Why “supply and demand” doesn’t work for oil

The traditional understanding of supply and demand works in some limited cases–will a manufacturer make red dresses or blue dresses? The manufacturer’s choice doesn’t make much difference to the economic system as a whole, except perhaps in the amount of red and blue dye sold, so it is easy to accommodate.

Figure 1. From Wikipedia: The price P of a product is determined by a balance between production at each price (supply S) and the desires of those with purchasing power at each price (demand D). The diagram shows a positive shift in demand from D1 to D2, resulting in an increase in price (P) and quantity sold (Q) of the product.

Figure 1. From Wikipedia: The price P of a product is determined by a balance between production at each price (supply S) and the desires of those with purchasing power at each price (demand D). The diagram shows a positive shift in demand from D1 to D2, resulting in an increase in price (P) and quantity sold (Q) of the product.

A gradual switch in consumer preferences from beef to chicken is also fairly easy to accommodate within the system, as more chicken producers are added and the number of beef producers is reduced. The transition is generally helped by the fact that it takes fewer resources to produce a pound of chicken meat than a pound of beef, so that the spendable income of consumers tends to go farther. Thus, while supply and demand are not independent in this example, a rising percentage of chicken consumption tends to be helpful in increasing the “quantity demanded,” because chicken is more affordable than beef. The lack of independence between supply and demand is in the “helpful” direction. It would be different if chicken were a lot more expensive to produce than beef. Then the quantity demanded would tend to decrease as the shift was increasingly made, putting a fairly quick end to the transition to the higher-priced substitute.

A gradual switch to higher-cost energy products, in a sense, works in the opposite direction to a switch from beef to chicken. Instead of taking fewer resources, it takes more resources, because we extracted the cheapest-to-extract energy products first. It takes more and more humans working in these industries to produce a given number of barrels of oil equivalent, or Btus of energy. The workers are becoming less efficient, but not because of any fault of their own. It is really the processes that are being used that are becoming less efficient–deeper wells, locations in the Arctic and other inhospitable climates, use of new procedures like hydraulic fracturing, use of chemicals for extraction that wouldn’t have been used in the past. The workers may be becoming more efficient at drilling one foot of pipe used for extraction; the problem is that so many more feet need to be drilled for extraction to take place. In addition, so many other steps need to take place that the overall process is becoming less efficient. The return on any kind of investment (human labor, US dollars of investment, steel invested, energy invested) is falling.

For a time, these increasing inefficiencies can be hidden from the system, and the prices of commodities can rise. At some point, however, the price rise becomes too great, and the system can no longer accommodate it. This is the situation we have been running into, most severely since mid-2014 for oil, but also for other commodities, dating back to 2011.

Figure 2. Bloomberg Commodity Index from Bloomberg", reflecting a combination of 22 ETFs in Energy (35%), Agriculture (29%), Industrial Metal (15%), Precious Metals (16%) and Livestock (5%)

Figure 2. Bloomberg Commodity Index from Bloomberg, reflecting a combination of 22 ETFs in Energy (35%), Agriculture (29%), Industrial Metal (15%), Precious Metals (16%) and Livestock (5%)

The higher cost of producing oil and other energy products affects the economy more than a shift from chicken to beef.  

The economy is in a sense more dependent on energy products than it is on our decision whether to eat chicken or beef. If the cost of producing oil rises, and that higher cost is carried through to prices, it affects the prices of many things. It affects the cost of food production because oil is used in the production and transport of food. The higher cost of oil also affects nearly all transported goods, since oil is our primary transportation fuel.

Some of the impacts of higher oil prices are clearly adverse for the economy.

If higher oil costs are passed on to consumers as higher prices, these higher prices make goods less affordable for consumers. As a result, they cut back on purchases, often leading to layoffs in discretionary sectors, and recession.

The higher cost of oil products (or of other energy products) also tends to reduce profits for businesses, unless they can find workarounds to keep costs down. Otherwise, businesses find themselves in a situation where customers cut back on purchasing their products. As we will discuss in a later section, this tends to lead to reduced wages.

Some of the impacts of higher oil prices are somewhat positive.

Rising oil prices clearly encourage rising oil production. With this, more jobs are added, both in the United States and elsewhere. More debt is added to extract this oil, and more equipment is purchased, thus stimulating industries that support oil production. The value of oil leases and oil properties tends to rise.

As noted previously, the cost of food supply depends on oil prices. The cost of producing metals also depends on oil prices, because oil is used in extracting metal ores. As the prices of metals and foods rise, these industries are stimulated as well. Values of mines rise, as do values of agricultural land. More debt is taken out, and more workers are hired. More equipment is purchased for producing these products, adding yet more stimulation to the economy.

The higher price of oil also favorably affects the many countries that extract oil. Part of this effect comes from the wages that the workers receive, and the impact these wages have, as they cycle through the economy. For example, workers will often want new homes, and the purchase of these new homes will add jobs as well.  Part of the effect comes through taxes on oil production. Oil production tends to be very highly taxed, especially in parts of the world where oil extraction can be performed cheaply. This tax money can be put to work in public works programs, providing better schools and hospitals, and more jobs for citizens.

It is inevitable that the price of oil must stop rising at some point because of the adverse impact on spendable income of consumers.

The adverse impact of higher oil prices on the spendable income of consumers comes in many ways. Perhaps one of the biggest impacts, but the least obvious, is the “push” the higher cost of oil gives to moving manufacturing to locations with lower costs (cheaper fuel, such as coal, and lower wages), because without such a change, higher oil prices tend to lead to lower profits for many makers of goods and services, as mentioned previously.

The competition with lower-wage areas tends to reduce wages in the US and parts of Europe. This push is especially great for jobs that are easily transferred to other countries, such as jobs in manufacturing, “call-centers,” and computer tech support.

Another way businesses can maintain their profit levels, despite higher oil costs, is through greater automation. This automation reduces the number of jobs directly. Automation may use some oil, but because the cost of human labor is so high, it still reduces costs overall.

All of these effects lead to fewer jobs and lower wages, especially in the traditionally higher-wage countries. In a sense, what we are seeing is lower productivity of human labor feeding back as lower wages, if we think of the distribution of wages as being a worldwide wage distribution, including workers in places such as China and India.

Normally, greater productivity feeds back as higher wages, and higher wages help stimulate higher economic growth. Lower wages unfortunately seem to feed back in the reverse direction–less demand for goods that use energy in their production, such as new homes and cars. Ultimately, this seems to lead to economic contraction, and lower commodity prices. This is especially the case in the countries with the most wage loss.

The drop in oil prices doesn’t do very much to stop oil production.

Oil exporting countries typically have relatively low costs of production, but very high taxes. These taxes are necessary, because governments of oil exporters tend to be very dependent on oil companies for tax revenue. If the price of oil drops, the most adverse impact may be on tax revenue. As long as the price is high enough that it leads to the collection of some tax revenue, production will take place–in fact, production may even be increased. The government desperately needs the tax revenue.

Even oil companies in oil-importing countries have a need for revenue to pay back debt and to continue to pay their trained workers. Thus, these companies will continue to extract oil to the best of their ability. They will aim for the “sweet spots”–places that have better than average prospects for production. In some cases, companies will have derivative contracts that assure them of a high oil price for several months after the price drops, so there is no need to reduce production very quickly.

The drop in oil prices, and of commodity prices in general, makes debt harder to repay and discourages adding new debt. 

We earlier noted that a rise in the price of commodities tends to make asset prices rise, making it easier to take out more debt, and thus stimulates the economy. A drop in the price of oil or other commodities does the opposite: it reduces asset prices, such as the price of the property containing the oil, or the farmland now producing less-expensive food. The amount of outstanding debt does not decline. Because of this mismatch, companies quickly find themselves with debt problems, especially if they need to take out additional loans for production to continue.

Another part of the problem is that on the way up, rising prices of oil and other commodities helped lift inflation rates, making debt easier to repay. On the way down, we get exactly the opposite effect–falling oil and other commodity prices lead to falling inflation rates, making debt more difficult to repay. Commodity prices in general have been falling since early 2011, leading to the situation where interest rates are now negative in some European countries.

The costs of producing commodities continue to rise, as a result of diminishing returns, so this fall in prices is clearly a problem. Low prices make future production unprofitable; it also leads to an increasing number of debt defaults. There are many examples of companies in financial difficulty; Chesapeake Energy is an example in the oil and gas industry.

Where oil supply and demand goes from here

The traditional view of the impact of low oil prices seems to be, “It is just another cycle.” Or, “The cure for low prices is low prices.”

I am doubtful that either of these views is right. Falling prices have been a problem for a wide range of commodities since 2011 (Figure 2, above). The Wall Street Journal reported that as early as 2013, when oil prices were still above $100 per barrel, none of the world’s “super major” oil companies covered its dividends with cash flow. Thus, if prices are to be sufficiently high that oil companies don’t need to keep going deeper into debt, a price of well over $100 per barrel is needed. We would need an oil price close to triple its current level. This would be a major challenge, especially if prices of other commodities also need to rise because production costs are higher than current prices.

We are familiar with illnesses: sometimes people bounce back; sometimes they don’t. Instead of expecting oil prices to bounce back, we should think of the current cycle as being different from past cycles because it relates to diminishing returns–in other words, the rising cost of production, because we extracted the cheapest-to-extract oil first. Trying to substitute oil that is high in cost to produce, for oil that is low in cost to produce, seems to bring on a fatal illness for the economy.

Because of the differing underlying cause compared to prior low-price cycles, we should expect oil prices to fall, perhaps to $20 per barrel or below, without much of a price recovery. We are now encountering the feared “Peak Oil,” because much of the cheap oil has already been extracted. Peak Oil doesn’t behave the way most people expected, though. The economy is a networked system, with high oil prices adversely affecting both wages and economic growth. Because of this, the symptoms of Peak Oil are the opposite of what most people have imagined: they are falling demand and prices below the cost of production.

If low prices don’t rise sufficiently, they can cut off oil production quite quickly–more quickly than high prices. The strategy of selling assets at depressed prices to new operators will have limited success, because much higher prices are needed to allow new operators to be successful.

Perhaps the most serious near-term problem from continued low prices is the likelihood of rising debt defaults. These debt defaults can be expected to have a very adverse impact on banks, pension plans, and insurance companies. Governments would likely have little ability to bail out these organizations because of the widespread nature of the problem and also because of their own high debt levels. As a result, the losses incurred by financial institutions seem likely be passed on to businesses and individual citizens, in one way or another.








About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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1,389 Responses to Why “supply and demand” doesn’t work for oil

  1. Oil Price Crash: Who Cooda Node?

    Back to the $38 Handle!  Halliburton, EOG and Exxon Stock Prices Tanking!


  2. Don Stewart says:

    Compare this statement from BW Hill today with Gail’s many pronouncements:
    ‘The world can not reverse climate change by curtailing its use of fossil fuels. If it curtails its use of fossil fuels it curtails its economy, If it curtails its economy, its debt based monetary system collapses, along with everything else. The world is already in a deflationary spiral for which there is no escape. This issue will work itself out without any human interference; for better, or for worse. Better if you are a whale, probably worse it you are homo sapien.’

    I would characterize both as uber-doomer… we are trapped and cannot escape. The company which put together the forecasts featured by Ron Patterson are clearly in a different camp….ordinary functioning of demand and supply curves along with a little geo-political factors and some technology developments.

    When I was 60, I still thought in terms of Life Boats. Now I am 75, and a little creaky. So while I am still more self-reliant than most, the notion that I personally might survive the deflationary spiral and loss of energy it will entail is not high on my list. I bring up radical change as a possibility mostly because I think I do have some obligation to younger people to point out the alternative.

    Don Stewart

    • Stefeun says:

      I’m sorry for your younger relatives, and mine, and all the born children in general (I don’t really care about future generations), but I’m afraid you can’t do much for them.

      My conviction is that once real global collapse will start, the changes will be overwhelming and all the preppings at high risk to reveal useless; nowhere to hide.
      Post-collapse, if ever some of us survive, they will have to re-organize based on what’s left, in terms of energy input (solar budget and some stuff to burn, no FF), material resource (very scarce, as we’ve already extracted and processed most of it), and natural capital (big questionmark, but likely to be much lower than ours).

      In such conditions, everything -including knowledge- has to be rebuilt from scratch, and is therefore very likely to be very different from what we have today, and likely to take lots of time.
      IMO, given the energy input that won’t be higher than that of other species, the goal should be to integrate (i.e. be part of) the ecosystems -of the day- as well as possible, not to try and rebuild an artificial bubble similar to ours, as they won’t be able to afford it anyhow, without fossil fuels.

      On the positive side, we shouldn’t regret not being able to pass them our knowledge and culture, as most of it is likely to be useless in their new world. Moreover, why would they want to follow the teachings of the old generations, which has put them in such dire straits in the first place..?
      On a personal note, I find somehow arrogant to tell people how they should behave*, when we haven’t been able to apply those rules to ourselves. Anyway, you know that people don’t listen/learn before being confronted to the real situations…

      *: even if presented as ‘help’. In this case it’s a sort of hypocrisy, because the real goal is for you to have better conscience, not really for the recipients of your ‘gift’ to potentially take any advantage of it. NB: this last statement is not cynical, but I have to admit that I’m upset by the charity system and the fake judeo-christian guilty-feeling.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Let me tell you about my current project. Sorry, but this will burn a few words to explain.

        I now have two gardens. One in my yard and another a small plot in a community garden a couple of miles from the house. I recently dived more deeply into Elaine Ingham’s methods, including taking a microscope course from one of her students at our annual small farm meeting. I have to say there is nothing that can replace actually looking through a microscope and seeing the soil food web critters on one slide, and a dead piece of soil on the other.

        One of Elaine’s messages is that scarcity in agriculture and weeds and pests in agriculture mostly arise from bad practices: tillage, bare ground, lack of a healthy soil food web, etc. For example, I have always more or less believed the story that ‘weeds compete for nutrients and water’ and therefore we need to get out there and do a lot of weeding. For a number of years I have been aware that Masonobu Fukuoka did very little weeding. But I sort of succumbed to the notion that ‘his methods won’t work in the US’. But I have recently listened very closely to Elaine. She explains that weeds are R selected and need a certain environment or else they won’t germinate. Don’t give them the environment they want, and the seeds don’t germinate.

        On the notion that weeds compete for nutrients and water, Elaine’s point is that we need to have an understory layer with a cash crop growing above it. This is equivalent to Fukuoka’s methods of using white clover as a perpetual ground cover and planting into it. The ground cover or understory means that the garden plot is harvesting the maximum solar energy, which puts the maximum carbon into the soil, feeding a maximized soil food web. The soil food web mineralizes the nutrients the plants need, right in the root zone. There is little leaching of nutrients by rainfall. In short, it is a perpetual motion machine, fueled by the sun.

        At the small farm conference, I attended one presentation by a young man who farmed for several years in Japan. He said he tried Fukuoka’s methods on a farm here, and they didn’t work. After listening to him, I don’t think he understands Fukuoka’s or Ingham’s methods.

        So what I am doing is converting my garden to the ‘ground cover plus cash crop with super-active soil food web’ system. If it works, I’ll have something to show people. Not lecturing them….showing them. It’s something I can do. No guarantees, but I’ll try it.

        Don Stewart

        • Stefeun says:

          sorry if my previous comment was a bit harsh, but this is how I see things will unfold.

          I admire and am very respectful of people like you who wisely try to improve things, especially when it’s about soil because not much terrestrial life would be possible without this thin layer between rock and gas. Even better if you manage to get new people interested in this topic.

          My point, for what it’s worth, is that you should do that for the present time, the here and now, rather than placing hopes in a very uncertain future.
          There are no solutions to our predicament; Gaïa will stabilize at another temporary equilibrium, that’s all. Wether we humans will be part of the picture is unclear, despite all the efforts some of us are throwing into survival tricks, for themselves or their offspring.

          • Don Stewart says:

            At my age one tends to think about the future which one will not live to see. Be that as it may, my current project is keeping me out of the pool hall and intellectually and physically busy. Not a bad use of time.
            Don Stewart

        • jarvis says:

          Don, I look forward to hearing about your results. I too tried a experimental garden last summer. I cleared an 35 by 50 foot patch out of the forest and had low expectations as the ground was riddled with roots. I had one bit of luck in my favor and that was all the charcoal I found in my soil. About a decade ago I had a fire going mid winter cleaning up debris but unknowing to me it continued to burn underground for the next 6 months coming to the surface one hot August afternoon. The result was terra preta! My charcoal laden soil gave me tomatoes and potatoes as big as your head! I took my last crop off a couple of weeks ago and I know that patch gave me over 400 pounds of produce. I have a hugill culture about 40 feet long and a keyhole garden and the rest in raised beds and a 6 foot high squash trellis. I’m thinking of adding a sturdy greenhouse about 40 by 16 and an expanded planting with a few more fruit trees I could be over 80% self sufficient. My only experience was watching most of Geoff Lawtons’ perma culture videos and the various books you recommended. I must say I found the experience really enjoyable and am looking forward to next spring and expanding my variety of crops. Right now I’m studying how to incorporate poultry into my garden plans

          • Don Stewart says:

            I hope you are a lot younger than I am, and can look forward to many more years of messing around in your garden!

            Don Stewart
            PS Not terra preta, but one of the things that got me thinking more about Fukuoka. The Native Americans in upstate New York gardened by girdling a tree. This gave them a sunny spot with a good circumference and not much in the way of brush to clear. Then they would typically plant the three sisters, with no tilling. The soil would have been on the fungal side rather than the bacterial side, I think, but with plenty of both present. Over time, the forest would begin to close in again, and they would move to another spot and repeat.

            No tilling, no hard work, let the soil food web do most of the world.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        ‘Moreover, why would they want to follow the teachings of the old generations, which has put them in such dire straits in the first place’


        One might say that we have very little ‘wisdom’ to pass on to future generations…. however we have only been doing what Mr DNA demands of us …. doing whatever it takes to survive another day… another month… another year….. so this result is not really our fault — it was baked into the cake long ago….

        Unfortunately for humans we are cursed with the ‘gift’ of intelligence and the ability to think in the abstractly

    • Fast Eddy says:

      ‘I would characterize both as uber-doomer’

      I’d just say they have connected the dots and come to a logical conclusion.

  3. Pintada says:

    I don’t remember who it was that predicted a global pandemic by a certain date (below Gails last post). I replied with a rather snarky comment about the e coli that is resistant to all known antibiotics. Who ever it was pointed out that one identified occurrence did not a pandemic make. True enough, but …


    In fact, proof that the bacteria is very wide spread in Europe is not proof of a pandemic. Just proof that the pandemic is waiting in the wings.

    • MJ says:

      Boy, that is a hair raising red flag! Interesting comment one fellow posted regarding a warning to America not to depend on one ( or a few stocks) to support the market (Apple and Amazon being the Nokia). Seems we have the dynamics of another dysfunctional global system that grind to a halt. Judging from Don Stewart’s excellent post about BW Hill and Ron Patterson’s perspective. That coupled with what I read here, maybe the system can be patched together for a few more years until the juice starts to dry up or contract.
      Being in the USA, naturally I am speaking of my own, geopolitical turf, sorry people of other parts of the globle….we are all fcked’ it’s just a matter of when, and who gets it first.
      I don’t see a complete shutdown, but stages, which obviously already has begun.
      That hamster keeps getting back on that wheel


    • Given the recent move by Switzerland to devalue “for the first time” and at the same time acting in their various war games exactly on the theme of break up/fall of EU/EUR and increased instability, the likelyhood of some kind of reset before 2020 seems relatively medium-high risk elevated.

      The Finland case, if I read it correctly is scheduled in tems of sub 1k EUR citizen minimal income wage ~not before Q3-4 2016, and Finland being always a bit of political and economic oddball, plus major elections going on in France/Germany in two years time 2017, the can kicking could have some legs into late 2010s-early 2020s.

      Also as I stressed here numerous time, China would like to depeg from USD very slowly and gradually, on many fronts political, defense and economic, offloading their reserves into assets be it farmland in Africa, and various global corporation assets as well. For instance they still even don’t have fully ready their version of strategic air command (copy of US/Russian doomsday system) etc.

      Moreover, the combo of econ depression, oversupply-glut in oil/natgas could be masked well around aprox till 2025. That being said, the increasing volatily could destroy some smaller players in the meanwhile, namely emerging markets before the core countries give in.

      • Van Kent says:

        A Universal Basic Income of first 600€ in the trial period, and then 800€ / month tax free a every month for everybody, costs little over 50 bil. € and the estimated state incomes are little under 49 bil. € from the UBI.

        Interesting calculation, even though Finland has a VAT of 24%, generally, still.. incomes of 49 bil. € sounds a bit high. I suppose a lot of social workers and bureaucrats should be layed off (hey, they will still be getting the 800€, wow..) for that calculation to make any sense.

        Still, helicopter money to stimulate consumer spending any way possible. Interesting. And one has to remember that whatever one Nordic country successfully implements, the other Nordics ususally copy.

  4. Fast Eddy says:

    Summm bitch….. looky what we have here:

    Over the last few months, in a prime example of currency failure and euro-defenders’ narratives, Finland has been sliding deeper into depression. Almost 7 years into the the current global expansion, Finland’s GDP is 6pc below its previous peak. As The Telegraph reports, this is a deeper and more protracted slump than the post-Soviet crash of the early 1990s, or the Great Depression of the 1930s. And so, having tried it all, Finnish authorities are preparing to unleash “helicopter money” to save their nation by giving every citizen a tax-free payout of around $900 each month!

    Just over two years ago, when the world was deciding who would be Bernanke Fed Chair replacement, Larry Summers or Janet Yellen (how ironic that Larry Summers did not get the nod just because a bunch of progressive economists thought he would not be dovish enough) we wrote about a different problem: with the end of QE3 upcoming and with the inevitable failure of the economy to reignite (again), we warned that there remains one option after (when not if) QE fails to stimulate growth: helicopter money.

    While QE may be ending, it certainly does not mean that the Fed is halting its effort to “boost” the economy. In fact… the end of QE may well be simply a redirection, whereby the broken monetary pathway, one which uses banks as intermediaries to stimulate inflation (supposedly a failure according to the economist mainstream), i.e., “second-round effects”, is bypassed entirely and replaced with Plan Z, aka “Helicopter Money” mentioned previously as an all too real monetary policy option by none other than Milton Friedman and one Ben Bernanke. This is also known as the nuclear option.

    Today Finland needs the nuclear option. As The Telegraph explained, nobody can accuse Finland of being spendthrift, or undisciplined, or technologically backward, or corrupt, or captive of an entrenched oligarchy, the sort of accusations levelled against the Greco-Latins.

    The country’s public debt is 62pc of GDP, lower than in Germany. Finland has long been held up as the EMU poster child of austerity, grit, and super-flexibility, the one member of the periphery that supposedly did its homework before joining monetary union and could therefore roll with the punches.

    More http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-12-06/it-begins-desperate-finland-set-unleash-helicopter-money-drop-all-citizens

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Never was a video more appropriate

    • “And so, having tried it all, Finnish authorities are preparing to unleash “helicopter money” to save their nation by giving every citizen a tax-free payout of around $900 each month!”

      That’s pretty amazing. With $900 extra a month I could make monthly interest only payments on unsecured credit of at least $100,000!

