Our economic growth system is reaching limits in a strange way

Economic growth never seems to be as high as those making forecasts would like it to be. This is a record of recent forecasts by the International Monetary Fund:

Figure 1. World GDP Forecasts by the International Monetary Fund.

Figure 1. World GDP Forecasts by the International Monetary Fund.

Figure 2 shows world economic growth on  a different basis–a basis that appears to me to be very close to total world GDP, as measured in US dollars, without adjustment for inflation. On this  basis, world GDP (or Gross Planetary Product as the author calls it) does very poorly in 2015, nearly as bad as in 2009.

Figure 2. Gross Planet Product at current prices (trillions of dollars) by Peter A. G. van Bergeijk in Voxeu.

Figure 2. Gross Planet Product at current prices (trillions of dollars) by Peter A. G. van Bergeijk in Voxeu, based on IMF World Economic Outlook Database, October 2015.

The poor 2015 performance in Figure 2 reflects a combination of falling inflation rates, as a result of falling commodity prices, and a rising relativity of the US dollar to other currencies.

Clearly something is wrong, but virtually no one has figured out the problem.

The World Energy System Is Reaching Limits in a Strange Double Way

We are experiencing a world economy that seems to be reaching limits, but the symptoms are not what peak oil groups warned about. Instead of high prices and lack of supply, we are facing indirect problems brought on by our high consumption of energy products. In my view, we have a double pump problem.

Figure 3. Double gasoline pump from Torrence Collection of Auto Memorabilia.

Figure 3. Double gasoline pump from Torrence Collection of Auto Memorabilia.

We don’t just extract fossil fuels. Instead, whether we intend to or not, we get a lot of other things as well: rising debt, rising pollution, and a more complex economy.

The system acts as if whenever one pump dispenses the energy products we want, another pump disperses other products we don’t want. Let’s look at three of the big unwanted “co-products.”

1. Rising debt is an issue because fossil fuels give us things that would never have been possible, in the absence of fossil fuels. For example, thanks to fossil fuels, farmers can have such things as metal plows instead of wooden ones and barbed wire to separate their property from the property of others. Fossil fuels provide many more advanced capabilities as well, including tractors, fertilizer, pesticides, GPS systems to guide tractors, trucks to take food to market, modern roads, and refrigeration.

The benefits of fossil fuels are immense, but can only be experienced once fossil fuels are in use. Because of this, we have adapted our debt system to be a much greater part of the economy than it ever needed to be, prior to the use of fossil fuels. As the cost of fossil fuel extraction rises, ever more debt is required to place these fossil fuels in use. The Bank for International Settlements tells us that worldwide, between 2006 and 2014, the amount of oil and gas company bonds outstanding increased by an average of 15% per year, while syndicated bank loans to oil and gas companies increased by an average of 13% per year. Taken together, about $3 trillion of these types of loans to the oil and gas companies were outstanding at the end of 2014.

As the cost of fossil fuels rises, the cost of everything made using fossil fuels tends to rise as well. Cars, trucks, and homes become more expensive to build, especially if they are intended to be energy efficient. The cost of capital goods purchased by businesses rises as well, since these too are made with fossil fuels. Needless to say, the amount of debt to purchase all of these goods rises as well. Part of the reason for the increased debt is simply because it becomes more difficult for businesses and individuals to purchase needed goods out of cash flow.

As long as fossil fuel prices are rising (not just the cost of extraction), this rising debt doesn’t look like a huge problem. The rising fossil fuel prices push the general inflation rate higher. But once prices stop rising, and in fact start falling, the amount of debt outstanding suddenly seems much more onerous.

2. Rising pollution from fossil fuels is another issue as we use an increasing amount of fossil fuels. If only a tiny amount of fossil fuels is used, pollution tends not to be much of an issue. Air can remain safe for breathing and water can remain safe for drinking. Increasing CO2 pollution is not a significant issue.

Once we start using increasing amounts, pollution becomes a greater issue. Partly this is the case because natural sinks reach their saturation point. Another is the changing nature of technology as we move to more advanced techniques. Techniques such as deep sea drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and arctic drilling have pollution risks that less advanced techniques did not have.

3. A more complex economy is a less obvious co-product of the increasing use of fossil fuels. In a very simple economy, there is little need for big government and big business. If there are businesses, they can be run by a small number of individuals, with little investment in capital goods. A king, together with a handful of appointees, can operate the government if it does not provide much in the way of services such as paved roads, armies, and schools. International trade is not a huge necessity because workers can provide nearly all necessary goods and services with local materials.

The use of increasing amounts of fossil fuels changes the situation materially. Fossil fuels are what allow us to have metals in quantity–without fossil fuels, we need to cut down forests, use the trees to make charcoal, and use the charcoal to make small quantities of metals.

Once fossil fuels are available in quantity, they allow the economy to make modern capital goods, such as machines, oil drilling equipment, hydraulic dump trucks, farming equipment, and airplanes. Businesses need to be much larger to produce and own such equipment. International trade becomes much more important, because a much broader array of materials is needed to make and operate these devices. Education becomes ever more important, as devices become increasingly complex. Governments become larger, to deal with the additional services they now need to provide.

Increasing complexity has a downside. If an increasing share of the output of the economy is funneled into management pay, expenditures for capital goods, and other expenditures associated with an increasingly complex economy (including higher taxes, and more dividend and interest payments), less of the output of the economy is available for “ordinary” laborers–including those without advanced training or supervisory responsibilities.

As a result, pay for these workers is likely to fall relative to the rising cost of living. Some would-be workers may drop out of the labor force, because the benefits of working are too low compared to other costs, such as childcare and transportation costs. Ultimately, the low wages of these workers can be expected to start causing problems for the economic system as a whole, because these workers can no longer afford the output of the system. These workers reduce their purchases of houses and cars, both of which are produced using fossil fuels and other commodities.

Ultimately, the prices of commodities fall below their cost of production. This happens because there are so many of these ordinary laborers, and the lack of good wages for these workers tends to slow the “demand” side of the economic growth loop. This is the problem that we are now experiencing. Figure 4 below shows how the system would work, if increasing complexity were not interfering with economic growth.

Figure 4. How economic growth works, if increased complexity is not interfering.

Figure 4. How economic growth works, if increased complexity is not interfering.

Also see my post, How Economic Growth Fails.

The Two Pumps Are Really Energy and Entropy

Unlike the markings on the pump (gasoline and ethanol), the two pumps of our system are energy consumption and entropy. When we think we are getting energy consumption, we really get various forms of entropy as well.

The first pump, rising energy consumption, seems to be what makes the world economy grow.

Figure 4. World GDP in 2010$ compared (from USDA) compared to World Consumption of Energy (from BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014).

Figure 5. World GDP in 2010$ compared (from USDA) compared to World Consumption of Energy (from BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014).

This happens because the use of energy products allows businesses to leverage human labor, so that human labor can be more productive. A farmer with a stick as his only implement cannot produce much food, but a farmer with a tractor, gasoline, modern implements, hybrid seeds, irrigation, and access to modern roads can be very productive. This productivity would not be available without fossil fuels. Figure 4, shown earlier, describes how this increased productivity usually gets back into the system.

The second pump in Figure 3 is Entropy Production. Entropy is a measure of the disorder associated with the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels and other energy products. Entropy can be thought of as a loss of information. Once energy products are burned, we have a portion of GDP in the place of the energy products that have been consumed. This is why there is a high correlation between energy consumption and GDP. As energy products are burned, we also have an increasing pile of debt, increasing pollution (that our sinks become less and less able to handle), and increasing wealth disparity.

Figure 6. Chart by economist Emmanuel Saez based on an analysis IRS data, published in Forbes.

Figure 6. Difference in US income growth patterns of the top 10% versus the bottom 90%. Chart by economist Emmanuel Saez based on an analysis of IRS data, published in Forbes.

Beyond the three types of entropy I have mentioned, there are other related problems. For example, the current immigration problem is at least partly a problem associated with increased complexity and thus increased wealth disparity. Also, low oil prices are a sign of a loss of “information,” and thus also a sign of growing entropy.

Our Energy/Entropy System Operates on an Energy Flow Basis

I think of two different kinds of accounting systems:

  1. Accounting on a cash flow basis
  2. Accounting on an accrual basis, such as GAAP

With respect to energy, we burn fossil fuels in a given year, and we obtain output of renewable energy devices in a given year. We eat food that has generally been grown in the year we eat it. There is virtually no accrual aspect to the way the system works. This is very different from the accrual-basis financial statements prepared by most large companies that allow credit for investments before the benefit is actually in place.

When it comes to promises such as Social Security benefits, we are, in effect, promising retirees a share of energy production in future years. The promise is only worth something if the system continues to work well–in other words, if the financial system has not collapsed, pollution is not too great a problem, and marginalized workers are not revolting.

Governments can print money, but they can’t print resources. It is the resources, particularly energy resources, that we need to run the economy. In fact, we need per capita resources to be at least flat, or perhaps increasing.

Figure 7. World energy consumption per capita, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2105 data. Year 2015 estimate and notes by G. Tverberg.

Figure 7. World energy consumption per capita, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2105 data. Year 2015 estimate and notes by G. Tverberg.

Printing money is an attempt to get a larger share of the world’s resources for the population of a given country. Printing money usually doesn’t work very well, because if a country prints a lot of money, the currency of that country is likely to fall relative to currencies of other countries.

What Causes the System to Fail? Too Little Energy, or Too Much Entropy?

In an interconnected system, it is sometimes hard to understand what causes the system to fail. Is it too little production of energy products, or too much entropy associated with these energy products? Astrophysicist Francois Roddier tells me that he thinks it is too much entropy that causes the system to fail, and I tend to agree with him. (See also “Pourquoi les économies stagnant et les civilizations sʼeffondrent”  by Roddier in Économie de l’après-croissance.) The rising amount of debt, pollution, and income inequality tend to bring the system down, long before “running out” of energy products becomes a problem. In fact, the low commodity prices we are now experiencing appear to be part of the entropy problem as well.

Can Renewable Energy Be a Solution?

As far as I can see, renewable energy, unless it is very cheap (like hydroelectric dams were many years ago), absolutely does not work as a solution to our energy problems. The basic issue is that the energy system works on a flow year basis. To match energy-in versus energy-out, we need to analyze each year separately. For example, we need to match energy going into making offshore wind turbines against energy coming out of offshore wind turbines, for each calendar year (say 2016). To keep the net energy flow positive, there needs to be an extremely slow ramp-up of high-cost renewable energy.

In a way, high-cost renewable energy is very close to entropy-only energy. Because of the high front-end energy consumption and the slow speed at which it is paid back, high-priced renewable energy generates very little energy, net of energy going into its production. (In some instances, renewable energy may actually be an energy sink.) Instead, renewable energy generates lots of entropy-related products, including increased debt and increased taxes to pay for subsidies. It also adds to the complexity of the system, because of the variable nature of its output. Perhaps renewable energy is less bad at generating pollution, or maybe the pollution is simply of a different type. Ultimately, it is a problem, just as any other type of supplemental energy is.

One problem with so-called renewable energy is that it can’t be expected to outlast the system as a whole, unless it is part of some off-grid system with backup batteries and an inverter. Even then, the lifetime of the whole system is limited to the lifetime of the shortest-lived necessary component: solar panels, battery backup, inverter, and the device the user is trying to run with the system, such as a water pump.

There are currently many stresses on our economic system. We can’t be certain that the system will last very long. When the system starts collapsing, it is likely to take grid-connected electricity systems with it.

What Is the Connection to Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI)?

If a person believes that energy is a one pump system (the left pump in Figure 3), then a person’s big concern is “running out.” If a person wants to maximize the benefit of energy resources, he will choose energy resources with as high an EROEI as possible. In other words, he will try to get as much energy out per unit of energy in as possible. For example, one estimate gives EROEI of 100 to 1 for hydroelectric, 80 to 1 for coal, and much lower ratios for other fuels. Thus, a mix that is heavy in hydroelectric and coal will stretch energy supplies as far as possible.

Another place where EROEI is important is in determining “net” energy, that is, energy net of the energy going into making it.

As I mentioned above, energy per capita needs to be at least level to keep the economy from collapsing. In fact, net energy per capita probably needs to be slightly increasing to keep the economy growing sufficiently, if “net” energy is adjusted for all of the effects that simultaneously impact the energy needs of the economy, apart from energy used in producing “normal” goods and services. (Most people are not aware of the economy’s growing need for energy supplies. For an explanation regarding why this is true, see my recent post The Physics of Energy and the Economy.)

In theory, EROEI analyses might be helpful in determining how much gross energy is necessary to produce the desired amount of net energy. In practice, there are many pieces that go into determining the total quantity of net energy required to keep the economy expanding, making the calculation difficult to perform. These include:

  1. The extent to which population is rising.
  2. The extent to which globalization is taking place, and with it, access to other, higher EROEI, energy supplies.
  3. The extent to which the economy is getting more efficient in its use of energy.
  4. The extent to which EROEI is falling for various fuels (on a calendar year basis).
  5. The extent to which average EROEI is falling, because the mix of fuel is changing to become less polluting.
  6.  The extent to which it is taking more energy to extract other resources, such as fresh water and metals.
  7. The extent to which it is taking more energy to make pollution-control devices, and workarounds for problems with energy.

Looking at Figure 5, it is not obvious that there is a need for a big adjustment, one way or another, to produce net energy from gross energy. Of course, this may be an artifact of the way GDP is measured. High-priced metals and water are treated as part of GDP, as is the cost of pollution control devices. People’s general standard of living may not be rising, but now they are paying for clean air and water, something they didn’t need to pay for before. It looks like GDP is increasing, but there is little true benefit from the higher GDP.

The one big take-away I have from Figure 7 is simply that if our goal is to get net energy to rise sufficiently, the best way to do this is to make certain that gross energy production rises sufficiently. World leaders were successful in doing this since 2001, through their globalization efforts. Of course, the new energy we got was mostly coal–bad from the points of view of pollution and workers’ wages in developed countries, but good from some other perspectives: low direct debt requirement, low complexity requirement, and high EROEI.

Figure 8. China's energy consumption by fuel, based on data of BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015.

Figure 8. China’s energy consumption by fuel, based on data of BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015.

One issue with EROEI calculations is that they disregard timing, and thus are not on an energy flow-year basis. Ignoring timing also means the calculations give little information regarding the likely debt build-up associated with an energy product.


If a person doesn’t understand what the problem is, it is easy to come to the wrong conclusion. Part of our problem is that we need a growing amount of net energy, per capita, to keep the economy from collapsing. Part of our problem is that entropy problems such as rising debt, increased pollution, and increasing complexity tend to bring the system down, even when we seem to have plenty of energy supplies. These are the two big problems we are facing that few people recognize.

Another part of our problem is that it is necessary for common laborers to have good-paying jobs, and in fact rising pay, if the economy is to continue to grow. As much as we would like everyone to have advanced training (and training that changes with each new innovation), the productivity of workers does not rise sufficiently to justify the high cost of giving advanced education to a large share of the population. Instead, we must deal with the fact that the world’s economy needs large numbers of workers with relatively little training. In fact, we need rising pay for these workers, because there are so many of them, and they are the ones who keep the “demand” part of the commodity price cycle high enough.

Robots may be very efficient at producing goods and services, but they cannot recycle the earnings of the system. In theory, businesses could pay very high taxes on the output of automated systems, so that governments could create make-work projects to hire all of the unemployed workers. In practice, the idea is impractical–the businesses would simply move to an area with lower taxes.

Growth now is slowing because of all of the entropy issues involved. People in China cannot stand any more pollution. Too many laborers in developed countries are being marginalized by globalization and by competition with ever-more intelligent machines that can replace much of the function of humans. None of this would be a problem, except that we have a huge amount of debt that needs to be repaid with interest, and we need commodity prices to rise high enough to encourage production. If these problems are not fixed, the whole system will collapse, even though there seems to be a surplus of energy products.

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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1,136 Responses to Our economic growth system is reaching limits in a strange way

  1. cafuccio says:

    I usually agree with most of what is written on this blog. But it may be different for this post.

    I’m not sure that we can only focus on energy/entropy as the only parameter concerning collapses. As a matter of fact, if coal mines weren’t to be exploited more intensively thanks to watt pumps, Europe may have collapsed due to a lack of wood. The same happened in some well studied communities (easter island, Groenland first settlement, cf Diamond). As shown in these examples, it’s not the lack of extra entropy, but a lack of the same level of entropy.

    Maybe this could be considered as well in our case?

  2. Ki says:

    Superb and very well explained Post Gail, the different approaches you took this time has clarify some doubts I had while thinking on your previous posts although I am able to understand it to some extend my accademic preparation on a different field and my condition as a partial prisoner of BAU make me meditate a bit more each point, hopefully being able to make some decent coments since it is very interesting the ideas you discuss.
    Thanks again.

  3. Stilgar Wilcox says:


    That’s an interesting video once past the initial redundant part. Try to get to the part where they compare 2008 with 2016.

  4. Artleads says:

    Based on my understanding from FW:

    Given the extreme dearth of energy–human slaves or fossil fuel slaves–we can foresee, we can’t afford to destroy the physical or cultural wealth embedded in the physical world. (It is hard to draw a line between the physical and non physical–like what’s embedded in books) We don’t have the energy to “build” anything (as in significantly increasing entropy to do so), nor can we afford to lose embedded energy by demolishing or destroying anything that now stands, containers of that embedded energy.

  5. Ed says:

    “With respect to energy, we burn fossil fuels in a given year, and we obtain output of renewable energy devices in a given year.”

    I would add the depreciation (as in wears out and no longer functions) of renewable energy devices in a given year.

    • It is actually the energy products produced, less the amount consumed in building and maintaining renewable energy in a given year (or month or whatever period) that is important. It is similar to cash basis accounting, rather than accrual basis accounting (with depreciation). Energy that is used to build renewables affects the economy in the year that the renewables are built. It is not really depreciation that matters–it is the energy used on repairs in a given year.

  6. Veggie says:

    EIA Warns Consumers of Spike in Oil Prices:

    Problem …. Any rapid price spike could seriously kill any chance of economic recovery.
    The system is now stuck between a rock and a hard place.
    Higher prices are needed to recover future energy, but higher prices lead to recession (or Depression).

    • Veggie says:

      Perhaps this is how the Bumpy Plateau plays out, with the band of variance getting tighter and tighter.
      1] Price dips do not go as far down before price increases are needed for further extraction of energy.
      2] But prices cannot climb as far with each cycle because the economy gets choked out and prices collapse.
      3] GOTO #1

      • “Perhaps this is how the Bumpy Plateau plays out, with the band of variance getting tighter and tighter.”

        End If Cost > Price. At some point, the lines cross and it starts to fall apart. Unless something else happens, like demand falls so that remaining demand is able to pay a higher price to cover cost and allow continued supply.

    • Right–a big spike in prices doesn’t work, either.

  7. MG says:

    We should view the states as the companies:

    The owners are all those who receive various social benefits, healthcare, pensions etc.
    The workers are all those who work for these companies.

    As the depletion continues, the states need to adpot new technologies, hire foreign workers etc. in order to continue their operation.

    Some companies are profitable, other companies are indebted.

    The company-like view of the state was adopted by the Slovak leading party Smer (representing the pensioners) during its rule for the last four years: they hired several managers (not party members) as the members of the government.

    This concept seems to be quite interesting for the era of the lack of the suitable human resources when the population is getting older: hiring external workforce and applying more technology, automation, robots.

    The only problem is that as the profits of the company are going down, what to do with the surplus human resources? Viewing the state as the company brings light on why games and wars play an important role in controlling the population.

