesterday’ has some interesting chapters on trade and ownership, wealth distribution, in contemporary stone-age tribes. Also war. You are, judging by this, quite correct: it is a matter of degree and level of complexity, not of kind.

          • Stefeun says:

            Thanks Xabier,
            I happened to read some excerpts by Jared Diamond, but never a book in-extenso; maybe I should.
            The “matter of degree, not of kind” comes from Charles Darwin first, I think, while comparing human and animal traits. It wasn’t obvious to me at first sight that it could also apply to such “sociological” criteria, though.

            • xabier says:

              Lots of good things in Diamond, although he is not a particularly incisive mind, or writer; but well worth mining for information.

              The chapter on Stone-Age war is hiliarious: ‘My pigs are fatter than yours!’ and ‘I’ve got five wives, and now I want more (of yours)!’ as war-chants is rather illuminating about basic human traits.

              The chapter on dispute resolution without courts, lawyers or judges shows what is possible in simple societies with elaborate codes of conduct.

              On the whole, he disproves that mankind are merely ‘ferocious beasts’ under a thin veneer of decency. It’s like thinking that every dog will bite the postman if it is not restrained….!

            • Stefeun says:

              your last sentence reminds me of Frans de Waal, whose “focus instead is the utter wrongness of Veneer Theory, the historically popular idea that our morality is “a thin veneer over a cauldron of nasty tendencies.””

              It’s a quote from the last link of a comment I posted here 2 months ago (
              I don’t subscribe to the idea in your last paragraph, that seems to imply that morality would be typically human (as opposed to “animal”).
              I think that our ability to use external fuels has leveraged our powers, obviously mechanical and informational, but also our agressivity and compassion and many other characteristics that pre-existed in our brains even long before we “became sapiens” and/or learned how to burn wood.

              Pls see this pleasant 15min TED talk by Frans de Waal:
              “Empathy, cooperation and fairness seem like distinctly human traits. But biologist Frans de Waal explains why other animals might share those same qualities.”

              A short presentation of one of his books:
              “Frans de Waal’s Bottom-Up Morality: We’re Not Good Because Of God”

        • richard says:

          I’d suggest “brittle” may not mean what you intend. As agents become more like nodes with multipe connections and interactions to other agents, the possibility of a paradigm shift occurs. A few beasts becomes a herd, with a herd mentality – usually referred to as emergence if the topic under discussion is Complexity. Similarly, if the herd disperses, interconnections are lost, and eventually the herd mentality dissolves.
          I’m suggesting a much “softer” and a possible renewable bonding than your description. In the context of finite resources, there are always alternatives if the price is right. Why choose the IC engine over steam, or electric power when the first cars were on the road? I doubt it was an obvious choice?

          • Stefeun says:

            “Brittle” is exactly what I mean.
            We have no free space left where to “disperse”, and in order to solve our problems we must increase the level of complexity, as well as tighten the couplings in order to increase the reactivity within the system.

            By doing that we’re increasing our energy consumption and creating the conditions for an inevitable system accident, as described by Charles Perrow:
            “Perrow identifies three conditions that make a system likely to be susceptible to Normal Accidents. These are:
            – The system is complex
            – The system is tightly coupled
            – The system has catastrophic potential”
            See for example:

            The new equilibrium you describe is possible -with limited losses- if the system is loosely coupled and if the energy input remains at same level after the sudden change in conditions. I’m afraid we’re getting farther and farther away from optimal resilience, as a whole. We have created the conditions for a perfect storm, so we must expect it to happen.

            There will be a new equilibrium for sure, but at much much lower level than today, and wether humans will be part of it or not will depend if some of us and our offspring can survive and thrive among the ruins and threats of the dead industrial civilization, and based on the solar-budget, energy-wise.

            Moreover, we don’t know much about the paths towards next equilibrium, except that none of them will be pleasant (not to mention if some Dr Strangelove is met on the way). Humans have very high adaptive capacities, but eating and drinking are inescapable. Our numbers are likely the elephant in the room, here, as there might be some severe damages perpetrated during the shrinking phase.

            • richard says:

              Thanks for the reply – I’d guess that there is a relatively small overlap between your view of systems and mine – I’m looking at known variables and (Carrington events aside) cannot see catastrophic systemic collapse. And financial depression doesn’t cut it – that’s just electrons. I’d guess that you are looking at the end result and see no way of avoiding it, but that is not the same thing.
              As to Perrow’s thesis, he begins by defining his systems as having the inherent characteristic of “catastrophic” collapse, and while that is interesting, other work on the relationship between emergence and node connectivity in systems with Complexity provides a better understanding of the possibility of collapse, even though at some point statistics have to take over.
              As a separate issue the Kings in Ireland’s early Celtic history were chosen or elected by the Clan, and the land was held in common. That theoretically made it difficult to usurp power by controlling or capturing the elite, but not impossible.

        • There is a big difference between the collective “ownership” a pack of wolves or tribe of H-Gs has over the territory that it ranges around and the individual ownership that came along with Ag.

          Until modern times with Communism, in Ag societies land was never held collectively. It always all belonged to Pharoah or the King, and then you might be granted a portion of it as long as you provided service or paid taxes to that Ruler. Eventually those Rulers morphed into “Goobermints”, which are actually Corporate Persons, but the principle of Individual Ownership remains.

          The rules which cropped up over time and became codified into law essentially sprung out of the need to resolve disputes without having to constantly go to War over who owns what, though of course that breaks down all the time as the societies grow in size and start to butt up against each other in the need for more resources.

          Basically you can say that as soon as you find yourself in the position of having to make rules over ownership of land, your population is already in Overshoot.


          • Stefeun says:

            I fully agree, except I’m not sure that “in Ag societies land was never held collectively”.
            I feel like a “king” is necessary for security purposes, but not for everydays life.

            Beyond conditions of minimum resource availability and maximum population density, the size of the community also matters. See the Dunbar number (roughly, below 150-200 people, a community needs no written rules) and for example this article I found thanks to Öyvind Holmstad:

            So I assume that, in order to justify his position and expect an increasing collection of taxes, a “king” has interest to amplify the threats, to break the small communities into individuals, and to apply his own rules over the largest possible territory.
            That became mandatory because of the population density only (and resulting race for power increase, between larger and larger territories), but I think that as long as the population density remained low enough, hence in absence of major security issues, people self-organized in small communities and could thrive without any ruler.

            As for the historical trend, it seems to me that in the past the “kings” had rather little control over most of “their” people, other than racketeer them by force or try to impose them a religious control by threat.
            Today, the controls and the rules are everywhere, and not for the wellbeing of the majority (as MSM promotes) but for the profit of a shrinking class of “kings” (the richest 67 people possess as much as the poorer half of humanity). Today we’re individuals, each for himself, struggling against a global machine (at least, this is the direction we’re going in).

            After a second thought about your assumption, I have to recognize that you’re probably right that there hasn’t been such thing as an Ag society without a king, since agriculture was likely imposed to humanity because of overpopulation, actually. “Ag without a king” must have happened only under very special conditions, probably not sustainable in the long run.