  5. Don Stewart says:

    A specific example of a glaring difference between the conventional forecast in Ron Patterson’s current blogpost and BW Hills perspective. Hill wrote this on Peak Oil:
    ‘We don’t pay much attention to shale. Its energy contribution to the economy is so small that it doesn’t even affect our margin of error. It is just that all the hype that has been put out by the industry has made it a popular topic; in actuality, in the wider global scheme it is insignificant.’

    So we have a distinction between two opinions about oil as sharp as any of the disagreements outlined in Spooky Action. Hill belittles those who ‘count barrels’, insisting that his version of ‘net energy’ (he uses some different language) is the important thing. So the predictions in the conventional forecast in Ron’s blog are held to be irrelevant by Hill. This disagreement is very fundamental and of great importance in terms of assessing where we are and where we are going. Yet we see very little intelligent discussion on the subject.

    Don Stewart

    • Ed says:

      Don, I have never understood Hill cost affordable by society. It seems to drop to zero in about three years(?). I just read Ron Patterson’s article showing 1% decline per year for world oil. Extremely frightening. Of course Hill’s zero is more frightening if I understood it well enough to believe it.

      • Ed says:

        What does Patterson or Hill say about natural gas?

        • Don Stewart says:

          Hill thinks that oil is the critical transportation fuel. He points out that only a minuscule amount of oil is used for anything other than transportation. He also quotes the figure that (as I remember) 38 percent of the global economy is DIRECTLY connected to oil. So, in his view, with oil becoming uneconomic for both consumers and producers, a third of the economy is about to vanish for sure. Of the remaining two thirds, it probably won’t be very healthy for lots of reasons.

          Now I’m going to give you my (undoubtedly flawed) understanding of a critical element in his model. He models both the oil field cost of producing oil and also the cost of running the society which uses the oil. While the oil field costs are increasing, we don’t hit crisis levels due to EROEI issues alone. We have built an expensive society which needs cheap oil to function. As oil gets more expensive to produce and turn into products such as gasoline and diesel, it has a multiplied effect on the rest of the society. A dollar increase in the cost in the oil field requires a 5 dollar decrease in the cost of the society.

          Separately, Ron has recently hosted some discussion about ‘de-coupling’ the economy from fossil fuels. I posted a link to a recent article saying that we have moved the deck chairs around, but there has been no de-coupling. The rich countries just outsourced a lot of energy and resource intensive production to poor countries. The particular article found a 0.9 coefficient between GDP and fossil fuels. If the GDP increases by 100 percent, fossil fuels will increase by 90 percent.

          If the US economy were similar to the economy of Uganda, I think that we would gladly pay 200 dollars per barrel for oil. Oil would be a tiny percentage of our economy, and the marginal value of the oil would be very high. The US uses oil in vast quantities, and the uses are subject to diminishing returns. So the marginal value is lower than in Uganda.

          If we took Hill’s model seriously as a society, we would be desperately trying to shed the low marginal value uses of oil (e.g., powering huge pick up trucks that people drive to the mall). Of course, as a society we suffer from addiction to surface phenomena. Dick Fisher said Texas was going to be OK as he retired from the Dallas Fed, because ‘we are now a consumer economy’. If GDP consists mostly of consumption, and if the Fed can keep consumption going up with cheap money, then what’s to worry about? People buying expensive pick-ups is good for GDP, so it must be good for America. And perhaps we can fuel those pick-ups with the oil from the tight oil formations….which Hill claims is of very low energy value. You can see the difficulty of having any very informative and mind-changing conversation with all the cross-currents.

          Please remember that I am giving you my interpretations….Don Stewart

          • Ed says:

            Don, your post improves my understanding of Hill, thanks. The one question I have is the factor of five between oil cost increase and social wealth loss. Where does the five come from?

            It is disappointing how the politicians and bureaucrats do not understand the need for energy to drive everything.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Suppose you have a rigid economy of a fixed size. If a cost goes up somewhere, then another cost must go down.

              But energy is different, in that energy ENABLES the rest of the economy to function. The rest of the economy is a multiple of the energy economy. So if the energy economy costs more because of depletion, then the larger economy must shrink by the factor of the multiple.

              For a while, perhaps the larger economy can simply increase debt and maintain itself. Or, as is happening now, the cost of the energy economy is going up, but prices are low, so the energy economy is losing money and subsidizing the larger economy. But, eventually, the larger economy must shrink to the same multiple it was before depletion took its toll.

              The remaining alternative is decoupling. We learn to run a larger economy with less energy. So far, the world has not demonstrated the ability to do that trick.

              Don Stewart

            • Stefeun says:

              Oh please Don,
              you can’t evoke decoupling as being a realistic alternative!!
              even if you add it still has to be demonstrated (which of course it can’t).

              The economy consists in moving and transforming stuff. Any given movement or transformation requires a precise amount of energy (augmented with losses attached to the process). So an economy without energy is a non-economy. Period. 😉

              As for the differences between Ron Patterson’s and BW Hill’s theories, I’m afraid I haven’t any precise opinion, moreover as I don’t uunderstand all the details.
              IMO, suffice to say that we can no longer provide increasing amounts of energy (and other resources) to the “real” economy, which therefore cannot grow anymore. Yet it MUST grow in order to stay alive. I think the rate of decrease isn’t really important, the tipping point being as soon as the increase rate of energy supply can no longer be higher than the growth rate required required by the system. From that precise moment, we know it’s only a matter of time before collapse happens.

              So far we’ve been able to fake growth by printing money and borrowing from the future, but this is fictious growth, as the additional pseudo-wealth is mostly used to inflate unproductive assets (real-estate, artworks, …) and remains stranded in the financial sphere, thus causing a huge drop in liquidities. This additional “money” is not participating to the real economy, whose returns on investments are getting poorer and poorer because of incrasing costs of energy (and raw commodities) and various diminishing returns. IMO this also explains why we don’t see any inflation despite huge injections.

              All that, to say that something has to give up, but it probably won’t come from the gradually depleting output of the real economy, rather from some sudden reversal in the financial world. Keep in mind that this Ponzi is based on mutual trust (can vanish overnight) and those people know only 2 possible behaviours: either complacency, or panic.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        “I have never understood Hill cost affordable by society. It seems to drop to zero in about three years(?).”

        Ed at one time I posted on peak oil dot com and tried to engage Hill’s point man on that site regarding that very same question, but never got a satisfactory answer. It’s one thing to project a 1% decline like Ron, but a completely different ballgame to presume 3 years left in the game. I’ll take the 1% decline as being more reasonable, yet still to be proven going forward.

  6. Stilgar Wilcox says:


    That’s an article posted on peak oil dot com of the IEA’s prediction of $80 a barrel oil in 2017. That’s close to my prediction posted just prior to Thanksgiving, however I think it will occur in the 2nd half of 2016 and be in the range of 70-80 a barrel.

    • InAlaska says:

      Yes, higher per barrel oil prices are a probability in 2017. Remember just a few months ago when all of the “chicken littles” on this blog were shouting “the sky is falling” predicting the end is near now that Saudi Arabia was going to drive all of the frackers out of business?


      • psile says:

        Frackers are still dead men walking, kept going only by the waning power of the printing press and central bank jawboning. Why insinuate that there is anything more? It’s not like they are actually conducting a viable business.

        • From the long term perspective you are probably right, but for the moment USD still dominates as 80% of all deals out there, and 60% plus in global reserves. Lets wake up when this status changes in the visible plain, which is unlikely in a decade or two. Obviously TPTB and some priviledged insiders will regroup and preposition before the lower classes.

      • Jack E O says:

        Oh remember far more the sky is falling than that that.The”china stock crisis” that was surely the end for instance. But crude below 40 is not good. not good at all. so maybe it is here and now.

  7. Ed says:

    Here is Elon giving the pitch for solar. The last 30% is the most inspiring. I hope he is right. Of course he does not cover the cost (capital, energy, steel, cement, water, labor, etc.) issue.

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      Thanks for putting on the link, Ed. Sounds good to me – keep going Elon! I like the part when he says we already have a fusion reactor, the Sun. It puts out ridiculous amounts of energy and we don’t have to do anything to get it working.

      • doomphd says:

        Maybe it bears repeating that the Sun’s copious energy input is distributed. The trick is efficiently harvesting the widely distributed energy in amounts that keep BAU going, which was built upon concentrated solar energy, now diminishing, with an extreme price tag of carbon pollution. Elon is a smart businessman, but he misses the big picture.

        • InAlaska says:

          I don’t think he misses the big picture. Elon is just as capable as you or anyone else on this blog of reading the available information and making up his own mind. Where doomers see doom, Elon Musk sees opportunity. While some fear that there is only one way forward, others trust to the ingenuity of the human mind.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Elon sees $$$$$$$$$$$$$….. he’s just a bigger version of Chris Martenson …. they both make money selling hopium…

            However he is nowhere near as big as religion —- religion is the biggest peddler of hopium on the planet… and they don’t actually sell anything — they just ask you to give them money

            Elon and Chris are amateurs….

    • dolphtakesnoprisoners says:

      These guys are phonies, frauds.

      If nobody here wants to call them out, I will.

    • “Here is Elon giving the pitch for solar.”

      The Powerwall. Let’s take a look at that. So, electricity consumption in the United States is nearly 2 Kw per capita, according to the DOE as of 2013:

      So, if you have 6 hours of sunlight and 18 hours of not sunlight, you will need 4 powerwalls per person, assuming everything works perfectly. However, the units designed for daily cycling are actually only 7 KwH. So, let’s say 5 units. Now you are at $15,000 excluding shipping, taxes, installation, inverter, etc.

      Now, you are going to need to produce 38 KwH per person during the 6 hours, of which we will assume it will always be sunny. At $1 per watt, that’s another $38,000. So, let’s say $75,000 per person in a household, and we’ll say the system lasts 15 years with no maintenance costs. So $5000 per person per year for electricity.

      Currently, Hawaii is the most expensive, averaging $2400 per year per household for electricity. If there is on average 2 people in a household, they are paying $1200 per person per year for electricity.

      So, we are talking about, under the best possible circumstances compared to the current most expensive electricity, quadrupling the cost of electricity. If you currently have cheaper power and have less sunlight, you could pay ten times as much for electricity. How many people can afford to pay $2000 per month for electricity? How many families of 4 can pay $8000 per month for electricity?

      • hebertmw says:

        When I was in Hawaii in 1992 I wondered why no geothermal? It seemed ideal for that kind of electrical generation.

        • Ed says:

          I have thought the same about Tristan da Cunha. Those folks are going to get very simple (primitive) when the diesel stops coming.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Many problems with Geothermal:

            1. Not Widespread Source of Energy : Since this type of energy is not widely used therefore the unavailability of equipment, staff, infrastructure, training pose hindrance to the installation of geothermal plants across the globe. Not enough skilled manpower and availability of suitable build location pose serious problem in adopting geothermal energy globally.

            2. High Installation Costs : To get geothermal energy, requires installation of power plants, to get steam from deep within the earth and this require huge one time investment and require to hire a certified installer and skilled staff needs to be recruited and relocated to plant location. Moreover, electricity towers, stations need to set up to move the power from geothermal plant to consumer.

            3. Can Run Out Of Steam : Geothermal sites can run out of steam over a period of time due to drop in temperature or if too much water is injected to cool the rocks and this may result huge loss for the companies which have invested heavily in these plants. Due to this factor, companies have to do extensive initial research before setting up the plant.

            4. Suited To Particular Region : It is only suitable for regions which have hot rocks below the earth and can produce steam over a long period of time. For this great research is required which is done by the companies before setting up the plant and this initial cost runs up the bill in setting up the geothermal power plant. Some of these regions are near hilly areas or high up in mountains.

            5. May Release Harmful Gases : Geothermal sites may contain some poisonous gases and they can escape deep within the earth, through the holes drilled by the constructors. The geothermal plant must therefore be capable enough to contain these harmful and toxic gases.

            6. Transportation : Geothermal Energy can not be easily transported. Once the tapped energy is extracted, it can be only used in the surrounding areas. Other sources of energy like wood, coal or oil can be transported to residential areas but this is not a case with geothermal energy. Also, there is a fear of toxic substances getting released into the atmosphere.


      • Ed says:

        Matthew, thank you for doing the math. That is the problem it is EXPENSIVE!

        But let me nit pick, no disrespect. 15,000+38,000=53,000 if we assume 30 years rather than 15 years we have 53,000/30=$1,770 per person per year for electric only. If total energy is 5x the electric we have about $9,000 per person per year. Not good but not hopeless. Yes, we would need learning to lower the costs but if you reject nuclear this is the only game in town.

        There is less waste energy with a purely electric system so maybe 4x instead of 5x giving $7,000 per person per year for energy. A family of four would need $28,000 per year. Let consider that about half the 2KW value is not direct family use but broader industrial and social use. So it is unfair to bill it all to the family. If we use that 50% value we are down to $14,000 per family per year which is not that far from what I pay today.

      • Good way of looking at things. I can imagine how much it would cost to manufacture, say, aluminum, with this source of electricity.

  8. dolph9 says:

    Yeah, death is stalking our civilization, what can I say. It used to be that death was a part of life, we were around it all of the time, we received it in homeopathic doses. Now, by the very development of our systems, the elderly and sick stay around for awhile, the races intermingle, the security state protects and forces everyone into endless existence and mindless consumption. Moreover everybody stays alive in the virtual world, the world of recorded images and videos which can be stored and played over and over to anyone who has television or the internet.

    Terrorism is just one of the ways in which death is being reintroduced into the world, albeit at a small level for now. As horrible as it is, we have no defense against it, because we cannot exchange our own lives against it. And, as horrible as it is, it pales into comparison with what is on the horizon.

  9. Fast Eddy says:

    “If you don’t read a newspaper every day, you are uninformed. If you do, you are misinformed.” – Mark Twain

    We all like to know what’s happening in the world, and for good reason… understanding our surroundings is essential to survival. We instinctively seek information… we need information. There is, however, a problem that we face:

    No matter how much “news” you consume, you won’t really know what’s going on in the world.

    We can’t know, because ‘the news’ is half illusion, provided by government-dependent corporations that are paid to keep you watching and to keep you joined to the status quo.

    Granted, they are quite good at providing pictures from disaster areas, but when it comes to explaining why the disaster happened, they mislead almost every time. Yes, some truth makes its way through the news machine, but most of it is wrapped in layers of manipulation. If, for example, you watch the news feeds all day, you’ll find a good deal of truth, but you’ll find it amongst a pile of half-truths. Do you really have enough time to analyze them all?

    More http://www.freemansperspective.com/dont-really-know-whats-happening/

    • Stefeun says:

      Just read an excellent article (in French) that was very much in the same line.
      The author compares MSM info with junkfood: one gets the feeling to be fed, but the useful nutrients aren’t there. Moreover, in the long run, such diet upsets the metabolism and causes major disorder. He talked of “intellectual obesity”, for people who are convinced to be right and don’t search to enlarge the frames and listen to other’s points of view (journalists included).

      He also said that the more complex an issue is, and the more at stake there is with its subject, the more certain you are to never get the truth from the MSM.
      The abundance of medias doesn’t change the deal, as they all have the same -unquestioned- sources and are using the same -time-saving- methods.

      In the article there was another very good quote by Mark Twain:
      “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled”

      • Fast Eddy says:

        I find myself getting increasingly irritated when I am around people who quote the MSM…. I really cannot bear to listen to them regurgitate the edicts from the Ministry of Truth…. I’d rather talk about who won Dancing with Stars 2015 than have to listen to MSM rubbish….

        And if you dare to suggest that CNN is no better than Pravda was… your sanity is questioned…. so better to say nothing….

        The thing is …

        Out of 7.5 billion people the number of people who truly ‘get it’ would probably be under 1000.

        A good number of these 1000 are on this blog….

        • “Out of 7.5 billion people the number of people who truly ‘get it’ would probably be under 1000.”

          I suspect the number is much higher. It is just that many of those who get it don’t use computers, cell phones, or anything else on the Internet, so you’d never know they exist.

          • psile says:

            Most people who get “it” are very linked into hi-tech. It’s just that their voices are ignored since everyone else expects more. More industrialisation, development, consumption, people. More, more, more. We are hard-wired for more.

      • I like the MSM –junk food analogy!

    • We need Mark Twain as a commenter on OFW! He has the best lines!

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.

        Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

        I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

        Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

        If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

        The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

        It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

        It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

  10. Artleads says:

    A note on food growing:

    Most people can’t grow their own food. They no longer have the spirit, skills, or resolve for it. Many of us, however, give it a try. I’m guessing that, annually, I grow about .01 percent of my own food. But anybody with a backyard can do as well as that. If you multiplied all the world’s backyards by .01, you get a significant global increase in food production. (A recent UK study found that urban soil was healthier than those surrounding, depleted industrial-ag soils.) Again, the math for figuring out the significance of that number eludes me. We need a survey of backyards. Somebody with Google and lots of time could figure it out.

    So that’s ground zero in terms of realistic potential, and that is a very large step up from where we are today.

    My approach is quintessentially effortless and minimalist. In addition to horse manure, which I can pick up nearby for free, I renew the soil with compost from food scraps and the occasional very cheap bag of steer manure or whatever from the store. I use gray water from the kitchen for irrigating my main plot. (This is all somewhat simplified.)

    The ease and land are available, if there is simply the will to grow some food. What is needed, in addition to working with large scale food producers to keep them safe and somehow viable, is for EVERYBODY to grow food at least to the level of “ground zero.”

    • Fast Eddy says:

      However once collapse hits most people will be able to grow nothing in their backyards ..

      Most people rely on electricity to power pumps for water…. that is by far the biggest problem that most people would face…. they won’t even have access to drinking water….

      In most instances the soil would likely be lacking in the nutrients required to grow vegetables…

      Where would they get the seeds… how would they stay alive long enough to feed themselves with the first crop even if they could grow food … what happens if collapse hits in the Fall or Winter or mid Summer periods….

      Imagine that the Fed raises rates next week — the stock market collapses — the bond market collapses — BAU collapses…. the electricity goes off…. the grocery stores close.

      And you are in a position where you have maybe a month of food on hand… after that you need to rely on your backyard for your food supply…

      I have a significant farming operation in play here in NZ … but I was late getting stuff into the ground because we had not completed the project until late Spring….

      If the economy blows up next week and I had to rely on the garden I’d have a serious problem….

      That’s one of the reasons why I have a storeroom jammed with dry food — hundreds of kg’s of rice, beans etc…… boxes of canned meats and fish….

      • Van Kent says:

        Those that can get some basic info could probably grow at least something?

        – Take a barrel and fill it with gravel, sand, biochar and gravel again, that is your basic water filter. For anti-bacterial water filtration use a cloth soaked in soda on top of the barrel.
        – Activated charcoal is extremely handy, in absense of high pressure steam air and an SST pyrolysis unit with some bellows and coal, to get it hot enough, just use sealed steel barrels to make simple biochar.
        – For water pumping and transportation take bikes and attach wheelbarrows with watertanks. For pumping take waterpumps from cars and some garden hoses. Attach the pumps from the waterpumps on bikes to pump the water.
        – Watertanks are made of wood with steel rings around them. When the wet wood expands the water is sealed inside.

        – Build a composting toilet. A compost is a simple thing. It must have air circulation and the ability to get rid of excess liquids. Simple urine separation can easily hinder excess liquids (and therefore a rotting process instead of a composting process). Air comes easily when a simple chimney is put to place. If there is more then 9ft of straight flue (no 90 degree bends, only straight flues work), in 9ft of straight flue the airpressure itself (air pressure difference between top and bottom) will start to circulate the air. To maximize air circulation just make the flue 12ft so that the top is somewhere windy increasing the air pressure difference. Use two or more separate toilets so that one year you can use one side, while the other side is composting. Two years untill enrichment for pumpkins and four years untill enrichment soil for a vegetable garden (in cold winter climates).
        – If possible have one cow or one horse or one goat or a few chickens to provide extra soil enrichments.
        – If any undesirable odors, add biochar. Any carbon based molecule will hinder urea to turn into ammonia. Carbon will somewhat slow down the composting process, but will prevent ammonia, therefore undesirable odors. In excrements, it is mainly the rotting process and the ammonia that provide the odors, so urea separation and adding some biochar makes excrements odorless, at least in the composts that have good air circulation. Btw an urea and biochar mix is an excellent fertilizer.

        Any chance of communicating all that to panicked pampered masses that refuse to wake up in to the real world. Sadly, probably not.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          That sounds like an episode from MacGyver 🙂

          What would the people who might try to do all that eat in the meantime?

          And to put things in perspective — I’ve got raised beds – piles of ready compost — am starting on making a huge amount of my own compost — two sources of off grid water — a shed full of tools – loads of seeds .. a decent amount of knowledge about growing — and I live in a very favourable climate (winter is like Fall in Canada — and lasts about 10 weeks)

          And I will have a hard time making this work…

          • Van Kent says:

            Just two generations ago most of us were multitasking DIY MacGyvers. And if anybody will be alive in two generations, the ones still alive will also be DIY geniuses. It gets easier when you have seen it done once or twice. Textbooks just cant beat a real person showing you the ropes.

            Without some basic tools, some cooperation and several months worth of food in storage, not a chance to make it. Most of us won’t have those, so..

          • Christopher says:

            Fast eddy, from what I have understood your place has two problems. The soil type is weak and wouldn’t work without much manure. The precipitation is dry. Did you overlook this from the beginning or are the advantages simply more than these disadvantages? When I looked into this some years ago I came to the conclusion that NZ probably was the best place to settle (so I don’t question your decision). But the precipitation thing is actually really important. Ok, humans prefer sun. But vegetables prefer rain and growing food is in the end more important. There are places with more precipitation than evaporation during the growing season where the soil is far from dead.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Precipitation is reasonable with 1200mm per year…

              I don’t think there are very many places where one can grow food without at least some irrigation so ultimately the rain issue was not a huge factor — my priority was a reliable source of water… we have a spring up the hill that has never run dry …. and another spring fed creek on the other side of the property that also never runs dry — I am capturing water from both

              The soil is most definitely weak — but again there is no getting around the fact that soils need to be constantly improved if you grow food in them….

              Although they involve costs to build them and purchase compost to get underway — but there are actually a fair number of advantages associated with using raised beds …

              So soil was not a massive priority either.

              Climate was a huge factor — we can grow year round here…. and low population density … the fact that most people outside of the cities on the south island are engaged in farming or industries related to farming was a factor — most people know how to grow food… a lot of them have backyard gardens…. loads of them preserve food — there is the feel of a pioneering spirit here — it is possible to bike down to the ocean a few km from us and collect mussels and scallops… deer and pigs are considered pests because there are so many of them….

              I still see this as an extinction event in spite of where I am …. however if there is any way to hedge this thing NZ has to be one of the better places to hunker down…

            • Christopher says:

              Some places have more precipitation than evaporation during summer. This is of course nice if you are a farmer. A climate that allows farming year round is a good thing. Though I guess there is some tradeoff. If the summers are warm evaporation rises and precipitation can become unsufficient. Then you have to worry a lot more about irrigation.

              Do you know about Carol Deppe? She has written “The resilient gardener” and also develops vegetable varieties in Oregon. Some of the vegetables require very litte water since the summers in Oregon are dry. She sells seed on her homepage.

        • Artleads says:

          I plan to cut and paste this to a couple advanced small scale growers around here.

          “That sounds like an episode from MacGyver 🙂
          What would the people who might try to do all that eat in the meantime?”

          With due respect for such useful information, VK, it’s out of my league. You need to be appropriately placed in the system, but very few ordinary people can deal with this. I’m trying to do things “the ordinary people” way.