    We live in the world where the states are more and more like companies that recede from the surface of the earth as the energy intensive areas will loose their importance. These isolated company-like states, the islands of the civilization, will form the future of the world.

    The vast parts of the depleted Earth will be uninhabited and no one will care about them, as there will not be nothing to protect.

    • Ed says:

      Could it be the global companies are the new states? The CEO of a large global company once predicted that global corporation would become like medieval walled cities. The executives, owners and workers living inside the walls. Of course education is expensive if someone shows up at the gates and can demonstrate a valuable skill set they may be allowed to join. Exactly how protection through knights work is not clear to me.

      • Van Kent says:

        Co-ops like Mondragon could https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondragon_Corporation

        But publicy traded companies need profits, so they can´t. Publicly traded companies will crumble in the absence of profits.

        Knights of Post-BAU? Have a skill of educating guard dogs..?

        • Ehm, publicly traded companies don’t need profits in late stage of financialized – monetized system, where CBs directly buy/swap debt and equity, push NIRP/ZIRP/outlaw cash/chip people etc.

          But you have a point, as long we are humans, there will be trade/merchants, and this will always influence the system be it planned industrialized, post industrialized proto-neofeudal, or whatever form of arrangement.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            What sort of nonsense is that? Of course they need profits.

            Do you think a loss making corporation can continue to exist indefinitely?

            Grow or die.

            A public company without profits will eventually downgraded to junk — the rates applied to their dead will skyrocket — they will become insolvent — then they will collapse.

            • FE calm down, read my post slowly again, I’m simply describing this current as if “suspended time” twilight zone stage, where nothing holds or adheres to old logic and common sense, I never said it will “exist indefinitely” ..

              Loss making corp. Japan inc. has been making losses for decades, because it lived under the protecting umbrella of even bigger scams of US/China bubbles etc. This won’t last forever though..

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Japan is not a corporation. And what Japan has been doing is what just about every other country has been doing — running on debt fueled growth — with a special supplement of QE.

              Yes a country can do this for a long time — because they are not a corporation — they can do it for as long as they can tap into the debt markets. The Japanese people have been funding the Japan joke for decades… that is why Japan has been able to stay solvent. Also Japan’s corporations have been very successful in recent decades which has kept the country from collapsing.

              Corporations are entirely different animals. They cannot go on for very long with no profits.

              Yes governments can bail out key companies but there is a limit to that… the US bailed out GM in 2008 — imagine if GM had continued to show multi-billion dollar losses every year since then? The company would have disappeared long ago.

            • Creedon says:

              Companies don’t make profits. Our system is built on debt. All corporations and governments exist due to debt creation. Debt is wealth. The more access to debt you have the more wealth you have. Oil drilling companies to a large extent, for example, exist and operate due to debt.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Debt – if productive debt — can lead to increased profits.

              For example — if you borrow money to purchase a robot that can assemble cars 24 hours per day 365 days per year…. provided the cost is not too high … that can result in a higher rate of profitability than employing a human.

              What is happening now in many instances is that companies are failing because the economy is no longer growing regardless what stimulus is applied — and they are taking on debt to buy-back shares to keep from collapsing…

              But the more debt they take on the higher their risk profile – which means higher interest rates —which results in bankruptcy at some point.

            • Especially now days. When oil could be practically scraped off the surface, my impression was that cash flow was pretty good. Debt was needed for other parts of the system (buyers of vehicles and homes, companies building factories or pipelines) but not so much for the oil companies themselves. They could be depended to pay out fat dividends each years.

          • xabier says:

            Spot on: a large corporation can exist in this ‘twilight zone’ for longer than one might think. A small artisan like me will just go to the wall! Very like late Rome. Now, who wants a skilled slave for the library? Am available……

      • “Exactly how protection through knights work is not clear to me.”

        Knights were for protecting open countryside and fighting against organized enemy armies, not for securing a walled city. City Guard don’t need to have horses or automobiles, just pikes – or rifles.

      • ejhr2015 says:

        Fortunately we will have collapsed by then. [thanks to such mindsets too]

  8. Lenin says:

    Congratulations! You’ve just replicated Karl Marx’s classic analysis of the “crisis of overproduction” that capitalism inevitably generates, and which inevitably proves its undoing, through processes, historically, of either war, or revolution. Complete civilizational breakdown, in either case.

    Marx’s analyses, while global in conception, are essentially nationalist in their foundations; he did not have the more globalized system we are now living in as a reference.

    He therefore could not suggest what might happen when such a crisis of overproduction becomes truly global, consuming all resources, and affecting populations the world over.

    His thinking, sophisticated as it is, never led to really successful, post-capitalist practices. The problems of an oligarchical elite, taking roughly the same form in the US/EU, Russia, and China, are consistent and obvious now at a global level.

    The solution will have to be similarly global. The current religio-fanatic, nationalist, ethnic reactions are regressive. The possibilities for coordinated, global, democratic economic and political action are still severely rudimentary, technology notwithstanding.

    I am not hopeful.

    • Mr. Uljanov, why are you against a regression trend?

      For example, as the bluff about over potent Germany has been openly called now, we can witness regression along the very old boundaries as Austria and Hungary are again reasserting the leading role in the Eastern Europe/Balkans. Also Poland (and Hungary) is openly antagonistic with the EU bureau and the Berlin’s clowns, often times leaving the Germans quite speechless, now all realize it’s it, the union is indeed very close to brake up or at least drifting towards severe watering down of competences. Now add the US “pivot to Asia” and true chaos can start a new. We are going back to some very old injuries, unfinished (and unsolvable) disputes in Europe.

      Why do you think the Anglos came with the Brexit game right now, guess what, they sniff the dying corpse and want some chunk of meat asap, i.e. get more privileges and ready to completely bail out special club member status before near future much crazier gyrations on the continent to be relived.

      It simply amazing how the old traits, rift lines, re-appear again on all fronts as the superfluous superstructure from the decades of frivolous oppulent lifestyles falls into the sunset.

      Obviously there are new factors like China etc.

      • MM says:

        There exists only one goal for the eu that is to prevent it from turning eastwards.
        If the EU joined russia and china they could surpass the US in a couple of years.
        That has to be preveneted

        • Good point and that’s certainly on the agenda top list. At this point of time old alliances are not openly broken yet, but opening the path from one hegemonic power to multilateral is clearly visible, some western countries are taking observing if not member status to various Chinese initiatives, which would be shocking from the perspective of just few years ago.

          In case of hard market crash the political map will be redrawn dramatically in France, low countries, UK, Central Europe, simply almost everywhere. The anti Brussels revolts of Poland, Hungary and Slovakia are just precursors of the trend now taking place on the “periphery” so far. Those various anti establishment parties in Germany are in aggregate only around ~25% of vote, the mass delusion trance in Germany is very deeply entrenched, but it will jump one day 2.5x and it’s all over. But France, UK, Italy would probably come first. Therefore SuperMario must print as there is no tomorrow.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Capitalism provides what no other system can — it keeps the system growing for as long as absolutely possible … and then it explodes.

      All other systems are not nearly as efficient — and if we had pursued them (which was never possible because we are hard wired to seek out the best system) then we would have collapsed long ago.

      That is where Marx was wrong in his critique of capitalism – what he failed to see is the big picture — which is we grow or we collapse.

      Look at that — I have just run a bus over one of the supposedly greatest thinkers in history.

      Marx is a lightweight compared to the author of Finite World … he really is… as is just about every thinker I can think of off the top of my head… because virtually all them them do not understand the big picture.

      • Van Kent says:

        I think a steady state economy would have been possible to build in an draconian rationalist state, without democracy..

        First population control; all girls and young women below 30 who have zero children get a free education and entrepreneur seed capital.. There.. women would have had a powerful incentive to make fewer children and even those, a little bit too late for everybody to have successful child births..

        Economy; A 99% circular economy by law, with privately owned companies and co-op banks (no quarterly profit expectations, stock markets, private banks etc.) with organic farming that is 100% sustainable, including well developed practices of biochar and manure-biogas. A Tobin tax and a carbon tax of approx. 2,5%, making international finance and globalization semi-possible, but not quite. Most products would have been made quite near with those taxes signed in to law.

        A steady state economy, population controls and an economy being life cradling, not energy disspipating, would have been possible.. If our species had not been our species..

        Capitalism is not the problem, the problem is and was capitalism-democracy-free market-globalization, a global socio-political-economical system that got fat, lazy and cruel with the help of cheap oil. And in hindsight, the only ones with enough money to have a go, make such a system work, would have been the b-stards who own the central banks. The very echelons who will defend this soon to epically collapse system to their last breath.

        But in theory.. well, yes., a steady state global economy IS possible. But not for our species.

  9. Vince the Prince says:

    With a densely concentrated population we can expect


    The Plague of Justinian (AD 541–542) was a pandemic that afflicted the Eastern Roman Empire, including its capital Constantinople. At its peak, 5,000 people per day in Constantinople died from it, killing half the population. From there, the plague moved east and west, becoming antiquity’s most lethal known pandemic. Half a century after it began, between 25 million and 100 million in Europe and Asia had died. The plague’s social and cultural impact during the Justinian period has been compared to that of the Black Death. Some historians say the damage was so great to the Persian and Byzantine empires that it made them vulnerable to the Muslim conquests of the next century.
    However, while it has been claimed as one of the greatest plagues in history, but until now researchers have not know what form of plague it was. The Great Plague, which lasted from the 14th to 17th centuries, included the infamous epidemic known as the Black Death, which may have killed nearly two-thirds of Europe in the mid-1300s

    The same strain of killer bacteria that caused the Black Death and spread around the world in the mid 1800s may have helped finish off the Roman Empire, researchers have claimed.
    DNA analyses of skeletal remains of plague victims from the 6th century AD found traces of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague, has already been linked with at least two of the most devastating pandemics in recorded history.
    Now researchers believe it also caused the Justinianic Plague of the sixth to eighth centuries, which killed more than 100 million people – and some historians believe contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire

    Get ready with your flu shot

    • Pintada says:

      Dear Vince the Prince;

      Nice Comment especially – ” … flu shot” Very funny.

      Who posted that story about the fish somewhere being very highly contaminated with antibacterials (and other drugs)? The real problems will come from bacteria:


      I recommend:

      Why anyone would invent irrational things (like spent fuel storage ponds, chemtrails, etc.) to worry about when there are so many real existential threats proven to be coming, i will never understand.


      • Vince the Prince says:

        Pintada, thanks for the follow up links. The hand writing is on the wall regarding the limits to growth in this regard. This is just another aspect of the wall we are going to hit.
        Disease resistant infections will not only affect human beings, but food crops as well because of foolish insistence to stress economies of scale.
        Fowler and Mooney discuss the origins of our domesticated agricultural plants in the distant past, as well as the origins and evolution of the much smaller number of plants and varieties we currently rely on for our world’s food supplies. As an example of the lack of genetic diversity within our modern food plants, Fowler and Mooney point out that humans rely for the bulk of our sustenance on just 30 food plants out of the thousands of edible plants which exist—and just 9 food plants provide over 75% of the total calories consumed by humans. Furthermore, we continually rely on fewer and fewer varieties of those 30 plants, and on individual varieties which are less and less genetically diverse. Other examples include: the entire Latin American coffee industry uses trees propagated from a single coffee tree planted in Holland in 1706; four Nigerian palms comprise the entire genetic ancestry of the Asian palm oil industry; and until recently all potatoes grown in Europe came from two samples.
        The role of genetic engineering in eroding genetic diversity is discussed, as gene splicers take individual genes responsible for protecting plants and put them into new varieties. In nature, these same genes offer effective protection to wild plants by acting in concert with complementary genes, mutually supporting and reinforcing each other’s action. When these protective genes are individually isolated and used alone, however, they are easily overcome by evolving pests—often in as little as 4 or 5 years. In this way, genes which have evolved over millennia to be effective plant protectors are one by one being rendered ineffective and useless.

        It is almost unbelievable what we are setting ourselves up for when collapse hits.
        Loss of genetic diversity in agriculture is leading us to a rendezvous with extinction–to the doorstep of hunger on a scale we refuse to imagine. To simplify the environment as we have done with agriculture is to destroy the complex interrelationships that hold the natural world together. Reducing the diversity of life, we narrow our options for the future and render our own survival more precarious.”

        “The plant epidemics of the early 1970s served to underline a simple but humbling point: although the North is grain-rich, it is gene-poor. Maximum genetic diversity is found in the tropical latitudes. While the vegetative assets of the temperate zones were literally frozen during the ice ages, botanical diversity flourished in the warmer tropics.”

        “As the mid-1970s were reached, three-quarters of Europe’s traditional vegetable seed stood on the verge of extinction. By that time scientists were beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel–in this case the gene pool–in search of genetic resistance to an ever growing list of virulent diseases and menacing pests attacking the world’s most important crops. Although modern breeding had led to a green revolution in the North and a massive boom in yield, it had also eroded the genetic base for future breeding. We built our roof with stones from the foundation.”

        “By the late 1980s, the struggle for control of breeding material–seeds, and the genes inside them–has become intensely economic and political. Both nations and companies now vie for access to and benefits from the world’s germplasm.”*

        • richard says:

          Within the last ten years, the politics surrounding the potato famine in Ireland 1845-1851 have subsided sufficiently to permit a somewhat detached view of what actually happened. I’m writing this in the hope that there may be some gains and suitable preparations made.
          First, note that there were prior famines, that Ireland had prepared for and expected famine, and that there was extensive infrastructure and bureacratic resources in place at that time. The Act of Union of 1800 removed a layer of local governance, and placed Ireland under the direct governance of Westminster.While the British Empire was gaining in wealth, the Irish Peasant and his Landlord were becoming poorer.
          The Peasant grew potatoes to feed his family, and raised livestock and grew produce to sell for the necessities of life. Thus when the potato failed for several years in succession, and throughout the entire Island, a way of life had become unsustainable.
          What happened next is the subject of many histories, but the immediate effect was to turn a steady flow of emigrants and migrants into a flood. This, together with falling fertility, and early deaths reduced the population by half within a generation.
          The death rate was somewhat less than some earlier famines, but perhaps the most relevant lasting effect was a political change. There were two opposing views: one held that it was not the responsibility of government to provide a welfare state; the other looked to an Empire upon which the sun never set and declared that not a shilling should remain in the Treasury while its citizens starved. Ultimately welfare states came into being, but propelled by great corporations anxious to offload the costs of maintaining their workers onto the State.
          I’d suggest we are beginning to see the potential effects of a major and world wide crop failure, driven by stresses arising from overpopulation and climate change.

          • DJ says:

            Any signs crop failure will happen this year? Ethiopia, Saudi (both drought), any else?

            Could what Vince describes be taken to even greater extremes? Or can we assume that given varying climates nine crops are “optimal”?

            And for the collapse vs contraction: what happens if two billion poor starve?

            • Christopher says:

              We have an unusually strong el nino. This usually causes droughts in many important agricultural areas. I don’t know if the el nino can be connected to climate changes or not. It’s a cyclic phenomena but it varies in strength.

            • DJ says:

              It seems like consumer price for nutrition has doubled in not to many years. Meanwhile calories is as cheap as ever.

              Could you suppose nutrients goes first, the taste, and then we sit there with half a bucket boiled potatoes a day. And start losing calories.

            • DJ says:

              And sharing … “Here have half of my potatoes” is easy when you also have steak and vegetables and sauce and wine. Maybe a bit harder when all you got is two potatoes.

            • richard says:

              This may be worth repeating:
              “Thus when the potato failed for several years in succession, and throughout the entire Island, ”
              I believe these catastrophes are usually referred to as “Black Swans” – they may in some cases be referred to as emergent events, but that does not fully describe their impact.
              I seem to remenber the biblical phrase “seven fat years followed by seven lean years” and note the tendency of herd expectations to quickly adjust to a new BAU. We may be in the midst of seven times seven fat years.

        • Vince the Prince says:

          Speaking of droughts, Permie activitist, Keith Johnson’ recommended to view this of Brock Dolman regarding the new normal of climate change
          Interesting quip he made regarding limits of growth for a system….Mr Dolman said it this when the system can no longer absorb the waste. Examples would be a drunk and his liver, or a smoker and his tobacco. It not for the lack of booze or smokes that finally bring down the organism, but unable to deal with the waste

          PS Fast Eddy, we did not disappoint. At the start there is a three some of drummers playing Koombaya just for you.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            No way – really?

            Did the Prime Minister of Delusistan cut a ribbon?

            • Vince the Prince says:

              Mister Dolman has a lot to cover in 90 minutes….you be the judge
              He is interesting and a professional manner of public speaking with slides.
              Another “Death Move” we humans created on top of everything else.
              Fast Eddy, at least folks seem to a more cheerful way of living

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I’m actually pretty cheerful… without having to invent a delusional life….

              I bought some new ice skates yesterday — I think I’ll get my stick and go knock a puck around on this sunny chilly day here — cheerful! 🙂

            • Vince the Prince says:

              Fast Eddy is about cheerful as the “Joker” in the Batman movie

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Invent spent fuel ponds?

        I interrupt Delusistan with this announcement:

        No need to invent them — they exist – 4000 of them – and they will kill us when BAU ends.

        • daddio7 says:

          I did some Googling and over at Reddit I found a nuclear plant operator discussing fuel rod cooling ponds. He said his pond can hold four full core loads from his reactor. The cooling heat exchangers can remove 13.5 million BTU per hour or about 4 MW of thermal energy. Some ask why this heat couldn’t be used to make electricity. With a 33% efficiency you would get about 1.33 MW, enough to power 750 homes, not cost efficient to do.

          He went on to explain that the pond water has to be kept below 120 degree F because the resin filter they use to remove the tiny (his word) amount of radioactive particles that get into the water fail if they get hotter than that. I have no idea how efficient the heat exchangers are but if they can drop the temperature 50 degrees you would have to pump 35 thousand gallons of water through them per hour. Again I do not know the pressure drop but a 10 hp pump can move 36 thousand gals per hour.

          If higher flow rates or pressures are needed horsepower demand could be four or five times higher. Without BAU can those pumps be powered and maintained for the time needed to get the rod bundles cool enough to be allowed to be air cooled? I had to read the sentence several times but he claimed a rod bundle could be air cooled after only 167 days in the pool. They are kept in water after that to shield the radiation.

          I myself could have been a nuclear reactor operator. When I finished Navy Machinist Mate A school in 1973 I was offered the chance to go to the Navy’s nuclear power school. I had joined the Navy as in a Selected Reserve program to escape the draft. I was going to spend six years as a reserve without any active duty. Going to the school would have obligated me to six years of active duty all of it on a carrier or submarine, no thanks. I did serve with a crewmate who joined the Reserves after 10 years of being a plant operator on a ballistic sub. Twenty five years later I worked for ten years with a man who had worked for the DoD maintaining the electronics on ballistic missiles. The engineer in me thinks the people who are in charge of these places can do something about it.

          With my insomnia I have had 4 hours sleep in the last 36. It’s 4:00 AM and I hope this makes some sort of sense.

          • Pintada says:

            I posted a reply about insomnia, but WordPress thinks I am evil and unworthy. Oh, well.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            So I guess this puts to rest that spent fuel ponds are nothing more than large backyard swimming pools that could be maintained by tossing buckets of water into them on a regular basis to keep them topped up.


            ‘It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool.’


            • Pintada says:

              Dear Finite Worlders;

              First, an analysis from Sandia Laboratories

              “These results should be considered in context with the fact that according to current practice, decay times as short as 30 days in reactor-sited pools and 11 year in away-from-reactor pools are possible.”