          • I don’t think the owners of this far away mountain shelf farm in a Norwegian fjord ever asked the king in remote Copenhagen for permission to the land:

            I’ve too heard that when the tax collector came they just pulled up the ladder, so that he was unable to climb the steep mountain sides.

          • richard says:

            Hmmmm … I’m left wondering how big a war is about to break out 😉
            “Anyone concocting a resumé of enclosure such as the one I present here cannot ignore E P Thompson’s warning: “A novice in agricultural history caught loitering in those areas with intent would quickly be despatched.””
            The author seems to have navigated the minefield in some style …
            And the issues debated have not gone away, merely morphed into other forms.

        • xabier says:

          On the theme of How We Treat Enemies, and the assumptions of capitalist theory, it seems that pastoral peoples who practise raiding on neighbours in order to get slaves and livestock sometimes have this moral code: neighbours to whom you are related – steal but don’t leave the people destitute, maybe kill if necessary, but don’t rape, kidnap (unless very short of women to breed) or exterminate; but neighbours who are not related in some way – steal everything, kill as many males as possible, (adult and infant) rape, kidnap, exterminate if possible.

          So, sometimes raids (a kind of economic activity) are a game with a bit of violence, aiming at profit and prestige, while at other times different only in degree from the behaviour of the Romans when they conquered a region, the Mongols in the 13th century, and the Germans under Hitler in Eastern Europe, which was basically a primitive empire of theft and murder.

          Although the Romans did provide a civilization subsequent to the killing and theft which could be quite pleasant, something which the Mongols initially did not know how to do,(until advised by survivors of those societies they destroyed) and the Germans have never managed to master, being terrible at government and too arrogant and unsubtle to conciliate those they rule, as we see in Greece today.

          So it goes around: in the time of the Romans it was said ‘There is not a slave who is not the descendant of a king, and no king who is not the descendant of a slave’…..

          • Stefeun says:

            the Roman statement was very wise.
            A funny calculation, backwards: each of us have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, etc… i.e. we have the genes from a number of people doubling at every generation back in time.
            Let’s see until Roman times, 2000 years ago: 20 centuries, 4 generations per century, give 80 generations.
            So the number of ancestors for each of us should be 2 to the power of 80 = 1.2 E24 (i.e. a million of billions of billions!).
            The actual number of humans 2000 years ago was a little bit less, which means that our genomes are all deeply intertwined.

  16. First Responses from Gail:

    To: Kulm April 3, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    From what I can tell, you are right in that China will hold on to Daqing as long as possible. Of the various oil fields in China, it seems to be a source of relatively low-cost oil. One thing that helps in this regard is the source of electricity–this is coal (which is fairly cheap electricity), according to one of the people I talked to at the Daqing oil field. Earlier I quoted an estimate of 300,000 human workers. A different estimate I heard of the number of people said something over 250,000 workers. It is a lot, one way or another. These people are paid higher than corresponding wages in say, academics, but the wages are still low compared to the West. Part of the extraction at Daqing uses chemicals (polymers) to increase the recovery percentage. Even with the use of these chemicals, the cost of extraction at Daqing is reported to be lower than at many other fields in China. One estimate I heard is that Daqing produces 40% of China’s profits from oil, with less than 25% of its oil production.

    If China needs to cut back, it will cut back on higher cost fields first. Also, it will economize at Daqing–not hire as many new employees, perhaps. Give out fewer bonuses. I have heard that they are now hiring a much smaller share of graduates of college students in oil related majors than they did a few years ago, suggesting that some attrition is occurring through lower hiring. I also heard that housing prices are quite low in Daqing. A person would expect the low housing prices are related to a lack of demand.

    To Harvey Mead April 3, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    With respect to having another Biophysical Economics conference at Syracuse/Burlington, there was originally a plan for a conference in the fall of 2014, and then that plan was discontinued. I have not heard about a plan for a conference in the spring of 2015, so I deduce that there is not one being planned. Prof. Charles Hall has not been in good health, which is part of the problem. He is now retired, and I do not he believe that he has been replaced at Syracuse.

    The plan was to direct the focus into a somewhat different direction. Instead of focusing heavily on EROEI, the focus would be more on how energy and other limits affect the economy, and how debt fits into the picture. It is very easy for researchers to get “stuck” in one direction if the chosen approach is a reasonable first approach, even if this is not the best possible approach. To some extent, I think has happened with EROEI analyses. It was a reasonable starting point back in the 1970s, but we need to move on and look at the situation we are dealing with today. EROEI is not a broad enough measure, and cannot deal with financial issues (like selling price being less than cost of extraction). It has real problems dealing with different qualities of energy as well. I think its time is past as the best approach for looking at things–certainly there is room for looking at other approaches.

    If someone else is interested in having a conference with respect to EROEI and net energy analyses, the proposed conference in China would in no way prevent them from doing this.

    To some extent, what Prof. Feng would like to do foster research in a more of an “energy in a finite world” direction. To do this, we need to work on finding people who are interested in this area and build bridges so that these people can share insights and analyses. The situation is made somewhat more complicated by the fact that China blocks many of the popular Internet sites used for sharing information. We have talked about setting up an e-mail interest group, but it may be that China blocks the websites used to enable such groups.

    To FreeOregon April 5, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Unfortunately, the situation is worse than the one you describe. Many people know that our lifestyle today depends on one-time deposits of fossil fuels. But few realize that our lifestyle also depends on one-time gifts of high-quality deposits of minerals of all kinds–those we use as fertilizers, those we use a metals; uranium used in producing nuclear electricity; and “modern” materials such as rare earth minerals used in batteries, wind turbines, some solar PV, and electric cars. As we use these materials, they are dispersed and made into waste. We can never get the high quality ores back–they are gone for good. All we can do is move from one material that is badly depleted, to another that is not yet as badly depleted, and deplete it as well. “Renewables” to a significant extent represent a situation of moving our waste-making to a different set of resources, rather than fixing the problem.

    We also face severe limits on the amount of fresh water we can use, and the amount fish we can take from the sea, among other things. It becomes extremely difficult to provide food and housing for 7 billion people, without damaging the earth’s ecosystems, and of course, turning our one time resources of fossil fuels and minerals to pollution.

    To Stefeun April 4, 2015 at 11:07 am
    I agree with Reverse Engineer that what you have said is very good, and deserves to made into a post. We forget that what we are doing, in all of our changing of the environment is creating waste products. This is obvious with burning fossil fuels, but it also happens in many other ways, including making so-called “renewables”. If renewables were truly renewable, there would be no human intervention in the process.

    To Øyvind Holmstad April 5, 2015 at 2:36 am

    Thanks for your suggestion. Anything with respect to having a conference is very much at a preliminary stage at this point. Equally important is finding ways for researchers with similar interests to work together, perhaps by sharing views by email and other means.

    There is always an issue of funding, and this is especially the case if a conference is held in China. Professor Feng thinks he can perhaps provide a space on campus for the conference. I don’t think we can count on much additional funding from the university. The question then becomes–how can a person make such a conference “work”? It likely would be difficult to reimburse speakers for their travel expenses (unless all attendees are charged a high fee for attending–something that doesn’t seem likely at this point). Perhaps some speakers could find ways to get their own employer to cover the travel expense, especially if a system of “peer review” of talks is implemented. I don’t know the ins and outs of what universities would require, to consider a particular conference suitable for a faculty member to attend. Of course, many people (both speakers and other attendees) do not have employers to cover such costs. If registration fees are kept low, this will help keep down total costs.