          Compost Toilet:
          Like most people, I don’t have a compost toilet (although I have the rudiments of one in the old chair-commode my grandfather left behind). My thought is that a simple bucket and sawdust does the trick. Use excessive amounts of sawdust to layer over bodily waste. Add copious layers of dirt if that doesn’t suppress odors sufficiently. The sawdust ought to absorb the urine. The bucket would be emptied every few days. A year in place outside ought to break it down.

          Purifying water:
          My neighbor (super gardener) only uses rainwater for growing. He’s extremely methodical and scientific about everything. Since getting my storage tanks (which he installed), I mix in a little rainwater with the tap water. I could run into trouble with tap water contamination of the soil. But because the beds are layered with yard clippings, I hope some of the gunk in the water will be strained out by having to filter through that.

          That neighbor has an extensive drip irrigation network, but I don’t love those things, and even threw out some the previous owner here left behind. I wash my hands over a bucket in the bath tub, mix that water with urine, and water a lot of things in the yard. But that seems grossly insufficient for what the plants need. Water from the tanks flow by gravity, which I think can work even on flat lots by platforming tanks as needed.

          FE has more land, more technology, more stuff than me by an order of magnitude. Yet he correctly assesses that this is not enough to make him independent. I would be less independent by several orders of magnitude. Also, being in my late 70s, my own survival doesn’t preoccupy me overmuch.

          A store of emergency food to last a couple weeks is both within my reach and the reach of most people. Most of my emphasis is on what most people can do. I already have a decent supply of rainwater storage, but I’m actively trying to get some sort of storage capacity for every home in my village. (I don’t see the scenario where I’d either wish, or be allowed, to have water while my neighbors were dying of thirst). So, beyond my community, I’m proposing that water storage become ubiquitous in my county. I’m not being kind or loving, just pragmatic. I’m merely proposing it. I don’t give much significance to whether or not I succeed. I’m an existentialist: I merely act (on my most rational assumptions), without any expectation of outcome. If someone has a better idea, more power to them.

          If I can grow .01 of my food in such a simple way that it can be replicated in every backyard, 100 backyard gardens would yield enough food to serve one person. Extrapolate that to every backyard in the world, and you can feed a tiny nation. That’s a small improvement over nothing. And were that to happen, it wouldn’t stop there. Momentum is a fact, as is the domino effect of anything we do. Otherwise, unless we can get the entire system to keep working (miraculous though that might be), there seems to be little chance for anyone, even the most advanced preppers.

        • Pointyearsarehot says:

          The damn thing is they make you put in a tank and a leach field for just the grey water anyway so if I have to purt all that in place might as well put a regular toilet in too.

        • All of these things work for a while. Hoses fail; wood deteriorates, water pumps fail. As long as you expect these to be temporary solutions, and in fact temporary solutions that you likely will have to leave behind if you need to move, you are OK.

          • Artleads says:

            As far as I see it, Gail, there is no survivable alternative to industrial society surviving. I just don’t see why anything beyond food, shelter and community is needed to enable people to maintain it. I don’t see why food, shelter and community has to work the way it works now–ravenous, wasteful, unscientific, thoughtless.

            I’m told that there is a lot of fossil fuel under the ground, but that it’s no longer economically viable (under our current world view) to use it. What if it is only used to create those replacement hoses and water pumps, the things that are indispensable to keep the system going? Everybody in the world doesn’t have to live like Americans live now. And even American can change and consume less, like during the Great Depression.

            Why is it written in stone that people can’t change, even when the alternative is extinction? The essential problem seems to be cultural, behavioral, psychological; not primarily physical. AFAICS

            • Fast Eddy says:

              You are describing a steady state economy (or BAU lite as some call it) …. I stumbled across this site a few years ago when I was researching the feasibility of a stead state economy …

              Gail has explained why it is not possible http://ourfiniteworld.com/2011/02/21/there-is-no-steady-state-economy-except-at-a-very-basic-level/

              I am in agreement.

              BAU grows or it dies – completely.

            • You cannot really create a partial system that would “create those replacement hoses and water pumps, the things to keep society going.” To keep society going, you also need the roads, and the refineries, the electrical transmission system, the health care system and the schools. There are a lot of fixed costs. If somehow, you could cut back, you would find that the cost per unit would be very high. We now have economies of scale. If we lost those, costs would be a lot higher.

              I think you would have to start over with a new system. Hunter gathering? Something very simple?

          • Artleads says:

            “We are consuming a huge amount of fossil fuels, and to maintain anything close to our current economic state…”

            It depends on what is meant by “anything close to our current economic state.” MY economic state depend on SS benefits to the tune of around $650/mo after Medicare payment. My wife gets a little more, but not much. I imagine that if everyone could live on that amount, life would be very different from what it is now (although I don’t offer as to exactly how). I depend on a massive global infrastructure to forestall international turmoil that would personally affect me. But what does this infrastructure consist of? How do I distinguish between the excessive complexities of a system that was blind to the consequences of its behavior from what was entirely unavoidable? A massive global infrastructure with bubbles bursting from its hide as with alien possession. Why can’t some of those aliens be exorcised while leaving the host alive?

            “We would need to continue to consume a very large amount of fossil fuels. If a person stops and thinks about it, no level of fossil fuel extraction is sustainable, because we only have a finite amount of fossil fuels. At best, we would be talking about stair-stepping extraction–reducing it to a lower level than today, and holding it there for a while.”

            Again, it depends what is meant by “a very large amount of fossil fuels.” Yes, I indirectly consume a a very large amount of fossil fuels every time I open the fridge, start a car, buy a toothbrush…but I’m exceedingly sparing about starting the car (every two weeks on average), and I’d be delighted if I could find and instead use those “chew sticks” of my youth to brush my teeth. Even so, just existing in America renders me among the profligate high energy consumers of the world. Still, I can’t imagine that my lifestyle averaged out among Americans wouldn’t make a very big difference of some sort (although I don’t presume to know exactly what).

            “One big issue with even trying to stair-step fossil fuel use is the fact that our financial system needs growth to keep from collapsing. In order to pay back debt with interest, it is necessary to have economic growth, and financial growth and growth in fossil fuel use are very closely tied.”

            This is what frustrates me. I live on a government run system that I augment through thrift and a measure of creativity. Even though inconsistent and not amounting to much, I offered my neighbor some volunteer labor, while he GREATLY reduced the cast of installing my water tanks. My physician gives me some breaks on co-pay, while I in turn give my physician art work. This is not full scale barter, but it’s a little pressure relieving ’round the edge of BAU. Much more like this is being done by others, and much more like this still can be done. We don’t have to all behave like automatons.

            Money and debt, one way or another, lead to extinction. So I fail to see why it is held up as the only means for life. But I want order. I want government. I like having the roads we have now, and neither need nor want new ones. I repeat till I’m tired that you can patch the road with paper pulp. The people who live beside them can fix their own roads. Planting s…loads of trees along them (as we should anyway) will shade roads and help preserve them from heat destruction.

            Industrial civilization run for 7 billion people is too massive to survive. It is a cause of extinction. Nobody can keep in mind such a large number as 7 billion. It is absurd to prescribe for such a number. That’s worse than eating all the food on your plate in one gulp. You must divide up this mass into manageable bits. Whatever is digestable. In some cases, pods of 200 might work. In others, not. I can see a scenario in which people are enslaved to mine and process fossil fuels, getting no reward at all. IMO, this is what will happen if we can’t figure out how to mine and process FFs voluntarily, with consideration and fairness, without a “financial system” or debt. I’m with those who think the system won’t go down as easily as some believe, and that the future can be most draconian or something livable, depending on our preference.

            • I have a hard time figuring out how you enslave people to do high tech things. Also, the oil installation I have seen make use of a lot of computers and big screens. The materials for those come from widely dispersed areas of the globe. We don’t even make any of them in the US now. How would you make all of these computer? Enslave people for all of the mines, and for shipping, an then somehow in factories to make them? I have a hard time seeing how this would be accomplished.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Imagine trying to enslave an entrepreneur … or an engineer…

              ‘Invent a solution for this or we’ll pull your finger nails out’

            • “Imagine trying to enslave an entrepreneur … or an engineer…
              ‘Invent a solution for this or we’ll pull your finger nails out’”

              It sounds ridiculous, and yet the Nazi super weapons programs, and the Soviet space programs, were not too far off from that.

            • Artleads says:

              I’ve appreciated the feedback from this discussion. I don’t claim to have any answers to anything, and am just trying to get my intuition and my intellect onto the same page.

              My intuition says that there is a way to benefit by industrialism without having a global international system. The core element of that is the refashioning of the relationship between varied layers of governance, from the individual household to the planet.

              It could be rather like a plane that used to fly on autopilot now having to be flown manually. Everything that works electrically would have to be powered through actions by respective pods of passengers. An individual would be pedaling in her seat to allow the overhead light to work. The air would be detached from a central system, working like a battery-powered fan. Everybody would have to work more at the local level. They would have to work hard for their conveniences, and would undoubtedly choose to get rid of some, sparing themselves added work. Centralized power would work only to the extent that its infrastructure and transmission could be maintained without money and without debt. Where it wasn’t feasible without money and without debt, it would have to be relayed piecemeal and “voluntarily”, one community on the route to the next. If that couldn’t work, it wouldn’t be supplied.

              (It would be unlikely that many planes would be flying.) Coal might have to be excavated with picks and shovel;s. The problem is how not to forget how to use it industrially! Because lifestyle would depend on what energy could be feasibly made available locally, there might be great variation in community lifestyles. But central government would have to see that those variations did not lead to conflict and oppression.

              The ability for all to survive without major strife would be the main criterion for governance. That would be the mission of national government. But its role would be very limited, bottom-up-determined, and strategic. A more representative form of national government would have to be found. The more local the government, the more hands-on work it would do, and the less local the government, the more planning and coordinating it would have to do.

              But I don’t see why there has to be a clear dividing line between a hunter gatherer lifestyle and an industrial one. The purpose of education would be to preserve knowledge–perhaps disseminating it more systematically than today, more geared toward survival of everyone. The way hunter gatherers do it, but relevant to our vast knowledge bank of industrial technology. The entire society would be museum-like. This system would no doubt require a level of benign dictatorship. The choice for the many would be order, cooperation and survival, as against chaos, dystopia and death. Of course, nothing would be thrown away, and a major source of “industrial” supplies would be dug up landfills. Feminist leadership would be paramount.

              There would be no economic system–not a steady state one, nothing. The underlying philosophy would be survival through independence, resourcefulness, intelligence and very rigorous oversight of the means of subsistence. New rituals would be required…

              I imagine that what my intuition tells me can be done would be extremely difficult to enact. But if the choice is extinction, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be worth considering.

              Sure. High tech things couldn’t be done. There might be one computer in town. The trick would be to put all the knowledge and energy available into maintaining a basic, very minimal component of the industrial society.

            • “I’ve appreciated the feedback from this discussion.”

              Ok, let’s look at the problem with just one element. ” Coal might have to be excavated with picks and shovel;s.”

              Without a certain scale of economy and enough coking coal, my understanding is that it would be extremely difficult to make any new high quality steel. You could use arc furnaces to recycle existing steel, but any material lost to rust is pretty much gone.

              Of course, the biggest hurdle is how to change the minds of people, which is much easier during hard times after a crisis than in advance.

            • I think central markets, where everyone comes to trade, are fairly easy to maintain. Someone has to make everything to a common metric (bushels of wheat, or US$) so that essentially barter can be done. There doesn’t even have to be any of the “currency” at all. These markets don’t allow long distance trade, but they are useful locally.

            • Artleads says:

              “Without a certain scale of economy and enough coking coal, my understanding is that it would be extremely difficult to make any new high quality steel. You could use arc furnaces to recycle existing steel, but any material lost to rust is pretty much gone.”

              “Of course, the biggest hurdle is how to change the minds of people, which is much easier during hard times after a crisis than in advance.”

              Thanks, Matthew. These issues seem intertwined. I don’t see an abstract need for “high quality steel.” I’m proposing a hybrid of HG and industrial lifestyle, AND intense localism. That’s what’s so hard to think through. Small scale local pods somehow comprising national government. Intense land determinism. Top down industry of scale where it is critical for making the local work.

              So I’m not thinking in any way of BAU. I’m thinking we figure out how to use knowledge, energy and land to survive. Absolutely nothing trumps that. A dictatorship of survival. I wouldn’t blame anyone for dismissing this as hopeless confusion…

            • Fast Eddy says:

              We must be getting close to the end….

              I can smell fear and desperation in many of the posts that are appearing on FW of late…. it’s as if some participants are drowning and they are grasping for anything that might save them … even clawing at spider webs….

            • Artleads says:

              “We must be getting close to the end….”

              The idea that we’re not close to the end is a mass delusion prompted by TPTB, or just the incredible weirdness of out time. For a great many species, the end has come already.

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      From that article, MG is the following in which all credibility is lost: “In a statistical regression analysis of declining life spans since Noah (lived 950 years), after 32 centuries since Noah the life expectancy has declined to about 70.” Is that from the Bible or something? People never lived 950 years – that’s a crock of well, you know what. Let me guess, at 950 a person is so old the cells simply disintegrate and blow away in a strong breeze – lol.

      Also, there is no explanation as to why the number of mutations are increasing, and why is the most important part. I think I’ve seen this before. It gets rolled out from time to time.

      The crocodile having survived the extinction of the dinosaurs 60 million years ago is something like 100 million years old. Why wouldn’t it have gone extinct due to increasing number of mutations?

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        MG, in that article I also found this gem:

        “Well, according to McKibben and McKibben, Dr. Sanford estimates that the human race has a total lifespan of approximately 6,000 years…”

        6,000 years?! Ugh, starting to sound Bible thumpers.

        • MG says:

          Well, the article does not sound scientific. However, I have posted the link due to the claim that the degeneration of the DNA will bring the end of the human race.

          Such idea sounds quite realistic. We do not live in a clean environment anymore. Every human being on this planet is exposed to the air polution, global warming induced chemical reactions or the polution caused by the nuclear radiaton more and more. And these factors must cause changes in our DNA.

          I do not see changes in human race like we are more healthier. In fact, our healthcare system is more and more sophisticated and this way it can handle rising amount of various mutations.

          • The changes in DNA are intended to help us adapt. If each family had a dozen children, and only the best-adapted survived, all of the random variation would be a benefit. With contraception and modern medicine, it is a problem.

      • doomphd says:

        I think some clams have the longevity record of macro-organisms, them and horseshoe crabs have been around essentially unchanged since the Cambrian Period, about 550 m.y. Something very safe and secure about living in marine muds. Of course, bacteria and archea mutate all the time but seem to live on as families for billions of years.

    • Van Kent says:

      I´m not entirely convinced about Dr. Sanfords findings. First we should understand how us being hybrids of hybrids of hybrids (denisova, neanderthal, erectus) affects our dna. Hybrids always have trouble, the rapid evolution that hybrids are capable of, are trade-offs by increased amounts of genetic diseases. But we still have archaic dna in below Saharan Africa, in particular the ancient khoisan (san) tribe, so, we still have a lot of dna-material to draw from.

      Before making any long term conclusions I would wait for Svante Pääboos team to give us a clearer picture how much of a hybrids we really are.

      But sure, having some sub Saharan dna or Australian aboriginals in the ancestry, combined with a redhead from Odessa Ukraine, probably would not hurt our distant progeny.

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      I read the link but don’t see any list of products relating to quantum physics.

      • Don Stewart says:

        You are going to have to do your own research if you want a list of products. The question you ask is sufficiently slippery that I am not going to try to answer it. I think you will find that boundary conditions are critical to the answer. For example, are there any products left which don’t involve computers which use components which utilize quantum science? On the other hand, just because a farmer uses a cell phone, does that make his food a product of quantum science? We have also found that plants do some things which involve quantum science. Where do you draw lines? I’ll just refer you to the headlines and let you formulate your own ideas.

        Don Stewart
        PS You might also like the book Spooky Action At A Distance, which relates basic physical reality to quantum science and general relativity. Nature discovered all this billions of years ago. Toi what extent do you consider that the human economy depends upon the basic nature of reality?

        • Van Kent says:

          Entanglement has been tested in several ways, one is teleportation. So far they have succeeded in teleporting fotons and the like. Entanglement should also have some interesting Cryptography implementations.

          Wave / particle dual form of matter has some advanced chemistry applications so far. Because mass can somehow know forwards and backwards in time if it is observed, or not, and wether or not to be a wave or particle at some specific point in time, it should have pretty interesting real world applications.

          The fuzzy quantum mass, as we don´t know the exact mass of an object, or where exactly the atoms or photons should be, just the probability. Well, we have a sun because of this. There is not enough mass for fusion in the sun, but since matter has quantum probabilities, every once in a while an atom is somewhere where it should not be according to Newtonian laws. Hence fusion in the sun. Also some phase and stealth technologies have been tested.

          I remember them testing satellite GPS navigators, they did not work before Einsteins relativity was calcluated in to the satellites. Entanglement, wave / particle dual form and fuzzy quantum mass suggest technologies beyond belief, it is truly a sad thing we wont have the time to see them come into fruition

          • Stefeun says:

            Also in biology, many questions and new fields to explore.
            A TED talk, just to give an idea:


            • Don Stewart says:

              Stilgar Wilcox, Van Kent, and Stefeun
              Since I am the guy who originally brought up the ‘percentage of the economy dependent on quantum physics’ notion, the following may sound strange. But I think it is a better way to look at the world.

              Interest groups have a vested interest in making themselves look more important. You can go back to the Midwest Populists and their arguments that the cities could disappear tomorrow, and no one would miss them. But if the farms disappeared, everyone would starve very quickly. Is it possible that some people who would like to see more science funding ‘planted’ a story with NPR and used some selection in how they assembled their data?

              What I really think is that many things act cumulatively. Everyone is standing on the shoulders of those who went before. Including the plant and animal world. None of us would be here if it weren’t for the innovations laid out in Revolutions That Made the Earth. As innovations are found to be useful, they get incorporated into succeeding generations of bodies and thought patterns and built environments.

              Tim Garrett and BW Hill both use a cumulative function to describe the ability of our economy to produce output. So the boat building principles we inherited from the ancients are one of the things which permit us to be productive today. Humans never developed a full set of capabilities to digest food because we simply bootstrapped using microbes in our guts. So all these previous developments fit together much like Gail’s stick model.

              I remember about 35 years ago attending a board meeting in a company which was having trouble making any money. The scientific arm of the company gave a presentation about quantum tunneling. The Chairman exploded that quantum tunneling was exactly what was wrong….we need ideas right now which will pay off next quarter. I haven’t followed the subject closely, but I think quantum tunneling is now included in the design of quite a few products. Whether you want to classify those products as ‘quantum physics’ products or just consider them as products of a very long line of scientific and engineering developments is up to the individual and the particular question they are trying to answer.

              Don Stewart

            • Stefeun says:

              Don says “Everyone is standing on the shoulders of those who went before”.
              François Roddier’s latest post is a perfect illustration of this statement.
              As we were talking about quantum theory, I’ll paste only this short excerpt:

              “In 1944, Erwin Schrödinger, notes that self-organizing living organisms decrease their internal entropy due to the flow of energy through them. He introduces the neologism negentropy or negative entropy.”

              F.Roddier’s post is about the equivalence between the Shannon entropy (information) and the thermodynamical entropy.
              Original in French: http://www.francois-roddier.fr/?p=360

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Stefeun
              Thanks for the link. Note particularly:
              ‘self-organizing living organisms decrease their internal entropy due to the flow of energy through them.’

              Let me pose the question, ‘where does increased productivity come from?’. Economists have some standard models, but I believe they see increased productivity as some sort of gift from heaven. Let me propose a different mechanism, taking off from Roddier’s statement above. Roddier has separately written about beehives, and how the hive is not like a bunch of bacteria. I propose that increased productivity comes from increased scientific knowledge….but also better engineering of our hive.

              Let me see if I can explain. Consider Daniel Boone out in the wilds of Kentucky. Boonesboro had a couple of hundred people in it, and they were quite isolated from any other friendly humans. The amount of specialization any of them could manage was quite limited. And we know from Adam Smith’s classic study of pin-making that specialization is a key to productivity. So the productivity level of Boonesboro was pretty low, even though they brought quite a bit of cultural knowledge with them.

              I think that a key to the degree of specialization possible is transportation. I can get very good at doing one work element of pin-making, but it won’t do me any good unless I can both co-operate with others to make pins and also use transportation to distribute our surplus pins to the wider world. And transportation is probably the main reason why big cities were near navigable water. And why settlers in the Blue Ridge Mountains remained very poor until modern roads and railroads arrived.

              Which brings me to the issue of oil. The world economy probably reached a peak of transportation using oil in the first decade of this century. Container ships made it incredibly cheap to ship stuff all around the world and specialization became extreme. If oil is really in thermodynamic decline, then we can expect a decline in specialization and lower productivity. Tim Garrett modeled the economy strictly as a function of energy throughput. BW Hill simplified that more and used only oil. If productivity declines because of the decline in specialization, then there will be lots and lots of bad symptoms. But I suspect that transportation may be the key to understanding.

              Don Stewart

            • Stefeun says:

              I won’t pretend to have exhaustive answers to your questions, but let me share my simplistic views on both productivity and specialization.

              I think what we call productivity is in fact the degree to which human labour is leveraged. This leverage is fueled by external energy and goes through some technological device(s).
              If the (external) energy input drops suddenly, there’s no way to maintain the output level (aka productivity), because technological improvements are very slow ; even disruptive technologies require a lot of time (and resources..?) to be significantly implemented.

              As for the degree of specialization, I think it depends much more on the size/scale of the considered organization, than on other factors.
              A lone farmer must be all-purpose skilled, while in our global interconnected economy we could imagine each country being specialized in one or few particular task(s). That’s actually the case up to a certain degree today, and this adds to the brittleness of the whole economy.

              Of course this is not possible without widespread and cheap transportation means, which is the backbone of globalized economy.
              So you’re right, a decrease in available energy will lead to a drop in productivity and eventually to a re-localization of the economy, but in my opinion this will not happen smoothly, as there are too many key-nodes of the system to be cancelled on the way down, i.e. too many instable dominoes that can trigger a cascading effect, thus causing rapid collapse of the whole system.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Thanks for the thoughtful response. A few additional thoughts.

              I agree that leveraged human labor has always been important. Labor can be leveraged with a lever, such as the one on a shovel, and levers are ancient inventions. Moving on, we can leverage human labor with a water wheel. Then we come to fossil fuels which can, for example, leverage a minuscule human effort by a truck driver to move a gargantuan load from Point A to Point B. We can even leverage a human finger in Las Vegas to blow up a wedding party in Afghanistan with a drone. Causing us trouble now is the emerging thought that software can leverage robots more effectively than any control system can leverage human labor. And so humans may be becoming obsolete. Of course, the robots are breaking the loop whereby the labor which was being leveraged is also paid a wage out of the revenue from selling the products. Which may cause everything to collapse.

              A problem arises when there is no shortage of labor. If there are 10 potential truck drivers competing for every truck driving job, then the wages will sink to a very low level. I have previously used the analogy of a soap bubble to represent what happens when additional energy is put into the system: the bubble gets bigger. A bigger bubble leads to shortages of labor, and rising wages. Rising wages let the workers buy more stuff, and everyone prospers That was, more or less, the situation in the US from 1941 through about 1970. Then we went through a period of stagnation, with a brief resurgence in the mid-1990s. Since 2000, we have been back in stagnation or decline. I don’t think any conventional wisdom offers any way out of the stagnation.