              So, a significant proportion of the spent fuel rods have been used as much as possible in the reactor, and then have been stored safely for many years. The fuel that has been stored for more than five years can be dry casked. It doesn’t need water cooling at all. Since it can be stored in a dry cask, it can also be stored in the racks in the pool without overheating. Stated another way, that fuel is safe regardless of the existence of water in the pool. From the book:

              “For most. of the cases considered, a 3-year decay period is sufficient to keep the clad temperatures within safe limits even when there is no ventilation at all.”

              The cases where fuel that has been stored for 3 years, and is unsafe, are due to tighter placement of the fuel, and smaller holes that restrict air circulation. The 3 year number is for spent fuel from a Pressurized water reactor (PWR) for fuel that was used in a Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) the time required is less. (There are more PWR reactors than BWR reactors.)

              “… the amount of heatup occurring in the unventilated or underventilated away-from- reactor storage pool is considerably lower when the pool is filled with BWR fuel than when it is filled with PWR fuel.”

              For spent fuel stored outside, or in a room with an open door and roof vent the study concluded that:

              “1. Considering a complete pool drainage, the minimum allowable decay time for PWR spent fuel in a well-ventilated room varies from a best value of about 5 days, for open-frame storage configurations, to a worst value of about 700 days, for high-density closed-frame configurations with wall-to-wall spent fuel placement. Other storage configurations fall between these limits. The minimum allowable decay time is defined as the lower limit of safe decay times, such that shorter decay times would produce local clad failures due to rupture or melting.”

              “2. The minimum allowable decay time for BWR spent fuel in a well-ventilated room varies from a best value of 5 days to a worst value of 150 days for the cases considered. A high-density storage rack design for BWRs would result in a somewhat higher value of the allowable decay time than presented here, but not as high as for PWR spent fuel.”

              That is ALL fuel that has been stored for 700 days after BAU would be safe. Some fuel stored only 5 days would be safe. Interestingly, the author goes on to say that by making a few modifications to the racks, that 700 day number could be reduced to 80 days at no expense to the utility.

              If the fuel is stored in a closed room with no ventilation, the spent fuel would need to be stored as long as 4 years before it was safe.

              The author calculated that it would likely not be wise under any circumstances to stand at the edge of the pool after the water was gone. Just as obvious, the idea that all of the spent fuel known to exist would – as a matter of course – burn, melt, go critical and scatter radiation over vast areas is simply ridiculous, as I stated several days ago.

              The second study from Brookhaven National Laboratory was charged with determining the damage that would be caused by the spent fuel that did overheat per the study at Sandia. In the “Consequence Evaluation” section of the Brookhaven study one finds:

              “Because of several features in the health physics modeling in the CRAC2 code, the population dose results are not very sensitive to the estimated fission product release. A more sensitive measure of the accident severity appears to be the interdiction area (contaminated land area) which in the worst cases was about two hundred square miles. While the long-term health effects (i.e., person-rem) are potentially large, it is important to note that no “prompt fatalities” were predicted and the risk of injury was also negligible.”

              In the later portions of the text, the author notes that the reason that there are no prompt fatalities, and the risk of injury was small is that the model used assumes what I would call BAU mitigation. So, yes their would be major health effects in the 200 square mile area if the fire happened post BAU.

              Regarding their review and update of the Sandia work:

              “Based on the previous results we have concluded that the modified SFUEL code (SFUELIW2) gives a reasonable estimate of the potential for propagation of self-sustaining clad oxidation from high power spent fuel to low power spent fuel. Under some conditions, propagation is predicted to occur for spent fuel that has been stored as long as 2 years. The investigation of the effect of insufficient ventilation in the fuel building indicated that oxygen depletion is a competing factor with heating of the building atmosphere and propagation is not predicted to occur for spent fuel that has been cooled for more than three years even without ventilation.”

              Recall that under the worst conditions possible, the Sandia study found that spent fuel stored only 3 years might cause a large issue. The Brookhaven folks showed that fuel stored only 3 years might overheat, but would not create the worst fire possible.

              Yup. The spent fuel will not be moved, it will not all be dry casked, it will be radioactive for centuries and dangerous for decades. It is entirely possible that every nuclear reactor that is in operation today will have a fire in the spent fuel pool(s) and it is entirely possible that the fire will be the worst possible. Assuming the worst happens at every facility, there will be roughly 1000 areas with a 15 mile radius that will be unsafe for the foreseeable future. If the population density in those 200 square mile area is high, millions will die or wish for death. Millions.

              Tell your tribe where the nukes are, and make sure the young ones know that it is crucial that their decedents never forget where those unsafe areas are. Do not live anywhere near one. No hysteria or histrionics are necessary.

              It is as I originally said. I should have trusted my common sense, but it is winter, and I have time.

              Glowingly Yours,

            • Fast Eddy says:

              It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool.


        • Vince the Prince says:

          Fast Eddy, I think Pintada may have meant chosen the wrong choice of word(s). I took it as we have other issues to be aware of also that will prove just as deadly. Frankly, the spent fuel ponds have run it’s course here. Time to move on. I thank you for your gallant defense and agree it is one of many that tops the list of “Death Moves” humans have made to maintain BAU. Cheers and Stay Calm. Now what are are worried about again?

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Oh yes…. there are probably many things that we have not even thought up that will result in the demise of the human populatioin.

            My Top Two are : Fuel Ponds and Destroyed Soils.

            But I agree – once we lose the ability to fight bacteria and pests — they are going to hit with a wicked vengeance…

            We’ll have the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding high — along with 4000 other horsemen riding spent fuel ponds.

            How anyone can think that this is not almost certainly the end of days for the human race — is beyond me.

    • Pintada says:

      Dear Vince the Prince;

      “Now what are are worried about again?”

      If someone smart could answer that question, we would have a better idea about when. For example, if the “what” is chemtrails, the “when” is never. Hurray!

      Yours in Doom,

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Attention Koombayaists….. when you are dying from starvation… disease… violence …radiation when you find out that your mad survival ideas are exposed as utter nonsense…. when you are totally overwhelmed by the situation … when you are sitting huddled in the dark … in the cold… as everything implodes around you …. fearing for your life…. hoping for a quick painless death….

      I’ll be smiling and thinking ‘I told you so’ while I pour diesel into the truck and get ready to run it into the rock cut…

      There’s nothing like a quick painless death.

      • Pintada says:

        There are some physical facts that you may not be accepting, or may have not been “exposed” ( LOL ) to:

        1. The zircaloy cladding fires of this type occur at temperatures well below the melting point of the U02 fuel. The cladding ignition point is about 900°C compared to the fuel melting point of 2880°C. Under no conditions possible in the spent fuel pool can the fuel melt.

        2. 316 stainless steel melts at 1375 degrees C, and so if there was a fire, the steel would remain intact, just like the spent fuel rods.

        3. Under no circumstances will the spent fuel rods reach criticality, and an atomic explosion is absolutely impossible.

        4. Since the pool must be empty before the rods can overheat, and since the pools are more-or-less open to the air, a steam explosion is extremely unlikely.

        (If you don’t get those four points, we have nothing further to discuss.)

        So, how is all of the spent fuel pools going dry post BAU an extinction level event?

        • Pintada says:

          Dear Fast Eddy;

          I can and will post the truth every time you post your spent fuel claptrap.

          Took about 1 minute,

          • Kurt says:

            Thanks, but FE is entertaining. It’s the favorite theme at nbl as well. When the other doom scenarios don’t quite make sense, they can always pull out the power station melt down thingy. Where is Godzilla when you need him?

            • Stilgar Wilcox says:

              “When the other doom scenarios don’t quite make sense”

              Or the year’s drone on ad infinitum without much seeming any different. What I think happens is we stop by the usual suspect doom websites; Gail’s (our finite world), Stoneleigh’s (automatic Earth), Ron Patterson’s (peak oil barrel), peak oil dot com, Zero Hedge and not much else and the next thing you know, it appears, feels and seems like collapse should occur at any moment. But then we notice the clock hasn’t stopped tick tocking, the bills come due again, the next job or project is scheduled, calendar months flipping over turn into a blur with another year passing by like fall leaves in a strong breeze. All sorts of things to point at to suggest collapse, but not actual collapse. Hmm, maybe we’re missing something.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Up until recently it did not feel like collapse was imminent – because the global economy was continuing to grow – corporations were profitable…

              It feels and smells like collapse now because corporate profits have been collapsing quarter after quarter in the past year… trade has stagnated … commodity prices have collapsed threatening to collapse massive corporations and the financial system

            • Pintada says:

              Dear Stilgar Wilcox;

              You have summed up my recent thinking quite well. As an environmentalist (perhaps verging on animist) I want with all my heart for the suffering of the natural world to come to an end sooner rather than later, but no. Human society just keeps rolling on, and over the things and “spirits” of this world. Things that are worth more than all of humanity are lost every day. People always seem to win out.

              There are worse things than a fast collapse, and before we die of old age, I fear we will see many of them.


            • Fast Eddy says:

              More claptrap:

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

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

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


              Courtesy of this clown masquerading as a Harvard nuclear scientist…. with multiple degrees from various claptrap universities…

              Hui Zhang is a Senior Research Associate at the Project on Managing the Atom in the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Hui Zhang is leading a research initiative on China’s nuclear policies for the Project on Managing the Atom in the Kennedy School of Government. His researches include verification techniques of nuclear arms control, the control of fissile material, nuclear terrorism, China’s nuclear policy, nuclear safeguards and non-proliferation, policy of nuclear fuel cycle and reprocessing.

              Before coming to the Kennedy School in September 1999, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, Princeton University from 1997-1999, and in 1998-1999, he received a post-doctoral fellowship from the Social Science Research Council, a MacArthur Foundation program on International Peace and Security. From 2002-2003, he received a grant for Research and Writing from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Hui Zhang received his Ph.D. in nuclear physics in Beijing in 1996.

              Dr. Zhang is the author of several technical reports and book chapters, and dozens of articles in academic journals and the print media including Science and Global Security, Arms Control Today, Bulletin of Atomic Scientist, Disarmament Diplomacy, Disarmament Forum, the Non-proliferation Review, Washington Quarterly, Journal of Nuclear Materials Management , INESAP, and China Security. Dr. Zhang gives many oral presentations and talks in international conferences and organizations.

          • doomphd says:

            Using Fukushima Daiichi reactors 1, 2 and 3 as an example, lack of adequate coolant water exposed the rods and they overheated. Zirconium alloy cladding was heated to its melting point, exposing the fuel, which itself ultimately melted. Zr + H2O –> ZrO + H2. The cladding was also oxidized, liberating hydrogen that mixed with oxygen gas from hydrolysis of water in steam (water vapor). That is an explosive mixture waiting for an ignition spark. Assume a closed building, like a nuclear reactor. Add sparks from earthquake-cut wiring, exposed electronics, careless smoker, und voila! See YouTube videos. Example here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k3Ofs6R9cg

            I believe this explosive scenario is the one to which FE is referring. BTW, especially if plutonium or MOX fuel is present, the above scenario, even at limited scale (small explosion) can cause “prompt criticality” events, which are even more effective at spreading transuranics and fission products into the surrounding environment, poisoning the solis for millinia. See Chernobyl and Fukushima surrounding regions as ongoing examples. See also book “Nuclear Disaster in the Urals” as warmup act for these events during Soviet times.

            • Stilgar Wilcox says:

              “I want with all my heart for the suffering of the natural world to come to an end sooner rather than later, but no.”

              I completely agree, Pintada. There is so little value put on the natural world, the plants, animals, ecosystems, etc. It’s all viewed from a human perspective, as seen in the question if a tree falls in a forest but no one (as in no human) hears it, did it really make a noise? Well, obviously it makes noise whether someone hears it or not, but from a human ideal only those things that we can be entertained by or are convertible into currency are of value. There is a price for everything including hunting rare wild predatory cats. Put up the money and shoot one from a safe distance with a rifle and a scope. How about wrestle with one using a big knife. At least make it seem like a challenge. But oh no, it’s got to be easy and safe, yet the hunter still feels like an amazing person that has accomplished something great. I really don’t get that one.

              I keep hoping enough large and small species of flora and fauna will exist in sufficient numbers to reproduce once our numbers descend enough for wildlife to once again expand. The only hope is that civilization collapses, but it has to be fairly soon. If we get to 2050 there won’t be much wildlife and natural habitats left. We may need to have museums with stuffed animals and plastic plants and exotic trees as a sick way of explaining to future generations what’s been lost. Even the water in the exhibit can be fake, using lights reflecting off of mylar to mimic a stream.

            • Pintada says:

              Dear Stilgar Wilcox;



        • Fast Eddy says:

          See my earlier post with the facts. And continue to ignore them. (in the interest of maintaining your sanity)

          • doomphd says:

            After the great Sendai earthquake and tsunami, surveyors and clean-up crews found stone tablets or markers on the surrounding hillsides warning their descendants not to build or live in areas below the elevation of the markers, because of the risk of tsunami enundation. Did they listen to the warnings, did they even know the stone markers were placed there? With population pressure for dry, aerable land, they felt they had no choice but to take the risk.

            • I am sure the thought was, “We cane always run uphill quickly.” or “It won’t happen here.”

            • Fast Eddy says:

              The same theory applies to the entire nuclear industry — I was unable to find any research into what would happen if the spent fuel ponds were not managed and the water boiled off permanently…

              The Harvard terrorism study indirectly addressed that —- but it also assumes that if a terrorist knocked out a pond and the water boiled off it could be contained…

              As mentioned — diesel generators were put in play to pump large volumes of water onto the ponds following the Fukushima accident…

              The assumption obviously is that if the system were compromised by a terrorist act — the generators would kick and keep the ponds operational until repairs could be made.

              There is no consideration for a situation where the diesel is not available….

              That is unthinkable….

              Extinction-level hubris….

    • Interesting!

  10. Fast Eddy says:

    More than 3 million people protested in the streets of major cities across Brazil on March 13, numbers that may have exceeded even the massive rallies that took place at the end of the country’s military dictatorship in the mid-1980s. The population is fed up with corruption, fed up with the ruling party, and are seeking the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff.


    • Rodster says:

      Insert USA and it reads like a mirror copy.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        We can see that the sheeple in the US are no longer believing the story… no matter what insanity Trump utters support does not wane… it grows….

        He is the Great White Hope….

        Imagine what things are going to look like if he gets elected and the sheeple realize that he is not the saviour they expected…

        The social contract will shatter — and when that happens — all hell breaks loose.

        • InAlaska says:

          Except that he will not be elected.

          • DJ says:

            What is this election thing you are talking about?

            Is it when everybody throws a vote in the bucket and then whoever was decided in advance wins?

          • Fast Eddy says:

            I will rejoice if Trump is elected.

            He has some great one-liners… I read that he yesterday referred to Romney as ‘a serial election choker’ Great stuff!

            I am looking forward to the epicentre of the diseased world turns on itself in a hail of bullets and hatred.

            Seriously — how can you not despise a country that sings along to this?

            • InAlaska says:

              Trump will not be elected. In your overwrought, cynical hyperbole, you tend to focus on the stereotype of America. The majority of voters in this country will never see him in the White House.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I’m staying at the my brothers place for two weeks — I am forced to endure Tee Vee (which I despise)

              Turn on your Tee Vee — flip through the channels — can you find anything that is total utter appalling rubbish? I can’t.

              Is that not a symptom of the state of America (and Canada)…

              The vast majority of the population in America is vapid. The term idiocracy comes to mind.

              Might I suggest that you are greatly over-estimating the majority?

            • daddio7 says:

              We simply folk in the provinces can’t attend many Broadway shows so we are reduced to whatever banality is shown on TV. Right now I am watching Mollie B’s Polka Party. I just finished watching Larry’s Country Diner. Before that I watched River Monsters and Big Fish Texas. I like Wicked Tuna and eagerly await the season premiere of Deadliest Catch. My Sunday is not compleat without the latest episode of The Walking Dead. Worst of all is the five months I still have to wait before college football starts again. If television offends you don’t turn it on.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I don’t have a choice in the matter of turning it on or off… I’d enjoy tossing it out the window…

              I am starting to identify with ted kaczynski — I am sure if I were not able to escape the endless onslaught of idiocracy that is North America I would lose it…

              It well and truly is a disgusting ‘culture’ – the glorification of idiocy is simply incredible.

            • Stefeun says:

              “the glorification of idiocy is incredible”
              what I find incredible is that it works!

              After all, maybe it means that most of us are happy being sheeple.
              Eugenics by Big-Macs and TV ads.
              Lobotomy is Autonomy!

            • Jan Steinman says:

              It’s okay. Just have some soma and find someone pneumatic to spend the night with…


            • Fast Eddy,
              I too identify with what Ted Kaczynski has to say.
              I put his manifesto up on my blog under articles.

              This culture certainly is disgusting in every way. It’s never ending sense of self entitlement, it’s nauseating chest beating and the sick way it reflects itself to itself via the media. Sadly its hallucination of grandeur will bring more death & destruction to other life before it finally ceases to exist. If only there was a way to put a cosmic banana peel in front of it’s goose stepping “march of progress”………………………………

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Fortunately I get to depart the beast’s belly and return to my little piece of sanity on the weekend… it’s a tee vee free zone!

  11. Thomas Simon says:

    I am still grappling with the missing 8000000 barrels of oil a day see http://www.wsj.com/articles/crude-mystery-where-did-800-000-barrels-of-oil-go-1458207004

    How can any forecast or price fluctuation not be suspect?

    • Thomas Simon says:

      Sorry that was 800000 missing barrels above.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        Kind of difficult to make an assertion regarding the article when it has a pay wall. In any case, my personal opinion is it is not difficult to maintain accurate records of barrels coming and going. What does seem difficult today is truthfulness. All sorts of govt. and other types of stats/graphs are falsely toyed with to influence behavior. By having missing barrels it reduces the total so as not to put anymore downward pressure on oil price as necessary. They probably say to themselves, ok the numbers are really bad and the price of oil has gone way down, so let’s skew them a bit to make them seem a bit better. We’ll just have some missing barrels.

      • Veggie says:

        That’s only a 0.8% rounding error in a world producing 91,000,000 barrels per day.

  12. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    I would like to engage in a practical analysis of some specific recommendations for a ‘sustainable’ food system, looking through a lens illuminated by thermodynamic principles. (WARNING: Only a few people truly understand thermodynamics, and I don’t claim to be one of them.)

    Consider this statement from a thermodynamics expert:
    ‘Entropy is not a measure of disorder. A low entropy system can be more disordered than a similar system at a high state of entropy. An example would be a petroleum reservoir. As oil is pumped out of the reservoir its entropy goes down; entropy is transferred out with mass flow. The reservoir has not gotten more ordered.

    As the world’s reservoir was pumped out the entropy of the reservoir went down, as the entropy of the overall system went up. The overall system has gotten continually more ordered over time. It is now one of the most ordered, and complex systems on earth. ‘

    The ‘overall system’ referenced above is the non-oil producing economy (I think). I believe it is true that the entropy in the oil which has been taken out of the reservoirs and then (mostly) burned has enabled the highly ordered and complex non-oil system to emerge. A primary enabler has been transportation. Oil would simply never have been a huge business if it had been used only for greasing axles and for coal-oil lamps.

    Now I want to take a look at an article in Resilience.org today:


    There is a lot of good thinking in the article, and we can clearly see that the policies of the government of Ontario, Canada, are horrendous. But I call your attention to these sentences near the end of the article:

    ‘When I used to partner with my economic development counterpart at the City of Toronto, we did the math on local food this way – for every dollar spent on locally grown food from the countryside, five dollars were spent on packing, distributing and processing that would never have been done locally if the food had been grown far away.’