    • dashui says:

      I have some experience putting on international conferences. It takes a government or a foundation to cover the travel expenses. Its easy to get government officials and academics to come they love this sort of thing. The Japanese government gave me money, however when I said I wanted to invite a Chinese, they said no way. So I got a Chinese living in Canada to come instead.

    • Thank you! I can tell Terje Bongard found the conference interesting, and he told he will read this post during the week.

      I don’t know how well connected Pål Steigan is with current rulers in China, but as he was a friend with Mao I think he’s regarded as an important person by the establishment. Maybe he can be a door opener? If you want to contact him I have his email.

      My email is:

    • richard says:

      Following up Gail’s comment on an alternative, possibly email based interest group would the USENET system be a viable resource?
      There tends to be restrictions on its use, for example I know of only one free public newssever, and posts there are limited to 32K of non-binary material, but USENET is proven and is efficient for some tasks.

      • The USENET was very popular during the late 90’s This is where Jay Hanson first debated Michael C Lynch and others.

        ******Before there was energy resources and its children, there was the
        Usenet with sci.geo.petroleum and Michael C. Lynch
        posted (mclynch) as did Jay Hanson and others. These posts are at
        least partially archived at google groups. The search engine works.
        Here is an excerpt of a post by mclynch dated Nov 10 1999, 12:00 am.
        It was in response to a quotation by L.F. Ivanhoe on peak oil.
        …We have huge amounts of petroleum resources left and there is no
        constraint on the ability to deliver oil products (gasoline,
        etc.,which is what counts) for an extremely long time, easily more
        than 100 years. …
        Michael Lynch, Center for International Studies, M.I.T.
        Robert Wilson SO CA aka entropy123

        • richard says:

          I had a look at both groups – and sci.geo.petroleum. Both are, in theory, accessible to me, with having ~100 posts year to date, and sci.geo.petroleum < 1 ytd. I'm more interested in the economics and system dynamics of things, though, and there is an interesting mix of views here, so I am unsure if that would ransfer well to Usenet.

  17. Daniel Hood says:

    It’s the harbinger of doom again! California is the first mega-region to face epic collapse due to the accelerating mega-drought from hell. 1 year’s worth of supply left then it’s water fights. 40 million souls with their cars, golf courses, swimming pools, against no rain and rising temperatures in the desert. Good luck with that.

    Now we know exactly why the military’s been practicing in the region lately. Calis about to have a stampede of 30 million water ravaged refugees on the run, anyone harzard a guess as to what may happen to house prices in an area where there’s no water and everyone’s trying to escape at the same time?

    Yep, that and fracking crisis means chaos squared. Already have the cities blaming Ag sector, and other states warning Cali can get stuffed if they think they’re going to divert water to them.

    • Possible but not given, nature can for just for the fun on the account of fast doomers serve a tasty dish of floods, rain storms and heavy snow fall for next few years in Cali. Another catastrophe delayed. Or not in which case pre 2020 in fact starts looking like interesting kaboom juncture of global importance.

      • glennstehle says:

        I see where Art Berman has picked up on the “demand destruction” talking point which you so faithfully proselytized in Gail’s last post:

        “Demand was progressively destroyed during the longest period of sustained high oil prices in history from 2010 through 2014,” Berman tells us.

        But, as the following graph illustrates, it is impossible to demonstrate demand destruction since 2008:

        So, in order to tailor reality to fit his own pet theory, and get around an unconvenient truth, Berman produces this chart:

        From this graph Berman concludes: “Figure 5 shows that demand as a percent of supply was generally increasing until about September 2007 and has been generally decreasing since then. Especially weak demand since early 2014 is merely the most extreme expression of a trend that has been active for more than 7 years.”

        Claims like this only serve to destroy Berman’s credibity. Figure 5 does not illustrate “weak demand.” The only thing this graph, along with the conclusion which Berman draws from it, illustrate is that Berman flunks Mathematics 101.

        When the denominator increases faster than the numerator, the ratio decreases. In no way, form, or fashion does the graph illustrate “demand destruction” as Berman claims.

        I think this is unfortunate, because I believe Berman’s theory that “The record price of oil was an underlying cause of The Financial Crisis” (which began in 2007) has merit. I also believe high oil prices were “an underlying cause” of the global recession and financial crisis of the 1979-1984 period. To phrase this differently, I do not believe what we are experiencing is just another run-of-the-mill crisis of overproduction, or crisis of overaccumulation of capital and underconsumption, as Marx put it. And if it is not a crisis of overproduction or underconsumption, then Keynesian pump-priming and/or expansive monetary policy offers no solution.

        So surley Berman can do better. Theory needs to be tailored to fit reality, not reality to fit theory. (And despite all the tautology surrounding the putative “rational” thought processes of “homo economicus,” what recent neuroscientific finidings indicate is that man’s capacity for “raitonal” thought is extremely limited. “Homo economicus,” it turns out, is about 99% ficiton and 1% reality. Molding reality to fit theory is what humans do best, and what they do the vast majority of the time.) But nevertheless, when Berman uses these rhetorical slights of hand, he only discredits himself and his theory which, in my opinion, would be much better served without these all too obvious departures from factual reality.

        • richard says:

          IMHO what Berman is attempting to to provide an insight to a difficult concept by way of a tailored graph. You are free to disagree either with his thesis that the market for oil behaved differently after 2007 or you can suggest a better method of explanation.
          I’ll repeat my view that oil prices will average $40 for 2015, and that world real GDP will be no higher at the end of 2015 than at the beginning. I’ll agree that there are difficulties in condensing complex relationships into a few words, and sometimes part of the meaning is lost, that just life.
          And don’t call me Surley … 😉

      • edpell says:

        David, no problem just need to borrow 500 billion dollars, 443 for the listed debts and 57 billion for the slush funds.

    • glennstehle says:

      Well I guess what goes around comes around.

      I wouldn’t expect too much sympathy from south of the border, though.

    • glennstehle says:

      But it appears the wealthy are untouchable:

      • Tell that to Eike Batista

        “BRAZIL IS THE COUNTRY of the future–and always will be.” That old jape about the South American giant’s perpetually unfulfilled potential has assumed corporeal form in the person of Eike Batista. Just five years ago the founder of oil-and-gas driller OGX had a personal fortune estimated at $27 billion, making him the eighth-richest person in the world. These days? His possessions are being confiscated by the state.

        Brazil discovered what it thought was a treasure trove of offshore oil in 2007, but those fields have never delivered on their initial promise. In 2010 Batista scolded FORBES for questioning his company’s fundamentals. “No, no, no,” he said. “Let me tell you – OGX is zero percent speculation.”

        In October 2013 OGX filed for bankruptcy protection with $5.1 billion in total debt; Batista has since been snared in an insider-trading investigation. Many of his material trophies–the Lamborghini he kept parked in his living room; his yacht, Spirit of Brazil; cars found at the home of his ex-wife, Carnaval queen Luma de Oliveira–have been seized by Brazil’s federal police.”