              If you look at Ron Patterson’s current post, he shows a forecast of Peak Oil right now, with continually falling oil production in the future. Back to my previous note, I think that falling oil production means a tightening of the systems which collect materials and deliver them to the point of manufacturing and then distributing the products globally to consumers. As these networks contract, then specialization goes into reverse and wages and profits fall.

              To my original point about experts talking past each other rather than with each other, which I stole from Spooky Action At A Distance. If you look at the rather gradual declines depicted in Ron’s post and compare them with the doomsday scenarios implied by BW Hill’s equations, the distinctions are stark. Hill’s curves show that oil is now generating so little net energy as to lead to economic contraction with that effect alone. Additionally, the economic contraction means that the economy will not be able to afford prices equal to the cost of extracting and processing the oil. Consequently, oil companies lose money and go out of business. The projections in Ron’s post, in contrast, must assume a standard sort of demand and supply curve scenario. Gail’s current post also takes on the conventional demand and supply curves. I think that trying to get Hill and Ron’s (secret) group and Gail together to discuss their divergent models would be about as useless as the summits described in the Spooky Action book.

              Don Stewart

            • Van Kent says:

              If I remember correctly one person with a river barge can tranport ten times more weight then one person with a ox cart. Rivers were equivalent of superhighways..

  11. Fast Eddy says:

    Each month one or two high-profile government reports show the US is growing, adding jobs and generally recovering from the Great Recession. But it’s not clear how that can be, when the part of the economy that makes and moves real things keeps shrinking. Here’s a chart, published recently by Zero Hedge, showing that US manufacturing has been contracting for the past year:


    More http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-12-05/real-stuff-economy-falling-apart

  12. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    Browsing in a bookstore, I happened across Spooky Action At A Distance, by George Musser. Published by Scientific American. The book explores the implications of ‘non-local’ action at a distance. Think ‘quantum entanglement’, or gravity, and similar phenomena. The subtitle for the book is ‘The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time—and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything.

    I only want to call attention to one particular section of the book, as I think it has relevance for discussions on blogs. On page 50, the author describes ‘the gravity wars’, in the late 17th century. Newton had just published his theory of gravity: everything in the universe which has mass exerts a pull on every other thing in the universe which has mass. The theory was directly contradictory to ‘atomistic’ theories which explained movement by analogy to billiard balls hitting each other. What followed was a decades long food fight between adherents of the billiard ball theory and those who were convinced of at least the utility of Newton’s formulation. (Newton sort of explained his equations by noting that God was everywhere in the universe and instantly available, so there was no need for some long, time consuming set of billiard balls connecting Earth to the Sun. Action at a distance could be instantaneous.) By the middle of the 18th century, most everyone accepted the ‘action at a distance’ and couldn’t remember what all the controversy had been about. The pendulum has swung several times since then. The ‘spooky action at a distance’ is from a comment by Einstein, referring to some of the phenomena observed in quantum physics experiments.

    But I want to look specifically at the discussion, and finally food fight, between Newton and Leibniz. Newton’s perspective was defended in an exchange of letters by the English philosopher Samuel Clarke. ‘The correspondence is rich in ideas, but when I read it I’m struck by how little Leibniz and Clarke really engaged with each other; each kept asserting and reasserting his position, never giving his opponent the benefit of the doubt. To be fair, disagreements over such a foundational question as the nature of space couldn’t have been resolved with a smile and a handshake, because people didn’t even agree on what would qualify as a satisfying resolution.’

    Leibniz lived in a world much like a modern email-burdened world. He sent 15,000 letters to 1100 people. And these were well thought out letters, over which he labored.

    I have commented before that I do not see much forward motion in most internet discussions. I think that we are at the point where many old formulations no longer work, and the path ahead is not clear. If atomism doesn’t work to explain motion, then what should replace it? And is an omnipresent God a sufficient explanation?

    Here is a list of a few of the foundational issues that I see that prevent discussions I have observed here from getting to any conclusion:
    *The germ theory of disease vs. Darwinian processes. Do things go badly when we pick up a germ? Or is it the fact that we have so abused the relevant ecosystem that the bad guys are outcompeting the good guys? This framework for analysis is relevant to human, animal, and plant diseases. and probably memes It is also relevant to issues such as weeds in agricultural soils. Someone here commented that ‘organic agriculture, because it doesn’t use pesticides, encourages more and more disease’. That is an expression of the germ theory. The contrary opinion, voiced by modern advocates of biological agriculture, is that abuse of the soil ecosystem permits the bad guys to outcompete the good guys. The solution is to repair the ecosystem, which leads to the use of terms such as ‘regenerative agriculture’. The current outpouring of research relating the gut microbes to human health is similarly an expression of the holistic outlook We can have endless discussions on this, like Leibniz and Clarke, but they likely won’t get anywhere if people are coming from fundamentally different positions.

    *Demand and Supply Curves vs. Too Much Debt vs. Thermodynamic Limits vs. General Limits to Growth vs. Technological Innovation. vs. Social Dysfunction Here we have similar conundrums. The Supply and Demand contingent thinks it is self-evident that, once the commodity surpluses are worked down, then the price of commodities must increase. The Too Much Debt contingent tends to think that civilization is about to end because we are about to experience another deflationary Great Depression. The Thermodynamics crowd thinks that the ability of certain key sources of energy (e.g., oil) to produce energy is rapidly disappearing, leading to all sorts of social and economic dysfunction. The General Limits to Growth contingent thinks that we are simultaneously exhausting many basic resources, such that general collapse is in the near future. The Technological Innovation people look at the new scientific understandings and see more potential ahead. For example, who knew in 1920 that quantum physics would underlie so much of the economy in 2015? How many people in 2015 are really attuned to the advances in our understanding that the germ theory is woefully inadequate? Can anyone imagine that the US Government will admit that the germ theory is wrong, and that Obamacare is based on faulty premises? And finally, Charles Hugh Smith has recently published an excellent ‘social and economic dysfunction explanation’: Automation, Technology, and Creating Jobs for All: The Future Belongs to Work that is Meaningful. I am pretty sure that Charles would see some connection between the turn toward meaningless work over the last decades and the current epidemic of mass shootings in the US.

    I submit that the discussion on internet blogs, if they involve advocates of different basic explanations, aren’t likely to be very productive. We will probably spin our wheels like Leibniz and Clarke. Discussions with those who agree with you in principle may advance one’s grasp of what one already believes, giving the illusion of expanded wisdom.

    Don Stewart

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      “For example, who knew in 1920 that quantum physics would underlie so much of the economy in 2015?”

      Don, can you provide some examples of this other than the quantum computer?

    • Van Kent says:

      The Newton Leibinz controversy probably stems deeper then mere gravity, it would seem that the discovery of calculus was also an issue between them.

      As for the productiveness of blog discussions. I see our current predicament as if some old dude returning from an hunting trip returned to the village and said; “Well, the situation is as follows, Toba has just errupted and whatever we do in the years to come, most of us will not survive.” Most of the people in the village just can’t fathom what the old dude keeps saying. Another large majority, are those that understand the seriousness of the situation, but can not see what they could do, so, they just ignore it, keep living their lives. The third large faction are the conservatives who wants everybody to concentrate on age old toolmaking techniques that have proved successfull for a million years so far. From the very few that fathom that immediate measures are required for anybody to survive in the long run, keep arguing between themselves. One faction says they should be prepairing for flooding, as their plain will be a bottom of an lake soon. Another faction says they should be prepairing for draught and desertification. And a third faction of this small group of “doomers” want to prepaire for humid swamps and hot rainforest circumstances of killer mosquitoes and disease. The smallest possible group, if any, are those that see that they will be facing all of the above in rapid succession. But probably none can extrapolate that in order for anyone to survive the horrors of the next few centuries the survivors would have to learn hunting and gathering on the ocean floor 100ft deep. Consequently all humans have an genetic adapatation only seals and humans, as mammals, have. When freediving the human body starts directing oxygen to the heart and the brain, an evolutionary bottleneck adaptation. Something, not exactly the first option the elders are extrapolating after the old dude starts the discussion.

      So, what´s the use with blog discussions as we all probably are wrong in one way or another? Well, I see it like this, the human brain has evolved to be a social brain. So blog discussions may not bring wisdom straightforwardly, but since we have the opportunity to discuss these things we “see” our peer group and that encourages the brain to keep at it, and not divert in to more socially accepted past time hobbies. Who knows, maybe we can by accident dispers wisdom to each other of hollowed out ostrich eggs with water, buried along to hunting route, that may some day prove invaluable.

    • Artleads says:

      Don, it’s good to see you here again. You contribute something unique. Your link some time past on the Israeli scientist and his findings on bacteria organization was a winner, and appreciated by at least one other person on a different blog. It also seemed to contribute to my thinking about rural design, in as how ADDING structure around scattered little rural buildings on large lots could discipline their visual aspect–converting the scatter to consolidated (circular?) clusters bordered by trees–and thus enhance the visual (and economic) value of the open space they sit in.

      Your post today about the varied and conflicting premises most of us use and often get stuck in is refreshing. I see a possible downside, but one that merely might reflect my stubborn resistance to change and growth. Many times in life I’ve had to be forced to find enjoyment and breakthrough knowledge when I might have preferred to crawl into my shelf and vegetate. So please consider any criticism from that perspective.

      Your erudition and curiosity for information leaves me far behind. I’m very intrigued by you search for comprehensiveness and comprehension re our different ways of thinking. IMO, we get absolutely nowhere unless we get onto the same page, unless we go there together. But, to all intents and purposes, I don’t read books. I know almost nothing about anything, and I’m not anxious to change that. For instance, I only know the name Leibniz , and would have dated him in the 19th century (if I even cared to do that). I would have vaguely confined Newton to the 18th cent bleeding into the 19th. I emphatically don’t care whether I’m right or wrong. Since only a very tiny elite in the west cares about such things, it falls outside my area of “anything fundamental” for humankind. If we’re not all on the same page, globally, we get nowhere at all.

      What I see as a strong commonality between all humans and other life forms is that we all want to live for as long as it isn’t too painful to do so. We all want to survive. Simple. I see it as our main job to see how we all can survive,. For otherwise, we have the sorts of conflcts that work against survival for any.

      So looking at how and why we think differently is most helpful. However, we can’t afford to let those differences prevent us from getting onto the same page. And how to do that is my main concern at this time. 🙂

  13. Stefeun says:

    An interesting view on colonialism, good summary with impressive figures:

    “Enough of aid – let’s talk reparations”
    by Jason Hickel, The Guardian, Nov.27, 2015 (cross-posted in The Automatic Earth)

    Everybody knows they can forget about reparations:
    “Shashi Tharoor argued for a reparations payment of only £1 – a token acknowledgement of historical fact. That might not do much to assuage the continued suffering of those whose countries have been ravaged by the colonial encounter. But at least it would set the story straight, and put us on a path towards rebalancing the global economy.” (which of course will never happen)

    Moreover as colonialism keeps on going -very well- under other forms:
    “We can’t put a price on the suffering wrought by colonialism. And there is not enough money in the world to compensate for the damage it inflicted. We can, however, stop talking about charity, and instead acknowledge the debt that the west owes to the rest of the world. Even more importantly, we can work to quash the colonial instinct whenever it rears its ugly head, as it is doing right now in the form of land grabs, illicit financial extraction, and unfair trade deals.” (not even talking of military actions!)

    I recommend you to open the 3 links (about land grabs, illicit financial extraction, and unfair trade deals) that lead to good articles.

    • Artleads says:

      In my neck of the woods, it costs about $1 per gallon of capacity to purchase water storage tanks. Roughly speaking, about half that to install them. (I need help with the math.) Let’s say there are five billion people without water storage tanks (@ 1,000 gals per individual); how much would it cost to buy and install them for that population? Would $10 billion do it? That amount would be spread equitably (ensuring healthy, adequate supply to all), and since nothing like this fair distribution had ever been attempted worldwide, wouldn’t that count, a) for reparation of colonial destruction, and b) global resilience and stabilization? If so, wouldn’t that, if not a single other thing, came out of COP 21, not signal revolutionary change?

      • You’re saying $0.50 per litre to buy storage tanks. So a 1000 litre tank is $500. $500 times 5 billion would be $2.5 trillion = one year of the USA Federal Budget.

        • Artleads says:

          Thanks. Actually, around here (for me), it’s been more like $1.50–$1 for the storage capacity and $.50 for installation and pipes, etc.–for each tank in total. So $7 trillion? I’ll go back to the drawing board. 🙂

      • Pointyearsarehot! says:

        How many 55 gallon food grade barrels do you want at $80 installed- a discount for you my special friend

        • Artleads says:

          “How many 55 gallon food grade barrels do you want at $80 installed- a discount for you my special friend”

          It would take around 20 networked 55 gal barrels to provide the 1000 gal storage per household I’m aiming for in my village. Times 100. But I’m very ambitious, and I’m looking way beyond this town. 🙂

        • Artleads says:

          I found someone who sells used ones–identical–for a lot less. Thanks for the mention.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      For the longest time I opposed colonialism and neo-colonialism..

      But then I came to my senses.

      I realized that in the zero sum game of finite resources there is not enough to go around — I also realized that if we did not pillage the weak countries other strong countries would — and that eventually we would be considered a weak country and we’d be next in line for plunder.

      One of the key thinkers who influenced my 180 on this was a chinese scholar — can’t recall the name or the book — he was commenting on the British actions in China during the Opium Wars…

      To summarize his thoughts: He did not despise the British. He expected them to do what they had done – because China was a weak corrupt nation. If the British had not taken the opportunity — then it would have been some other country…

      His solution was not to weep over the sad fate of China nor hurl accusations at the British … rather he insisted that China needed to learn from the oppressor — to become strong — because only strength is respected — only strength will keep the oppressor off your back….

      One other key influence was a history I read about the Ottoman Empire…. when it became weak and started to collapse…. there was a sentence … something to the effect ‘the strong nations of Europe were circling the dying carcass… each one of them attempting to strip off the choice pieces of meat’

      And that reminded me of a trip to Kenya — I watched an antelope give birth … then various predators arrived … the mother tried to fend them off but as she gave chase to one another would rush in and try to snatch the newborn…. it was the jackals that eventually got the feast…

      Like the Chinese chap said — you either get your act together and compete — or you end up like a Somalian…

      I would add that if you are not capable of great strength…then you work out who the deadliest dog in the fight is …. you get on your knee and kiss his ring … and you hope that you have something that he needs because you can then offer that as tribute in return for his protection.

      That is the way the world has always worked and always will work.

      Of course religion tries to override our survival instincts…. is it any wonder that there is the steam release valve called confession of one’s sins….. there is no overriding our survival instincts…

      We must fight for our share — or at least send out proxies to fight for us — and pretend that we came by our good fortune through our wonderful democracies and our altruistic nature.

      We get to live large because we have won the war — billions live in a world of shit because we have put them there….

      I am 100% in agreement with doing that — because I guarantee you — given the chance… these people would slit your throat if it meant swapping places


      • Van Kent says:

        Eddy, according to your competition and “kiss the ring” world view. What will happen to Pewdiepie? The big networks are all fast losing the below 25 audience. Teens don´t switch on the telly, like they used to, something like 80% are more interested in Tubers. What Pewdiepie represents is an direct assault on your competition world view, so, how will the big networks react? If you are correct, then the big networks should be hard pressed to either buy off highly popular tubers or to outcompete them in any way possible. But right now it looks like the big networks are going the way the serious professional newspaper journalists went just a few decades ago, extinct.

        Competition has the problem that it gives an illusionary picture of the right normative behaviour, but the darned real world has Black Swans that makes ultra competitive corrupt Enrons crumble to dust, giving way to fast moving idealistic startups.

        Eddy, your view does not give the possibility to build anything lasting. Maybe its just me, but I would rather take two millenia of civilization like the Chinese or the Egyptians, then some few measly years of megalomania trying to conquer the world with the Wolfowitz doctrine.

        • “What Pewdiepie represents is an direct assault on your competition world view, so, how will the big networks react?”

          What do you mean? youtubers compete with other youtubers for views, likes and subscribes, TV shows compete with other TV shows for ratings.

          Youtube competes with Netflix competes with Cable. People can only watch so much subscription and ad supported content, so the producers of such content compete for viewers.

          They are all, in turn, within a nation that competes with other nations for resources.

          • Van Kent says:

            When corporations that still have money try to decide where they will invest their marketing budgets, pewdiepie with his viewer clicks and hours viewing, is killing the networks. If the TV is completely loosing the below 25y audience, then sponsors move their money where the audience actually is. That happened to serious professional newspaper journalism. No more paper ads, no more Watergates. All media outlets are competing for viewers and viewing hours, so, pewdiepie is decimating all of them. Now, in competition terms pewdiepie is Usain Bolt, so what will the competitors do next according to Eddies world view?

            Nations compete with nations for resources, ok, why did Adam Smith write in his 1776 book Wealth of Nations that skilled labour was more important than the hording of gold reserves? And why did, with that book, Mercantilism disappear? Mercantilism did exactly as you describe, compete with other nations for resources. Yet, we no longer have Mercantilism.

            And btw that is exactly “an illusionary picture of the right normative behaviour” -youtubers compete with other youtubers for views, likes and subscribes, TV shows compete with other TV shows for ratings- and while TV producers are thinking just like that, youtubers steal away their audience and make the networks go extinct.

            • “Now, in competition terms pewdiepie is Usain Bolt, so what will the competitors do next according to Eddies world view?”

              There are layers of competition. The competitors in media cannot simply kill off youtubers, because while they are big in their pond, their pond is a puddle within a nation that has a much greater capacity for violence.

              “Nations compete with nations for resources, ok, why did Adam Smith write in his 1776 book Wealth of Nations that skilled labour was more important than the hording of gold reserves? ”

              Adam Smith was very early coal era, well before automation and computers and a world that absolutely must have fossil fuels to exist.

              “Yet, we no longer have Mercantilism.”

              Instead, we have a world that is built around the peculiar circumstances of the tiny ~300 year reign of stored fossil fuels. An unprecedented era of continuous exponential growth in population, in wealth and energy per person, in technology. A period that never before and likely never again will be seen on this planet.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              A period that never before and likely never again will be seen on this planet.


            • Van Kent says:

              Yup, FF was a one shot deal. But not all technology requires FF. I would prefer people had potash and soda after the collapse. Potash and soda are not resources that you can find by bashing some heads, they have to be made by people cooperating.

              So, your layers of competition mean that humans as a species will and would cut every throat possible, if not for someone or something threatening to do that to you?

              Sorry, I believe most of us are not like that. I believe most humans have an biological, genetic, urge to be helpful and respected in some sort of a community.

            • “Sorry, I believe most of us are not like that. I believe most humans have an biological, genetic, urge to be helpful and respected in some sort of a community.”

              We’ll see how most people are when their children or grandchildren are starving. How people act when there is surplus, and how people act when there is scarcity, are two different things.

              Also, corporations are not people, they are (generally) representative democracies. How a group of people vote to handle an issue is often different than how people treat each other face to face. Layers of abstraction, and sharing responsibility enables people to make choices they might not make on their own. Very rarely do individuals riot and smash and burn things, it usually takes a mob.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Yes — humans do aspire to form communities… tribes… clans….

              One of the main reasons for that is because there is strength in numbers…

              When your group’s population is too large to support on your territory — you pick up weapons and you attempt to take land from another group.

              You join with your comrades — put on war paint — and you slash and smash and rape and pillage.

              You seize land so you can grow food so you can feed your ever-increasing population

              One of the other reasons for forming groups is for defense against those who would take what you have.

              The reason most people are unaware that this is how the world works — how it has always worked — is because we no longer get involved with the bashing and slashing.

              We have armies and drones and cruise missiles and bombs dropped from the sky doing the bashing and slashing.

              We have the IMF and World Bank enslaving billions on our behalf — not a bullet fired… not a throat slit…. yet the suffering we inflict through financial weapons is staggering….

              The men who run the show feed us bullshit about how wonderful we are — how we are fostering democracy around the world — standing up for the poor and weak …

              Meanwhile they are sending in the troops to destroy democracies — to annihilate the weak — to pillage and steal their resources….

              So that we can live in comfort…

              And we toss a few spare coins into the Oxfam box and whistle ‘what a wonderful world’ as we exit Whole Foods with $500 worth of groceries in our carts…

              When civilization is stripped like a thin layer of peeling paint — we will be returning to living like savages….

              We will gather together — form tribes — and clans …. and we will bash and slash and rape and pillage…. on a far more epic scale than the world has ever seen…

              Because we are 7.5 billion savages — and there will be very little to eat when the oil stops flowing and the electricity goes off…

              At the end of the day distills down to the issue of food — we cannot survive without it — and we will fight like a pack of starving dogs would if you threw a piece of meat into their midst…

              We always have — we always will…. and generally as groups

            • Van Kent says:

              Sure, parents and grandparents are capable of doing anything to save their progeny. But luckily most people will be frozen stiff, having severe PTSD, going just bonkers with the stress of physical violence. They will need weeks or months of getting used to the violence to be effective, which they wont have. So, only cooperation remains for the large majority to save their progeny.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          What is a Pewdiepie?

          ‘your view does not give the possibility to build anything lasting’

          My view is that in the near term (probably at some point in 2016) …. the global economy will collapse …. the electricity will go off permanently … the food supply will grind to a halt…. the petrol stations will cease to operate … riots will commence … spent fuel ponds will no longer be manageable and their cooling waters will boil off resulting in explosions that spew massive amounts of radiation into the atmosphere…

          The combination of all of the above will result in an extinction event for the human species. Given the huge volumes of toxins that will roil out of the spent fuel ponds for decades… this quite likely will extinct all life on the planet

          So you are correct — there is no possibility of building anything long lasting…. this is as good as it gets so best to enjoy the short time that remains

          • Van Kent says:

            Yes, I know. And I agree with you wholeheartedly, we are in deep dire straits and the odds are certainly not in our favor.

            What I am interested in is how those few that survive the immediate SHTF collapse, would have at least some possibilities of cooperation, of building ecosystems of survival, because lone wolfs simply tend to die off. If competition, bashing in skulls, is all they know how to do, then yes, there is no hope for any of them to survive what they surely will have to face. As Dmitry Orlov wrote, we have rising oceans, tons of nuclear power that will be under the waves in a few decades, and therefore spent fuel ponds that will kill the oceans. Hot radiated oceans is something life on earth has never had to face before. I would rather see the last of us cooperating in their NZ walipini, than bashing each others heads in for the last scraps of food left, in the name of competition.

          • Yorchichan says:

            If the spent fuel ponds exploded it would be extinction for all “higher” forms of life, but bacteria would surely survive.

            Even when the inevitable collapse happens, wouldn’t it be possible to manage the pools? It’s a matter of preventing them from boiling dry for maybe five years. Would depend on how chaotic the situation became, but if government remains in place it seems doable.

            Anyway, I appreciate your immense contribution to Gail’s blog, FE.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              10 – 20 years under cooling water before moving them to dry casks… how do you process and move them to dry casks without machinery….

              The cooling facilities are very high tech — they are not just large swimming pools that need to be kept full of water …

              Spent fuel pools (SFP) are storage pools for spent fuel from nuclear reactors. They are typically 40 or more feet (12 m) deep, with the bottom 14 feet (4.3 m) equipped with storage racks designed to hold fuel assemblies removed from the reactor.