    Please note that the ‘packing, distributing and processing’ all involve oil. The fact that it takes 5 dollars to do these oil intensive practices on top of every dollar spent actually producing the food on the farm should alarm anyone looking through a thermodynamic lens….if they are even dimly aware of the seriousness of the oil problems.

    Let me list just a few of the broader issues surrounding the ‘economic development’ program held up for admiration in the article:

    *Oil may be very near the end of its thermodynamically viable life.

    *Without oil, transportation will become much harder. A few thousand organic farmers are not likely to feed Ontario without transportation and oil powered equipment.

    *The freshness of food is vital to several aspects of it’s health promoting properties. For example, brassica have the ability to significantly boost human cancer defenses, but the ability is dependent on the food retaining it’s live enzymes. The enzymes are basically gone in 48 hours. It is a logistical challenge to get a brassica leaf from a distant farm to a consumer’s plate in Toronto within 48 hours…even with abundant oil.

    *As our society’s ability to transfer entropy from the reservoirs to the general economy declines, then the notion of gleefully spending more of that transferred entropy to work such as ‘packing, distributing, and processing’ is going to begin to sound ridiculous.

    *With the northern hemisphere now 2 degrees C hotter than the baseline, we have no more runway in terms of reducing fossil fuel emissions. Furthermore, while the bean-counters think that CO2 emissions declined a little in 2015, the instruments at Mauna Loa recorded a record increase in CO2. Perhaps the oceans have stopped being such effective sinks?

    Now to some of my positive thoughts. If there is any hope for us, I think we have to deconstruct the industrial economy and get back to the fundamental human goals…which involve Nate Hagens ‘neurotransmitters and hormones’. Humans (and all other living creatures) want to obtain the feeling of flourishing. Our current methods for achieving that feeling involve the use of sledgehammers, while a low-oil world will require that we use tools as fine as spider’s silk.

    For example, Joel Salatin points out that, in the US, we have enough lawns and recreational horse pasture to feed all of us…using none of the existing commercial agricultural land. But Joel is assuming a productivity which is much closer to gardening (high productivity) than to broad-acre industrial farming (low productivity). Joel thinks even pretty clumsy gardeners could produce plenty of food. And if the food is produced in a garden, there is little to no ‘packing, distributing, and processing’….during the growing season. There are still some issues surrounding winter and cooking and other processes done in the home, but those need to be worked on in a completely different context than the ‘economic development’ context espoused in the Resilience article.

    I think it was Richard Heinberg who said a decade or so ago that ‘there will be plenty of work, but very few jobs.’

    Don Stewart

    • Vince the Prince says:

      Don, thank you for another fine, intelligent post! Perhaps we can also display this to a venue where the young adults will read it. Any suggestions, folks out there in FW?
      One obstacle, is how to communicate afterwards, breakdown in infrastructure, which translate breakdown in social structures ( family units). Ingrained cultural stereotypes preventing action of signification change. What we are talking about is a process that in human terms usually takes generations of transition. Furthermore, the mouthpiece of the society needs to be “on board” with the program. One example I have studied is the adoption of the Christian faith in the Pagan Roman World. If it were not for Emperor Constantine and his seccessors promoting the new idea, it would have remained a small sect Christianity did not become a slim majority until the reign of Emperor Theodosius, well over a hundred years afterward. It will be a tall order of magnitude never before seen.
      Vested interests in the status quo will resist, so we are almost certain to witness conflict of some sort. President Trump certainly will not be one the program, but a President Sanders most certainly would. Who would you vote for?

      • Fast Eddy says:

        If it were not for Emperor Constantine and his successors promoting the new idea, then thousands of young children would have not been raped and diddled by priests over the centuries?

        • Vince the Prince says:

          Good point, Fast Eddy, you are certain to bring pertinent aspects of the topic that is directly to the topic being discussed. Perhaps you can enlighten us all on you proposal who you meet Mr Death?

          Here you go…

          Better now, I hope.

        • “If it were not for Emperor Constantine and his successors promoting the new idea, then thousands of young children would have not been raped and diddled by priests over the centuries?”

          The big problem, imo, is that the priests became too nepotistic. The Church’s solution was to require celibacy; however, as the Apostle Paul recommended, the men of the church should either be married or castrated. Trying to force a bunch of intact men to remain celibate their entire lives is a recipe for disaster. That’s what you get for half-measures.

          • Vince the Prince says:

            My whole point of bringing up the subject was the time needed for fundamental cultural change to take place, regardless of the issue. I realize Don Stewart is attempting to post a positive picture of what is possible in the upcoming upheaval. I also am aware he does not expect the majority of people to make it, because of the reason to downsize.
            What Fast Eddy is hinting is that human nature is basically vile, exploitive and predatory.
            All these are unknowns to the degree that will come about.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              If you are wondering about human nature … imagine if the police force in your city were disbanded… the prisons and courts closed.

              You’d need to constantly carry a gun and be prepared to defend yourself and your property.

              You’d need to stand watch day and night to prevent people from robbing your property.

              Now imagine no police once BAU is collapsed and people are hungry.

              If you want some idea have a read of this http://time.com/3949986/1977-blackout-new-york-history/ and keep in mind there were police … just no power.

              Post BAU — no police – no power — no food.

    • Artleads says:

      “Humans (and all other living creatures) want to obtain the feeling of flourishing. Our current methods for achieving that feeling involve the use of sledgehammers, while a low-oil world will require that we use tools as fine as spider’s silk.”

      Very well said. And, unfortunately, most people can’t imagine tools that fine. One intuitive tools that gets you straight to the point is what I call “aesthetic intuition.” It comes from a very very intense aesthetic conditioning, leading to the ability to instantly SEE what is right and what is wrong.

      Another blogger attributes to James Joyce this saying: ” The artist is the intense center of his age.” But all too many of our artists today seem to be engaged in nothing so much as narcissistic foolishness.

      Funny, I was just thinking how we completely get off fossil fuels while retaining what again is my idea of civilization. That perhaps comprises some of the better aspects of our own civilization, some that predate, correlate with, but could be independent of oil support. Some aspects of human rights, animal rights, environmental rights, etc., that took many centuries to formulate…but this is not my main point.

      I suspect that if you add rooftops, skyscrapers and walls to the places to grow food to the list of non traditional growing land spaces, there would be even less doubt as to whether the built environment could support food production.

      Here’s one problem which I think is solvable, although I don’t know the science behind it: using humanure everywhere to build new soil. It would be possible, I think, to move in this direction right away if skeptics could flush toilets while the waste goes to a community run “biodigester” that converts it without smell, into compost.

      Water would remain a problem, but, as with safeguarding nuclear plants in a non oil world, the collective will have to make very large collective efforts to see that the means for water supply–like using rationed oil to move it from flood areas to drought areas–could be enacted.

      Apart from such extreme cases, most things would happen locally. I also believe a local-ish way to manufacture cardboard boxes–the modern straw bale– is required.

      • DJ says:

        Grow food on rooftops?

        7 floors, 280m2 roof, maybe 50 inhabitants. 5,6m2 “land” per capita.

        Won’t make a difference even before realising the roof is slanted 30 degrees

        • Van Kent says:

          In principle I like what Artleads is doing. There will come a point where we can throw away the current guidebook of how our civilization functions. At that point we don´t have any rules to guide us, not really. Everything is new when spare parts don´t come and petrol is a choice of eating the raw material for ethanol, or drinking the ethanol, or trading the ethanol, using it as a medicine or sterilizer, or filling up the generator at the mill/bakery with the ethanol. At that point we only have a limited amount of time and resources, but we are free to use our imaginations how to best use those available resources, and the time we have to spare. We will not have time during May – September, to scavange and innovate, but some time should be possible to use in October – April.

          Artleads, I wouldn´t necessarily use rooftops, I would tear away the now useless air conditioning ventilation ducts, steel tubes, from the ceilings of the now useless office spaces. And either use the tubes as compost air chimneys to improve the air circulation in the composts. A 12ft straight tube starts to circulate air just by air pressure differance at the bottom and the top. It´s automatic. This way composts get more air and work faster. Or I would cut the ventilation ducts in half and place them in every window, with a bottle of water as drip irrigation. That way every useless office space becomes a makeshift greenhouse with greenhouse gutters and automatic drip irrigation.

          Maybe if we think in advance that everything is pointless, stupid, irrelevant, maybe we won´t be as successful hunter gatherers in that new environment we are headed towards, as we could be with open curious imaginitive mindsets.

          • DJ says:

            Sorry if it sounded like I dismissed everything Artleads ever written.

            I just attacked the idea of growing food on existing houses roofs. In this country we have 45000m2 per person, multiply by 10 post BAU. A few square meters roof won’t matter.

            • Van Kent says:

              Despite Eddy believes only imminent death is of any importance, I like what Artleads and Don are saying. Any of us can die the next time we cross the street, every adult knows he is going to die, some day.. Nothing extra special in dying some day, 99,9% of all the species ever lived on this planet have already had it a go. Don has a perspective of taking everything in stride, perhaps having a stiff upper lip now and then, but enjoying the journey nonetheless. I like that.

              Rooftops couldn´t possibly become any kind of “solution” of BAU or otherwise. But I like how Artleads looks at possibilities, some of his ideas I haven´t heard anywhere else and I wouldn´t want Artleads to think we don’t appreciate him contributing here..

            • ejhr2015 says:

              Roof tops are not generally designed to take the weight of planting.

            • “Roof tops are not generally designed to take the weight of planting.”

              A lot of large, flat roofs have massive air conditioning units on them. If you can toss those off, you could add quite a few tons of soil, water and plants and still be within spec. Besides, in northern areas they should be rated to support a few feet of snow without collapsing; if you are growing up there, you would just need to shovel off the snow to stay within spec.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Those roofs are reinforced where the AC units are installed – the entire roof would not be reinforced.

              Have you worked out the caloric return involved in hauling water and soil up to your little patch where the AC unit vs the amount of food you can produce?

              Another ridiculous idea that ranks near the top of the many ridiculous ideas spewed by the Delusistanis…

              Keep them coming — they are right up their with Trump’s ideas for entertainment value!!!

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I like what Don and Artleads are saying… I wish upon a star that we could all live like Little House on the Prairie when BAU is smashed

              The problem is … the part of my brain where logic and common sense live …. is telling me…. no way Jose…. not possible….

              If you want to light up those parts of your brain and see what I see — try this — turn off the electricity for 48 hours…. get a taste of the reality that is coming your way.

            • DJ says:

              You farm?

              How many kcals could you possibly get out of 10m2 in central/north europe?

              Couldn’t we conclude that apartment buildings won’t work post BAU? To high population density.

              Still, on the way to post BAU almost all could be living in cities. Everyone living in small boxes, eating food out of small boxes and watching small boxes the whole day. That could kick the can quite far.

              (Yes. I’m the biggest optimist here, I expect to see 2030.)

            • Christopher says:

              “Still, on the way to post BAU almost all could be living in cities. Everyone living in small boxes, eating food out of small boxes and watching small boxes the whole day. That could kick the can quite far.”

              This has struck me to. Urbanisation and BAU is very focused on boxes. The problem is that the boxes for living in the bigger cities are getting unsustainably expensive. Though, the boxes for spending spare time are getting cheaper.

            • Van Kent says:

              2030? How on earth can we get that far?

              Yes I farm. In Sweden you need compost, water for dry spells, wheat, rye etc. can manage because they have long roots. But vegetables suffer quickly if water is not available during a hot and dry June – July, and you need a lot of manpower for weed pulling, people in the dozens, and about 10 hectares will be enough for 100 people year round sustenance (vegetables and potatoes) if root cellars are available for storing everything during the long winter.

              If you are thinking about everybody living in the cities as they do today, no way. It is not possible. Even suburbs will become death traps.

              Year round greenhouses don´t grow on trees, so, out of use office buildings with large windows was my idea of starting the growing season early. Growing herbs etc.

              2030? Really?

            • Van Kent says:

              Sweden has NIRP and banks that accept ultra long loan times. One could argue that Sweden has a housing bubble, must have.

              But during the next year or so the bubble could be inflated even more. If stocks is not an investment option, bonds become volatile. What´s left? Investments in the small boxes should increase in Sweden until the very end, because the investment alternatives are even worse.

            • Artleads says:


              I wasn’t suggesting that rooftops would be the ONLY way to grow food. There are millions of glass buildings with sun on the south side where SOME food could grow. There being little need for the endless spread of paved roads, SOME food could be grown on them too. Thanks to Van Kent to pointing out the need to discard EVERY concept we have come to think of as obligatory. It is EVERY POSSIBILITY COMBINED that I’m talking about.

              So here’s a very strange one for you 🙂

              Walmart (and I use Walmart generically) will have far fewer products on the shelves, so half the shelf space could be removed to accommodate food production. (My Walmart has skylights, enabling it to turn off many lights in the day.) So you could have animal husbandry going on INSIDE Walmart. Cows and goats being milked. Cheese and butter being made. As sophisticated as you can get without oil. Many core workers COULD be housed on the roof (since not all roof space would need to grow food, and some food could be grown in exterior spaces. (Notice that I say SOME.)

              I’m not looking at how things are done now in any way, shape or form. I’m looking at how things MIGHT be done in a post BAU, post oil environment. Even in the midst of BAU, there is widespread innovation ensuing, much of it using oil, to be sure. But innovation it is. I’ve seen where rooftops grow using tens of growing layers under grow lights. Where there is a will there is a way.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Where will the water come from?

            • DJ says:

              Van Kent,
              Living in cities will of course only work as long as we have industrial farming. But during that time it could be more optimal having people living crowded doing as little as possible – smaller and smaller apartments, less cars, less infrastructure.

              Post BAU this won’t work of course, people will need to live within walking distance from work (the farm). And there will have to be a lot less people.

            • DJ says:

              I’m not the biggest optimist here.

            • Van Kent says:

              On your Walmart/ groceries usability.. When I see the long rows of freezers in the groceries, I see Post BAU excellent thermal mass for those year round greenhouses.

              I was thinking of a greenhouse gutter set up at the windows, row by row. With automatic drip irrigation. Something simple like bottles providing the drip irrigation. Behind them step shelves made from the Walmart shelves. And underneath the step shelves a row of water filled freezers, that functions as a thermal mass to even night and day temperatures and also to function as a water storage.

              With large south faced windows that should work for DJ from approx. March/ April up to October without an external heat source.

              The year round greenhouse could work year round for DJ, but it would need some thick thermal curtains at the windows during December – February and during cold dark winter days about a cubic meter of wood per day to heat the place sufficiently. So, I´m not sure if a cost / benefit analysis is in favour of spending all that wood for a meager amount of winter produce in Post BAU.

            • Artleads says:


              It’s not just my optimism that will make you skeptical; it’s also my believing that what I imagine is easier to accomplish than it is.For instance, someone gave me a bunch of those thick black plastic planter buckets with holes at the bottom. Easy, I though. I’ll stop up the hole sort of, fill buckets with water and submerge the buckets in soil. That should provide days of drip underground, irrigating the plants surrounding the buckets, saving me work. Not a chance. No matter how well I thought I’d stopped up the holes, all the water would drain out in an hour. I’ve been working at it for a long time, but nothing has worked so far.

              Van Kent,

              Thanks a lot for considering and expanding my suggestions. Some of your suggestions—like the air to speed up composting–are a little hard for this Luddite to grasp, but I immediately get what you say about filling the freezers with water. I hadn’t realized that water was a significant temperature moderator. And using cardboard bales in a similar fashion was important to learn about too. People write malls off, but I think they are a great resource for post BAU.

            • Artleads says:

              While we have oil, I bet there are ways to cut movable windows into fixed glass skyscraper windows. Platforms cantilevered out through glass windows can support a lot of water tanks (that collect rain runoff from roof) Water could flow by gravity some ways below… As with my very successful gardener neighbor, when it doesn’t rain to fill his tanks, he finds an alternative way to get food. There’s no single way to do anything. And individualism will need to be modified.

            • Stefeun says:

              you say: ” And individualism will need to be modified.”

              I’d add “as a result” (and then you can cancel “need”).
              I see individualism much more as an effect than a cause. It’s a kind of metric that allows measurement of some parameters of the society, but trying to act on it directly is a waste of time, imho.

              Like when you want to adjust the temperature of got water, you modulate the fire that’s heating it, you don’t add cold water, or else, to get desired temperature. If you didn’t change the fire intensity, eventually the temperature would be back to undesired value, anyway.

            • It seems like the higher the income of a family now, the less likely the children are likely to get married. In a sense, too much hot fire of individualism.

            • Stefeun says:

              Yes Gail,
              if the potential couple doesn’t dissipate more energy than the sum of two separate individuals, then there’s no -sound- reason to cooperate.
              Money isn’t the only parameter to be considered, but all other advantages such as security, sex, children for old days, etc… have been disconnected from marriage, so why bother?

            • Having children is a good way to dissipate more energy. But if the government promises that it will take care of you in your old age, there is no reason to have children (unless you realize that it can’t really make good on its promise).

            • Stefeun says:

              You’re right, Gail,
              but throw individualism in the equation, and then it works.

              I mean: in “advanced” societies, children are no longer made for old days protection, rather for immediate agreement or proud extension of the self. Or I don’t know why, actually, I don’t have any.

            • “Or I don’t know why, actually, I don’t have any.”

              I suspect biological imperative. I think a lot of the things people do, are a result of drives from genetics and hormones. Or from perverse social programming to fulfill a hormonal need, in the case of advertisement driven rampant consumption.

            • Van Kent says:

              Water and compost transport in Post BAU are to me the limiting factors. We have garbage bins with wheels, the small ones, 140L – 240L that can be used as composters everywhere (just drill holes and make sure the air circulates and excess moisture can drain away, otherwise an rotting process will start not and composting process) or water storage. Water storage (or moving 1-2m3 of water short distances) and compost production should not be the limiting factor. But how do you transport 10m3 or 20m3 of compost, or water, without tractors or trucks? If the only thing you have is manpower. Ideally horses should be used to produce large amounts of manure to replenish the fields. And horses should be used as manual labour to transport water and compost. But horses are not available for everyone and in stage #1 of Post BAU it is more likely the horses are rather seen as for food, then seen as valuable commodities in the future..

              A basic water filter is easy with biochar, that is not an problem. Even anti-bacterial filters are possible. But how do you transport water without machines and pumps to help you out? That is the limiting factor in my mind. We have land hectares, we should have manpower, we have clothes and buildings, even some equipment before it breaks. So, for me how to transport water and compost becomes the bottleneck that determines the amount of people that can be sustained. If zero manufacture (filter), storage and transport is possible, then zero population etc. etc.

        • Well, you only need 8m^2 and 4 Kw constant to provide all the food and air for a human being, if my understanding of the Russian studies is correct. So take your hours of sunlight on the worst days in winter, figure number of hours, and double to be safe. So if only 4 hours, figure you will need 12 times 4 equals 48 Kw of solar panels minimum. For $100 K per capita, you can growth all your own food in a small bedroom, until something breaks. Unfortunately, you will need 480 square meters per capita for the solar panels.

          • DJ says:

            Van Kent says 1000m2, you say 8m2. 1250x difference.