        • edpell says:

          But not his numbered Swiss bank accounts, not the gold buried in the ground behind his third country home.

          • The Swiss authorities already turned over his accounts and the Brasilians tore up the garden with Daiwoo Back Hoes. Besides that he faces numerous charges of insider trading, fraud and tax evasion. Brasilians aren’t as forgiving of Pigmen as we are here, and their prisons aren’t as comfortable either. He’s finished.


            • kulm says:

              But not his kids who would still have their mercedes outside of brazil and still would have friends they made in their expensive boarding schools.

            • Olin and Thor Batista (Eike’s sons) both live in Brasil.

              They may salvage something out of the mess they are in, but it won’t be much. The piranhas are circling the carcass, Judges are driving home his Maseratis, etc.

              This is just the beginning in any event. Wait until the real Pigman vs Pigman battle gets underway here. Everybody holds somebody else’s debt. There will be a lot of “rich” people wearing Cement Galoshes.


      • edpell says:

        Still legal to truck in water from out of state. The rich will be OK not to worry.

    • glennstehle says:

      Energy and water are inextricably intertwined, and now more so than ever with the water demands of massive frac jobs.

      “California: A Microcosm For Impending Global Water Crisis”

  18. Dear Gail!

    Please consider inviting Terje Bongard for the “Finite World”-conference in Beijing:

    Terje Bongard

    Researcher, PhD

    Norwegian Institute for Nature Research – NINA

    Postal address: NO-7485 Trondheim, NORWAY

    Delivery/Visiting address: Høgskoleringen 9, NO-7034 Trondheim, NORWAY

    Phone: +47 986 44 786 • Fax: +47 73 80 14 01 •

    I’ve also suggested this on my blog:

    His project is to restructure the economy/democracy, using inert biological drivers.

    Unfortunately he was rejected by the ignorant and narrow minded “Research” Council of Norway.

    – Can Bytes Save the Future? The Money Value Delusion:

  19. Let’s “dumb things down” to my level — doesn’t the graph below indicate that the non-US part of the world passed “peak oil” in about 2012?
    Also, maybe see, or, my own guesses about it, at

    • Most of the non-FSoA places haven’t Fracked yet. If they can issue out gobs more Debt, maybe they can Frack up more Oil also just like it was done here. I wouldn’t bet the farm on this though.


    • edpell says:

      To your point, yes. I think we may need to consider total fossil fuels. That is oil, natural gas, and coal. Oil is on the way down but coal has great potential. It will be interesting to watch the shift of values from eco cleanliness to money making. That will keep the ad industry employed.

      • Isn’t crude oil (and HEAVY crude oil, not just the “light” crude they get from ‘fracking”) the kingpin of the whole thing (like in “Lieberg’s Law of the Minimum”)? (I mean, coal & natural gas just ain’t gonna do it.) And with crude prices bumbling along in the fifties or forties since December (, even US fracking is a bust, if you ask me.
        I work in a place where they make parts for “deepwater” crude oil extraction (machined precisely from heavy bolcks of “crome-moly” steel, intended to function in seawater pressures in the tens of thousands of PSI) — is that going to keep getting paid for, with the revenue they’ve got coming in for it?

        • northsheep says:

          “Lieberg’s Law of the Minimum” No offense but puhleaze do not mispell Liebig’s Law – it’s too important! If it more of our species understood it, we might not be in such a quandary.
          But thanks for citing it anyway.

  20. Stefeun says:

    In previous post, my point about the ongoing “Commodification of the Commons”, was to highlight that the capitalism is trying to find new resources, as standard/traditional ones are depleting.

    In fact, looking at it in a broader view, our whole economy is actually about, and based on, commodification of the commons:

    – the primary sector (agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining) takes what is “given by Nature” (i.e. for free), and exchanges it for claims on whatever has been given a price (i.e. money).
    The cost we take into account is only the amount of energy spent for extraction (wether it is hours of human labor or barrels of oil or kWh), the matter itself is counted zero. Both matter and energy are considered infinite (!!!).
    – then the secondary sector (manufacturing) turns it into refined or consumer goods or tools, and the tertiary sector (services) helps dispatch the stuff and information.

    Each and every single operation is using energy and generating waste (entropy).
    The waste isn’t taken into accout and “the economy” considers that either Nature, or the Society as a whole, should take in charge the burden of recycling it or making it disappear no matter how (the size of the dustbin must be infinite too!).
    Of course most of this waste doesn’t just disappear (cannot quickly reintegrate the natural cycles) and isn’t recycled, even when possible, because doing it requires energy (often more than the valuable output could buy) and therefore is accounted as a net cost nobody wants to take in charge. This process is transforming the Earth into a huge garbage can.

    Back to the main point, what we call “the economy” is thus a process of appropriation, which first step consists in taking hold of something that primarily doesn’t belong to anybody, for a private profit*.
    Such a system can work as long as sufficient resource is available for all, and requires only a reasonable effort (i.e. low energy cost) to extract it. As soon as there’s a risk of scarcity, the rules of property prevail and there’s a fight over the resource (arable land, fresh water, mineral ores, fossil fuels as required in bigger quantities to compensate the depletion, etc..).

    These property laws are becoming overwhelmingly important as we’re approaching the limits. It started with “this land is mine”, continued with “this subsoil is mine”, “this water is mine”, (by the way progressively shifting ownership from public to corporate, see e.g. landgrabbing), and then -because of diminishing returns- is currently expanding to patents on the living, rights on species, intellectual property, information (big data), etc..?

    All these are examples of new resources, enlarging the pool of valuable ones, IOW privatization of whatever-can-be, aiming to -at least- compensate the decline of traditional ones, if not feed the mandatory growth.
    The problem here is that the laws of diminishing returns also apply to the energy, most of it being fossil fuels for which we don’t have any substitute nor expandable source.
    So, in the end of the day, finding new “fields to mine” is pointless (not to mention dangerous), since we won’t have the sufficient energy to exploit them.

    *: Michael Parenti, in “Against Empire” (, states it as follows:
    “The essence of capitalism is to turn nature into commodities and commodities into capital. The live green earth is transformed into dead gold bricks, with luxury items for the few and toxic slag heaps for the many. The glittering mansion overlooks a vast sprawl of shanty towns, wherein a desperate, demoralized humanity is kept in line with drugs, television, and armed force.”
    (also quoted in

    IMHO, capitalism is undeniably speeding up the whole process, especially when financialized, but I’m not sure that another system would have given a better result in the long run, unless it would have considered that the resource is finite (the only net input in our system is the energy from the sun, all the rest is -or should be- recycled), taken into account the waste management (entropy production), and deeply questioned the property rules (to promote cooperation and avoid wealth concentration).
    Unfortunately, this is an utopia, because the winner is always the one who burns most energy, according to the MEP-principle (Maximum Entropy Production, aka 3rd Laws of TDs, F.Roddier/R.Dewar), or the simpler MPP (Maximum Power Principle, as described by Jay Hanson in

  21. kulm says:

    Thr high income and high iq people think their wealth and power will be forever and they will at least hold on tk their wealth for the forseeable time. they can hire bodyguards to shoot any intruders. in old times we called these bodyguards ‘retainers’.