              A reactor’s pool is specially designed for the reactor in which the fuel was used and situated at the reactor site. An away-from-reactor, Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI), such as the one located at the Morris Operation, is also sometimes used. In many countries, the fuel assemblies, after being in the reactor for 3 to 6 years, are stored underwater for 10 to 20 years before being sent for reprocessing or dry cask storage. The water cools the fuel and provides shielding from radiation.

              While only about 20 feet (6.1 m) of water is needed to keep radiation levels below acceptable levels, the extra depth provides a safety margin and allows fuel assemblies to be manipulated without special shielding to protect the operators.

              About a quarter to a third of the total fuel load of a reactor is removed from the core every 12 to 24 months and replaced with fresh fuel. Spent fuel rods generate intense heat and dangerous radiation that must be contained. Fuel is moved from the reactor and manipulated in the pool generally by automated handling systems, although some manual systems are still in use.

              The fuel bundles fresh from the core are normally segregated for several months for initial cooling before being sorted into other parts of the pool to wait for final disposal. Metal racks keep the fuel in controlled positions for physical protection and for ease of tracking and rearrangement. High-density racks also incorporate boron-10 or other neutron-absorbing material to ensure subcriticality. Water quality is tightly controlled to prevent the fuel or its cladding from degrading. Current regulations in the United States permit re-arranging of the spent rods so that maximum efficiency of storage can be achieved.[1]

              The maximum temperature of the spent fuel bundles decreases significantly between 2 and 4 years, and less from 4 to 6 years. The fuel pool water is continuously cooled to remove the heat produced by the spent fuel assemblies. Pumps circulate water from the spent fuel pool to heat exchangers, then back to the spent fuel pool. The water temperature in normal operating conditions is held below 50°C (120°F).[2] Radiolysis, the dissociation of molecules by radiation, is of particular concern in wet storage, as water may be split by residual radiation and hydrogen gas may accumulate increasing the risk of explosions. For this reason the air in the room of the pools, as well as the water, must be continually monitored and treated.


              Putting this in perspective — when BAU collapses — you won’t be able to buy a toothbrush — so how do we keep high tech facilities like this under control for decades?

              Another reason why we need to keep BAU going as long as possible — when it dies – we die.

              That’s of course whey there is no Plan B.

            • “Putting this in perspective — when BAU collapses — you won’t be able to buy a toothbrush — so how do we keep high tech facilities like this under control for decades?”

              Poke some holes in the roof so the hydrogen gas can escape, and hook up some gravity fed garden hoses. Sure, in some time over 50 years, the rods will leak, and eventually the ponds themselves will leak. Who knows, maybe the cement will contain it for a few centuries and everything will be fine.

            • “If the spent fuel ponds exploded it would be extinction for all “higher” forms of life, but bacteria would surely survive.”

              Radiotrophic organisms, such as black mold, would actually thrive. They convert radiation into heat to fuel growth.

              “It’s a matter of preventing them from boiling dry for maybe five years. ”

              And then preventing them from corroding and leaking out for the next, what, 200, 400 years? Guess it depends on what you consider an acceptable amount of radiation to be. Ignoring of course the plutonium, which is both toxic and radioactive, and lasts a very long time.

              Absolutely, everything that can be done to prevent the reactors and spent fuel ponds from burning should be done. It just seems that quite a lot of radiation will almost inevitably leak out.

            • Yorchichan says:

              Matthew, I know that other more complex life forms than bacteria could survive the spent fuel ponds exploding, e.g. tardigrades. I was simply using bacteria to demonstrate that it is unlikely all life on earth will be wiped out.

              As there seems little political will to safely dispose of nuclear waste even now while we still have the resources to do so, it’s a sure bet that most of the spent fuel will NEVER be removed from the fuel pools and put into dry casks. So even if the pools can be maintained for sufficient time to prevent explosions, I agree that corrosion will ensure contamination of the environment.

              Twenty half lives reduces radioactivity by a factor of a million, which can be taken as a safe level (?). That’s about half a year in the case of iodine 131, but more like 600 years for caesium 137 and strontium 90. So sea level rise would appear to make massive environmental contamination by the caesium and strontium isotopes inevitable. I can’t find any information as to how far down the food chains the extinctions will go.

              FE, yes when BAU ends I won’t be able to buy a toothbrush and my death will likely be swift and unpleasant, but don’t TPTB care about themselves and their familes and won’t they still command sufficient resources at least for a few years to maintain the spent fuel pools? It’s hard to believe there is no Plan B.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Lock Einstein, Ford, Musk, Jobs, Gates, Edison, Franklin, Watt, Bell and every other great innovator in the past 200 years into a room with nothing but a blackboard and chalk.

              Inform them that they have 24 hours to make a baloney sandwich — if they do not produce the sandwich poison gas will be pumped into the room killing all of them.

              I reckon that is what those in the know feel like — they know that there is no way out of this — no matter how rich… how smart…. how powerful they are …. that when the SHTF they are toast.

              Sure they might stagger along for a period by locking themselves into their bunkers with huge supplies of food and water….

              But that will run out long before the fuel ponds stop spewing contamination….

              I do not think there is much of a Plan B beyond the bunkers….

              All minds are focused on keeping BAU going for as long as possible at any cost — whatever it takes…

              The super computers are roaring as the analysts feed in scenarios… what happens if we let Lehman go…. what happens if we raise interest rates … what are the knock on effects of this policy or that policy …. what about allow Greece to default…. what about Glencore — can we allow that company to implode — what impact would that have….

              These guys are fighting for their very lives … they will lose at some point.

            • I am afraid government would be among the first things to be lost.

      • Pointyearsarehot! says:

        You appose it with every single post you make. Your not fooling anybody least of all THEM.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          Don’t confuse the fact that I find it distasteful to pillage others so that we can live the way we do ….

          And my understanding that we have no other choice….

          • Pointyearsarehot says:

            “And my understanding that we have no other choice….”
            So irrelevant.
            You eithor believe in the matrix, worship the matrix accept the matrix.
            Or your on the other side. Its that simple.
            If you truly condone pillaging you characterize the pillaged as evil.
            To not do so is to appose.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              If you can make your point in plain English I will attempt to respond….

              What exactly are you trying to say?

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        Are those people in the photo going through garbage at the dump?

  14. like so often a very interesting post. Thanks Gail.
    (as there are 1000 comments already to this post, there is a risk that I raise something already said, admittedly I have not read all the comments).
    I don´t think that automation is much stimulated by changes in energy prices though, or falling profits. If that were the case African farmers would mechanize the most in the world as they have no profit whatsover. Automation is no different than other forms of mechanisation in this regard. The main driver is (competition and) the prospect of increasing profits, quite decoupled from the energy prices.

    While I know it is not essential for your argument, I would like to put the chicken vs beef story a bit different. While it is often told as a consumer driven change of consumption, it is very much producer driven. The relative cost of grain has decreased a lot over hundred years with mechanisation (#1) and chemical fertilizers (#2) and other novelties (varieties, pesticides etc.). Cattle were earlier raised on grass, and grass was cheap while grain was expensive and chicken was therefore more expensive than beef – which is why there was “sunday chicken”. With low grain prices – combined with the total industrialisation of the wretched chicken – chicken prices has fallen dramatically compared to beef. Globally beef consumption has not fallen at all, but chicken consumption has increases tremendously (my book Global Eating Disorder expands a lot on why most of what we eat is a result production factors rather than consumer demand) . We tend to talk far too much about the market as being consumer driven, or demand driven, while the reality is quite different – and of course the energy market is an excellent example where most consumers just want energy, say electricity, and don´t care how or where it is produced.

    • I’m afraid yout cattle beef vs. chicken claim is not valid at all, perhaps you referred to some exception in certain parts of Scandinavia or you meant some specific limited timeframe? In continetal Europe chickens were traditionally raised not on grains! but rather on kitchen and other agri scraps (including perhaps lower quality grain leftovers), but they mostly free ranged on bugs in the front yard, around the home/farmstead etc. Cattle was more or less semi-luxury item, sold to markets with affluent city dwellers. Most people didn’t eat that much meat at all anyways, sea fisheries around the coast – pond carps in the hinterland and bread (+later potatoes), plus bit of garden veggies, fruits, cheese.. That was the basics for centuries/millennia.

      • I agree with that (which is exactly my point). It was when chicken was converted from a scrap eating backyard animal to a grain converter that prices fell and chicken meat passed beef. This was the case in the USA. in Scandinavia as well as in the rest of the world. The process is working its way through Africa at this very moment.

    • “I don´t think that automation is much stimulated by changes in energy prices though, or falling profits. If that were the case African farmers would mechanize the most in the world as they have no profit whatsover. ”

      African farmers may not be able to mechanize, due to lack of credit. If they have no profits, they certainly won’t be upgrading using savings.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        “African farmers may not be able to mechanize, due to lack of credit.”

        That was my thought too. Probably also most have small farms which are not conducive to the acreage needed to substantiate loan repayment.

        • it is certainly true that African farmers have little access to credit. But a major reason for this is that farming isn´t profitable, so capital shy away from the sector. The main point is that already profitable businesses are much more likely to invest in new technology than not profitable businesses. I just used the most extreme example, but it can be seen everywhere. It is not lack of profit that drives automation.

    • Thanks for writing. I will have to look up your book. I would agree that most of what we eat is a result of production factors, rather than consumer demand.

      I hadn’t noticed the flip-flop in prices you mention, but I wasn’t paying much attention. I remember fish at one time was very cheap–before we overfished the oceans as badly as we have.

      I would agree that there is a trend toward automation, regardless. I think that high prices especially stimulate this trend, because that is when businesses realize that they have to make a change of some kind. Their other alternative is often sending production to a country with cheaper energy/cheaper labor/less concern about pollution. In fact, automation can be combined with sending production abroad, and lead to even more savings (and job loss worldwide).

      • yeah cod vs farmed salmon is a quite similar story, at least in Europe. Cod has gone from daily fare to luxury and salmon went from luxury to cheap in a few decades and clearly consumption of salmon increased a lot – still prefer cod though:-)

  15. Stilgar Wilcox says:

    WTI oil down 1.11 to $39.97 a barrel!

  16. Fast Eddy says:

    Toxic Mix Hits Trucking, Orders for New Trucks Totally Collapse, Pummel Manufacturers

    Slack demand and sudden overcapacity.

    When diesel-engine maker Cummins announced its third-quarter earnings debacle on October 28, chief operating officer Rich Freeland had a special word about future production and sales of heavy trucks: “It’s evident now that retail sales [of trucks] and production will be down going forward.”

    He wasn’t kidding. But it’s a lot worse than imagined at the time.

    Demand for Class 8 trucks, the largest trucks on US highways, had been strong in 2014, and orders were expected to reach a decade high in 2015. Last year, the trucking industry was roaring, and there was talk of shortages of trucks and drivers, a capacity squeeze caused by vibrant order books around the country. Companies were stocking up for the great year 2015.

    Optimism was boiling over. Interest rates were at zero. Money was nearly free. The economy would hit escape velocity. Stocks hit new all-time highs. And carriers ordered trucks from truck makers to be able to meet this demand coming down the pike, and truck makers ordered engines from engine makers such as Cummins. And the whole industry was cooking. Then summer 2015 came around.

    Retail sales had been disappointing. Escape velocity had turned out to be an illusion. Inventories around the country had built up to a historic glut. And companies began trimming their orders. Suddenly demand for transportation slowed while capacity soared. In this scenario of slack demand and overcapacity, the load-to-truck ratio, published by transportation data provider DAT, collapsed to the lowest level in years.

    DAT calls the ratio “a sensitive, real-time indicator of the balance between spot market demand and capacity.” It’s a function of the number of loads for every truck posted on DAT Load Boards. By July, the ratio for van-type trailers was down to 1.8, the lowest in years.

    Usually the load-to-truck ratio picks up in November, the middle of shipping season. It picked up this year too: from a terrible 1.5 in October to a still terrible 1.8 in November. In November of banner-year 2014, it was 3.5. In the more typical November of 2013, it was 2.5.

    Since late last year, DAT’s van load-to-truck ratio has been heading south. The chart shows how every month this year, the ratio (red line) has been below the ratio of the same month in 2014 (blue line). November’s ratio of 1.8 was a dizzying 49% below November last year

    Trucking is a gauge of the real economy. It tracks exports and imports, manufacturing, distribution, retail, and other sectors. And the sudden slowdown in the trucking industry is worrisome.

    But it’s more than just a gauge: now the consequences are hitting manufacturing. In November, according to a report by ACT Research cited by the Wall Street Journal, orders for Class 8 trucks plunged to 16,600, down 36% from October, and down a stunning 60% year-over-year.

    Without seasonal adjustments, it was the lowest number of orders since September 2012, and seasonally adjusted, it was the lowest since August 2010, according to ACT Research. Freight intelligence provider FTR figured that orders for Class 8 trucks made for the worst November since 2009.

    A “major disappointment,” it said with elegant understatement about this total collapse.

    Trucking companies have seen the future: a toxic mix of overcapacity and slack demand, even during peak shipping season, when retailers stock up for the holiday extravaganza. But retailers are having a hard time. Thanksgiving weekend sales at brick-and-mortar stores were outright awful. And now they’re sitting on a historic inventory glut [read… There Better Be a Miracle for Retailers].

    As retailers cut their orders, fewer trucks are needed to transport the merchandise, and it ricochets through the economy.

    Trucking companies are responding to this situation, as Cummins and other companies have warned since this fall, but now they’re responding much more sharply than previously imagined they would. Hence the total collapse of orders for Class 8 trucks.

    Truck manufactures, their engine and component suppliers, trailer manufacturers, in short the entire industry building equipment for trucking companies – they’re all getting hit hard. And this is going to cascade from there.

    Truck maker Navistar already features on the list of “distressed” issuers of junk bonds. This is where investors are now getting bloodied as the Great Credit Bubble implodes from the bottom up. Read… “Distress” in US Corporate Debt Spikes to 2009 Level


  17. Stefeun says:

    Quite a few people are wondering if the real meaning of the acronym COP 21 wouldn’t in reality be “Conferences to Optimize your Profits”.
    Sarcasm aside, here’s an example of the way in which real subjects are treated:

    “Fertiliser companies dominate talks on climate change and agriculture, says new report
    “Exxons of agriculture” should be kept out of Paris COP21

    Fertiliser companies are among the world’s top climate villains, a new report from GRAIN asserts. Their products could be responsible for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, not to mention the damage wreaked on waterways, soils and the ozone layer. But policies to transition agriculture out of its current dependence on chemical fertilisers are being undermined by the fertiliser industry’s lobby efforts.

    GRAIN’s report shows how fertiliser companies have infiltrated the main policy processes on agriculture and climate to position chemical fertilisers as a solution to climate change and to weaken support for non-chemical farming. Under the banner of “climate smart agriculture”, fertiliser companies work in alliance with other food and agribusiness corporations to lobby for voluntary, company-led programmes that promote the use of fertilisers, such as Wal-Mart’s climate smart agriculture programme or the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture.
    According to GRAIN’s report, recent studies show that the overall contribution of chemical fertilisers to climate change has been drastically underestimated. Calculations made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of nitrous oxide emissions from the use of chemical fertilisers are 3-5 times below what these studies suggest. The outdated IPCC figures also do not account for global increases in fertiliser production, the increasing reliance on shale gas as a raw material or the destructive impacts of chemical fertilisers on organic matter, the world’s most important carbon sink.”

    The above are excerpts of the press-release:

    Full report: https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5270-the-exxons-of-agriculture

    • Fast Eddy says:

      ‘But policies to transition agriculture out of its current dependence on chemical fertilisers are being undermined by the fertiliser industry’s lobby efforts’

      Transition to what?

      You cannot feed 7.5B people using organic fertilizers.

      You cannot feed 7.5B people without spraying crops with insecticide.

      It is quite amazing that topics like this dominate the MSM and they are put forward as if there are solutions.

      The matrix is fascinating to observe.

      Saw a great movie tonight …


      • psile says:

        “You cannot feed 7.5B people using organic fertilizers.”

        Now just get humans to try and understand that. Alas, however, there are things that as a species we are just aren’t mentally equipped for.

        Nice movie by the way…

      • Stefeun says:

        I know, FE, you’re right in saying there’s no transition possible.
        I just wanted to denounce the lobbying and the green-washing that are adding confusion in the debate, and overall divert the public’s attention from the real problems, for corporate profits’ sake.

        Btw, I agree “Far from Men” is a great movie. In France we’re very unease with this period, to say the least.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          I almost never watch Hollywood movies … the last one I saw was the Dallas Buyers Club….

          I was chatting with my wife on the way back about how Hollywood could easily make movies of this quality …. if they don’t it is because they don’t want to….

          I suspect the reasons (can I squeeze in that the Protocols influence my thinking on this because this summarizes a portion of the MSM control section)

          1. The MSM is to be used to influence the thoughts of the masses — essentially it is pure propaganda — a movie like the above-mentioned would never see the light of day because it exposes the history of western oppression of Muslims…. it also puts a human face on ‘the enemy’

          2. It is in the interest of those in control to have unthinking unquestioning sheeple …. the MSM can be used to achieve this …. dumb the masses down and they are more manageable.

          Nothing new here… a modern version of bread and circuses….

      • psile says:

        I think this article is so wonderfully conflicted in its logic that I had to post it in its entirety. Enjoy!

        To save growth, we must leave fossil fuels in the ground

        The climate summit in Paris will enter the history books one way or the other. Given a choice, attending world leaders would like it to be remembered for the long-awaited successor to the Kyoto Protocol, capable of mitigating the worst impacts of climate change.

        Of course failure to broker such a deal risks closing the door on a global agreement altogether. Such an outcome will surely see the climate summits of Copenhagen and Paris cast as the twin peaks of lost opportunity and botched multilateralism.

        Gazing into my crystal ball, I’d say the political will to strike agreement this time around should ultimately win out. And while sleep-deprived world leaders will emerge from the summit and hail agreement as epoch making, anyone with a working knowledge of population growth, energy demand and emission pathways, will already be thinking implementation. And that’s if such a deal is even commensurate to the various risks posed by the increments in global average temperature.


        Politicians and campaigners alike often forget that mitigating the effects of climate change comes with a free gift: a stopwatch. Alas, the climate’s feedback loops won’t give us 50-years to implement a global agreement forged in the dying minutes of the Paris summit.

        The challenge is that, within the current economic system, countries must continue to grow exponentially to maintain state provision, raise living standards – and in the case of many – pay down debt. Yet it is this iron will of countries the world over to continue growing that may hold the key to making a more rapid transition to a low-carbon future than any of the politicking and arm twisting about to run its course in the French capital.

        At least this is the somewhat controversial view of academic Michael Molitor, Visiting Professor at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Paris. Molitor is a veteran of the United Nations negotiations on climate change dating back to 1991. Following the failure at Copenhagen he embarked on an altogether different trajectory that conversely saw him embrace economic growth as the catalyst for plotting a course to a low-carbon world.

        But unlike campaigns to keep fossil fuels in the ground – owing to the emissions released when burned – Molitor thinks we should leave fossil fuels be because of their collective inability to continue driving exponential economic growth. He cites the failure of Copenhagen as evidence that that no one wants to invest in reducing their emissions today and have to accept lower economic growth in the future as a result.

        Speaking in London last week, he asked whether fossil fuels could even continue to meet the majority of our energy needs for transport and power generation? Molitor charts what he terms the “overall resource productivity” of fossil fuels which he claims has been declining for decades. By way of example, he points to the half a trillion dollars of direct subsidies paid out by governments each year to make fossil fuels affordable.

        He joins a growing number of scholars who suggest the world has reached “peak growth” within the current hydrocarbon-based system. Canadian economist and author Jeff Rubin predicts future economic growth will be choked off by the rising price of the marginal barrel of oil. It is not that future oil reserves won’t be found but rather the cost of exploration and production will be too high to justify the investment.

        In response, researchers like myself have argued for reducing the dependence of our economies on exponential growth, by seeking changes in our monetary system. But while our books sell and our courses prove popular, the impact of such analysis on policy-making has been minimal since politicians fixate on growth.

        Which is why Molitor’s treatise is so compelling: fossil fuels consume too much capital, energy and natural resources to serve as the energy foundation of growth. And it is the single-minded clamour for exponential growth by governments, institutional investors and business, that Molitor thinks could just provoke the type of mass disruptive response climate change demands. Put simply, acceptable rates of growth imply a de facto rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

        Such a trajectory would see risk-adjusted investment – the basis on which most investment is made – discriminate against fossil fuel exploitation. The financial markets are already beginning to discount coal given almost a billion euros was wiped off the collective share prices of Europe’s largest electricity generators in just three years. It is a sentiment shared by a growing number of international investors, including the Founders Fund and Trimantium Capital.

        Hastening the passing of fossil fuels on the grounds of safeguarding future growth could open up a new front in the battle to mitigate the most feared impacts of climate change. It would perhaps make unlikely campaigners of politicians in charge of finance and trade ministries. Likewise, domestic backing could lead the way for a trade treaty on carbon taxation, perhaps negotiated at the World Trade Organisation.

        Back in Paris, those inside and outside the summit complex may view such thinking – to put it mildly – as some radical volte-face. But with so much at stake and so little progress, future generations might not be so quick to reject such ideas.


        • “Molitor thinks we should leave fossil fuels be because of their collective inability to continue driving exponential economic growth”

          So, how does he think the growth will happen without consuming more fossil fuels?

          “In response, researchers like myself have argued for reducing the dependence of our economies on exponential growth, by seeking changes in our monetary system.”

          So close, and yet so far. I would love to see a design document for this perpetual motion economy that neither grows nor shrinks, while continuously using less fossil fuels.

          I don’t think it is conflicting logic, it is the researcher and the bureaucrat each nearly seeing the whole picture, but due to cognitive dissonance, both just falling short of accepting the inevitable.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            I bet they spend weekends getting high and listening to Joan Baez.

            Either that or they have been engaged as court jesters to deliver hopium to the people.

            Then again they could be members of the Scientists With Under 80 IQs Demanding Respect (SW80DR)

            Their comments are just so ridiculous that surely they are jesters… has to be…

        • Fast Eddy says:

          totally insane… very much so….

  18. dolphstrikesagain says:

    Regarding the San Bernadino shootings, let me just say that, this is yet another incident that proves that the entire narrative of American life is breaking down.
    Multiculturalism and pluralism doesn’t work without a dominant majority that enforces its power and rules. Moreover, despite the protests of some Americans that they need automatic rifles to carry and point at everyone all the time, having large amounts of destructive weapons available to all will usually result in horrible violence. The two shooters bought their arms legally in California.

    Everything that America does is counterproductive. It simultaneously destroys Arab/Muslim countries abroad, radicalizing Muslims to hate America, and yet allows Arab immigration, and not only that but protects radical mosques under the name of religious freedom. And allows virtually everybody to acquire destructive weapons. In fact, the gun makers love this, more business, violence is good for making dollars.

    Moreover, the previously dominant whites are under siege from every side, and no amount of gun acquisition or voting for clowns like Trump will save them. The very same American empire that they built is now dedicated to their destruction through nonstop, permanent immigration from Latin America, Asia, including the Middle East, and the entire world. And transfer of their savings to welfare blacks, jewish bankers, and the elderly and sick languishing in hospitals. In fact, the bosses really only consider them useful as labor for the corporations, and as cannon fodder for these wars abroad.