            • DJ says:

              125x …. bedtime

            • Van Kent says:

              DJ, Matthew uses a lot of energy. I just count what we produce in southern Finland and rely on southern Sweden being wee bit better then our climate. But otherwise relying on decades of experience. When one crop fails, something always succeeds. So 10 hectares for 100 people, year round. That is about it. Good years, bad years, even worse years, but 10 hectares just about does it whatever the situation without external energy, just add compost, water (if needed) and manpower for weed pulling.

            • “Van Kent says 1000m2, you say 8m2. 1250x difference.”

              Van Kent said 1 hectare per 10 people for outdoor farming, using sunlight to grow the food. I was referring to using electricity to power grow lights to run algae tanks, which requires a lot more capital, energy, and complexity of supply chains. Two different ways of attaining food. You could go even more extreme and feed one person per 10 square kilometers of lake, and only work 10 hours per week, or herd livestock across thousands of acres.

              The 8 M^2 area was actually for air recycling. It seems like as little as 5 cubic meters of vats could feed a human, as long as you had the electricity and were able to source parts and nutrients. That would give you nearly all the nutrients you need, and 2000 KCal per day.

              Nutrients content:

              Production test:

              Used for air recycling:

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Funny how the organic farming experts pre the green revolution didn’t think to find a way to use humanure…. instead they died regularly from diseases associated with ingesting human shit.

        • Van Kent says:

          A composting process will leave you about 1/6 of the mass that was originally there. But composting works properly only if the composter has a composting “root” of the right microbes and flora. That “root” can be optained from any forest with mold and fungi eating away at the branches leaves and such at the forest floor. A handful is quite enough to have the needed microbes to “infect” the new composter. So if you have a 1000L drum filled to the brim with manure, after a composting process (not a rotting process) you have about 200L or less remaining. What remains is black enrichment soil, which does not smell of anything really. Human manure takes about two years (in cold winter climates) to turn in to usable enrichment soil. But it is too potent to be used as such, but mixed with some soil, it is usable with pumpkins or such. It will take three or four years (in cold winter climates) for human manure to be used in a greenhouses in its raw form.

          There are a lot of things I have been wondering about organic farming. Why not develop the composters, have proper air circulation. If the moisture context is about 55-65% while air is circulating through it all, the composting process is about double speed. Why not have small manure-biogas everywhere where cubic meters of the stuff is being produced. Why not have biochar in with the separate urea tanks? Because biochar will make it odorless and make an excellent fertilizer mixed with the urea. Why not build watertanks the old style near vegetable fields and have drip irrigation when needed? If contaminated water is the issue in some old water tanks (mold etc.), then why not use water filters with the biochar to purify it before the drip irrigation?

          To me this looks like an cultural thing. There is a culture of how to do things. Nobody really bothered (or had funding available) to combine all we know about organic farming, not really.

        • Tim Groves says:

          Agriculture in Edo Period Japan ran mainly on humanure. In the City of Edo, the landlords were paid by the waste collectors for the solid waste and the tenants were paid for the liquid. The population ceiling was about 30 million in Japan (minus Hokkaido) at that time and parasitic diseases were common. Nowadays, thanks to chemical fertilizers and plenty of cow and chicken manure, human waste is wasted and homeowners pay for the privilege of having it taken away.

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  15. Gail, thanks for the article, figure #7 seems to offer some “predictive value” in terms of the likely scale of oscillations going forward, obviously this will be much volatile if we zoom out from global macro view on human scale level of cross regional comparison basis. For the scenario of “continued bumpy plateau till 2035” ~ +20% swings in world energy consumption per capita could be expected in next two decades, that’s very brutal indeed, and that’s still more or less the positive scenario out there, not mentioning the instant collapse possibility.

    • Stefeun says:

      The short blue line on right side of the graph is for legend, it’s NOT the continuation of the curve.

      (sorry couldn’t help)

      • Lolz.

        I was looking more at the ~ 2001 – 2013 hump, which is roughly 20% spike..
        While the up/down 1970s oscillations were 10-15% or even less.

        • Sooner or later (as the depletion and debts combo hit in tandem) there would be at least 20-30% negative cut for the global energy per capita unraveling in a decade or faster, which would reset the prevalent paradigm pretty much. I still postulate it will firstly play as some sort of managed reset at least in some core/semi core countries, e.g. closing most of the derivative casino, wide scale bankruptcies, revolutions, attempts at planned economy etc. It might reach some of the FE insta-d scenarios on the global periphery though.

          • Fast Eddy says:


            See the black line. It will at some point soon go straight down busting through 0.

            Of course the central banks have been fighting to prevent that outcome for 8 years now — but as you can see they are failing… it is heading relentlessly downwards in spite of the most draconian policies…

            When it heads straight down then you’ll have your collapse. That will signal that the central banks have run out of ideas.

            The Titanic is an excellent metaphor for what is happening and what is going to happen to BAU.

            It takes on water — the engineers furiously run the pumps trying to keep the ship afloat… but the volume of water entering the ship is greater than the capacity of the pumps…

            Someone watching this play out from a nearby ship would initially not think there was anything wrong. The Titanic would float with engines idling for quite some time.

            But then she’d list…. slowly….

            Then — she’d snap in half and plunge straight to the bottom.

            The engineers would to the bitter end run those pumps as hard as possible. In desperation they could pick up buckets and try to bail the water out perhaps buying a few more minutes.

            But eventually no matter how hard they tried – the Titanic tips — and sinks.

            The central banks are at the bailing bucket stage with BAU.

        • Stefeun says:

          Glad you took it well.

          In fact it reminds me of Bertrand Russel’s inductivist turkey : one cannot know the future, from simple extrapolation of what happened so far.

          It’s impossible to represent all parameters of a complex system on a single graph (not even on multi-dimensional ones, or hyper-matrixes, or what-have-you).

          Add to it that we’re dealing with dynamic equilibriums (which introduces a time variable, and cancels the notion of “solution”, among others) and it reduces quite a lot the accuracy of any prediction.

          In such case (e.g. ours), suffice to know about the global picture, and the main trend(s).
          Collapse will happen for sure, but when exactly (soon, imo) and how exactly (fast and complete, imo) remains in the province of sheer speculation, educated guess at best.

    • Figure 7 doesn’t show the rising debt needed to keep energy production up at this level, or the rising pollution problems and rising problems with too few jobs and many jobs that pay too little. I don’t think the pattern can continue. I big oscillation will head down.

  16. Jan says:

    The big question seems whether the reason for low grows rates is the the raising cost of fossile fuels or macroeconomic politics or if there is a connection between both. In this article you state convincingly that raising fuel costs lead to higher inflation. In former contributions you described how the raise of fuel costs went on account of workers wages to keep the product prices steady – also a political or social question and not an unchangeable natural law. While it is obvious that declining resources should have effects on economy, we still have no reliable idea which. World recession could be explained by a Low-demand trap, we dont need finite resources to explain that. On the other hand the Low-demand trap could be seen as a consequence of efforts to keep inflation low. A fuel driven inflation has its own negative effects, so it may be seen as an unwanted effect of fuel restraints. We also could doubt that there is a linear relation between extraction costs and inflation – as there should be a point where human labor is cheaper than fuel driven machines.

    • Stefeun says:

      Jan, you say
      “In former contributions you described how the raise of fuel costs went on account of workers wages to keep the product prices steady – also a political or social question and not an unchangeable natural law.”

      Read again. Gail actually made the link with dissipative structures.

    • I am afraid that there is close to no point where humans are cheaper than machines, especially if it is something a machine can do.

      Recession comes about because of lower consumption of energy products–however that comes about. In that case, there is less leveraging of human labor.

      We can come up with all kinds of possible explanations. The basic issues is less energy consumption leads to less GDP, because burning fossil fuels or using fossil fuels is pretty much what gives us GDP.

  17. Stilgar Wilcox says:

    Regrarding figure 1: According to the IMF, it looks like this year will have excellent GDP growth. Ok the actual was much less, but how about next year – sure next year will have great growth. Actually it did not turn out that way, but the IMF is endlessly positive regarding future forecasts to urge people to borrow money for new projects, businesses, homes, giant SUV’s, whatever can be dreamed up to nudge the GDP up as much as possible. Ok, so they are lying to everybody just like any other national or international stat.

  18. Fast Eddy says:

    Sent fuel pond update…

    So…. on my farewell trip to Canada I hooked up with a cousin who I have not seen in years… he’s an engineer in operations at one of the big nuclear installations in southern Ontario… 20+ yrs on the job.

    I asked him what would happen if the spent fuel ponds at Fukushima collapsed… how would that compare to the melt down in the reactors…

    ‘Exponentially more disastrous – a nightmare…. because there is so much more fuel in the ponds…. and they will pump out radiation for hundreds if not 1000+ years..’

    He mentioned that they have upgraded their safety systems adding massive water pumps that are powered by diesel generators that can suck water from Lake Ontario in the event of a fuel pond break down…

    So there you have it folks… enjoy the final months of BAU…

    • Van Kent says:

      Sounds to me like Europe, east coast of North America, half of Russia, Japan, China and India are going to become heavily contaminated.

      “25 percent of the radioactive particles are transported further than 2,000 kilometres”

      The southern hemisphere still looks habitable..

      • Fast Eddy says:

        I cannot see how the entire world does become contaminated…

        My cousin first said that the ponds would spew ‘forever’… then he restated and said … well they will be active for at least 1000 years… (which is basically forever)…

        He also said that the biggest problem would be the contamination of the water table — the run off into the oceans …. that means this gets into the food chain … and recycles over and over and over… forever…

        • Van Kent says:

          1000 years of warming, radiated and dying oceans, an ice free arctic that screws up the jet streams and the weather, wet bulb temperatures spreading from the equator, desertification spreading to southern Europe, California, China..

          Hmm.. sounds a wee bit nasty in a world where the low hanging fruit, easy to get resources have been taken.

          Any good engineering solutions for this one?

          • Ace says:

            Fact-free hysteria.

            • Van Kent says:

              If Nuclear was the fact-free hysteria, I think Eddy can provide you with good data what happens to a plant when the grid suddenly goes down. Nuclear plants are not designed to function in a grid down situation, because that is simply unthinkable..

              And if the climate change models are in doubt, then just check out NASAs latest research, are the glaciers and arctic and antarctic ice diminishing, or not. If in doubt about the warmest year on record (2015), then check what NASA says is happening to the ice.

              Other then that, well, geoengineering is not an option. Energy is not abundant. Finance has a limit. Global agreements can only be kept if the economy grows robustly ad infinitum on a finite planet. So, hardly fact-free, just extrapolation of known facts that are put in to models.

              I think everybody here would like these sort of things indeed to be “fact-free hysteria”, very much so.

            • “Other then that, well, geoengineering is not an option. ”

              Why not? I know it is not publicly favoured, so nothing major can be tried until something catastrophic happens and the terrified masses beg for SOMEONE TO DO SOMETHING!

            • Rodster says:

              “Other then that, well, geoengineering is not an option.”

              Well you might want to contact Climate Scientist David Keith because he’s the biggest proponent of Geoengineering and he along with PBS have been pushing the idea.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              No. Fact based reality.

              4000 spent fuel ponds. No way to cool them without BAU. 1000+ years spewing radiation post BAU. Extinction event

              Those are facts.

            • Van Kent says:

              – Reflective aerosols or chemtrails sprayed in to the atmosphere
              – Cloud seeding
              – Space mirrors
              – Ocean fertilization and/or algea
              – Ocean brightening
              – Crop brightening
              – Whitening of rooftops globally

              Sounds good !

              Ok, our economy can not survive without profits. Even without a carbon tax, or a Tobin tax or geoengineering, we are already tethering on the brink of a global economic collapse. When this fragile system of three days worth of spare parts on the shelf, manufactured on the other side of the globe delivered Just In Time, falls, it will be grid down SHTF.

              There are a number of climate scientists who simply do not understand how the global socio-political-economical system works. And I understand full well they want geoengineering. If I was looking only at the climate graphs that would be what I would want also. The only snag is that geoengineering is impossible to implement in our global socio-political-economical system without a SHTF collapse. Ergo, geoengineering is impossible.

            • “The only snag is that geoengineering is impossible to implement in our global socio-political-economical system without a SHTF collapse. Ergo, geoengineering is impossible.”

              If we can give Lockheed over a trillion dollars for a super high tech jet fighter, why can’t we give them another trillion to save the world? All it takes is for the DoD to accept that climate change is a threat to BAU and thus a threat to the constitution, and then they can just dump resources into the MIC.

              Heck, all those jobs and corporate profits might even keep BAU running longer. Create more demand and profit for commodity producers and everything.

            • Rodster says:

              “Ergo, geoengineering is impossible.”

              I suppose you missed the 1966 Dept of Defense memo and 1978 US Senate report that says those same programs have existed since the late 40’s.

            • doomphd says:

              I understand that Disneyland is adding new Star Wars themed rides to the park. That should help to distract the young minds, assuming their parents still have money for their newly raised seasonal rates.

            • Van Kent says:

              We will be having famine from El Niño in different parts of the world by August. Refugees in Europe by the millions during the summer and fall. Energy infrastructure needs investments in the trillions if they are going to even pretend to live up to the promises of COP Paris. U.S. will continue the wars in ME.

              And in these kind of circumstances spend an extra trillion in Lockheed Martin chemtrails? I don´t think that´s possible in our current socio-political system. Do you?

              Even if the U.S. debt could be expanded from the current 19.1 trillion to 20 – 25 – 30 trillion. Still, spending an extra trillion for a global emergency while U.S. citizenry suffer economic malaise.. While Trump is being elected..

              “geoengineering is impossible to implement in our global socio-political-economical system without a SHTF collapse. Ergo, geoengineering is impossible.”

    • Christopher says:

      Fast Eddy,

      It seems like the evacuation of the Fukushima area was unnecessarry:


      Another comfort, although small to a super doomer like you, is that the ecological half-life of cesium 137 is seven years compared to the physical half-life of about 30 years. This is from a study of reindeers in Tjernobyl contaminated areas of Sweden. You can read about it here (in swedish):


      • Fast Eddy says:

        And spent fuel ponds when the cooling water boils off and is not replaced spew radiation for 1000+ years… what does half life matter when you are constantly replenishing?

        Tell you what – why don’t you buy a ticket to Fukushima — then rent a car and drive to the nuclear plant … and take some photos of the massive pumps that are pouring tonnes of sea water onto the melted cores — then post the photos here.

        You can also take some photos of the cracked fuel pond — which has not collapsed — but if it does it will make the meltdown of the cores look like spilled coffee….

        Containing radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima 68 years ago, more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies packed tightly together need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse, should another large earthquake hit the area.


        • Christopher says:

          Hmm, well at least I tried to give you some little comfort.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Can you also comfort me by explaining how we grow food in soil that has been farmed in soil ruined by petro chemicals — when the petro chemicals are no longer available?

            Yes of course we could make compost and spread it on this soil for a few years — and hope that it comes back to life…

            I am wondering what I — and 7.4 billion others — are supposed to eat during that time?

            Oh I know!!! We can eat hopium!!! It’s the national dish of Delusistan and I have heard it tastes like whatever it you want it to taste like

        • Rural says:

          That scenario is so tired Eddy. You really have to do some reading on spent fuel because it isn’t nearly as bad as you say. And I say that a someone who would like to see the nuclear industry shut down purely because of the spent fuel issue.

          I propose an Our Finite World annual celebration of Fast Eddy Is Still Wrong Day on March 19th. Every March 19th, if the fast collapse hasn’t occurred, we all celebrate that fact and discuss how we are trying to mitigate and adapt to the numerous real threats civilization faces. And I’m not proposing this just to poke fun at Eddy. I really think that it is worth celebrating each year civilization gets, and hugely important to strive for a more sustainable civilization.

          • InAlaska says:

            I volunteer to be the Vice Chair of the Fast Eddy is Still Wrong Day Planning Committee. Fast Freddy is so full of himself and his half-substantiated hysteria that he drowns out what could be a really interesting and productive blog-site on Finite World issues.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I think I hear Joan calling…. Joan? Is that you Joan?


              If I and a few other Reality Warriors weren’t here to crush the Koombayists FW would quickly become a useless piece of garbage overrun by organic farmers and solar panel groupies from Delusistan— who think they are posting ‘interesting and productive’ insights.

              The Peak Prosperity hordes are always at the gate… trying to bash their way in.

              Vigilance is paramount.

            • Rural says:

              Volunteer accepted!

              I agree. Sincerely, I’d like to see more well-informed discussion here and try my best to contribute where I can, even trying to steer FE in a more useful direction. The successes have been minimal so far, but I remain hopeful.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Actually – I have spent many hours researching and reading about this issue…. the idea came to me when I came across an Orlov article pointing to the dangers of nuclear reactors post BAU….

            Then I read something about the Fukushima fuel ponds and how the reactors were a side show… how the ponds were exponentially more dangerous…

            And one thing lead to another…

            I have made a collection of the best information that I could find on the spent fuel pond issue.

            Let me know if you would like me to post all of it here.

            Oh – and I also spoke to engineer from one of the large nuclear plants near Toronto the other day — he is a senior manager (20 years +) on the operations side at the facility — quite up to speed on keeping the reactors and the ponds safe.

            You will recall that he told me that they installed massive diesel powered pumps post Fukushima specifically to deal with a spent fuel pond accident involving a cooling water boil off.

            I’ll dig out all my research for you – just say the word

          • Christian says:

            Im for the Still Wrong day also. If this guy was right, we’re already dead several times

  19. Fast Eddy says:

    ‘There are currently many stresses on our economic system. We can’t be certain that the system will last very long. When the system starts collapsing, it is likely to take grid-connected electricity systems with it.’

    Good to have Gail on the fast collapse dream team.

  20. daddio7 says:

    Like dolph911 says, despite calls that the system can’t continue, it does. Eventually it will grind down but those who think the carbon pollution must be stopped now could bring it crashing down much sooner.

    • wysinwyg says:

      Shouldn’t we reject your assertion that “the system” could come “crashing down much sooner” on the basis of your premise that “despite calls that the system can’t continue, it does”? I don’t see what’s special about your “calls” in particular.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        The Big Short.

        If you read/watched that you will have noted that Michael Burry was short the market in I think it was 2005 — others soon joined…

        The resets on mortgage rates were meant to kick in big time with huge tranches of the securities in the following year…

        But things did not go according to plan – in spite of massive defaults — the market did not go bust… it defied reality — and it nearly bankrupted the shorts…

        But eventually it did collapse — literally over night — or over a few days….

        Then the central banks stepped in and delayed the collapse by 8 years…

        Eventually central banks will no longer be able to hold back what is now a far bigger tidal wave…. they are pushing with all their might against the wave right now…

        We are in a situation very similar to what Burry was looking at in 2007 — everything was failing — yet the markets did not collapse…

        He was incredulous — Baum was screaming at the ratings agencies… the foundations were rotten through yet the building remained standing…

        We are all looking at rotting foundations — just skim Zero Hedge for a summary of rot.

        Yet amazingly the market does not collapse. Corporate earnings are falling — yet stock markets are not collapsing — because corporations are buying back shares — there are virtually no good jobs being created — trade is stagnating as is growth — yet the markets somehow do not react to the dying consumer…

        Does anyone really think this can go on forever? It did not go on forever in 2008.

        Something is going to give…. anyone with any common sense can see that.

        1+1=2. Always.

        Of course if you live in Delusistan and you just repeat to yourself enough times ‘this can go on forever – this can go on forever’ you can convince yourself that there is no cliff ahead… only a gentle slope playing out over decades….

        That’s human nature — when faced with catastrophe that pretty much guarantees your death — you invent other outcomes — the mind is a powerful thing — even when faced with a 1+1=2 situation — it can convince you that the result is 3. Or 4. Or blue. Or up. Or a circle.