    When the Mongols were driven out by the Chinese on 1368 the last Mongol Emperor threw his mountains of jewels here and there, delaying the pursuing Chinese. The Khanate survived till 1657.

    • The Mongols were not in a time of collapse and deficit. You have to look at Babylon and Rome for this. It’s not a good analogy.


      • tagio says:

        I’ve been away from this thread for awhile, but looking back I cannot understand the fascination or wasted energy and speculation trying to pin down what the outcomes will be for “the rich.” I mean, who cares? Why waste a second on this? Unless you yourself are a one-tenth of one percenter or better, or are hoping these consummate sociopaths are going to carry forward art, literature, science, music into the future (I crack myself up some times), it’s basically an academic discussion. It’s far better to think about what will happen with one’s circle of friends and family and the place one actually lives.

        • Jarvis says:

          I think a discussion of survival strategies with family and friends would be useful as well. Sometimes some of the deep thinkers here come up with ideas or books that I find helpful. I have the financial ability to prep so I’m setting up a doomstead that eventually will be off grid , wood powered and close to a network of small farms . In fact I’m clearing for a perma culture garden this month. I may very well be one of the first casualties in this oncoming shitstorm but actually doing something is rather therapeutic!

        • kulm says:

          because if the rich survive they will come back and seize your homestead and put you and your kids into their manor if they feel merciful. usually their knights will just clear the land.

  22. Hazel Wangari says:

    Hello Gail,

    I take this opportunity to introduce Extractives East Africa – the magazine for mining oil and gas. It is published quarterly by our exploration geology consultancy in Nairobi – Trendstone Holdings Ltd. Please visit for further interaction.

    I seek permission to republish a piece you did on the relation between Oil Prices, Debt and Interest Rates on May 21 last year. It represents much of the scenario in East Africa and many emerging markets. I would particularly request you to kindly let me re-work on it to domesticate it albeit with your attribution, for our upcoming issue on the 15th of April.

    Extractives East Africa premiered in October, so I am also seeking your regular advise on content – in fact if its agreeable I could invite you formally to let you drive a column on your usual topical issues about oil and gas. You never know, we could just assist you carve out a market in East Africa’s nascent oil and gas production.

    Attached please find the brand profile of the magazine and a soft copy of our premier one for your perusal.

    Kind regards

    Hazel Wangari Director, Strategy and Business Development Trendstone Holdings LLC P. O. Box 100798-00101

    Tel: 0724 158 491

    14, Riverside Drive, 4th Floor, Cavendish Block, Riverside Drive Westland, Nairobi, Kenya

  23. Also, don’t miss my latest article on the Doomstead Diner

    Oil Price Crash: Who Cooda Node?


    and latest Audio Rant

    Calvinball in Yemen




    • richard says:

      Interesting forecasts on the oil price from 2012 there. That aside, I am left to wonder, what happened to free market forces? Y’know the old free markets thing? Wasn’t that supposed to sort everything out?
      To judge by some of Gail’s comments, pretty much everyone in the O&G business knows there is a problem, can’t see a solution and is busy trying to a) minimise their losses and b) is sure there is a way to make a fortune out of the crisis.

    • glennstehle says:

      @ Reverse Engineer

      In your latest article in the Doomsday Diner, you say:

      “Now, the question you probably have here is ‘Can Prices Rebound AGAIN from this Collapse?’

      “Well, how did they rebound in the first place? Basically by Da Fed ejaculating money like a Porn Star doing the “Money Shot”, that’s how!”

      So riddle me this: OPEC cutting oil production by more than 3 million BOPD had nothing to do with it?

      Also, when it comes to money creation via the route of ZIRP and QE, crafted to spur an expansion of private debt, the FED’s “Money Shot” was a failure, as this chart clearly illustrates:

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      R.E., how possible is it that wealthy people working together, and faced with collapse to occur in say 5 years, develop drones to kill the masses? It could be done by making millions of large wasp drones that fly in swarms and kill with an electro-mechanical sting in the back. If someone grabs one, it releases an electrical charge to force the person to let go. By eliminating a high percentage of the population, resources would last a lot longer. Menial, tedious jobs could be handled by robots. So it would be a world protected by wasp drones, with robot labor all governed by a few super duper wealthy people from a single control room.

      • FreeOregon says:

        You dream dystopian dreams. The 1% do not have survival skills. They can’t even program robots to do work they do not know how to do themselves. They are going to survive on GMO foods and hydroponics? Already we see the effects of industrial, mechanized agriculture on nutrition content. And under your scenario, do robots just ignite bonfires to rid ourselves of the corpses of those we’ve exterminated? Why would a robot care?

        Suffering? Yes. Survival of the 1% or even military indoctrinated clones? Not likely.

        The guy with a gun may survive, provided he knows how to plant, nurture, and harvest vegetables.

        • kulm says:

          The guy with the gun will survive but will die without reproducing.

          the prettiest girls will be kept in the harem of the 0.01%, and reproduce, just like what dr strangelove proposed.

          • Stilgar Wilcox says:

            Sure, it’s dystopian, extremely outside the box, odd, eccentric idea, but look at how fast drone tech is developing. Do this, Google insect drones. Yeah, they’re already making those. Poachers are now being watched via surveillance in a test program by drones to help save the rhino and elephant. How long will it be before the military drones drop swarms of insect drones to fly into door or window openings and take out enemies inside buildings?

            • Stilgar Wilcox says:

              Here’s a link:

              Robo-wings: Military drones that mimic hawks and insects

            • garand555 says:

              The Afghanis found ways around our high tech weapons. Those are some seriously tribal people with a bronze age mentality. Drones to save the rhino, eh? How about charging rich people a boatload of money to hunt the animals, distribute a large portion of that money to the villagers and make sure that the villagers get a lot of the meat? Who is poaching the animals and why? Probably some poor (literally) schmuck from the local villages, because they’re poor as hell and ivory and other assorted animal items bring money on the black markets.

              And we are going to reach limits on drone technology. A big problem will be the energy density of the fuel. How far will a fly sized drone be able to fly before it runs out of gas? There are physics limits to these things.

      • TPTB already have Drones wiping out the masses. They don’t need high tech stingers, they can just use missiles.

        However, the part about replacing people with robots requires a lot of energy which can only be accessed at large scale, and the robots are likely to break down a lot faster than they can be replaced.

        These sort of dystopian scenarios have about as much chance of success as developing Cold Fusion in the Nick of Time. It’s techno-fixation combined with a normalcy bias that makes some people believe “the rich will always be rich”.

        In a word, it’s complete nonsense.


    • glennstehle says:

      @ Reverse Engineer

      I went over and took at look at the post you linked, where you had this to say:

      ***begin quote***
      Now, the question you probably have here is “Can Prices Rebound AGAIN from this Collapse?”

      Well, how did they rebound in the first place? Basically by Da Fed ej@culating money like a Porn Star doing the “Money Shot”, that’s how!
      ***end quote***

      I disagree. The Fed’s “Money Shot,” as this graph illustrates, was a failure. Let’s face it, negative real interest rates and QE did not produce the desired effect.