    Everybody is now “radicalized” in an infinite spiral that will only get worse and worse. The center cannot hold, and all bets are off.
    1) Mass shootings are now a permanent, recurring feature of American life, as well as the subsequent response of increasing gun sales and heavy police state; seems strange I know, but all of these are happening at the same time; we are safe nowhere, not at home, not at work, at any time we can just be gunned down, by a radical upset at the way things have turned out, or we could get bludgeoned by a police force that sees us as a threat for just going about our business
    2) Military intervention by America in the Middle East, as well as the terrorist response by radical Muslims, is now a permanent, recurring feature of American life, never to end until we are all bankrupt and dead

    Those are now the two outcomes for all of us: bankruptcy and death. Interesting, isn’t it, as the empire self destructs at the end of the age of oil.

  19. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Finite Worlders

    As Health Care spending in the US approaches 20 percent of GDP, there have been several conversations about the subject here. Two items which may be interesting:
    The Concentration of Health Care Spending


    Spending for healthcare services is highly concentrated among a small proportion of people with very high use. Conversely, a significant portion of t he population has very low health care spending.

    And this excerpt from Charles Hugh Smith’s article on ‘blue zones’ where people live to very old ages

    ‘What really struck me in this re-reading was the centrality of purposeful work and a robust social ecosystem in the lives of the productive/active elderly.

    This is in stark contrast to the conventional narrative of our healthcare system, which focus on diet and exercise as the sole inputs that affect longevity.

    This mechanical mindset leads us to conclude that doing time on a treadmill and being hyper-vigilant about sticking to a strict dietary regime are the keys not just to health but to longevity. ‘

    Don Stewart

    • Ed says:

      Don, this includes life long schizophrenic people who the state governments love to use as profit centers by billing the federal government for frequent psychiatric “care” at inflated prices. Each will consume several million dollars per life time. How much value they actually receive is debatable.

    • I don’t think retirement is good for people’s health, unless they have something worthwhile to do with their time. Men particularly seem to have problems with this.

      On a slightly different topic, one study I saw several years ago showed that the life expectancy of unmarried males was far lower than the life expectancy of married males. Part of this was no doubt a selection issue–men who are alcoholics or drug addicts have a hard time staying married, and their life expectance isn’t good either. But I expect that there are other things at work as well.

      • hebertmw says:

        I had an single, unmarried uncle who lived longer than his married brothers. All born and raised in So. Cal before 1938. He never drank nor smoked either. My mother outlived them all by 15+ years and she never drank nor smoked.

  20. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Finite Worlders

    Adding to Ray Archuleta’s demonstrations. See the Russian’s new emphasis on ‘high end organic food’. Snazzy picture of Putin waking through a field.

    Meanwhile, the US kills the Midwest producing corn ethanol.

    Don Stewart

    In the 21st century, Russian food production has improved. Now, Putin is proposing a major focus on the area. “By 2020, Russia must provide itself with all food,” he implored. “We need to cultivate the millions of acres now idle.” The President suggested confiscating unused farmland and its sale to new owners willing to till it.

    An organic dawn

    As the Kremlin has rejected the idea of GMO food production, now a mainstay of American agriculture, Russia could become the world’s principal supplier of high-quality organic food. Meaning there is potential to dominate the “high-end” market in both the West and in other wealthy countries – like China and the Middle Eastern states.

    “We are not only able to feed ourselves taking into account our lands, water resources – Russia is able to become the largest world supplier of healthy, ecologically clean and high-quality food which the Western producers have long lost, especially given the fact that demand for such products in the world market is steadily growing,” said Putin. Of course, a major problem here is insufficient labor. However, with some European and Asian countries creaking economically, it mightn’t be so difficult to attract agriculture workers.

    • “The President suggested confiscating unused farmland and its sale to new owners willing to till it.”

      Sure, why buy things at market price when you can take it by force? Would you be willing to invest the money and years of your life to make an organic farm, that was taken by force from someone else, knowing the government could take it from you at any time, for any reason they make up? Does not sound like a good way to encourage investment to me.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Matthew Krajcik
        There is no social justification for keeping farmland idle. If a rich person is just sitting on farmland, why not take it and give it to someone who will grow food?

        Don Stewart

        • “There is no social justification for keeping farmland idle. If a rich person is just sitting on farmland, why not take it and give it to someone who will grow food?”

          Does this only apply to farm land, or should we just take anything from anyone that they are not making use of? What if we simply deem they are not make the best use of it? Confiscating things from people is a very slippery slope.

          If using the land to produce food is worthwhile, someone will offer money to buy or sharecrop the land. There are probably not many wealthy people who become or stay wealthy by turning down business.

          Not using the farmland increases its value, since it will likely accumulate more organic matter and become better and better. This is unlike a car or house that loses value by just sitting and decaying.

          • Don Stewart says:

            I don’t intend to engage in long debates on this subject. If the few words following don’t convince you, I quit.

            Some very rich people living in big houses not too far from me have some land which houses their horses, classified as ‘agricultural land’ and thus subjected to a very low level of taxation. What it really is, is suburban land which is being given a tax shelter because the rich people are influential.

            Now, suppose that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting ‘reforms’ initiated by American influence resulted in the creation of some very rich oligarchs, who gained control of lots of land. The land mostly sitting idle, and probably taxed at a low rate. Putin and his government come along and decree that, if the land is not used, it will be seized and given to military veterans and others who want to farm it.

            One can have a religious attachment to ‘private property’ and claim that for the government to take the land and give it to someone else is immoral. (That accusation could have been used against General MacArthur in Japan following WWII.) Or one can take the simple position that land which is not being used can be taken and given to someone who will make productive use of it.

            It is not generally true that land becomes more productive when it lies fallow. If you read The Revolutions That Made the Earth by Lenton and Watson, you will learn that the microbes created the Earth we know from a very low productivity system. Productivity has increased many fold as a result of the microbes assuming control. Human CAN increase the productivity by delicately managing natural processes. Particularly in terms of humans, a lightly farmed area is far more productive than an unmanaged forest. Most people, dropped into a forest, will starve. Dropped into agricultural land, many more will survive. Because pine needles aren’t really edible while carrots and potatoes are edible.

            Don Stewart

            • “Some very rich people living in big houses not too far from me have some land which houses their horses, classified as ‘agricultural land’ and thus subjected to a very low level of taxation. What it really is, is suburban land which is being given a tax shelter because the rich people are influential.”

              So, now you have moved the bar from wealthy people having unused land, to wealthy people having land that is being used for a purpose other than producing food. Now we are getting close to “the government should confiscate and redistribute all land that is not high density housing or food producing farmland”.

              ” The land mostly sitting idle, and probably taxed at a low rate. Putin and his government come along and decree that, if the land is not used, it will be seized and given to military veterans and others who want to farm it.”

              If the land is not being used for agriculture, it should not have tax deductions. If only 25% of the land is being farmed, the other 75% should not have a tax break applied to it. I am in favour of objective rules, not arbitrary actions based on whims.

              “It is not generally true that land becomes more productive when it lies fallow. ”
              “Human CAN increase the productivity by delicately managing natural processes. ”

              Would you say that humans generally improve or deplete the soil? It seems to me that humans improving the soil is an exception, not the general state of things.

            • Don Stewart says:

              You either watch the video or you don’t. Your choice.
              Signing off…Don Stewart

            • louploup2 says:

              Good post. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend to you Montgomery and Biklé’s book, “The Hidden Half of Nature.” Just out.

        • I think that there can be disagreement as to what land is suitable for farmland. There can be a temptation to farm hilly land and land that otherwise is poorly suited for farming, especially if crop prices are high. We need a lot of forested land, and a fair amount of land in prairie wouldn’t hurt either. Our bees need wild flowers, for example.

          • Don Stewart says:

            Your responses lead me to believe that you did not look at the video (I know you are busy and don’t like to look at videos). The point is that cutting edge farming is now at the point where industrial inputs and tillage are both either non-existent or minimal. Which is not the same thing as the ‘organic’ label. ‘Organic’ is good in that it means you are not being subjected to noxious chemicals, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the farming is ‘sustainable’, much less ‘regenerative’.

            As to the slope issue. Elaine Ingham is a champion of the ‘permanent short ground cover’ under the cash crop. Her position is very similar to that of Masonobu Fukuoka and his white clover ground cover way back in the 1960s. IF a permanent ground cover is in place, then the threat of erosion is much reduced. If you can spare the 30 minutes to watch the demonstrations in the video, I think you will begin to grasp the principles involved in no-till and no-herbicides and the absence of a need for industrial inputs.

            There are still issues. For example, the idea of vast expanses being farmed by robots is probably not workable. We need a lot more small farmers. And that means a repopulation of the countryside. IF fossil fuel transportation is increasingly unavailable, there is another impetus toward both gardening in the suburbs and also a redistribution of population away from dense cities. But the science needed to produce lots of food ON THE FARM and IN THE GARDEN is now pretty mature. It is also true that the transition from worn out land to biological gardening and farming is greatly benefitted by industrial inputs. For example, a key shortage in most land now is fungi. Humic acid is a good fungal food, and a typical way to regrow the fungi is to use industrially supplied humic acid to encourage the multiplication of the existing fungi. In other words, we need some one time help. Therefore, it is good to get started right now.

            Don Stewart

      • Ed says:

        This is way we have property tax on land to force the idle rich to keep it productive. To stop them from holding large tracts of idle land like the nobles of England. Of course the idle rich have since found tricks to avoid the tax but it was the right idea.

        So do not steal their land tax their land. Those the difference is subtle.

        • “So do not steal their land tax their land. Those the difference is subtle.”

          There is some interesting ideas from the, what you might call Green Libertarians. Since the land is not made by man, man cannot truly own it as capital. So, instead of property taxes, you have a fee in exchange for having exclusive usage of the land.

          As long as the property taxes or exclusive usage fees are applied equally to everyone, it seems fair to me. Using it to punish or influence specific individuals seems like a very unjust idea to me.

      • Look up my other post on this “landrush russia” subtopic post.
        But directly to your point, it’s indeed a high risk adventure, the sheer landmass and demographics makes any (near future) confiscation very unlikely, if you settle there as valuable teamplayer for the new homeland/motherland. The “cleaning” process Russia underwent in recent decades means they are determined to build on strong national interest, if you might go against it for some yet unknown reason, you will be buldozed over. That’s simply the deal, take it or leave it. Given what’s happening over the western world now, unemployment and zero prospects for the young, instability, negative credibility of the political class, perhaps we might be surprised as Russia starts successfull “agri-imigration scheme” over next few years..

    • Landrush Russia, has been on the minds of many.

      In case we avoid full scale nuclear war, relocating to Russia might be a good long term option for some adventure oriented people. It’s not the first time in history, many skilled west europeans made great careers moving to Russia through past centuries. You have to agree with couple of important points though. It always has been and to some degree will continue the heading for decades and centuries along the lines of Byzantine Empire v2.0 with all its pecularities.

      Most importantely, choose the highest challenge for starters, i.e. those still very backward but near pristine siberian regions at certain “bridge” distance from main arteries of railways and grid infrustructure, mines etc, but on the other hand not total wilderness, this is not US/Canada. Accept the fact it has to be one way ticket, and that only your kids and grandkids might one day join the local nobility as true Russians. I doubt you would be able to buy land/lease rightaway, perhaps you will need to secure a local bride first to establish yourself.

      • Ed says:

        Isn’t Russia short on sun and warmth? Yes, they have land and water but a very short growing season. If we are talking energy driven greenhouses they might do fine, if they have the energy.

        • Don Stewart says:

          Dmitry Orlov is currently writing about the prospects for survival in a much warmer planet with oceans 30 meters higher than they are today. He describes what you need to do to survive on a northward flowing river in what is now the boreal forest.

          My guess is:
          *Not the healthiest diet in the world. More like eskimo who tended not to live to an old age.
          *Things could go wrong. Rye which grows easily in Poland or Russia might not grow well in the far north for lots of reasons. Maybe the microbes don’t adjust, etc. Anything that needs pollinators might be threatened.
          *Probably a quite dispersed population during the growing season. Perhaps coming together for the long winters.
          *Mosquitoes could be pretty awful and disease bearing.

          Don Stewart

        • I’m not talking about greenhouses, there are integrated agri systems suitable for shorter growing season of their diverse climates (many many options out there it’s not single region question) as well. As Don writes bellow, and for me the mosquitoes would be a huge negative factor, as population gets into formerly “wild” regions, the spread of diseases might become a serious problem. Also one can expect Putin and boys would want to for starters channel these new farmers only into specific regions, most likely very near the transport infrustucture and major cities, likely it would be hard to pick up a place withouth old enivron damage and at some distance quite enough.. so it would be beyond silly to relocate to Russia and farm there in visible distance from major megacities..

      • Fast Eddy says:

        I visited Russia a few years ago — and was surprised to find that when applying for a visa we had to pay for all hotels in advance and get letters from the hotels confirming payment

        It was my understanding that you had to stick to your itinerary … if you were to say book and pay for a cheap guest house to skirt the rules … and not actually stay there …. you would run into some problems on the way out…

        Based on that … I don’t think Russia would be a good option for relocation …. unless you are Edward Snowden….

        • It depends, it’s not impossible to imagine NAmerica to be devasted by never ending cycle of civil war throughout large part of this century, then one needs big pot of luck to pick up calm spot on the winning or left alone side. Other int locations like NZ, parts of northern Patagonia, Alps etc. are already full(and or beyond expensive), perhaps Baltic states, but that’s again spot with elevated risk of wider war coming after you. Please lets not pretend there are available any good choices..

    • Well, I don´t have much confidence in Putin and his interest in organic (mind you I am an organic farmer and a great fan of the Russian people). His statement has to be seen in the context of the European sanction against Russia which have spurred renewed interest in Russian self-sufficiency in food. Russia has a huge agriculture potential, but it has had a lot of badly managed land.

      I read some if the discussion below, and I am amazed how Americans of all people can take land ownership as such a serious thing. after all you took it with force (stole) from the people who lived there before…..And I say this as a land owner myself. I am not sure that private ownership of land is such a brilliant idea in the first place, and in any case it is just a negotiated social arrangement that can and should be changed when it doesn´t deliver benefits.

  21. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    Here is the link to a wonderful demonstration by Ray Archuleta, from the USDA.

    The video lasts less than 30 minutes. You need to see this demonstration IF you believe any of the following statements:
    *We really need fossil fuels because we need to plow with tractors
    *Modern tillage agriculture has greatly increased crop yields
    *The soil is a strictly Darwinian, winner take all system
    *Farming and gardening are low skill occupations suitable for uneducated peasants
    *Chemical companies are the key to feeding the world

    Don Stewart

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Chemical companies are the key to feeding the world

      forgot one word …. cheaply…

      Chemical companies are the key to feeding the world cheaply…. because people will take a lot of shit… but if they cannot put food on the table…. they tend to march on the castle with pitchforks and fire…

      • Don Stewart says:

        Fast Eddy
        Chemicals destroy the microbes that work really cheaply on solar energy. Only insane accounting makes the chemicals seem cheap.
        Don Stewart
        PS Doesn’t mean we should NEVER use a chemical. There are exceptions to the rule.

  22. MG says:

    The consumption of meat is alarmingly low:


    This article in Slovak says that the consumption of meat in Slovakia goes steadily down and in 2014 went under 50 kg (to 47 kg), which is about 10 kg less than the value recommended by the specialists.

    Between 1990 and now, the consumption of meat in Slovaka went down by 30 kg. Also less red meat and more poultry is consumed.

    The decline of red meat in America:


    • DJ says:

      What kind of lunatic specialists do you have in slovakia? Here the recommended amount seems to be 0 kg. But I suspect falling consumption has more to do with rising prices than health or environment.

    • I’d be a little bit sceptical about that claim ~60kg red meat yearly consumption healthy diet.
      That’s probably some ideal scientific notion, which was historically valid only in limited time and space (near peak of industrial revolution or prior peaks). Simply, this whole rather stupid version of human domestication project by definition means that at any given time only few can achieve to good life status, be it Roman Empire vs. outskirts&colonies, or todays “core european master race” vs. their inner CEE colonies of enlarged yet still divided “union”. The same holds for the increasingly prevalent junk food epidemics in the US as the upper classes can have as much organic food on the table as they fancy. Although some people want to strike some middle ground, i.e. continue living inside technoutopia society and producing + eating orgranics at the same time, which can’t and won’t work or scale up for the whole system. The only realistic scenario is to scale down on all fronts, population, energy consumption, infrustrcture complexity, .. perhaps impossible to perform such task on voluntary basis..

      • “Although some people want to strike some middle ground, i.e. continue living inside technoutopia society and producing + eating orgranics at the same time, which can’t and won’t work or scale up for the whole system. The only realistic scenario is to scale down on all fronts, population, energy consumption, infrustrcture complexity, .. perhaps impossible to perform such task on voluntary basis..”

        Why can’t everyone eat organically? Let’s say the average household spends 10% of their income on food. If this goes up to 30% to eat organically, it simply means less will be spent elsewhere. The largest area for rebalancing is housing, which often costs 40 to 60% of people’s income. Smaller houses bought with shorter / less debt or no debt at all.

        Keep in mind that there are large, industrial organic farms. Organic is not the same as Permaculture.

        • Ed says:

          Matthew, small houses is an excellent idea. The problem I am having in trying to move from my medium house into a small house is there are no small houses. The existing housing stock is medium to super large.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          ‘Why can’t everyone eat organically? Let’s say the average household spends 10% of their income on food. If this goes up to 30% to eat organically, it simply means less will be spent elsewhere.’

          The economy either grows — or it collapses…

          If people eat organically produced food already high prices would skyrocket — and people would buy far less stuff…

          Smaller houses are not helpful …. they require less copper, less wood, less furniture, less carpet, less lighting, etc….

          That would put additional pressure on already collapsed commodity prices…

          Keep in mind huge numbers of people in America cannot even afford to buy McDonalds any longer…

          • Ed says:

            No economizing works without lowering the number of people.
            Yes, yes, I know about the collapse of the financial system/BAU. But still I hope the day comes when the number of humans is regulated by something better than the four horse-persons. My favorite number is 100 million but 500 million would be a great start. Yes, yes, I know this will not happen before the bottle neck. Maybe after the bottle neck.

          • Ed says:

            The federal government standards for the poor are 1/3 for food, 1/3 for rent and 1/3 for everything else. The poor are already at 33% and that is eating lots of carbs; potatoes, corn syrup, rice, soy, and wheat.

            Applying this formula to the folks of silicon valley where rents are $30,000 per year, this allows them $30,000 per couple of two for food. They can eat organic.

          • Stilgar Wilcox says:

            We eat mostly organic produce. It’s a little more than regular produce which has by the way been tested to contain up to 11 different pesticides. People may not see it but it’s there and it’s toxic to the body.

            There is a thing called the ‘dirty dozen’, which are 12 fruits and vegetales that readily soak up pesticides, like apples, berries, lettuce etc. I don’t have the whole list but all you need to do is look at what kind of protective surface it has and whether you’re going to eat it. For example bananas and avocado’s have a thick skin that gets easily removed – they’re not in the dirty dozen. But we usually eat the skin of the apple which has been sprayed numerous times. I eat organic Fugi apples every day. Apple skin has something good for muscle tone not found in any other fruit or vegetable.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Dirty Dozen
              Sweet bell peppers
              Nectarines (imported)
              Cherry tomatoes
              Snap peas (imported)

              And, on the other end of things, here are the “clean 15″ — the ones that, even when not organic, the group says host the fewest chemicals:

              Sweet potatoes
              Sweet peas – frozen
              Sweet corn


            • Fast Eddy says:

              The thing is…

              We won’t be worried much about this issue when there are 7.5B starving people willing to eat rats and dogs…

              At that point you could lose your life fighting over a Round Up drenched tomato….

              Given the end is near — pesticides are right down there on my list of concerns along with global warming… the main reason to grow without them is because it’s good practice for what’s coming…

          • “The economy either grows — or it collapses…”

            Yes, and think how much the economy can grow if the unemployed are put to work on organic farms, and in turn spend 30 percent of their income buying the products from the farms.

            People changing what they spend their money on, does not grow or shrink the economy. It only matters if in aggregate they spend more or less, if they consume more or less energy.

            I didn’t say smaller houses, I said spending less on houses. Whether this is because the houses become lower quality, or 3D-Printed, or simply due to higher interest rates or lower real estate prices, I simply mean that instead of spending 60% of income on housing and 10% on food, people could spend 40% on housing and 30% on food and still be at 70% of income spent.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Unless you pay the people working on organic farms say $15 or more per hour — this will not grow the economy… low paid jobs are part of the problem we are facing (why not just give them money to dig wholes and fill them in)

              If you pay them $15 per hour most people will not be able to afford to buy the food they produce.

              Organic farming is hugely labour intensive — it is a hugely expensive proposition.

              Industrially farming by comparison produces far cheaper food — mainly because a single farmer can manage very large acreage by using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

              All you need to is go to a normal grocery store then skip over to Whole Foods to understand the problem with organic farming.

              There is a reason why governments do not encourage organic farming — there is a reason why Monsanto and the like exist — without industrial farming Malthus would have been right long ago.

              7.5B people need to eat — and they need to eat cheaply.

              Putting them to work on organic farms does not solve that problem — and it does not grow the economy. What it would do is hasten the collapse

            • “If you pay them $15 per hour most people will not be able to afford to buy the food they produce.”

              Why, will it cost more than $120 per day to eat organically? I’m talking about re-portioning how much income is spent on food versus housing. Obviously you cannot still spend 60% of your income on housing if you are spending 30% on food.

              “Unless you pay the people working on organic farms say $15 or more per hour — this will not grow the economy… low paid jobs are part of the problem we are facing”

              You think it is better to have unemployment? Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop. Young men need purpose and something to fill their time to keep them out of trouble.

              “Industrially farming by comparison produces far cheaper food — mainly because a single farmer can manage very large acreage by using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.”

              But industrial farming does not extend BAU, or grow the economy, or create massive growth in employment, and cannot continue without oil and natural gas.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Using the logic you have displayed then $150 per barrel oil would be outstanding for the economy.

              It would mean people spend more to fill up their cars — that they pay more for all goods and services they purchase. And that is good for GDP numbers!

              Recall how the ‘Arab Spring’ kicked off when food prices increased due to $147 oil… in the spirit of Marie Antointette I say ‘let the bastards eat organic oatmeal from Whole Foods’

              While we are at it we might as well go around smashing windows – why stop there… let’s burn down buildings — all that would be great for GDP numbers too!

              Gail – you have it all wrong. High prices are what drive the economy. They bump up GDP. They create jobs and prosperity.

            • The current system IS all about making the GDP number higher at any cost; that is how growth and success are measured.

              The Arab Spring was not triggered by slightly higher food prices, it was drastic increases due to drought, post peak oil exports, and probably more than a little nudge from the CIA.

              Which is better, to have food cost $3 per day and have an income of $0 per day, or have food cost $10 per day and have an income of $100 per day?

            • Fast Eddy says:

              From the start, food has played a bigger role in the upheavals than most people realise.

              Now, the Arab spring is making food problems worse.

              They start with a peculiarity of the region: the Middle East and north Africa depend more on imported food than anywhere else. Most Arab countries buy half of what they eat from abroad and between 2007 and 2010, cereal imports to the region rose 13%, to 66m tonnes. Because they import so much, Arab countries suck in food inflation when world prices rise. In 2007-08, they spiked, with some staple crops doubling in price. In Egypt local food prices rose 37% in 2008-10.
              In this section

              Unsurprisingly, the spike triggered a wave of bread riots. Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco saw demonstrations about food in 2008. They all suffered political uprisings three years later. The Arab spring was obviously about much more than food. But it played a role. “The food-price spike was the final nail in the coffin for regimes that were failing to deliver on their side of the social contract,” says Jane Harrigan of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.