        If you have children your mind can completely override reality to the point where anyone pointing out that 1+1=2 is a lunatic — a heretic.

        Because children carry your DNA — you will protect them at all cost.

        I am the heretic. I am telling you that your children are going to starve. They are going to be diseased. They are going to suffer. If they do not die they are likely to be enslaved, raped, murdered. They will not live the care-free lives that you hoped they would. That is a lock.

        Feel free to scream at Fast Eddy for stating what is obvious. Vent on me. Insult me.

        If it makes you feel better.

        But it will change nothing. I am right.

        You know I am right.

        Not a single one of you will try turning off the power for the weekend as I have challenged.

        You know why. I know why.

        It’s because if you did that you would realize that 1+1=2. You would know with complete certainty that what I have stated above it true.

        And to maintain your sanity you will not go there. You will continue living in your delusional world believing whatever keeps you sane.

        So feel free to rip into Fast Eddy for telling you what deep down you already know.

        I know it makes you feel better. I know that you are not really vilifying me rather you are insulting the demons that lurk in the back of your mind who are insisting that 1+1=2…

        You are trying to repress the acidic bile that turns your stomach when you find yourself thinking about 1+1…

        Ok – it’s 3. You are right.

        Or it is it 2?

        • Fast Eddy says:

          ‘huge tranches of securities’ resetting at higher interest rates the following year (forget the last part)

        • Rural says:

          I like the powerless weekend challenge.

          Yes, I fully believe that my children will have a lower standard of living than their parents. The days of plentiful resources are ending as we speak. However, that’s a far cry from being starved, diseased, raped, enslaved, and murdered. The only way for that to occur is a lightning fast collapse scenario, which is possible, but not all that likely.

          Look, I’m happy to examine realistic scenarios for fast collapse, but despite being absolutely convinced that a fast collapse is coming, you (Fast Eddy) really aren’t offering anything compelling. Spent nuclear fuel does not present any risk to anyone 10km away from a storage facility. Likewise, a stock-market collapse would have to be incredibly bad for more than a teeny portion of the population to go hungry. So what scenario(s) do you see causing an impact like you endlessly speak-of (ie. many people’s children starving, enslaved, or murdered).

          Here, I’ll start. An all-out war or a pandemic could cause a fast collapse. Care to add to the list?

          • “Spent nuclear fuel does not present any risk to anyone 10km away from a storage facility. ”

            Explain how there are pastures in the UK that until recently have not been able to produce meat or dairy due to contamination from Chernobyl.


            Did you read David Korowicz’s paper?

            A 1-month long national strike for truckers and longshoremen could do it. Civil unrest. Prolonged drought.

            • Rural says:

              Yes, there are areas near Chernobyl and Fukushima further than 10km away that one should’t spend much time. But who is dying? My point is that the two worst nuclear accidents don’t add up to much loss of human life. The 4000 storage facilities do not represent a significant risk to civilization.

              That’s the first I’ve seen of Korowicz. Looks interesting. Thanks for the pointer.

              Your possible causes of fast collapse would be fairly localized, no?

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Chernobyl and Fukushima are controlled…. because BAU allows us to control them.

              When BAU is gone what do you think will happen to Fukushima?

            • “My point is that the two worst nuclear accidents don’t add up to much loss of human life. The 4000 storage facilities do not represent a significant risk to civilization.”

              The fires at Chernobyl and Fukushima were extinguished within a few weeks and massive efforts to control the disasters immediately took effect, with billions of dollars and massive amounts of equipment, technology and man-power.

              Imagine those same disasters burning for decades. Now imagine thousands of them all over the world with no significant government ability to respond.

              I do not know whether the whole “bioaccumulation hypothesis” is correct, as to the material building up in the food web and slowly killing off everything, or whether it would just be 4000 exclusion zones plus tens of thousands of hotspots all over the world. Maybe the last dying act of civilization will be to dry cask everything they can and set the hottest fuel widely spaced in the pools with a trickle of water and some holes for convection and everything will be just peachy.

        • DJ says:

          Do you have to be home during the weekend challenge. Or could you go camping?

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Sure – you can go camping – but you need to go with only the clothes on your back.

            The idea is to unplug yourself from BAU — to get an idea of what life looks like post collapse.

            There won’t be any cheating post collapse — it will be the real deal. Forever.

        • InAlaska says:

          You’re wrong about the parents of children being delusional. Wrong. In order to raise children in a dangerous world (and it always has been) parents must be clear-eyed, rational people who can judge the right from the wrong and who can discern danger from the background noise. How could it be any other way when you evolved to raise a child in a world of predators, accidents and the unforeseen? I find that it is often true that people WITHOUT children (besides being self-centered) are also the ones apt to be vulnerable to acts of irrationality and flights of fancy. People with their feet rooted firmly in the deep soil of parenthood can see through a rock wall.

            • InAlaska says:

              Its debatable.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I am working on a new ad campaign for Delusistan…. the Minister of Idiocy is paying me 86 million dollars …

              Here’s it is:

              ‘Delusistan – where anything is possible’

              We’ll be rolling out Tee Vee spots that show people living in harmony on organic farms — with hardened criminals joining hands with local farmers dancing about the fire after everyone put in a wholesome days work harvesting the crops….

              Another spot will have the farmers driving to the Sunday market in electric vehicles where groomed folk from the city smile and marvel at the amazing organic produce – they will also be riding in EV’s — everyone will be well-fed, well-dressed and healthy (just like a fairy tale)

              The third spot will involve a guy working out of his basement shouting Eureka!!!! — I have perfected space solar power!

              Then we’ll have a fourth placement depicting soldiers and terrorists laying down their weapons – linking arms — and drinking ice cold kool aid.

              That’s all I have for now — but as you can see – the tag line opens this up to infinite possibilities….

              Oh — the backing track for the campaign will be (how could it not!) John Lennon’s Imagine …


              There are some days when I just wish the shit would hit the fan — it would be priceless to see the smug looks wiped off the faces of the fools when they come to grips with the fact that the post BAU world is not Little House on the Prairie… rather it is a world of starvation, disease, death, violence and epic suffering….

              But then schadenfreude is not pleasurable when one is also knee deep in the misery …

  21. John Drake says:

    Dear Gail,

    As you rightly say: “we need a growing amount of net Energy, per capital, to keep the economy from collapsing”.

    An appropriate intellectual effort to measure the evolution of the net Energy derived from our various Energy sources would at least enable decision makers to see that they “have a problem” and that they do not have a long amount of time to solve it. A related country by country analysis would even highlight a few key geopolitical problems coming down the road of short-term History.

    As for so called “entropy related problems”, good luck if you want to make our decision makers and tax payers understand them…


    • Van Kent says:

      “The truth? You can´t handle the truth!”

      It would have been nice that the 1972 book Limits to Growth had started an adult conversation about what to do about a global system that is not viable, feasible, possible in the long run. But, alas, here we are.

      It would have been nice if our species was capable of understanding the exponential function. And it would have been nice if our species had the ability to make agreements that had ensured the survival of the majority, even if the minority could not make maximum profits. But, alas, here we are.

      Gail can only tell the truth, but it is virtually guaranteed that only about 0.0001% of decision makers or tax payers can handle that truth. We, as a species, like optimism, hope, hybris and reality avoidance by any means. Truth, reality, and the idea that history is NOT a linear path to the stars, where everything gets better, is something our genes try to ignore with all their might.

      As we stand today, tax payers and decision makers don´t have much to decide anyway. The only thing left is to select a martial law government and the viable feasible emergency plans for the short term. And concerning the emergency plans, anything other then compost production and transport, weed pulling manpower, water transport and water filters as an first phase emergency plan, is a waste of everyones time.

      • DJ says:

        Van Kent,
        But you, FE, Gail(?) and most here seems to think LTG is dead wrong. But currently we seem to follow LTG population- and pollutionwise, better resourcewise.

        • Van Kent says:

          The Limits to Growth graph has been very accurate. What was not calculated in the graph 45 years ago, was exuberant amounts of debt, unconventional oil, a Seneca Cliff if you will of international banking and finance. What LTG started to describe 45 years ago, I think Gail refines and sharpens the points made there.

          • DJ says:

            I agree about refinement.

            Having only skimmed the book … didn’t they have scenarios with “technical improvement” and undiscovered reserved making growth last longer, but leading to a sharper and deeper drop (seneca).

          • The LTG graph is basically a model of expected problem, if the only issue is depletion–the economy can continue as before, just with less oil and fossil fuels. It is pretty much a forecast if our problems are simply those of Pump 1. Until we approach the point of collapse, the Pump 1 model should be pretty close to the true model of what happens. As Pump 2 problems start to predominate, the collapse occurs much more steeply than the LTG model predicts.

            In fairness to the LTG authors, they have never said that their model has validity after the point of collapse. It is the followers of Hubbert who came up with the idea that the economy could simply get along with less fossil fuels (forgetting that this was not what Hubbert said). He always made his forecasts as if another very cheap fuel replaced fossil fuels, before there was a problem.
            Hubbert chart

            • DJ says:

              This seems steeper than Hubbert:

              Second graph

            • The LTG curves may be somewhat steeper than Hubbert’s forecast, because there are some feedback loops, including pollution. It is the “standard run” of LTG that most people refer to,and it isn’t very steep. The second chart is steeper, but it is an alternative scenario with twice as much resources. It shows a steep population drop late this century.

            • scott says:

              Hubbert was an optimist.

            • “Hubbert was an optimist.”

              His most quoted model is based on the assumption that by 1970 we’d have liquid metal breeder reactors, and by ~2005 peak oil we’d have 500 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in nuclear power for thousands of years. He did, however, also provide an alternative model in which nuclear did not work out and we had to rely on renewable only. Unfortunately, most people use the cornucopia model even when not assuming unlimited nuclear power.

            • Stefeun says:

              you write : “He (Hubbert) did, however, also provide an alternative model in which nuclear did not work out and we had to rely on renewable only.”

              Any details about that?
              NB: short version please, summary for exhilaratives.

            • Fortunately, Gail has already done all the hard work:


              I did make a few mistakes; his model was 500 billion barrels of oil per year equivalent for the United States via nuclear, not 500 million barrels of oil equivalent per day for the World. Also, he did not actually make a separate chart for oil without nuclear. His original oil model is based on the assumption that nuclear would take over, and people would keep getting oil just because it is useful for other purposes besides energy. You can see the chart which shows a much lower level of energy on renewable only, however.

            • Stefeun says:

              Thanks Matthew,
              but it doesn’t seem to correspond with what you say, exactly.
              Unless considering that “renewables only” is NOT an option. But that, we already knew.

              As Gail comments in her article:
              “In Figure 61, “solar energy” seems to mean solar, wind, tidal, wood, biofuels, and energy we get on a day-to-day basis, indirectly from the sun. His figure seems to suggest that solar energy would basically act as a fossil fuel extender, and would not last much beyond the time fossil fuels last. Another fuel, such as nuclear, would be needed to keep total energy production high for the long term.”

              I was hoping for something funnier. Nevermind.

            • “Unless considering that “renewables only” is NOT an option. ”

              Of course, the financial system and BAU will collapse under a renewables-only scenario. It is not an option, it is inevitable. At some point, there will not be any non-renewable energy left – at least, not in any quantity to make a big difference. If you look at the chart, you see Hubbert shows energy bulging slightly higher and taking slightly longer to collapse with oil + renewables , but eventually collapses; rather than going to 0 like in the fossil fuel only model, the renewables continue on at <5% of 1956 US energy levels. So, say 1 percent of present day energy. That's locally made waterwheels and windmills, plus firewood.

            • This is a link to his 1976 paper called Exponential Growth as a Transient Phenomenon in Human History. The point of the article is that the exponential growth experienced under fossil fuels won’t last. This is a renewables only (plus fossil fuels) article.

            • Stefeun says:

              Thanks Gail!

              Looks very interesting. Everything was on the table, 40 years ago (for this paper, not to mention LtG, etc..), but instead they decided to
              TURN THE BULL LOOSE !

        • Only up until the point of collapse. Predictive value stops then.

  22. Göran Rudbäck says:

    Looking at figure 5 makes me wonder what it would look like, if you added a curve of annual debt rise against energy consumption. My guess is, that the curves would part in the mid 80’s, when “big money” realized that by creating part inflation in the “energy used” sector – real estate – and finance it by loan, the new non-inflated money could be used to buy commodities cheaper than others could which is implied in figure 6.

  23. carlos leiro says:

    Hi Gail, I’m from Argentina and my English is not good. I think and hope you understand.

    With repect to GDP.

    If 1 unit value / energy used to obtain 9 value / energy. We get 1 + 9 = 10

    If we use four value / energy to get 6 value / energia.Obtenemos 4+ 6 = 10

    In both cases the GDP is 100 but the yield is different

    • Veggie says:

      Hello carlos

      I think you are mistaken.
      If we use 4 units of energy to get 6…
      …Then we get 6
      The 4 units used to obtain the 6 new units are gone. Burned up.

      In fact, it may be worse depending on the sources and the methods used.
      Follow this reasoning….
      Initially we have 10 units on earth (4 available for use, and 6 yet to be extracted).
      So we use up 4 to extract more.
      Now that initial 4 is gone… and we have 6 new extracted units in our hands.
      So instead of previously having 4 units available for use, we now have 6.
      A net gain of only 2

      Hmmm….. hard to get ahead in this game 🙂
      Am I seeing this correctly ?


  24. Max says:

    Position of the writer is position of bourgeoisie idealist, yet with some good points.
    As not only proposed solutions are mostly idealistic and hence impossible to implement.
    But they also always assume capitalism (saving ruling class) to be only possible option.
    Idea to reduce expenses on workers education can be fully understood only from class point of view, as it allows to reduce cost for the working force and this is in the interest of ruling class.
    Real income chart just show how damaging capitalism is where small amount of capitalists and their servants consume huge amount of resources.
    Constantly mentioned issue with debt has one simple solution – removal of parasites, capitalists. As debt is not a solution, but a tool. Educational debt and mortgage are tools to exploit workers, make for them necessary to work each and every month for the small payment capitalist offer.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      So what does this alternate system look like? Details please

      • Max says:

        What “alternate system”?

        Author do not write anything about any alternate system, she just love imperialism with all her heart. Just did not like some unfortunate consequences 🙂

        Author also completely do not understand that in capitalism you just can not make any smooth transition to other resources usage or even just properly reduce resources usage and make necessary preparations.

        Capitalists are like fungus. Of course you can lecture fungus how bad it is to turn resources and energy into shit. But fungus can not understand anything. All it cares of is maximum profits here and now.

        • Stefeun says:

          As much your statement about capitalism sounds correct,
          as much that about fungus is flawed.
          Ask Don Stewart 😉

        • DJ says:

          People are like fungus.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          Well actually — the point of our system is growth — because without growth we collapse into a very primitive state.

          Be careful what you wish for.

  25. oneno says:

    What can be said when one refuses to see what is staring one straight in the face in the sky on a clear day? The Sun’s photo-sphere is dwarfed by it’s electro-magnetic output of the net-positive charge of the solar wind that drives our weather as the Earth discharges the solar capacitor and can provide an abundant clean energy source. The comments for the last topic of this blog were replete with the 20-year-old peak energy meme. When one looks at the sky on a semi cloudy day, and sees patches of clouds at the same elevation coming together one needs to consider more than the conventional view of the wind as the driver of that behaviour.

    It is as if there is a deliberate attempt to conceal the fundamental truths in science through convolution and disinformation.

    The much spoken-of CO2 problem through the burning of fossil fuels conceals the concomitant pollution issue (NO, CO, O3, …) and the urgent problem of O2 depletion.

    The one-sided and closed view of entropy-based systems removes from sight the cellular nature of plasma-based systems that contain and concentrate energy!

    • What is the gradient of this magnetic field? How can we harvest it? Useful work comes not from energy, but energy gradient. Are you going to build the negative terminal out at Pluto? How much difference is there between the noon and midnight sides of the planet at any given time? Inquiring minds want to know more!

      • oneno says:

        How can we harvest this energy field? Read books by James McCanney. The negative terminal is the relativistic electron cloud surrounding the Sun. The positive terminal is actually a membrane – the solar wind extending beyond the orbit of Pluto. See image of the Eskimo Nebula. Read James McCanney’s books on Planet-X Comets & Earth Changes and Principia Meteorology – The Physics of Sun Earth Weather. Saying more would infringe on the intellectual property right of an independent scientist who butters his own bread and self supports a roof over his own head. Look at the Distributed McCanney Wing Generator System to harvest this energy cleanly and at low cost. The second book mentioned above describes how the Tesla Tower works. The average temperature difference between the noon and night sides of the Earth is approx. 20 degC. There is NO GW.

        The last paragraph of the original post should have been:

        “The one-sided and closed view of entropy-based systems removes from sight the cellular nature of plasma-based systems that collect, contain, and concentrate energy facilitating the formation of dissipative entropy-based energy sources!”

        • So, are you just talking about wind? It sounded like you were talking about harvesting electromagnetic energy directly, but then it just goes to a video about a slightly different windmill design.

          • oneno says:

            James McCanney spoke about the issue of directly harvesting the energy from the ionosphere in one of his science hour broadcasts. However, a less costly system that can be produced and easily maintained even by communities in developing countries was determined to be the better solution to make energy production and distribution relatively “free”.

            What is it that causes wind? Pressure cells? What causes the pressure cells? That electromagnetic energy is already driving our weather. The McCanney Wing Generator are scale able and can be placed along coastlines where the wind drives the McCanney Wing Generator. The system is distributed so that stored energy in one region can be delivered to regions where there is energy demand but no wind blowing.

            Why recreate a system to collect the electromagnetic energy directly when nature has already done it for us?

            Read James McCanney’s books.

            • bandits101 says:

              Are his books free? You should get together with our resident space solar advocate, competition for saving the world can only be a good thing.

            • oneno says:

              No. His books are not free. If you go to his website and click on the individual books, you can read the back cover. His books will appeal to anyone with an interest in science and are written for the average person as well as Ph.D. scientists.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Can you come back and tell us all about it when it actually happens.

            • oneno says:

              @FE, you can purchase his book, make calculations to scale the device components for your needs, find a machine shop to make the parts,, purchase the magnets, and then assemble it yourself. You could even start your own cottage industry producing components for these devices.

    • interguru says:

      To quote Wolfgang Pauli “That is not only not right, it is not even wrong.”

  26. richard says:

    “As much as we would like everyone to have advanced training (and training that changes with each new innovation), the productivity of workers does not rise sufficiently to justify the high cost of giving advanced education to a large share of the population. Instead, we must deal with the fact that the world’s economy needs large numbers of workers with relatively little training.”
    You really nailed it there Gail.
    I suspect the problem’s been ongoing since the days of the steam engine.

    • It seems like quite a few countries have a limed number of places in universities, and entrance requirements to get in. This might be a better approach, especially if the number of degrees available roughly matched the need for those with degrees. But this would require admitting that the current system is not working.

  27. dolph911 says:

    I am of course fully on board with these views, but, to play devil’s advocate, I would say that the onus is on us to prove collapse dynamics.

    We cannot simultaneously say to the mainstream that they have to prove everything is fine, but we can just assume everything is not.

    To be sure, I personally don’t feel I have something to prove, and yet every year it’s “now it really starts” but it never does. Like we are on board the Titanic, and it’s not moving, but it’s not sinking either.