      This is not to say, however, that the “Money Shot” didn’t work in, for instance, China.

      This graph shows that the “Money Shot” worked very nicely for the central bank of China:

    • glennstehle says:

      @ Reverse Engineer

      I went over and took at look at the post you linked, where you had this to say:

      ***begin quote***
      Now, the question you probably have here is “Can Prices Rebound AGAIN from this Collapse?”

      Well, how did they rebound in the first place? Basically by Da Fed…doing the “Money Shot”, that’s how!
      ***end quote***

      I disagree. The Fed’s “Money Shot,” as this graph illustrates, was a failure. Let’s face it, negative real interest rates and QE did not produce the desired effect.

      This is not to say, however, that the “Money Shot” didn’t work in, for instance, China.

      This graph shows that the “Money Shot” worked very nicely for the central bank of China:

      In addition, missing from your causality is the fact that OPEC cut production by several million barres per day in 2009.

      • glennstehle says:

        •••••151st (Extraordinary) Meeting of the OPEC Conference•••••
        The 151st (Extraordinary) Meeting of the Conference of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) convened in Oran, Algeria, on 17 December 2008, under the Chairmanship of its President, HE Dr Chakib Khelil, Minister of Energy and Mines of Algeria and Head of its Delegation, and its Alternate President, HE Eng José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos, Minister of Petroleum of Angola and Head of its Delegation.

        ….the Conference agreed to cut 4.2 million barrels a day from the actual September 2008 OPEC-11 production of 29.045 mb/d, with effect from 1 January 2009, with Member Countries strongly emphasizing their firm commitment to ensuring that their production is reduced by the individually agreed amounts.

  24. FreeOregon says:

    If you define real wealth as the total productive capacity of your people, then laying off people destroys wealth. It’s not just a question of shifting one problem to become another. A better strategy is to redeploy, but as planners we’ve an astoundingly poor track record redeploying people wealth.

    • That is a good point–“if real wealth is the total productive capacity of your people, then laying off people destroys wealth”. Similarly, developing more jobs for people who would not otherwise been part of the work force (say, those over 65 who want jobs) would add wealth.

  25. kulm says:

    I do think the dark enlightenmenters will win in the end though.

    the world’s population will decline significantly but that means more energy to go to these people of privilege and they will be enjoying their life of luxury with far less people.

    the nobles and landowners needed hunting grounds so they kicked out the marginal homesteaders. a sage said sheep eat men but those who took the land are still very rich now.

    today’s rich will survive and prosper, and it will look like a high tech middle ages.

    • Today’s rich have paper claims to non-existent wealth. It’s irredeemable debt they can never collect on. The “Nobles & Landowners” will be ditched faster than Argentina ditches Presidents.


      • RE I do respect you quite a lot but lets not overdramatize it at least in short/midterm please.
        You say paper wealth only?

        Chateux in CH, apartments and villas in Singapore, Paris, NY, London, vineyards in Italy, Croatia, France, South Africa; beef farmland in Uruguay, Argentina .. That’s the portfolio niveau of your average billionarie of “systemic importance” apart from his tons of paper in stocks, residential and industrial RE, art, jets and megayachts parked around the globe, doomsday bunker, bonds, cash, and other financial vehicles.

        Well it’s not unimaginable to be parted with some of those in few years time during turmoil-reset years but quite very unlikely to be stripped of IT ALL AT ONCE! And that’s their multigen learned play, always worked (bettter than nothing) in history, simply diversification.

        I know the following is not completely valid, because I believe in larger post medieval growth spike cycle ending before 2030-2050, but lets look for historical comparison into Europe 1789-1815 or during 30years war chaos before that, he who was diversified across family linked wealth in various countries survived with at least fraction of his peak wealth and moved it with success into another era, often times re-building from that tangent to additional wealth level was achieved.

        • I am well known as a Drama Queen. LOL. I go over the top on everything. 😀

          However, just about all “assets” you list are highly dependent on a continued energy flow. Private Jets need Airstrips to land on that are well maintained and have Jet Fuel for refills. Luxury apts in the City of London require electricity to go up the elevator to the Penthouse, and your typical Pigman is not going to walk up 30 stories to get there. Besides that, you have to pump the water up there too, so no Flush Toilets up in the penthouse when the electric grid fails.

          All of these “Assets” are utterly worthless without steady energy input.

          Fine Art is a lot like Gold Coins, how much is a Picasso worth when there is no food available in the local markets?

          So, you devolve here to the “ownership” of land in the typical Feudal paradigm, but the issue there is that Feudal Lords developed over Centuries creating loyalties and armies with Knights and so forth to maintain control over their patch of land. Now, how many typical modern Pigmen have an army that can Protect & Defend their Doomstead/Feudal Manor? VERY FEW if any, because even those currently wealthy enough to pay a decent size mercenary force will not have working money to do that with once the Monetary System collapses. These folks are only loyal to the Lord of the Manor for so long as said Lord has working money to pay them with. If you have read my analysis in any great detail, you should know that money fails in a deficit situation, it doesn’t work to distribute resources properly in this condition. Money only functions under conditions of surplus.

          I will leave you with Revelation 18 here:

          9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,

          10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.

          11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:

          12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,

          13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.

          That is how it went down in Babylon, so it shall be again. When even the Souls of Men have no value anymore, nobody is “Rich”

          This is how it goes in Collapse.


          • Harry Gibbs says:

            Matthew 20:16 has been much on my mind of late: “So the last shall be first and the first last.” Collapse will find subsistence farmers and hunter-gatherers infinitely wealthier than the hedge-fund managers in their penthouse apartments.

            • Rodster says:

              Ezekiel 7:19 “They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be treated as a thing unclean. Their silver and gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath. It will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs, for it has caused them to stumble into sin.

              – New International Version

            • Kulm says:

              But not, say, the owner of Blackwater who will still have his warriors to take whatever the farmers and hunter gatherers accumulated.

              The Mongols did not have to farm until the communists arrived on the 20th century.

          • Perhaps you are focusing too much on single big event of global universal crash scenario of sub 100% probability. I just doubt it will proceed like that, on the contrary, I stressed the diversification factor because it has got credible historical validity – I simply posit that several countries-regions and factions of their elites given their endowment (geography, resources, skills..) will at least attempt limited autarky throughout the reset event, which means TIME adaptation to circle the wagons, reshuffle the power sharing structure of the new elite, and start SOMETHING new or a modified system. The survival rate of “rich” under new conditions will for sure fluctuate quite dramatically, I don’t dispute that, but much of the current wealth will be preserved in the midterm.

            Check this and other related comments in that thread:

            • The survival rate of “rich” under new conditions will for sure fluctuate quite dramatically, I don’t dispute that, but much of the current wealth will be preserved in the midterm.-WoH

              You have a whole slew of issues with a statement like that, to begin with exactly how long is the “midterm”?  You get into questions of Fast-vs Slow Collapse, Financial Contagion, Political Upheaval, etc.

              There *may* be an interval here where enough stll works of the current system for the elite to maintain control and thus maintain “wealth”.  My personal opinion is that the length of time this period can last is extraordinarily short, no more than 20 years once the major monetary systems go into catastrophic failure mode.