              I think someone was saying earlier that humans will endure a lot — but if they can’t put food on the table they will grab the pitchforks and fire and head for the castle….

              These nations were already on the brink…. the spike in food prices because of the pop in oil prices to $147 pushed them over the edge….

              As the saying goes ‘never let a crisis go to waste’….

              I see you have another solution — just pay people $100 per day and they can then afford to eat organic food…. I suppose they could also afford to pay for oil at $120… or $147…

              Those Elders are so stupid — all this QE and ZIRP and other madness… when the solution was at their fingertips all the time…. if people cannot afford to buy stuff… just print money and hire billions at $100 per day!

              I nominate you for the Nobel prize for economics for 2015.

              You have invented a perpetual economic motion machine!!!


            • Clearly, they cannot farm without water. The Arabs will have to mass migrate elsewhere, or die trying. Unless we simply send them free food forever to keep them from swarming us.

        • These organic farms are not particularly sustainable. They rely on tractors, irrigation, Organic fertilizers and pesticides (not none at all). They are often in areas where it is very dry, so there are fewer insect problems, but a definite need for irrigation and long-distance transport.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            I doubt that any commercial scale organic farms are irrigating without the use of pumps and electricity.

            In terms of hobby farms such as ours in NZ… I would be surprised if even 5% would be irrigated without an electric pump being involved.

            When the grid goes — the vast majority of organic farms will produce very little.

            Growing plants without water is another one of those problems that the Elon Musk’s and Steve Jobs of the world have yet to find a fix for….

            Many people just assume it will be an easy matter to just flip a switch and convert the world to a big organic farm.

            It is not only not simple — it is impossible.

            Most of the soil is no longer suitable for growing crops organically — and what soil there is that has not been ruined by chemical farming needs to be irrigated using electric pumps.

            All those millions upon millions of acres where grain crops and rice grow — they will produce nothing once the chemicals are no longer available.

            All those little organic patches dotted around the countryside — most of them will produce nothing when the taps fail to deliver water.

            • louploup2 says:

              “Most of the soil is no longer suitable for growing crops organically — and what soil there is that has not been ruined by chemical farming needs to be irrigated using electric pumps.”

              Industrial ag land can be brought back to healthy production; it’s ruination is not permanent. A few years work will make it happen. And there are many places that will be able to continue to irrigate with gravity. A much higher percent of people doing ag work, that’s for sure.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              It can.

              But what do people eat during those years?

            • louploup2 says:

              I’m not going to argue with you. I’m just pointing out facts that you have reported inaccurately. Repeatedly. Your knowledge is intense and mostly accurate as far as I can tell, but you have a very rough edge in the diplomacy department.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I have stated perhaps 10,000 times that chemically farmed soil CAN be repaired — in fact two very experienced organic farmers — one a trainer for a Canadian organics institute — told me exactly that.

              If I appear to be lacking in diplomacy it’s because I get tired of having to repeat myself over and over again to drive home points that a 7 year old could be made to understand

              I save my best vitriol for those who make statements about my positions that are absolutely not correct.

              For the 10,002 time…

              “Soil farmed with chemical inputs will support nothing if the inputs are stopped. It can be repaired with years of intensive organic inputs. Almost all arable land on the planet is farmed with chemical inputs therefore when the oil and gas stop flowing 7.5 B people will have nothing to eat — the human body cannot go years without eating.” Fast Eddy 12/06/2015

              Please print that out and stick it on your fridge.

            • louploup2 says:

              You keep repeating that the “soil is ruined” in various forms. I called you on that claim on a prior thread pointing out that soil can be revived with a few years work and input of organic material (I did the research and spoke with an expert). After dancing around about it you finally agreed, but like this time you try to change the discussion to “what will we eat during the transition” so you can drag your nemesis through your nihilistic mud.

              You are a jerk in the way you deal with people who dare to disagree with anything you write, and I refuse to argue with your certainty of utter doom. If you really want to have your points respected, you will try to be accurate in factual details. Details are important.

              As is diplomacy. You could have let this exchange go after my response to your answer to my correction (which you in fact admitted, “It [soil] can [be brought back to healthy production]).” But your ego is so swollen you can’t; you have to be insulting and condescending. Piss off.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I have never danced around that issue.

              I have for as long as I have been on this site (3+ years now?) stated unequivocally that chemically farmed soil can be repaired with years of organic inputs.

              In fact the first time I posted this was when I had purchased farmland in BC Canada and I was warned by the consultant from an organic training school who I paid to analyze the soil: ‘if there are any traces of chemical fertilizers found in the samples walk away from the purchase because it takes years to repair the damage’

              I’ve posted the similar comments on numerous occasions with respect to advice I have received from a commercial organic grower who has written papers on this topic for the NZ government.

              In spite of that the Koombaya Krowd emerges from their trance dance around the fire (or whatever it is they do in their spare time…. probably getting another nipple piercing or an ass tattoo — Mr Kuntsler — do you like that comment!!!) to fling organic dung at me…

              It does NOT matter if it takes 3 years or 300 years or if chemically farmed soil can never be repaired.

              Because most of the farmland on the planet is farmed in this manner — the problem is there are 7.5 B people who will want to be fed when the grocery stores close…not in 3 months or 3 years or 30 years…. they will demand food immediately.

              Are they going to pick up shovels and form work gangs and start making compost — then wait until the compost is ready and mix it into the dead soil — and continue doing that for as long as it takes so that when they plant a seedling in the soil it actually grows…

              What do they eat while they wait?

              I suppose one option that is entirely plausible is the strong turn on the weak… the young…. the defenseless…

              And into the pot they go… boiled over a fire of IKEA furniture and foam cushions…

              You want to disagree with me fine.

              But do not take words out of my mouth that I have uttered many many times over the past 3 years.

              When you do that you offend me. And you’ve seen what happens when I am done a wrong.

            • Rural says:

              Fast Eddy,

              Your emotional investment in catastrophic collapse is hard to ignore. I’ll take one sentence: “All those little organic patches dotted around the countryside — most of them will produce nothing when the taps fail to deliver water.”

              I’ll give you as much benefit-of-the-doubt as possible and agree that there are scenarios where a particular organic farm would produce nothing if its ability to irrigate was removed. However, the loss of irrigation would have to be sudden, absolute, and badly timed. Moreover, the farm would have to be absolutely dependant on irrigation, to begin with, and making the mistake of depending on that irrigation to produce water demanding crops. However, if any of those isn’t absolutely true, that farm will produce a crop. Moreover, there are many farms, organic or not, that aren’t completely dependent on irrigation. Those farms will continue to produce, less for sure, but still produce. If an organic and irrigation-dependant farm was notified before planting that there would be no water for irrigation, they could plant a crop appropriate for that situation.

              But there are a great many organic farms that are only partially dependant on irrigation.

              On my own farm, with very little effort and virtually no irrigation, I can produce more than my family is willing to eat. (Keep in mind that my family doesn’t really like anything that I produce.) The only “irrigation” I do is to start transplants, and possibly to support new transplants if it is dry when they are put out. If we are hit with drought in mid-summer, I might water the fruit trees to get them through, and perhaps bucket some water from the dugout to the pickles and squash, but that’s it, and I haven’t done it often. On the livestock side, I have to make sure my sheep have water and have done that via a modest solar pumping system or buckets. But I needn’t have done either as I could have just given the flock access to the ponds.

              My point is that “most of them will produce nothing” is false. Most organic farms will produce slightly less than they otherwise would, some significantly less, and a few will produce drastically less. And the loss of irrigation is not going to happen over-night everywhere at once. It will be a slow process happening over decades.

              To be honest, I’m now finding the idea of a fast collapse to be pretty far-fetched. All the dire talk about a collapse of the financial system doesn’t hold water with me any more. The financial system could, probably will, take a nice hit in the near future, losing a great deal of confidence, as it should, and causing a lot of pain, but it won’t bring the world down. About the only plausible scenario for a fast collapse is the aftermath from a world war, and that doesn’t seem all that likely.

              A grinding 100+ year slow decline, on the other hand… That I find likely, especially if we don’t change our direction in a hurry.

            • “And the loss of irrigation is not going to happen over-night everywhere at once. It will be a slow process happening over decades.”

              You expect the electric grid to take decades to stop running? Seems optimistic.

              On the other hand, irrigation is not so important. Through most of history and continuing in less developed areas of the world today, people have had to manually haul water. Imagine, four hours a day for the rest of your life spent carrying buckets of water. Better than starvation, worse than having pumps.

            • Rural says:

              I am actually pretty confident about the electrical grid. Distributed power production could spell its end, but I suspect it will be with us for a long time. (Keep in mind that I spent the afternoon working on multi-KW (ie. household-sized) solar PV system.)

            • Where do you expect replacement batteries to come from? Inverters? New devices to use with the electricity you have?

            • Fast Eddy says:

              We either grow or we collapse… the electric grid will either be running completely — or it will collapse — totally. There are no half-measures — there is not BAU lite.

              When the financial system collapses — the electricity stops — on a dime — the oil stumps pumping — on a dime.

              Some organic farms may not need constant irrigation — but most need a fair bit.

              Hands up anyone who has a back yard garden that did not turn the water tap on last summer to keep the plants alive.

              I lived in Bali – one of the most fertile places on earth — much of the island is rain forest… we have had loads of rain where we lived — yet for 2 months of the year we had to heavily irrigate the garden. We had a pump — if we had to walk down the hill to the river to with buckets I suspect the nett energy that came out of that garden would barely offset the effort required to irrigate it.

              This is all moot. It’s like trying to satisfy the thirst of the world with a thimble full of water.

              We have 7.5 Billion people on the planet — they will all be hungry when BAU goes down.

              During the Irish Potato Famine — food theft was rampant — there is a passage from a book explaining what happened below… people stole whatever they could …. ate frogs, snails, grass…. crime rates soared….


              It is important to note that during that period all farming was organic — so there was still a fair bit of productive land available…

              That is not the case today:

              In North America, almost 2.2 million hectares are managed organically, representing approximately a 0.6 percent share of the total agricultural area. There are is 12,064 organic farms. The major part of the organic land is in the US (1.6 million hectares in 2005).


              Of course there also some plots that are not certified — let’s be generous and say 2% of all ag land is farmed without full on chemicals …

              I find it quite amusing how when I ask old timers who grow their own food how they deal with certain problems such as twitch — ‘oh — that’s a nasty one — for that one you should use Round Up — sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do’ I wonder how much food they’d actually produce if they did not resort to chemicals from time to time…

              So you’ve got 2% of all ag land available to produce food post BAU in America. You have 300 million+ people…

              You have a very big problem.

              You are smugly out in the country with your 1 acre garden thinking no problemo … I can get enough food off of here to feed my family…

              How far are you from the nearest major metro area? Most vehicles can get 700km on a tank of gas….

              Do ALL of your neighbours have 1 acre gardens? How many don’t? Will those that do be able to feed those that don’t?

              Most of my neighbours grow some food — a few are self-sufficient. But there would be thousands in the town 8km down the road who grow nothing.

              I am looking out over the valley and can see massive orchards and vineyards — they will produce nothing when the chemicals stop. And even if they did produce — the fruit arrives during a short window — just as most vegetables in an organic garden do….

              It is absurd to think that you will be left alone to enjoy your Little House on the Prairie…. that is not what happened in Ireland.

              People will initially show up at your door hungry — with starving children in tow —- they will beg food from you ….. You might even share…

              Ever been to a poor slum — say in India — every feel sorry for the child beggars who ask you for money? Every try giving them a few coins? You give to one and dozens flock to you urgently asking for some coins too….

              There is nowhere near enough to go around — it is a bottomless pit when you have 300 million people and a thimble full of water to go around…

              So you close the gate on the hordes — grimly walking back to your Little House…. do the hordes walk away and find somewhere to curl up and die?

              Of course not — they did not in Ireland — they sneak over the fence at night and rip every bit of food from the ground and ravenously cram it down their throats — they pull unripe fruit from the trees and eat it —- they kill your animals and eat them too….

              Inevitably some will resort to violence and come into your larder and steal what you have there … plenty of guns in America — plenty of violent people — desperate people do desperate things…

              So what will you do?

              Ah – you have a gun — and a couple of hundred rounds of ammo.

              Will you start shooting the women and children?

              If they come over at night by the dozens — how will you see them — will you be able to shoot all of them? Even if you do they will keep coming — night after night — your ammo will run out…

              Then what?

              Funny how when you really think these things through — how utterly futile the situation becomes…

              Yes – it is better than doing nothing — but really prepping is just hopium-lite…. better than doing nothing I suppose — but the odds of it seeing you through to the other side are very very slim…

              Regardless of how ready you think you are….

            • Rural says:

              Sure Eddy, whatever you say. It’s all going to collapse in an instant with no warning. Even if adaptation were possible, people won’t bother, and will just let themselves die. Got it.

              I don’t find the situation futile at all. Quite the opposite, actually.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Collapses never happen suddenly … usually what happens is we get gentle downwards slopes… then gentle upwards slopes…

              Kinda like waves on a lake lapping against the shore then back out again …

              See — check it out — look at some of the bigger collapses of the past 100 years….

              Ooops…. as Borat would say ‘ Naaaaht!!!’



              You might note that these collapses were always met with a barrage of stimulus — spending… lower interest rates… taking on debt…. which forced the line back upwards….

              The thing is….

              When this collapse comes — it will be like all others — one day all will feel normal (or ‘new normal’) … there will not be a hint of what is coming that day…

              Then suddenly the market will snap — impossible to know why…. it will just snap….

              And the sheeple will be in a panic — they will be bleating ‘baaaaaaah baaaaahhhh — who’s fault is this!!! — baaaaah baaaah I’ve lost half my pension overnight …. baaaaah baaahhh… you evil bankers …. you evil politicians baaaahhhh bahhhhhh’

              The collapse will be fast. Not in a month. Not in a year. Not in decade. Market collapses ALWAYS happen in a very short period of time – when the market drops and triggers sell programs because we are in the age of super computers… the collapse happens in less than it the time it takes to blink…

              You can be looking at Bloomberg on the teevee — go to the kitchen for a drink of water — and when you return the market can be collapsing.

              But …. This Time is Different.

              Because when this market busts I guarantee you — the central banks will have thrown everything in the arsenal at it…. they will do ‘whatever it takes’ to try to keep the next crash from happening… they are doing ‘whatever it takes’ right now — they have said so many times….

              But at some point whatever it takes will not be enough….

              The market will collapse — it will explode — it will be torn to shreds…

              Because never in the history of modern finance have the central banks done what they are doing —- printing trillions – bidding up a failing market with plunge protection teams — loaning trillions to bums — propping up the stock market— the auto market — the bond market — the stock market….

              This is like revisiting 1929 and the central banks saying ‘nope – we won’t have this — we absolutely will not allow the market to collapse —- so we will print money and drive the market higher — we don’t care if corporate profits are crashing — the market goes higher — don’t fight the Fed’

              Does anyone think that would have ended well?

              Does anyone think that the central banks could have stopped the Depression by doing that?

              Of course not. All that would have done would have made the Depression 1000x worse.

              Well… that is what they have done this time….. so when the collapse does come there will be nothing that can be done about it — the central banks will be as powerless as castrated donkeys…. and the exploding economy will be like nothing you have ever seen… not even Hollywood could envision something like this…

              And when the punters recognize that there is not way to push the line on the graph upwards this time — there will be pandemonium — it will be as if the Titanic were going down — and there was only one life boat…. and the lifeboat will be found to be riddled with holes from a termite infestation…

              Global trade will stop.

              ATMS will not dispense cash.

              Every company on the planet — even Apple — will cease trading and collapse. The electricity will stop. The shops will empty. The riots will start. No doubt martial law will be declared — but that will be an exercise in futility.

              Then the starving and the disease and the dying will begin.

              At some point the 4000 spent fuel ponds scattered around the planet will stop functioning … the water will boil off… the fuel will explode — and massive doses of radiation will be released… and continue to be released for decades.

              That is how I see this playing out.

            • Ed says:

              Rural, on the grid we have through our town two sets of 115KV lines that were installed in the 1930s. They are working fine. I have never seen maintenance activity on them. They do trim trees at the edges.

            • Jack E O says:

              “Even if adaptation were possible, people won’t bother, and will just let themselves die. Got it.”

              This adaptation thing is more imaginary fiction. The fictional narrative is this “we will adapt have we not always”? The so called adaptation has invariably involved squandering non renewable resources.

              Things that are hard to adapt to.

              Having a sharp stick shoved into your spleen.
              No oxygen.
              The end of fossil fuel when 7 billion people depend on it to live.

              I think your gardening is great. More power to you but it aint going to be little house on the prairie when the tap gets shut off.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Sometimes conditions are just so adverse….. that we are unable to adapt….


          • Christopher says:

            Yes, this is mostly overlooked. Many people think they are saints by buying organic food. It’s less chemicals. In that way it is good. But I fear that if every farmer converted to organic production we would get massive problems with spreading of diseases. The conventional farmers keep the diseases down using their chemicals. It’s comparable to vaccination programs. It’s not a problem if say 10% of the population doesn’t get the vaccination. The 90% having the vaccination will prevent any outbreak of an epedemy. Organic farming is having a free ride.

            One advantage of living in a colder climate is that many pathogens actually die off during winter.

            • MJ says:

              Christopher, Fast Eddy just pointed out that the soil has been made lifeless from the use of petrochemical fertilizers and insecticides. Organic farmer, Eliot Coleman, has repeatedly stated that a healthy plant resists pests and diseases. He has demonstrated that the key to a healthy plant is the soil, rich in organic matter and minerals and alive with
              Fast Eddy pointed out soil in the conventional farms and orchards on his NZ island function is basicly lifeless and purpose is to anchor and hold the trees/plants in place.
              That is the reason for the need of artificial fertilizers and insecticides, along with GMO seeds. Free ride? The one advantage of this operation is monoculture and automation is possible with economics of scale = cheap food.

            • “I don´t think that automation is much stimulated by changes in energy prices though, or falling profits. If that were the case African farmers would mechanize the most in the world as they have no profit whatsover. ”

              Perhaps monoculture is not the ideal system. Polyculture seems to keep down disease quite well.

    • ktos says:

      In Poland meat consumption level is quite stable: http://img.interia.pl/biznes/nimg/m/i/drob1aa_rosnacy_eksport_6586975.jpg

    • Why would eating less red and more white meat be alarming? That sounds like a good thing for nearly everyone, in nearly every conceivable way.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        It’s kinda like how McDonalds is collapsing…

        It would be a positive because McDonalds is not healthy food…. but it is a canary in the coal mine… people cannot even afford to eat fast food any longer…

        Of course they are taking their meager food budgets and buying pink slime flavoured 241 frozen pizza instead… so no silver lining

        • MJ says:

          I don’t patronize fast food joints, but last time Iook, the meals ain’t cheap. They, of course, have responded with “loss leaders” that bring the volume through the door, but can’t produce the profit margins.
          Also, Sometimes would order pancakes at McDonalds and noticed s difference.
          They resorted to frozen pancakes heated in a microwave, rather than freshly battered grilled cooked. I noticed it right away and stopped going there after that.

    • I don’t think we “need” red meat. Vegetarians generally live longer than those who eat meat. Japan tends to have the longest-lived population, and they eat a lot of fish, but little meat.

  23. Fast Eddy says:

    #1 On Tuesday, the price of oil closed below 40 dollars a barrel. Back in 2008, the price of oil crashed below 40 dollars a barrel just before the stock market collapsed, and now it has happened again.

    #2 The price of copper has plunged all the way down to $2.04. The last time it was this low was just before the stock market crash of 2008.

    #3 The Business Roundtable’s forecast for business investment in 2016 has dropped to the lowest level that we have seen since the last recession.

    #4 Corporate debt defaults have risen to the highest level that we have seen since the last recession. This is a huge problem because corporate debt in the U.S. has approximately doubled since just before the last financial crisis.

    #5 The Bloomberg U.S. economic surprise index is more negative right now than it was at any point during the last recession.

    #6 Credit card data that was just released shows that holiday sales have gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

    #7 As I mentioned yesterday, U.S. manufacturing is contracting at the fastest pace that we have seen since the last recession.

    #8 The velocity of money in the United States has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded. Not even during the depths of the last recession was it ever this low.

    #9 In 2008, commodity prices crashed just before the stock market did, and late last month the Bloomberg Commodity Index hit a 16 year low.

    #10 In the past, stocks have tended to crash about 12-18 months after a peak in corporate profit margins. At this point, we are 15 months after the most recent peak.

    #11 If you look back at 2008, you will see that junk bonds crashed horribly. Why this is important is because junk bonds started crashing before stocks did, and right now they have dropped to the lowest point that they have been since the last financial crisis.


  24. Fast Eddy says:

    China’s biggest 101 steel companies, which helped fuel the country’s industrial revolution and housing frenzy, lost a combined Rmb72bn ($11bn) in the first 10 months of 2015, or more than double the profits garnered last year.

    The reversal in fortunes highlights the unwinding of rapacious demand for basic materials — in just two years the country produced more cement than the US did in the entire 20th century — as economic

    The resulting brake on demand is sending tremors across the globe, from resource-rich Brazil and Australia through to UK steelmakers.

    Beijing’s efforts to force domestic consolidation have largely failed, leaving a swathe of industries churning out steel, cement and glass at a loss and feeding deflation. It is also piling up fresh debts: Sinosteel, China’s largest state-owned steel trader, defaulted on a bond repayment due in October.

    China’s property sector, the biggest source of steel demand, is still struggling. Chinese home prices and sales volumes recently began rising following more than a year of declines, but construction activity continues to fall as developers wait for the market to digest the overhang of unsold homes.

    More http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/a29e6ce2-9a3e-11e5-bdda-9f13f99fa654.html#axzz3tL0m1XVJ

    • Javier says:

      “… in just two years the country produced more cement than the US did in the entire 20th century”


      • Fast Eddy says:

        And there are those who will claim there is no bubble in China…. that they simply had a lot of catching up to do and they just happened to condense a century into a decade

        At least that is what ‘the smart people’ tell me

        • Javier says:

          Even if that were the case, it doesn’t excuse the construction of ghost cities and railroads to nowhere as well as the compulsive buying up of foreign companies and land in such a short space of time. The bursting of this rancid boil will be painfull indeed.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            The thing is…

            If China would have not built all this stuff… the deflationary death spiral that has started… would have started in 2008 or 09… and collapse would have happened much sooner….

    • I can believe that China has a big overhang of homes that have not yet been sold.

  25. Stilgar Wilcox says:

    This post is for Javier who keeps claiming there’s been a global warming hiatus. Not according to the following article:


    Global Warming Never Stopped

    With this new analysis, study co-author Huai-Min Zhang told the Smithsonian that “[t]he notion of a warming hiatus in the most recent decades, as defined by the [IPCC report], is no longer valid. The global warming rate has been just as fast over the last 15 years as over the previous 50 years.”

    • Fast Eddy says:

      I’m doing my part — two long haul flights to get to Europe in mid-December

      Burn fossil fuels in increasing amounts — or collapse…

      Burn baby burn!!!