    To be clear of what I’m talking about:
    1) financial system: on life support; hasn’t collapsed…banks still function, trillions in transactions continue worldwide without a problem
    2) political system: same as it ever was, same old parties, same old bs, same old people rallying to the cause; no major nation is seeing political collapse
    3) war: same old wars in the middle east over the same old resources; no major wars between major nations involving wholesale mobilization and destruction such as ww2
    4) social: same old, people glued to tv and movies and screens, go to work, pay your taxes and insurance premiums, eat foodstuffs, have parties and talk about your kids and travels like they are the most important thing; then one day you get a heart attack or stroke but the system rushes in to save you anyway

    If this is collapse, it is genuinely boring. So much so, that I may just personally take things into my own hands and “collapse now” just to make things interesting.

    • imie says:

      For all these years gross energy consumption was rising. But now it has started to change. We don’t have data for 2015, but I think that we could have had negative consumption growth of energy. Today EIA’s data showed that the US coal production rate have dropped 34% year over year last week, that’s equivalent of about 4 million barrels of oil per day. China’s January-February coal production was down some 8% yoy (if you include that February was longer this year). That’s equivalent of some 3.5 mbopd. And coal prices are still low!

    • Rodster says:

      I understand what you’re saying. Catherine Austin Fitts likes to refer to our current malaise as “the slow burn”.

    • Veggie says:

      Your points are valid, however I think the big difference from the “old days” is that we now have 3 or 4 billion more bodies doing that same thing.
      The spinning top may be wobbling but you can’t quite feel it.
      While genuinely boring….it may be much preferred to the “instant collapse” scenario which is down right terrifying. :-O
      For a sneak preview keep an eye on Venezuela over the coming weeks.


    • The fact that Trump has gotten as far as he has is an indication that something is amiss. People feel like they need big changes.

  28. KesheR says:

    Thanks! I think the critical point is near.

  29. richard says:

    For Venezeula, collapse may come as soon as next week. One dam provides some two thirds of their electricity:
    “Maybe so, but one place that’s not “hanging onto power” is the Guri Dam, which supplies more than two-thirds of the country’s electricity. As The Latin American Herald Tribune writes, the dam “is less than four meters from reaching the level where power generation will be impossible.” “Water levels at the hydroelectric dam are 3.56 meters from the start of a ‘collapse’ of the national electric system,’” The Tribune continues, adding that “Guri water levels are at their lowest levels since 2003, when the a nationwide strike against Hugo Chavez reduced the need for power, masking the problem.””
    ““It is not Guri that is in disarray, it is the whole system. Rates frozen, companies nationalized, capacity that was supposed to be installed was never installed and maintenance not carried out”, Miguel Lara, an engineer who worked in the industry for three decades said.”
    Id’ve thought to mess up this bad you need a computer, but it seems the government managed to do this all by themselves.

  30. Fast Eddy says:

    This is a death spiral….

    What’s in Store for the Real Economy

    There is no escape.

    The Census Bureau announced today that total business sales in January did what they’d been doing relentlessly for the past one-and-a-half years: they fell! This time by 1.1% from a year ago, to $1.296 trillion, and by 5% from their peak in July 2014.

    They’re now back where they’d been in January 2013. Sales are adjusted for seasonal and trading-day differences, but not for price changes. And since January 2013, the consumer price index rose 2.8%! This is why the US economy has looked so crummy.

    That’s bad enough. But it gets much worse.

    Total business sales are composed of three categories: sales by merchant wholesalers (33% of total), by manufacturers (36% of total), and by retailers (30% of total).

    Sales by merchant wholesalers took the biggest hit: they plunged 6.4% from January a year ago, to $433.1 billion.

    Symptomatic for the lousy state of business investment, sales of professional equipment dropped 4.1% year-over-year, with computer equipment and software sales plunging 10.2%. Sales of electrical equipment, the largest category among durable goods, fell 5.0%. Sales of machinery fell 1.4%. And “misc. durable” sales plunged 8.6%.

    The economy’s kick-butt, take-no-prisoners winner? Sales of drugs soared 11.0% to $53.6 billion. As we found out today via Express Scripts Drug Trend Report, those sales increases weren’t caused by people suddenly taking more drugs; they were caused largely by price gouging.

    Turns out, prices of brand-name prescription drugs soared 16.2% in 2015! One third of these drugs had price increases of over 20%! On average, they’re up nearly 100% since 2011. This is a patent-protected, monopolistic industry that has managed to rip off every consumer and government in the US. And there’s more. Express Scripts:

    Moreover, the industry faced opportunistic manufacturers who exploited monopolies with old generic medications and captive pharmacy arrangements, and ongoing scheming by compounding pharmacies to promote sales of high-priced, no-value compound medications.

    That’s a nod toward, among others, Valeant whose shares plunged 51% today. They’re now down 87% since July last year when a short seller with a big megaphone exposed the company’s nefarious practices.

    More http://wolfstreet.com/2016/03/15/business-inventory-fiasco-jumps-past-lehman-moment/

  31. richard says:

    Interesting point of view. There are two ways of looking at debt: Gold, for example, tends to reflect the cost of energy to extract, refine and store it, so it could be viewd as a measure of energy stored, except you cannot reverse the storge.
    There is another way of looking at debt : as part of a system of moving wealth (essentially ownership of things like gold or land) into the hands of rentiers.
    Suppose, for example, banks can borrow at zero interest rates. This incentivises them to fund, for example, oil exploration and production, with the oil in the ground as collateral. The loan costs almost nothing to create, and the interest payments therefore reflect the risk to the bank of that firm failing. If the bank was levered 30:1 and loans to oil companies collectively added up to ten percent of its assets, then the risk of any one oil company’s failure would seem to pose very little risk to the bank.
    The risks, however are not dissimilar to the systemic risks posed by mortgage lending, both prime and sub-prime.
    The risk is that the price of oil in the market falls significantly. If the price of oil halves, then the value of an oilfield may fall to one quarter of its value at the time the loan was originally made. With the loan structure of the bank as indicated above, the bank may become insolvent.
    The question then becomes, will the oil price ever recover? There is an expectation that low energy prices will provide an economic boost, but that boost may occur too far away to be of benefit to the local economy and thus to the bank.
    The oil company may cuts costs, but its interest payments will continue short of bankruptcy. And if the oil price stays low enough, long enough, the costs of abandoning the well and making good the environment, may entirely wipe out any residual value of the loan collateral.
    The longer this process continues, the greater the proportion of debt and the smaller the share of equity becomes, until the only reason for production to continue, is to service the debt.
    Of course, the bank will, as soon as the risks increase, sell as much risk as it can at the best possible price. And I’d add, that much of the risk owes its existence to the tendency for asset prices to rise when the cost of money falls or becomes negative.

    • Stefeun says:

      good comment, included final remark :
      When CBs try & boost the economic activity, they also boost the risks with it.

      Actually, it’s working less and less (not any more?) for the activity, but the Risk is doing very very fine, thank you.

    • There is indeed a different way of looking at debt, but I don’t think it comes to a better conclusion than the other.

      Prices can’t recover very far for very long unless a larger share of the population has jobs, and those jobs pay better than today, especially for those are currently in low-paid jobs.

  32. John Weber says:

    Gail – I believe I have shared these thoughts with you before:
    All the things in our world have an industrial history. Behind the computer, the T-shirt, the vacuum cleaner is an industrial infrastructure fired by energy (fossil fuels mainly). Each component of our car or refrigerator has an industrial history. Mainly unseen and out of mind, this global industrial infrastructure touches every aspect of our lives. It pervades our daily living from the articles it produces, to its effect on the economy and employment, as well as its effects on the environment.
    Solar energy collecting devices and their auxiliary equipment have an industrial history. They are an extension of the fossil fuel supply system and the global industrial infrastructure. It is important to understand the industrial infrastructure and the environmental results for the components of the solar energy collecting devices so we don’t designate them with false labels such as green, renewable or sustainable.
    This is a challenge to ‘business as usual’. If we teach people that these solar devices are the future of energy without teaching the whole system, we mislead, misinform and create false hopes and beliefs. They are not made with magic wands.
    These videos and charts are provided by the various industries themselves. I have posted both charts and videos for the solar cells, modules, aluminum from ore, aluminum from recycling, aluminum extrusion, inverters, batteries and copper.
    Please note each piece of machinery you see in each of the videos has its own industrial interconnection and history.

    • bandits101 says:

      “All things in our world have an industrial history”…………..
      That doesn’t sound right. My take on things and I’ve said it before is that we engineer.
      From the time hominids sharpened a stick, humans have been engineering. The more we engineer, the more energy we use. I surmise the peak of human engineering has passed or is not far off.

      Of necessity we will continue to engineer until the very end, it’s what humans do, there is no alternative.

    • Stefeun says:

      Thanks John,
      always useful to remind that we -and all technology- depend on deeply interconnected intertwined interdependant supply chains.

      Amazing that most people don’t want to admit that, and prefer to think that each piece of the puzzle can be fixed independantly, with absolute lack of attention to the behaviour of the other parts of the system in the meantime.

      Maybe it comes from that we choose the illusion of control, rather than dealing with reality.
      You can try to ignore it, but eventually it won’t forget you.
      (I’m very glad this time Gail focused on Entropy issues)

    • Thanks John,

      You have a very nice blog with a good description of the process. Too many people think electricity comes from an electric outlet. It is a lot more complicated, even if it is supposedly renewable.

  33. MG says:

    “Printing money is an attempt to get a larger share of the world’s resources for the population of a given country. ” – yes, exactly.

  34. Yoshua says:

    So the system becomes increasingly complex as it grows until it starts to spiral out of control.

    Some years ago I read about chaos theory. As I understood it: chaos is turbulence, an extremely complex form of order… that we cannot calculate.

    China is today the second largest economy in the world… a centrally planed economy by the politburo… in transition… I hope they know what they are doing. 🙂

    • Right.

      We are doing planning too, telling millions of young people to go to college. When they get out, we will have millions of colleges-educated (or college drop-outs) young people working as waitresses or bartenders and trying to back their loans. A few of them get good paying jobs, but quite a few end up in jobs that don’t need a degree, or 15 years ago didn’t need a degree. The degree is mostly a way of sorting out the most persistent of the group.

    • You are right. We also have the G-20 and other officials revising rules for banks. They want to prevent small failures, but instead are likely to create large (theoretically less frequent) failures instead. They also don’t realize that the economic system needs ever-rising debt; holding back banks tends to be a problem.

      Planning by the few rarely works for long.

      • Yoshua says:

        The trick is perhaps to let the system “self correct” by the actions of the millions and not to over regulate it ? The system needs some clear rules though.

        I guess it would be too much to ask from the politicians to leave the system alone since after all the system keeps millions of people alive. Governments are today a huge part of the economy and it seems that their part in the economy increases after every crisis.

        • DJ says:

          Problem is our leaders are chosen because they said “I can solve your problems!”.
          And a majority believe them.

  35. robert wilson says:

    Energy policy, presidential candidates. Pick your favorite fantasy. http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Which-Presidential-Frontrunner-Is-The-Best-For-Energy.html

  36. For wildernists entropy is on our side! The goal of wildism is to dismantle industrial civilization, and some wildernists have made this their day job. But Entropy is the big Man, working relentlessly day and night to bring us back to our roots, to the wild!

    I just got an email list from one of my wildernist friends for suggested Easter Holiday readings. Please make your pick and get inspired:

    “Hello, everyone.
    Emails on this list are frequent right now because we are getting a lot done while many of the students are on break. Here are some updates.
    * “The Question of Revolution” from Hunter/Gatherer 1.3 is now available at http://wildism.org/hg/1/3/hg1-3-question-of-revolution.html This solidifies the broad intellectual foundations of wildism, and now our work will move to other things like specific intellectual problems, long-term strategy, other venues for wildist media, and getting the ideas on blogs and in other publications. Please email me to let me know what you think of this essay.
    * We are moving forward with our plan to start a revolutionary conservationist party. Be on the lookout for the party charter document.
    * A major part of our strategy for expanding the audience for Hunter/Gatherer is being highly visible on social media. Help us out with this by (1) liking and sharing, on your own page and in groups, this post sharing the above essay: https://www.facebook.com/huntergathererjournal/posts/1740498069497635 (2) upvoting and commenting on this reddit post sharing the above essay: https://www.reddit.com/r/collapse/comments/4aedi9/a_conservationist_argument_for_revolution_against/ and also https://www.reddit.com/r/Green_Anarchism/comments/4aedoc/an_argument_for_revolution_against_industry/ (you do not even need an email to create a reddit account)
    * Please like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/huntergathererjournal and invite your friends to like it as well.
    * We are beginning to strongly encourage people’s own media projects. I am personally willing to aid any effort like this, and would be willing to produce popular pamphlets and literature explaining wildism if this will help your podcast, video blog, public magazine, etc. Email me if you have ideas.
    * We have a subreddit (it’s like a forum) for any questions or comments you have about wildism. It is empty right now, so you’re highly encouraged to post. Check it out at http://www.reddit.com/wildism
    * I just spoke to Warren Hoge of the New York Times, the man who received the FC communiques during the FC campaign. Some of the information he provided will be featured in an upcoming essay, written by me, to be published in Dark Mountain. Check out the website at http://www.dark-mountain.net
    * A few new members have joined and are joining the Institute. For now, welcome Rick Carp. You can email him for questions about the institute at r (dot) carp (at) wildism (dot) org.
    * When the End of Civilization is Your Day Job at http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a36228/ballad-of-the-sad-climatologists-0815/
    * It’s Not Just The Bees: 40% Of Food-Pollinating Wildlife Risks Extinction at http://www.fastcoexist.com/3057295/its-not-just-the-bees-40-of-food-pollinating-wildlife-risks-extinction
    * #Riot: Self-Organized, Hyper-Networked Revolts—Coming to a City Near You at http://www.wired.com/2011/12/ff_riots/
    * EO Wilson on Half-Earth at AEON at https://aeon.co/essays/half-of-the-earth-must-be-preserved-for-nature-conservation

    • I am afraid this is not quite my thing.

    • InAlaska says:

      YES, you are correct! In Wildness is the preservation of the World.”–Henry David Thoreau

      • Fast Eddy says:

        If you truly believe that then you should stop farming and revert to a hunter gatherer lifestyle.

        Or do you mean that we should designate some areas as park land in the midst of the agricultural sprawl?

        Farming is why we have 7.4 billion people on the planet.

    • DJ says:

      In the world I see you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rock feller Center. You’ll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You’ll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Towers. And when you look down, you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying stripes of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighways.

  37. Stefeun says:

    Thanks Gail,
    Very good summary.

    • Stefeun says:

      and nice charts

    • I should mention that I just now updated the text to mention one reference that Stefeun helped me obtain. It is an article in French called, “Pourquoi les économies stagnant et les civilizations sʼeffondrent,” by Francois Roddier. The title in English is “Why stagnating economies and civilizations collapse.” It is available for sale as part of a group of articles at this link http://www.pressesdesciencespo.fr/fr/livre/?GCOI=27246100738890

      To obtain an approximate translation, you will need a PDF version and Google Translate.

      Thanks, Stefeun! Somehow I earlier overlooked the fact that I had information on how others could read this article.

      • Stefeun says:

        You’re welcome Gail!
        A version of this text in correct English should be issued in not-too-distant future…

  38. ejhr2015 says:

    That first Graph, Gail, is quite amusing in a perverse sort of way perhaps. The array of uptick forecasts on a descending line says a lot about our inbuilt optimism, our normalcy bias.
    Assuming it’s economists who create such graphs, it really brings home how mainstream economists are practicing the discipline as a belief system. Paul Samuelson called it”an old fashioned religion” This graph is graphic evidence of that.

    • The norm is always the best we have experienced in the recent past; norm reversion will bring you to that level. If you don’t understand how the system works, it is probably as good a guess as any.

      • doomphd says:

        It’s like that “undiscovered projects” wedge that the EIA puts out in their oil production forecasts. It’s the result of their economic growth and demand projections less the declining oil production of existing reserves. I figure it’s just code for depletion of energy going forward, as there are no more projects left to discover. They know it and we know it.

        Nice post once again Gail. Still trying to wrap my mind around increasing entropy as loss of information and how increasing complexity adds to this. Added complexity causes more friction in the system, despite its application to attempt solving problems.

        A book contains information. The same book as scattered pages has lost information. The entropy of the book as increased. Damaged DNA has lost information over in tact, robust DNA. Entropy has increased.

        • Undiscovered projects “work” if price is going up sufficiently. There are always a lot of low quality resources that can be added to the list of recoverable oil, if the price is high enough.

          The entropy idea didn’t really hit me either. I had to have others point it out to me.

  39. JRoberts says:

    Once again a great perspective that very few unfortunately understand. Your reference to entropy is a good one alluding to the disorganized breakdown of a dissipative system. I like to think of it as a barrel of wine. At what point does the exponential growth cycle end and what does it look like? We know the absolute answer is the day that 50% of the sugar ( Energy ) is consumed. But depending on the size of the barrel the disorderly die off could take sometime. A small barrel, quickly and suddenly, a large barrel, regionally and slowly. I would like to suggest that the Globe is a very very large barrel. And that if we look at the outer fringes of the frontier economies we should be seeing evidence of this disorderly destruction taking place. When we do it is exactly what we find. Take Venezuela for example shutting down Government to maintain their electrical grid. Global war in energy rich countries. We could go on and on but the conclusion is quite simple isn’t it? In Duncan’s Oldvaui Theory his 2008 decline was slightly premature but advancing it 8-10years we’re right on point. Similarly Meadow’s Limits to Growth was slightly too advanced because of the things you point out. But again retarding it because of the economic factor brings it to about now. Robert J. Gordon published Is U.S. Economic Growth Over ? in 2012 and his conclusions are very accurate in relation to the U.S. But whats interesting is his description of the frontier economies being limited starting only with Britain and ending with the U.S. These have been the growth economies that have driven global growth in recent history. However if we step back and look at Glenn Stehle’s series on Money is not true wealth we get a bigger picture. Starting in the 1400s the frontier economies have been Spain, Dutch, British, U.S. as he well demonstrates. However lastly we must include China. Without that growth the system would have collapsed all ready, and without it the system will collapse. So why the cognitive dissonance? Simply people believe what the want to believe. Very few have the emotional aptitude to discard cherished beliefs and honestly evaluate things. Even when the solution is staring them in the face. Rather then search for truth which is the only way truth is established, that is it must be discovered. Society as a whole chooses to establish truth by consensus. “Let’s take a pole and make a decision.” As has been expressed by others “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” – H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
    If we know anything about fractiles, the fine tuning of the universe, and the laws of probabilities. We have to draw a simple conclusion that we are not the center of the universe, which has run counter to popular human belief for millennia even to this day. We have to examine things without prejudice or bias for it prevents discovery, which prevents truth, hence knowledge, understanding and wisdom. And wisdom well wisdom is the key to life.


    • I have been amazed at all of the thing I have figured out by myself, or with the help of commenters and others over the years. The problem is not easy to figure out, but the absurd cover-up stories by the economists make it worse.

  40. tagio says:

    your best article ever imho, thank you Gail.

  41. Great work Gail, I’m sending you both my kids.

  42. Fast Eddy says:

    Thanks for the new article

  43. Creedon says:

    As someone who has been watching for collapse for the last 10 to 15 years, I no longer believe we are headed for a sudden crises. The big banks seem to be able to endlessly manipulate things and keep gas on the market when we are no longer really paying for it, except, though debt that just gets written off, and new credit that is issued through computer manipulations. None of it is honest.The end will be with a whimper, not a bang after an exhaustive decade of endless financial and government entropy.