              After that, none of which you know now to be “true” will hold true anymore, and most certainly the wealthy of today will no longer be so.

              In the days of Babylon, this sort of shit could go down in an hour.  Today with HFT algos, super computers and communication at the speed of light, it can collapse in pico seconds.  Really.


            • I still do thing you overplay the time-space coherency of looming collapse a bit. It’s a big world out there with lot of momentum/inertia and in times of the highest hour semi autarky will be attempted, while “allies” and out of the core areas even of your own be dammed to hell. In summary, that’s more than 20yrs of added lifesupport, obviously on much different playground and setting in comparison with today. Think about russian gubernias or some US colonel/general dugged up near functioning hydro power up north after nuclear strike etc.

              The eastern roman empire picked up after the plague, also take the example of earlier time in the western part Diocletian and da boys pushed some reforms to delay the threat of runaway desintegration etc.

            • As I said, I “overplay” just about everything. I write dramatic to wake people up. That is my style. Many people in the collapse blogosphere dismiss me because of this style. It doesn’t bother me, because I run my own damn website so nobody can shut me up anymore. I have been booted off more websites than you can count. Well, the NSA can still shut me up, but that has not happened yet so far.

              Anyhow, there will likely be many different “solutions” pursued here along the way, and indeed the current Elite will definitely attempt to hold status. However, what you really are looking at here is a Singularity. It’s a point at which all the rules fall apart. Gail is an Actuary. I’m a Mathematician..These are significantly different ways of looking at the problems, and it is why we often disagree. But we still examine the same problem and have somewhat similar conclusions, so we work together to disseminate what we think is so, or will be so.

              You definitely are looking at a devolution of the One to the Many, regionalization will occur here. How do you postulate though that the current Elite can maintain their status in such a regional break up? Explain to me how this can occur in a monetary system collapse.


            • What I’m after and as mentioned before, I simply maintain the position based on historical clues and how the multigen rich learned to transform through times inside human societies, where segments of the elite are likely to keep part of their wealth through monetary reset due to diversification.

              We agree on the regionalization vector post reset event, now imagine your various investments and claims on wealth around the globe get electronicaly erased, burned up, nationalized, vandalized or what have you. However, you are likely to maintain at least some wealth in particular region of interest.

              In practice, that’s because there are also rich people with true natural propensity to govern, i.e. where parasitic properties meets leadership and/or authority and negotiations skills. Even the doomerite archetype post reset selfmade gubernator/warlord of the new world you must respect and deal with these types. It’s natural, it’s the way world always worked. I’m certainly not saying that 95% of todays top rich list (or even less so for their idiotic web of burreaucracies) will make it into interim or longer term wealth transformation, it will be a fraction.

              And the longer reshuffle period the higher likelyhood of little people being completely stripped of their tiny wealth and belongings at hand. That’s what people should be affraid of, the only partial remedy is to collapse first (outside of megacities) and avoid the rush.

            • Kulm says:

              Even Cyrus, who destroyed Lydia (the richest state at that time), had to spare the life of the Lydian ruler Croesus whose descendants remained as nobles in Cyrus’ empire.

              The singularity the 1% is looking for is transhumanism. Different from the singularity you mean.

              The high-IQ people may not be able to save the world (and will not since it is not to their advantage), but they are very able to stay powerful and rich no matter what, and are able to eliminate all competition.

            • “The high-IQ people may not be able to save the world (and will not since it is not to their advantage), but they are very able to stay powerful and rich no matter what, and are able to eliminate all competition”– K

              I regret to inform you, being “rich” and having a High IQ are not synonymous. Just look at the whole Bush Family, or the Windsors. Prince Harry, there’s a real Bright Bulb for you!

              You have a very conventional sort of view K, you sound like you come straight out of the Eugenics Movement of the late 19th Century.


          • Kulm says:

            Singapore is a tiny country with an authoritarian rule and prosperous citizens.

            It does not take too much energy to keep the world’s 1% in luxury. At most 3% – 5% of what today’s world is using.

            • FreeOregon says:

              The entire system is wasteful.

              Everywhere you look, if you delve. In agriculture industrial processes, row crops, monoculture, inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, bare soil between rows, and irrigation that first drains the soils only to store and put water back are orders of magnitude less productive and utilize a fraction of the natural energy in, say, a forest which somehow is highly productive without human intervention. Compare polyculture, no or few inputs, natural harvesting and distribution of both the sun’s energy and water – generally lumped into the category of Agroforestry.

              A friend in Germany once explained to me that Europeans, being resource constrained, invented cathodic protection while Americans were so imbued with resources like zinc they did not want to think and still relied on galvanization and wasting metal to prevent rust.

              So much is perspective rather than an actual limit. Yes, our credit excess and our fossil energy exploitation permitted us to bring forward and waste resources that could have been available to future generations. Restoration of what was may be impossible, but I am optimistic we can live differently, in harmony with one another and with nature, if we change perspective.

          • You are still not addressing the point, so again namely why certain families like Winsdors, who go back to mediaval saxony heritage have been able to keep and enlarge wealth – power over the last 1000yrs continuously! It is simply because they have been able to pass the knowledge (“knowhow handbook”) how to operate human sheeple farm to their next generation. That’s a skill not easily obtained by fly by night 3generation only of retained wealth elites aka your average stocks only “idiot” billionaire.

            • garand555 says:

              If you go back to medieval times, you’ll find that there were some rights abuses that had to do with land ownership, but when it came to internal squabbles, the peasants were left alone. Kill the king’s deer? You’re going to hang. Have a dispute over two peasants wanting to plant the same field? The nobles wanted no part of that and the peasants were left to their own to settle it. But that was back when kings had real power. Today, the British monarchs are just figureheads and other European monarchs simply do not exist anymore. The house of Windsor are wealthy figureheads, but figureheads none the less. This is born out of tradition. Back when they had real power, it was supposedly derived from God, and that is what was used to keep power. The world has changed. Who holds power has changed. Who will hold power in the future will change again.

              That being said, you’re going to be in for a shock if you think that I’m going to respect the property rights of any non-local land holders when things go south. I’m here and they’re not. I’m going to worry about me and mine. But then again, I live in fly-over country and am happy about that.

            • kulm says:


              many french peasants who farmed the lands of the lords who fled found the hard way when Wellington reinstalled the French King.

              The nobles took every square inch of their lostland back and some of them still hold the land today.

            • Kulm says:

              Right now there are a few thousand Cuban landowners living in America and elsewhere who want to reclaim their land and throw out whoever is living in there. They have some powerful allies, like American companies who owned land in that island like Coca Cola or Hilton.

              When Cuba’s red regime falls they will arrive with Blackwater goons and reclaim their properties.


              Vietnam gave back America the land where the US Embassy once stood, where the people of Saigon was being helicoptered out back in 1975, when Hanoi reopened diplomatic relationship with Washington.

              Land Ownership is , for all practical purpose, eternal. The land owners will come back. The only reason the Russian landowners could not reclaim their land was because the land archives were lost sometime during World War II.