      • MJ says:

        Fast, just wondering, how is the homestead shaping up? Can you post so focused topic pictures? In you estimation, what percentage of food stuffs will you actually be able to provide yourself and family with in the years ahead?
        You mentioned it is much harder than you thought, what the weeds or adaptation to more physical type of activity?
        From what I’ve seen most people depend on so called interns to help with their operations.
        It’s a cover for free labor…

        • “From what I’ve seen most people depend on so called interns to help with their operations.
          It’s a cover for free labor…”

          If you farm organically, you can take advantage of World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farming – WWOOFing. That’s where people, usually young adults in their 20s, come and live on the farm in exchange for doing work, as a learning opportunity.


          That’s really the two keys to successfully farming without petrochemicals – sell your high priced produce to fancy expensive restaurants, and take advantage of free labour.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            ‘That’s really the two keys to successfully farming without petrochemicals – sell your high priced produce to fancy expensive restaurants, and take advantage of free labour.’

            🙂 🙂 🙂

            The WOOF thing is huge here in NZ — quite often organic farmers will save the brutal tasks for the Woofers …

            Just say the word organic and it is amazing how people will run to you willing to sign up as slaves!

            I understand that if you put a boom box out in the paddock where the Woofers are working and loop Joan Baez Greatest Hits all day long … you will get 40% more effort out of them.

            I have heard that some Woof hosts have rock star status… young women/groupies sign up to work on their farms…. how cool is that!

          • “Take advantage of free labor” is not something that can continue, unless we move to a system of slavery. People need to have a way to pay for their basic needs, like clothing. Admittedly, there can be apprenticeship programs, but I expect most young people will eventually learn from their parents, if the system is not going to fall apart under its own weight.

            • ““Take advantage of free labor” is not something that can continue, unless we move to a system of slavery.”

              I don’t expect the current system to continue in perpetuity. The opportunities to profitably do organic farming are likely quite temporary, since there is only so much market for gourmet restaurants, just as there is a finite number of people willing to work for free.

              It could, however, help offset the costs of establishing an organic farm in the present, so when the restaurants close and the workers demand payment, it is easier to transition.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          Funny you should ask — the final piece of the puzzle will be completed on Monday — the last bits of a large composting system

          There are minor things remaining but essentially if the world stops tomorrow we are as ready as we could be.

          We did not use any slaves (Woofers) mainly because we wanted things done right the first time — and if we took this on ourselves it would take years to complete and it definitely would not have been to the standard we have achieved…

          The skilled stuff was left to a commercial organic grower with 30 years experience and a mate of his…

          I handled a lot of the grunt work with some help from two Asian kids we sponsor to go to school here. When in Bali we had 3 villagers working full time …. that made things much easier however working in the Bali humidity was very draining…. I can do 5 -6 hours a day here without breaking a sweat… in Bali working after 9am was brutal…

          We’ve managed the weeds by not trying to pull every last one out…. we just try to keep on top of what’s there and get them before they seed…

          Comparing Bali again …. we did not have any really nasty weeds there…. weed management required minimal hours…

          Difficult to determine how many people we can feed off this garden — we had a similar sized garden in Bali and produced enough for about 10-15 people…. but Bali has incredibly fertile soil … and hot humid weather all year round — composting took a few months ….even I could manage to grow a lot there…

          We were never without fresh vegetables year round…

          It is possible to grow brassicas in the winter here — and we do have a large glass house — difficult to say how many people you can feed until you actually are in a situation where the grocery stores are no longer an option …but there is no way we will be able to produce enough food for 10 people year round….

          One would need to be doing a lot of preserving of foods to be self-sufficient year round …. we’ve got loads of jars ready — and will be adding to that stockpile when the preserving season starts and the sales kick off…

          Because we are in a very low density area — and most of our neighbours grow food (they are constantly showing up and giving us their extra seedlings…) — and because there is a lot of wildlife, fish, mussels etc very close to us…. we’d likely be able to soldier on without BAU….

          Water is a huge concern … droughts are frequent … not sure what people will do when the power shuts off and the pumps stop … I know some people have rams…. but a lot rely 100% on the grid….

          However if the hordes were to pour in from the cities that are within a tank of petrol…. we’d never make it….

          Most of the land around here is orchard and grapes… the soil is shit…. and it is farmed using all the latest and greatest soil killing chemicals… as the organic grower handling our project said ‘the only function of that soil is to hold the trees and vines up …. it would grow nothing if the chemicals stopped’

          So all those massive seemingly fertile plains will not feed the hordes…

          The one silver lining re orchards and vineyards is there would be tens of thousands of km of irrigation pipes that could be salvaged from those operations — these could be used to tap into the many streams and creeks that run down the hillsides here — many are spring fed — so that could solve the water problems…

          • MJ says:

            Thank you for the summation and very helpful for those of us in transition. Remarkable how fast you were to set up shop, but you do have a solid background before in preparation and skill set. From by reading of the Hearings, they thought in terms of “plans”
            (Likely influenced from the Soviet Union”) and indicated around 5 years for a sustainable homestead. Of course, having a source of trade business is lacking in your operation, but yo do not seek such or need it.
            Interesting comments on the interns. I believe Eliot Coleman’s “Four Seasons Farm” up in Harborside, Maine depends on them as an intergral strategy to get the work done.
            I know some add Permaculture to their listing and actually charge fees for the opportunity to intern! How neat is that!!!!
            Yes, I agree the hungry nearby hoards will be the deciding factor after the gold rush peters out. How the city folk react or are controlled will determine if you are able to exist for a spell.
            One thing for certain, “It don’t come easy”


            • Fast Eddy says:

              Cash tends to accelerate projects….

              I was able to cash out my pension (MPF) when I left Hong Kong — I dumped that and more into this project….

              I reckon the best investment (even though it is fraught with risks) one can make is vegetables and fruit… and 30,000 litre water tanks with gravity feeds/solar pump/water ram…. shovels, rakes etc…

              Nobody will be collecting a red cent of their pension once collapse is upon us….

              It crossed my mind to team up with the project leader and start a doomsday business… find appropriate properties within a budget then roll out a comprehensive permaculture set-up within 6 months….

              That would actually be an enjoyable venture….

              But then reality hit as it always does when I have an idea these days — why start another business… time is short…. better to enjoy the scenery….

          • jarvis says:

            Thanks FE, Your doomstead reports are one of my favorite topics on this blog. I envy your completion as I’m still 4 months out. My plan is a step back. I’m fortunate to own several properties that allow me to move out another 50 K as things deteriorate. My last stand property is on a lake so water is not an issue but forest fires are. I cleared a patch of forest last spring and planted a test garden in a 50 by 35 plot and probably yielded over 450 pounds on my first try. I lucked out with natural tera preta for ground (thanks for the tips Don Stewart) and my favorite God, Neptune, always gives me a huge pile of seaweed and kelp on my beach is a big help with fertility.
            As I love my pumps I’m in the process of deciding which batteries to use in my solar power station. My supplier has Lithium Ions that claim 25 year life spans but Iron Edison is a proven design that will last for generations but at triple the costs.
            I’m thinking of hedging my pensions – keeping half for income knowing it will be lost at some point and upgrading my doomstead . I find it amusing that I always consider my family’s and friends perception of me while I quietly prepare….is he nuts??

            • Ed says:

              jarvis, on the Lithium ion batteries it is not so much the number of years as the number of cycles. Find out how many cycles. The nickel iron from what I read last forever.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Heads up …. the input I had on lithium batteries was not positive…. a solar installer who’s been in the business for 25 years here in NZ advised against them mainly because they have not been around long enough to determine life span…

              He also said — do not believe any claims of battery life of any type of battery of 20 years or more… in all his time doing this the longest he has seen was around 15 years…. with the average being under 10…. and this is from a guy trying to sell me a system!

              I decided against such a system because in addition to the battery issue surely there are dozens of other things that could go wrong that require spare parts…. which won’t be available… there are no subsidies on solar in NZ so the price is VERY high — I decided that cash could be put to better uses…. one can get a lot of tools … a really large sold glass house …. a robust irrigation system and many other things for the price of an off-grid solar system…

              I went as simple as possible:

              – wet back hot water in cold months
              – in warm months water can be kept warm for showers by storing it in barrels in the sun
              – I have a small portable solar system with lithium batteries and lithium flashlights and lanterns… but I also have a large box of long life batteries and flashlights for when the lithium batteries die (cheaper than candles….)
              – our solar pump has no batteries — we fill two 30,000 litre tanks when the sun shines (takes about two days for each one) — no need for the pump to work at night — we are in a sunny area so seldom would there be more than a couple of days without sun — winter sun is low but irrelevant because we wont be irrigating in the winter…
              – we have boxes and boxes of clothes (we buy from second hand shops sometimes — and watch for clearance sales), shoes toothpaste, floss, toothbrushes, etc….
              – piles of tools — I’ve busted a few shovel handles so rather than saving money buying cheaper stuff I just bite the bullet and buy the best quality I can find … again watching for discounts
              – two rifles + many bullets
              – loads of dry and canned foods
              – a lot of good books

              The thing is…

              This is kinda like launching into space forever…. you can only load so much stuff in the space ship…. you try to work out what you will need … there will surely be stuff you wish you had brought

              I really should be doing a dry run here — disconnecting from BAU for a week — or a month — that would provide the opportunity to evaluate the weak points

              But I have not done that — because it would shatter the illusion of everything will be ok…

              A couple of years ago while in Bali the power went out for most of the day …. it was very hot … no fan … the only way to cook would have been to start a fire … no internet… that was for perhaps 8 hours… there was still food in the fridge … it got me thinking — what if the power never came back on … how would I cope?

              Daunting … to say the least…

              Of course …. at some point … the stuff will run out or wear out…. then what remains is a very primitive existence….

            • Ed says:

              FE, if I may ask, it is my understanding you have no children, so how long do you expect to live? Sorry for the blunt rude wording I just wonder how long you need your stead to function? I am 57 and expect 25 to 35 more years with BAU. Looking at family history I may not need BAU medical but of course I do need food and heat and am not prepping anything like you are.

            • jarvis says:

              My reason for considering lithium batteries is because of my experience with them in my electric car. I’ve been driving my Nissan Leaf for 5 years now and with 62,000K I’m still testing out at 100%. I also belong to an EV club and sometimes they bring out a 1915 electric car with it’s Iron Edison (nickel/iron) battery and I’m forced to think why invent the wheel here – use what works. They are double the cost but there’s a good possibility I could make my grandchildren very happy and offer some amends for the planet I help screw up.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Might as well go for it… it’s not like money is going to be of any use once BAU finishes up…

      • jojo says:

        Maybe there Is a way out of this… If we all light our farts 🙂

    • Javier says:

      I have never made that claim. And if it slipped in somewhere then it’s regurtitated material from others who are skeptical about the role “anthropogenic” effects have on global warming.

      Of course we are in a warming cycle. The actual amounts of warming and the way the data is presented is what is in dispute. The error margins for the questionable data collected are very wide and therefore not very accurate predictions can be made based on them – certainly not enough for the whole world to cease activity based on these assumptions.

      What also needs to be taken into account is the percentage effect of anthropogenic emmisions and possible warming compared to other inputs such as the sun and volcanoes.

      What should be obvious to anyone by now is that there is a lot of deception and manipulation taking place in this arena and that the data is not very reliable even if there were no manipulation taking place.

      All I’m seeing is a preplanned agenda unfolding complete with bullying and brownshirts on a level never before seen, all in the name of “saving the planet”, where a lot of money is going to be made by elites just as the impoverished are told to downsize even more.

      Trust me, the planet will be here long after all humans have gone. And she’ll be just fine.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        On the one hand you say you didn’t claim that but on the other hand you claim the method of data collection and analysis is in dispute, which means you side with those disputing the data. No, it isn’t in dispute and you provide no link regarding a dispute.

        Scientists in the field are collecting data and analyzing it, and have determined there was no hiatus in the warming. What data collection and analysis are the people you claim dispute their process actually doing. See, this is the problem. People with no in the field experience, no comparable data, no analysis make blanket statements that are only intended to create doubt, but add nothing to the extremely important task of determining the situation. It’s counter productive to claim things without doing the in the field studies, data collection and analysis by accredited scientists on the subject. It just acts to cause interference.

        If you have links that are not just conjecture, but are a body of scientists with data to counter the findings in the article I pasted at the top of this thread, then please offer it up. Let’s take a look at this other data. What you got?

        • Stilgar Wilcox says:

          My above post is in reply to Javier.

        • Javier says:

          I think you have me confused with someone else. Maybe someone on that other site you talk about.

          In my own case, I have looked at the claims made by both sides in the debate. I have looked at ways in which the data are collected. I have looked at how the climate modelling is done. I have looked into the sociopolitical aspects of anthropogenic global warming. I have read debunking material and watched documentaries defending both sides of the debate.

          I really don’t know why you’re so rabid about this. It’s as if I’m not permitted to come to my own conclusions based on my own research. You can think whatever you want, but I’d rather you stopped trying to convince me of something that I consider to be mildly irrelevant, no matter how much you believe in it.

          I don’t “side” with anyone or any point of view. If empirical data changes my view of things then so be it.

          You can quit harping on about links too. If I wanted to provide them I would have. They prove nothing. There is only one way that this dispute will be settled and when that happens, you’ll most likely have other things to worry about. I would focus on that if I were you.

          • Stilgar Wilcox says:

            “It’s as if I’m not permitted to come to my own conclusions based on my own research.”

            That’s exactly what people need to stop doing because regular people are not experts. I thought I knew a lot about the topic until getting on Neven’s arctic blog. Many of those people are experts, but the rest of us need to belly up to the bar and start accepting what 150 scientists that came together in Paris came to a concensus about. It’s time to move on from debate and trust the scientists. It’s not like they’re going to inject you with poison – there is nothing to be afraid of. It’s about knowing the science and making good decisions from there due to the risks involved of inaction.

            Anyway, the world if giving up on convincing the naysayers and simply moving forward with whatever they think is the best strategy.

            • Ed says:

              Stilgar, what do the experts say we need to do and by when? This is just a simple question out of curiosity. The politicians like to talk about 50% fossil free for electric only with no mention of the other 80% of energy used.

            • I am one of the people who do not believe that we need to “belly up to the bar and start accepting what 150 scientists that came together in Paris came to a consensus about.” Go to another site if you want to preach about climate change. The issue is sufficiently complex that there is very much a room for a difference in opinion.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I am not clear why the global warming discussion persists…

              If it is a threat to the planet — the thing is… the only way to stop it is to stop burning fossil fuels.

              I repeat that — the only way to stop global warming is to stop burning fossil fuels.

              Hands up if you want that to happen.

              If your hand is up you are aware that if you get what you want you can forget about going to work tomorrow — you can forget about your pension cheque — you can forget about having electricity or petrol — you can forget about being able to buy food.

            • “If it is a threat to the planet — the thing is… the only way to stop it is to stop burning fossil fuels.”

              No, large scale sequestration is an alternative. Too bad the environmentalists and fishermen will not allow small scale testing seeding the ocean to create algae blooms to absorb CO2 and carry it to the sea floor.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Obviously the problem with any of this ‘solutions’ is that a) they do not exist and b) they do not exist because they are too expensive.

              Once again – the reason we are collapsing is that energy is too expensive.

              If you add another step to the process – carbon capture — that adds another layer of expense.

              Do you not think that the very people who are spending there every waking moment trying to keep the system from imploding would not immediately embrace a technology that would prevent climate change?

              Let’s use some common sense here — if they are not capturing carbon there is a reason why.

              Of course this is all moot — we’ll have clean air and blue skies in the very near future — I can guarantee that

            • “Obviously the problem with any of this ‘solutions’ is that a) they do not exist and b) they do not exist because they are too expensive.”

              No, government and activists are blocking them from being attempted:

              Specifically, note:
              “Canada is a signatory to several voluntary and mandatory international moratoriums on ocean dumping and specifically on iron fertilization.”

              International moratoriums on iron fertilization. The company was doing the program with its own money, as if it works the company would make a profit selling carbon credits. We don’t know and cannot find out if carbon can be sequestered in a cost effective / profitable manner.

              “Of course this is all moot — we’ll have clean air and blue skies in the very near future — I can guarantee that”

              I thought you were certain the skies will be filled with plumes from exploding, burning spent fuel ponds?

            • Fast Eddy says:

              “The practice is unproven. International scientists condemned the unsanctioned experiment at a United Nations meeting and the federal environment minister announced an investigation into what he called “rogue science.”

              The thing is…

              I believe that dumping radioactive waste into the ocean will solve climate change. I have no evidence of this … but that does not matter.

              I have put a bid on a 100 metric tonnes of medium level radioactive waste promising that I will dispose of this was as per the regulations…. but instead I am going to dump it off the cost of BC as part of an experiment to stop global warming.

              If that doesn’t work I am going to try pouring cyanide into the ocean… the PCB’s…. and I will continue pouring whatever I want into the ocean until I fix global warming.

              I am looking for donations to fund my legal expenses for polluting the ocean. Please take your credit card out now and give what you can http://www.fasteddysavesthewordlegaldefensefund.com

              “I thought you were certain the skies will be filled with plumes from exploding, burning spent fuel ponds?”

              You can’t see radiation ….

              It is important to note that I am playing along with the Koombaya World scenario in which humans are not extincted by a combination of zero food and 4000 spent fuel ponds exploding and spewing epic amounts of radioactivity into the atmosphere and oceans for many decades…

              Monopoly and Risk are not real either …. but I suppose if I tried I could play along and enjoy those games too….

              I can even play organic farmer/doom-steader….

            • Javier says:

              Everything you said is anathema to me. Your message goes against all my core values i.e. thinking for oneself, doing your own research according to your ability, not taking the word of elected officials or “experts” for granted, not cowing to authority unless it’s an immediate life or death situation, not aligning with high risk stategies that involve unpredictable outcomes that could make things worse than they are already, and above all relying on common sense and intuition as concerns these matters.

              As you say, if you already have the majority backing, why on earth do you waste your time bugging people like me about it. Just go ahead and run roughshod over any opposition to get to the promised land.

            • Rodster says:

              “China plans to run 110 nuclear reactors by 2030.”

              Think, Chinese drywall. What could go wrong?

            • Rodster says:

              Yeah I side with Gail on the AGW, CC meme. There is too much debate still going on and scientist still can’t agree whether AGW, CC, ACD is real or not. The public still doesn’t buy into climate change. Then you have a growing chorus preaching that Geoengineering is real and is affecting and disrupting our weather and climate patterns which ironically the climate change crowd is quick to deny as conspiracy theory. So those who accuse others of being deniers wrt climate change deny something else could be causing our climate issues. The bottom line is no one knows for sure.

            • MM says:

              The main point about climate change is that the economy is not designed to take care of it’s waste products. Yes, some people come up wit geoengineering but the economy will not do that. Full stop. We need new goods to sell. Reducing waste is not economically viable. Has never been and will never be. The only level available will be in the scale of the people scrapping waste dumps in the third world. This is not going to save te planet.

  26. Van Kent says:

    Venezuela’s grinding economic crisis has generated a plethora of problems including triple-digit inflation, shortages of basic goods and massive lines at markets. But it’s also inspiring boot-strap solutions, including a growing number of bartering websites for desperate shoppers.

    Important lessons to learn http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/venezuela/article47429270.html

  27. Pintada says:

    And, while I’m here, a poke at Fast Eddie:

    control |kənˈtrōl|
    1 the power to direct people’s behavior or the course of events: the whole operation is under the control of a production manager | the situation was slipping out of her control.


    influence |ˈinflo͝oəns|
    the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself: the influence of television violence | I was still under the influence of my parents | their friends are having a bad influence on them.

    I think you keep using one term, when you mean the other regarding the Fed especially.

  28. Pintada says:

    Pray for calamity. I would if I did, but I don’t. Still, the author has some ability to write, and walks his talk.


    • Fast Eddy says:

      That’s an excellent explanation of how things will end… like a stick of dynamite with a long fuse… first slow … then catastrophically quickly….

      We are very close to the dynamite exploding ….

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      The Author of that, Pintada definitely does have some ability to write. That was good, very good. Great use of metaphors and historical analogies.

  29. MG says:

    What is the effect of the capital injections? The relocation of the resources. When you have more capital, you can move resources and energy somewhere else. Even into the most inhospitable places. Or into different sectors. Another name for the capital injections is subsidies. You take from the profitable places/sectors and move it into unprofitable ones.

    The social and healthcare systems are such subsidy schemes: they helped to increase the population. With their weakening the population goes into the decline. And also the quality of the population, not just the quantity. The population with worse quality has lower number of the people capable of highly sophisticated jobs, the jobs requiring muscular strength, the high level of concentration etc.

    • “The social and healthcare systems are such subsidy schemes: they helped to increase the population. With their weakening the population goes into the decline.”

      I think you have this backwards. Lower infant mortality, longer life and social security leads to people having fewer children, not more. More food = more people.

      • DJ says:


        A welfare state makes having kids an expensive hobby without economic upside.

        Doing like scandinavian countries restricts number of kids less: long parental leave with up to 90% salary, free childcare, rules against firing parents.

        Unfortunately our masters believe there is too few of us.

        • MG says:

          Our current food production is a part of the social system: subsidized by the state. Only a small percentage of the people grows food themselves in the countries like the USA, Europe or Japan.

          Food production is no more stimulating the growth as the people who do not grow food are dependent on the subsidized system of the food production. Furthemore, they have no means to produce food themselves. That is the limiting factor of population growth as regards the food: the people are more limited than in the past. They could have children when the good harvests were present. When the harvests were weak, they became malnourished and died.

          The todays problem is not the malnourishment but various civilization ilnesses that bring higher and higher costs with themselves. In the past, such person could not be treated and would die. Today, the possibilities of the treatment are extremely wide, the life can be prolonged quite substantially. There is no need to feed additional people as the reserve for the dying ones.

          Therefore the healthcare system allows to survive many people that would have died in the past. And allowed to survive the people with the genetic modifications that could not continue to be present in the population in the past.

          • DJ says:

            Natural selection wont work as long as 99,5% reach reproductive age. Welfare diseases happen long past that point.

          • DJ says:

            In swedish healthcare triage sorts people into four groups of different priority.

            I wonder when the old kind of triage returns.

            • DJ says:

              I suppose the new employer provided healthcare works kind of like that:
              – productive person with cureable disease -> excellent health care
              – others -> less stellar health care

        • MG says:

          “Unfortunately our masters believe there is too few of us.”

          Today, there is less space for the oscillation of the population numbers, as the populations are already high and requiring much higher inputs to keep them alive than in the past. And with the decline of the cheap energy the limits are nearing fast. The high mortality rates in the past were present with the much lower populations. The populations were much younger in general. All weak and ill had to die.

        • The catch is that the promises the state makes are empty promises, after some point. Governments can promise all kinds of things, but the Ponzi Scheme won’t fund it for very long, if the resources aren’t really there and the economy isn’t really growing fast enough to keep the system going.

    • It is easy to make up stories why these capital injections are helpful and even necessary. People don’t stop to think that the stories may be based on an incomplete understanding of how the system really works. People don’t understand that an energy provider that can’t stand on its own without subsidies now, likely never will be able to. They also don’t understand that our economy requires energy.

  30. kesar0 says:

    The German intelligence agency BND issued an extraordinary report warning that Prince Mohammed is taking Saudi Arabia into perilous waters. “The thus far cautious diplomatic stance of the elder leaders in the royal family is being replaced by an impulsive interventionist policy,” it said.