    • gerryhiles says:

      Nothing, in context, ever actually collapses, though in, hindsight it can be written that way, such as the “collapse” of the Roman Empire, which took about two hundred years, depending on when it “started”. But because of the rapidity with which our global Industrial form of civilization has grown – compressed into decades in China – it’s a reasonable assumption that decline will be relatively rapid and a lot of people comment on the speed at which things are happening, e.g. events in the ME, compared with the early 20th Century, Lawrence of Arabia on a camel and all that.

      Another distortion is purely personal, in that even five years is, or can seem to be a “long time”, though it is a scant fraction of the last three hundred years since our present-day civilization had its origins, let alone the 5-8,000 (?) years since civilizations first appeared.

      I can review my 72 years in a flash, from when no one I knew had a car, to when just about everyone has one – don’t you find that incredible? Only a hundred years ago bi-planes were the height of technology, but the first supersonic aircraft flew only about 40 years later.
      Methinks that the “whimper” this time around, will actually come close to a “collapse”, but we’ll have to wait and see.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        The Roman Empire was not collapsing for 200 years — because by nature collapse is sudden.

        The Roman Empire was weakening for 200 years — it was degrading.

        This is what the end of the Roman Empire looked like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sack_of_Rome_%28410%29 the hordes sacked the city … that is the actual collapse (of the western portion of the empire)

        Likewise — BAU has been degrading for decades now — it has been weakening — because it requires cheap to extract oil and that oil has been depleting…

        We are now at the critical phase — just as the Roman empire reached a critical phase just before Rome was sacked…

        They no doubt tried everything possible to try to stop or at least delay their collapse

        As we are.

        But at some point no matter what is tried — will be found wanting.

        And there will be instant chaos.

        • gerryhiles says:

          I thought that that was more or less what I was saying. I must have worded it wrong, though I cannot agree with you about “instant”. OK it might take a month for, say, the stock market to go to zero, if it does, but still not “instant” and I am not splitting hairs. I did say it’s all speeding up, compared with the past.

          • gerryhiles says:

            Oh and I did write “collapse” not collapse, but maybe you don’t know the convention of using inverted commas to indicate not really?

          • Fast Eddy says:

            I would expect something akin to a Lehman moment …. the world sits staring at the teevee screens in utter disbelief — the central banks can do nothing — trade stops… and within a very short time the entire system disintegrates (see Korowicz Trade Off)

            I think a month would be pushing it… as soon as there is a realization that the central banks are powerless total panic will set in ….

            A week … a month…. doesn’t really matter does it…. just make sure you have enough popcorn and beer to sit back and watch the ultimate reality show featuring the end of the world.

            Crazy – huh.

            Two thoughts:

            – hit a bit of turbulence on the flight to Canada – lady in the aisle next to me starts to pray — I’m thinking damn …. if you knew what was coming and how you are going to suffer you’d be praying for this thing to drop from the sky and pile into the ocean and full throttle…

            – got a couple of relatives who are quite old, very ill … essentially on death beds… I am thinking … what exquisite timing….

            Even more crazy – huh

            • Tim Groves says:

              Yes, Eddie, I can see how you might get into the habit of such ways of reasoning. It’s actually quite a condolence for me these days when I hear that somebody I’m not too close to emotionally has died or is on the brink, to reflect that they have escaped having to be present in or at the “wake” of BAU. Of course, it isn’t the kind of condolence that one can offer to grieving relatives or friends.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Ya – can you imagine speaking to the wife of someone who is on their death bed and attempting to comfort them by saying ‘well…. it’s actually a blessing that Uncle Bob dies now … it will save him from starving to death later in the year — in a way I envy him — but that said — I kinda want to be around to observe how the end of civilization plays out — I have a morbid fascination with that’

              Can you imagine?

        • InAlaska says:

          FE, I read the wikipedia article on the Sack of Rome. It didn’t seem very sudden to me and in fact, was a series of mishaps for Rome that occurred over 50 years or more. Not the example you want to bolster your opinion on fast collapse.

      • Stefeun says:

        As for this acceleration you’re describing, tonight I had the vision of our evolution looking like a match that would burn wooden end first.
        It starts very slowly with a tiny flame that takes lots of time to grow and consume the wood. Then as long as it progresses the flame strengthens and reinforces itself, until it eventually reaches the sulfur end, where it produces a big burst, that extinguishes very soon afterwards.

        (sorry that my English isn’t good enough to create a better image)

        • gerryhiles says:

          That’s OK. I had some very powerful and rather prophetic dreams back around 1976. To a degree, though doing what I had to do over the years in ‘normal’ fashion, I’ve been waiting to see if my intuitions were valid.

          So far they are, but I could not fully convey them, even at great length.

    • I don’t exactly agree. I agree that banks are able to endlessly able to manipulate things. I expect we will have an avalanche of small failures (bankruptcies, failing governments) before the “big one” hits. This terminology is related to research regarding how dissipative systems behave. A similar situation occurs if we pile an increasing amount of sand on a sand pile. As the “critical point” is reached, there is an increasing chance of avalanches, first small, then larger.

      • philsharris says:

        As ever you make very interesting charts, particularly the first two.

        You use the term ‘critical point’. I have been thinking about the ‘inflection point’ since the early 80s. (China seems a special more recent case that accounts for recent global economic growth numbers). Upto about the 80s it seemed to me that it did not matter ‘how’ we used fossil fuel, in particular, the magic oil, as long as we piled in and used more. The ‘thing’ we had become grew like Topsy! This was the Age of Oil. Over some extended time period since then we have experienced the inflection moment – tends to happen on any growth curve. I think the ‘signature’ stalling of US labour rates (blue collar and a large enough part of the American middle-class perhaps) that I first saw enumerated by Elizabeth Warren in 2006 had been going on since the late 1970s. Worse than that, a lot of the directly industrial jobs that had seen the greatest increase in incomes post-WW2 (during oil expansion) disappeared.

        The critical point seems to have happened in the USA a while ago. Japan has been stagnant for 20 years, the USSR suffered a ‘collapse’. If China has reached a similar juncture then the world would seem to be confirming your thesis.

        Thanks as usual anyway for your thoughts!

        • The problem came when the United States realized that we didn’t have the oil capabilities, and had to compete in a globalized world in the late 1970s and early 80s. We needed bigger businesses and more debt to do this. We didn’t need as many rank and file workers, because we now would buy smaller autos from Japan, instead of building as many ourselves.

          Computers started taking over a lot of work done by office staff not much later. Prior to the advent of computers secretaries were highly valued. They took dictation using shorthand, or transformed ideas written in pencil on paper to nicely formatted letters that had proper spelling. Computers also worked much better than adding machines for doing calculations, storing and nicely formatting the results. The number of secretaries and other office staff dropped, as computers took on a different role. I am sure pay stagnated as well.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        :Let’s revisit this :

        The magic of Consensual Hallucination.

        The simple fact is that corporate earnings data is out there for everyone to see, but no one wants to see it.

        Instead, everyone wants to see and believe the sweet fairy tale that Wall Street and Corporate America spin with such skill just for us, because if everyone believes that everyone believes in this fairy tale, even knowing that it is a fairy tale, it will somehow lead to ever higher stock prices.

        This is part of a phenomenon we’ve come to call “Consensual Hallucination.”

        But that fairy tale got spun to new fanciful extremes in 2015.

        Revenues of the S&P 500 companies fell 4.0% in the fourth quarter and 3.6% for the year, according to FactSet, with most of the companies having by now reported their earnings. And these earnings declined 3.4% in Q4, dragging earnings “growth” for the entire year into the negative, so a decline in earnings of 1.1%.

        While companies can play with revenues to some extent, it’s more complicated and not nearly as rewarding as “adjusting” their profits. That’s the easiest thing to do in the world. A few keystrokes will do. There are no rules or laws against it, so long as it’s called something like “adjusted earnings.” The rewards are huge, in terms of share prices, stock options, bonuses, and for Wall Street, fees. The ultimate target of the magic is earnings per share. EPS is the most crucial term in the canon of the markets.

        Turns out, the 2015 “growth” in earnings, and particularly the “growth” in EPS – so a decline – as reported by FactSet and others is a figment of the vivid imagination of Wall Street and Corporate America, called “adjusted earnings,” where everything bad has been “adjusted” out of it.

        The reason every developed economy uses standardized accounting rules is to give investors a modicum of insight into what is going on in a company, compare these numbers to those of other companies, and make at least not totally ignorant investment decisions.

        In the US, these are the generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, the most despised acronym of Wall Street and Corporate America. Yet even these principles offer plenty of flexibility for financial statement beautification. We get that.

        Yet they’re way too harsh for Wall Street. So companies file the required financial statements under GAAP for everyone to look at, but then they hype their “adjusted” earnings in their communications with investors. And the gap between the two in 2015 was a doozie.

        For example, of the 30 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, 20 reported “adjusted” earnings, with 18 of them reporting adjusted earnings that were higher than their earnings under GAAP, according to FactSet. That 18-to-2 relationship alone shows the clear bias of these adjustments: They’re used to inflate earnings, not to lower them to some more realistic level.

        These adjusted EPS were on average 31% higher in 2015 than EPS under GAAP. That’s way up from 2014 when 19 of the Dow components reported adjusted earnings that were on average 12% higher than under GAAP.

        And yet, despite the soaring portion of fiction, these adjusted EPS of the companies in the DOW still declined 4.8%. That’s bad enough. But under GAAP, beautified as it might have been, EPS plunged 12.3%.

        The biggest sinners?

        Merck & Co. won hands-down: it reported adjusted fictional EPS of $3.59 for 2015; but under GAAP, its earnings dwindled to $1.56 per share. Its elegant adjustments inflated EPS by 130%! You’d think it would take some balls to somehow get this by keen-eyed Wall Street analysts. But no. Wall Street ate it up. Consensual hallucination.

        GE reported EPS of a measly $0.17 for the entire year 2015 under GAAP, but once it got through with excising all the bad stuff, EPS jumped 106% to $0.35. OK, that’s still crummy….

        Our tech-darling Microsoft reported EPS of $1.48 under GAAP, and so its financial-statement beauticians set out to do their magic and adjusted them up by 78% to $2.63. Pfizer inflated its EPS under GAAP of $1.24 by 77% to $2.20. And United Technologies, in this elegant manner, raised its EPS by 40% to an adjusted $6.30.

        These are among the most established members of Corporate America. Other companies, which were not part of FactSet’s report, were much more extreme.

        For example, Twitter lost $0.13 per share under GAAP in 2015, but reported “non-GAAP diluted income per share” of $0.16. Tesla, which is sinking into its own endless sea of red ink, lost $6.93 per share in 2015, but when it got through beautifying the results, its “net loss was $2.30 per share on a non-GAAP basis.”

        But there are more layers to this onion. FactSet used earnings from “continuing operations,” when companies provided that number. Companies frequently shed units. GE has gone through a historic binge of that in 2015. And under this “continuing operations” principle, any detrimental earnings numbers that were incurred by a division before it was disposed of would be excluded. So FactSet’s numbers cited here still don’t reveal the true extent of the EPS decline.

        And there is another layer to this onion: EPS have been further inflated via adept financial engineering, including heroic share-buybacks with borrowed money at peak prices in 2015. Buybacks reduce the number of shares outstanding, and thus increase earnings per share, even under GAAP. Everyone knows it, and everyone loves it. No one wants to see reality, which is too ugly to behold. Consensual hallucination. And certainly, don’t peel the onion.


        Up until the past year or so corporate profits were growing — now they are not — this is a death spiral because there will be more layoffs — which reduces demand — which means more layoffs — eventually there will be bankruptcies — which means massive layoffs — which means banks do not get paid out ….

        Eventually a tipping point will occur… unless the central banks have some new stimulus that they can kick in to reverse this — then I will be pleasantly surprised if we make it to the end of the year without the system collapsing

        • Van Kent says:

          The stats, data, profits, everything, already show that a global “Great Recession” has begun. The only problem being that we don´t have money or resources to get us out of this one. The dead cat bounce of the last month looks to me like it will deteriorate between 03/22 – 05/01 as another plunge of the stock market. And after first of May some sort of dead cat bounce #2 of the stock market. But the real question is the bond market. Everything else is just noise. Will it take a week, a month, or a year for the bond market to become chaotic? Banks can be propped up, at least in some fashion, up untill the point when governments bond issuance start to fail on a large scale.

          To me this schedule we are in, looks like grid out SHTF early 2019.

          Not because the system or central bankers can save it or hold back the tsunami. But because people will simply refuse to believe that a global collapse is possible.

          • We can cross our fingers that you may be right. It most likely does take place in steps–or little “avalanches” first. At some point, major systems get overwhelmed.

    • aubreyenoch says:

      Gail keeps pointing out the electric grid. When it goes down it won’t matter for a while, up in the Andes in Ecuador, but here in the U.S. of A. it’ll be total chaos in a week. We can do a lot of adjusting to the coming changes but we can’t adjust to no electricity. Instead of all this fraud of going to Mars and keeping the poppy fields open and artificial intelligence and gene editing and on and on, we need to put all the smart guys on the problem of keeping the electricity grid up.

      • Van Kent says:

        You can keep the grid if you can make the economy grow ad infinitum on a finite planet.

        If not, then the grid goes.

      • The problem on keeping the electric grid up is that what bring it down is not likely what people would look for. It might be that banks are closed, so that the electric grid can’t pay its workers. It might be that too many suppliers are bankrupt, so that they can’t get coal and natural gas. It might be that international relations are cut off, and because of this, some critical parts for repair are missing. It might be electricity companies are defaulting on debt themselves because revenue is too low.

  44. gerryhiles says:

    As usual Gail, how can I possibly disagree, but with your consent I’d like to try a simple experiment (sort of).

    Firstly, though, I recall that back in the ’60’s and probably before, several predictions were that, by now, we’d have a lot of quality leisure time to … well fill in the blank.

    OK now put the clock back however far and forget about leverage, derivatives, etc. and imagine a simple banking system, publicly owned if you like, which takes in hard (paper and coins will do) deposits and lends these to only 100% credit-worthy customers (bear in mind that I’m assuming an oil, or at least coal-based economy, so enhanced manufacturing, farming, etc. capability, not agrarian or subsistence).

    So a depositor naturally expects a 2% return, bank viability requires say 1/2% to pay staff etc., so a borrower must pay 2 1/2%, which over time mounts up, grows and so necessitates growing a business producing something other people want, but preferably somehow need, like an improved can opener.

    Yes canned goods are somehow available and everything else, including a complex infrastructure but never mind, we’re keeping it simple and soon the local market for the can opener is saturated, so either production stops, a new product is invented (not easy) or new and more distant markets are pursued, using longer-range transport which puts the cost of production and distribution up, so probably another loan is obtained, debt servicing increases – if the original loan has not been fully repaid and there’s not enough capital – a veritable tread-mill has been set in place, all from such ‘simple’ beginnings.

    Well since the Industrial Revolution, this scenario has been played out millions of times, with millions of instances of reaching some sort of limit, regardless of the availability of raw materials and energy sources. Redundancy and innovation have caused bankruptcies – and massive waste, such as when canals had just been completed in Britain, along came steam and rail … and just when rail networks were complete, along came the internal combustion engine and paved roads. So even if banking could have stayed simple and/or publicly owned, I cannot see how we would not have exhausted growth on our finite Planet about now, nor how leisure could have become the norm.

    I never have believed in “alternatives”. By the ’70s I and a comparative few others knew that “it could not last” – albeit vaguely – and I personally knew nothing about Peak Oil back then.

    During the ’80s I looked at “Social Credit” and the “Social Wage”, but quickly found flaws, e.g. who puts a limit on what could theoretically be done? One hare-brained scheme in Western Australia was to use nuclear devices to blast a canal from North to South (thousands of kilometres) and simultaneously create a mountain range to encourage rainfall!! Expense no object you see, with “Social Credit”.

    In more recent years I came across Ellen Brown’s attempts to re-introduce (yes) public banking and we corresponded a couple of times, because she was under the impression that public banking still existed in Australia, but I had to tell her it had all been privatized. Nevertheless it is, or would be a good idea (was a good idea in the early 20th Century at first) if only we did not live on a finite planet. In any case, as I hope to have illustrated, public banks too have to have a margin and have to keep on lending/grow their loan portfolio, or go out of business. As seems to be pending now, if for far more complex reasons than I could maybe go partly into here, but would rather leave to much better informed people on Zero Hedge, or any number of other sites.

    Keep it simple stupid, especially if you – well I – have no great expertize. So not too simple I hope.

    • There really isn’t any scenario that a person can make work, on a finite planet. Even if you try to adjust banking, it still needs a profit, and thus takes a bite out of the earnings of workers.

      • gerryhiles says:

        That’s what I was trying to convey, as simply/schematically as I could in several contexts, but not for you personally, rather so someone might “get it” who somehow hasn’t yet.

  45. Rodster says:

    “If these problems are not fixed, the whole system will collapse, even though there seems to be a surplus of energy products.”

    That last sentence says it all because the problem WON’T get FIXED because the DEBT can’t be REPAID. And as such we are already seeing signs of the system going into a tailspin. Why?

    Because both the Central Banks and Govt’s are all LYING about the state of the eCONomy.

  46. cal48koho says:

    After every post of yours I think you have covered all the bases, hit all the bullet points. But no. This excellent post sheds more light on a subject you have talked to death and yet there is still more to learn. One thing of which you are obviously cognizant is that the 15%/annum increase in energy E&P since 2006 has not been matched by 15% increase in crude oil production which has been flat. I ignore the all liquids BS which is just lipstick on a pig. Crude production has been flat the last 10 years. The energy/entropy connection was an interesting slant including the idea of entropy as loss of information. Actually I think of it as disorder of information. The congruence of GDP with energy production is obvious as wealth creation IS energy creation and it follows as energy creation falls, so does wealth. Too bad hardly anyone sees this as clearly as you do. You pulled it all together layering on most of the associated issues already covered in The Limits to Growth like pollution, population growth etc. If memory serves I think LTG somehow missed Debt which hasn’t escaped your notice. Nice job as always, Gail.

  47. Rodster says:

    “Economic growth never seems to be as high as those making forecasts would like it to be. This is a record of recent forecasts by the International Monetary Fund:”

    I’m reminded of the saying which says: “It goes to show how figures lie and liars figure”. The actual growth line in the 1st graph is obvious that the Central Banks have to lie to keep the system from imploding.

    • One of the confusing parts to me is the earnings parity adjustment that is used by the IMF and most other forecasters of world economic growth. This adjustment has the effect of giving much greater weight to the rapidly growing economies of the world (and thus higher GDP growth rates). An alternate way of calculating world growth is by converting amounts to dollars at the prevailing rates. This approach is what is used in the second graph. Almost any long time series is on a dollar basis.

  48. Bill says:

    The shortest lived part of any renewable energy system, I’ve found over many years of living with them, is the cheap Taiwanese cooling fan. When it goes, lights out!

  49. Tom says:

    Gail, another great job and sending your post to my daughters and friends.

  50. Thank you Gail for a clear and concise explanation of how things seem to be developing and why. It’s amazing the number of competing narratives there are that try to explain why the world is the way it is. The one I find the most frustrating is that of our pseudo-religion, economics, that tends to ignore that very fundamental of aspects, energy, that you have highlighted so very well.

    • I am glad you liked it. I didn’t start with any predetermined agenda, so I can keep modifying as I go along. Also, staying away from peer reviewed literature has a distinct advantage. Writing for academic journals adds a lot of time overhead and detracts from a person’s ability to look at new ideas.

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