            • garand555 says:

              Sure, sure, but sometimes the aristocrats get nixed really, really hard. Just ask Robespierre. Of course, they wound up with Napoleon afterwards, so it was a case of the new boss being a lot like the old boss, with the interim sucking really hard, but to think that land owners ALWAYS come back is folly. Otherwise, I’d have a semi-legitimate claim on the largest land grant in US/Mexican history.

            • Yep, Garand. After the final fall of Napoleon restitution of estates started anew, but interestingly enough pensions of high ranking Napoleon official like generals and colonels was paid in full under the renewed monarchy again. Also few of the Napoleon installed smallish kingdoms and fiefdoms survived, usually those in bloodline contact with other sitting european royal/aristocratic houses. Similarly land and sometimes factories and money were paid back after 1989 in Central/Eastern Europe with the exception of Russia et al.
              Wealth is wealth and that’s why people will always go madly gloves off to get it.

              Moreover, british gentry is still sitting after 700-800yrs on their old properties and collecting rents from farmers and companies, many families have dropped from xyz,000 sized acreages to a mere fraction of holdings after all those centuries, however some cleverly kept almost the same size through times.

          • ultimately, land is the source of all our energy, (food) and thus will be fought over until exhaustion kicks in
            at that point, those left standing will have access to as much energy (food) as is available.
            This energy source will then come under the fiefdom of those having access to the most manpower for defence and cultivation.
            The diktat then will be work or starve.
            Which, in historical terms is exactly where we were in the middle ages

  26. Few cars on the road….what is happening with the Chinese car manufacturing industry? According to this website
    China should have produced close to 20 million cars in 2014 and 4 million commercial vehicles.

    Who is buying all these cars? How many percent are being exported to which countries? How many kms are they being driven in China pa? Petrol – diesel consumption?

    How about petrol and diesel prices in terms of purchasing power?

    I had done this post which needs updating

    27 May 2013
    World car production grows 3 times faster than global oil supplies

    Can we say that China got stuck in peak oil? Australia feels the pinch as iron ore prices have tumbled. Or is the growth in coal production compensating for stagnating oil production?

  27. No worries.  There is a 4 Mile Long Queue in the Persian Gulf of Tankers waiting to fill up on Iranian Oil.


  28. Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

    What Will The Death Of The Great Bakken Oil Field Look Like??

    I think this confirms my suspicions that the PTB well hell bent to sink as many wells as possible while they were able to handle 100 buck oil without blowing the economy to pieces.

    Based on those two graphs, we have at best 2 years to live, almost certainly less.

    This report was written in 2013 – note the key word ‘accelerate’ Shale will peak within two years but in the meantime, is shale production enough to offset conventional declines?

    Aging giant fields produce more than half of global oil supply and are already declining as group, Cobb writes. Research suggests that their annual production decline rates are likely to accelerate.

    • Rodster says:

      “Based on those two graphs, we have at best 2 years to live, almost certainly less.”

      But those charts are showing a zero flow rate between 2030-40. Exxon is looking to start exploration in the Arctic. Energy companies will continue to produce oil as long as the economy can function. Given how long this system has been propped up i’d say it could gone on for another 1-3 generations. Our concern should be the damaging effects to the oceans which are being ruined at an alarming rate from 8-10 million tons of plastics, garbage and toxic chemicals being dumped each year and this has been going on for decades. Overfishing is another major concern. So i’m looking at more damage from a damaged and devastated ecosystem that will not be able to support an additional 2-3 billion more inhabitants in the next 20-30 years.

      • Harry Gibbs says:

        1-3 generations seems very optimistic to me. Break-even requirements for the oil majors and oil producing states are spiralling ever upwards, while the global economy’s ability to meet elevated costs is waning. We have a much larger credit bubble than we did in 2008 and even tighter energy constraints. Financial solutions can only do so much to prop the system up because the problem is only secondarily financial. And really, what else can be done? It’s not like we have a lot of wiggle-room on our interest rates.

        That Exxon is looking to the Arctic, and Shell is planning to return their after having its fingers so badly burnt, only serves to illustrate how desperate the oil majors are to open up new revenue streams. I agree that the oceans are in a shocking condition.

      • garand555 says:

        We have, at best, one more economic “cycle,” (inflate asset bubble, then pop) and at worst, when this cycle ends, so does the dollar. That’s less than a decade, either way. The average Joe is getting squeezed pretty hard, and eventually, something is going to break, be it through civil unrest, war, etc… Our supply chains have become foolishly complex, and they need cheap oil to operate.

        The US has been in a state of collapse for roughly 15 years if you go by the employment:population ratio. I doubt the average Roman citizen understood that Rome was in a state of collapse until Rome was sacked, yet it started collapsing before the sacks happened. When it becomes obvious to all, it will be in a very advanced stage. That is because problems tied to exponential growth aren’t a problem, until suddenly they are and nobody could have seen it coming.

        • Creedon says:

          Walgreens announced the closing of two percent of it’s stores. This is collapse happening. Radio Shack has I think gone out of business. Wall street is rooting for a price increase in oil so that oil companies can stay solvent and continue to drill for oil, while at the same time oil inventories continue to grow. We will all see together where this will lead. When I ride the highways, I see lot’s and lot’s of cars and a busy, busy world. The laws of thermodynamics would say that this has to slow down. To be perfectly honest when I look around at the world I live in I’m not seeing a great slow down. The next five years should be of interest. The automobile is extremely central to the industrial system. When Gail travels to Mongolia to visit the oil fields, apparently she is a privileged westerner traveling across China in her a automobile, while at the same time telling the Chinese that there are limits to growth. What a world we live in. As Steve Ludlum says, the historians will be studying this era for millennia. We are just a bit ahead of the curve in studying it.

  29. Harvey Mead says:

    OK, I see there was a glitch in my first attempt. It was (i) suggesting you see whether the approach planned for a third Burlington/Syracuse conference with Charlie Hall and associates might not be the best way to try to organize a conference in China in 2016, rather than planning for physical presence. I haven’t (you haven’t) heard anything recently from those planning this follow-up conference to that in Burlington.

    For Ordos, I was suggesting you check out China’s phantom cities. I’ve been following the file (I’m heading for a fourth trip to China in two weeks) in French, where you could see

    and use Google translate. Your observations fit into a much larger problem of over-construction and numerous empty cities, with Ordos being one regularly mentioned.

    Harvey Mead
    Ex SD Commissioner for Quebec
    Word Press blogger at where I’ve been able to set up a translation device on the home page for what is primarily a French-language site.

  30. Harvey Mead says:

    I tried making a suggestion a few minutes ago, but was blocked. I am registered the Our Finite World to receive announcements of the posts by e-mail, but there was no password required. I don’t want to play with the password, as I have one for my own Word Press web site. Just in case you’re reading the comments, even if not posting them.

  31. vyselegendaire says:

    I wish Simon Black could see what you wrote about Ordos and unoccupied apartments, empty highway, vacant airport, etc.

  32. Kulm says:

    China will maintain Daqing (which means “Great Joy” since it was the very first oilfield ever found in all of China) no matter what for “national security reasons”.

    These 300k ‘workers’ can become an “Army” in a second. And that area is close to Russia, which historically has not be too friendly with China….

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