EROEI Calculations for Solar PV Are Misleading

The Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) concept is very frequently used in energy studies. In fact, many readers seem to think, “Of course, EROEI is what we should be looking at when comparing different types of energy. What else is important?” Unfortunately, the closer to the discussions of researchers a person gets, the more problems a person discovers. People who work with EROEI regularly say, “EROEI is a tool, but it is a blunt tool. An EROEI of 100 is good compared to an EROEI of 10. For small differences, it is not so clear.”

Because of the idiosyncrasies of how EROEI works, different researchers using EROEI analyses come to very different conclusions. This issue has recently come up in two different solar PV analyses. One author used EROEI analysis to justify scaling up of solar PV. Another author published an article in Nature Communications that claims, “A break-even between the cumulative disadvantages and benefits of photovoltaics, for both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, occurs between 1997 and 2018, depending on photovoltaic performance and model uncertainties.”

Other EROEI researchers with whom I correspond don’t agree with these conclusions. They recognize that in complex situations, EROEI analyses cannot cover everything. Somehow, the user needs to be informed enough to realize that these omissions result in biases. Researchers need to work around these biases when coming to conclusions. They themselves do it (or try to); why can’t everyone else?

The underlying problem with EROEI calculations is that EROEI is based on a very simple model. The model works passably well in simple situations, but it was not designed to handle the complexities of intermittent renewables, such as wind and solar PV. Indirect costs, and costs that are hard to measure, tend to get left out. The result is a serious bias that tends to make the EROEIs of solar PV (as well as other intermittent energy sources, such as wind) appear far more favorable than they would be, if a level playing field were used. In fact, published EROEIs for solar PV (and wind) might be called misleading. This issue also exists for other similar calculations, such as Life Cycle Analyses and Energy Payback Periods.

Some Background on EROEI

Proposed types of energy alternatives are often analyzed using Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) calculations. For each type of energy product that is produced, a ratio of the energy output to energy input is calculated. A high ratio gives an indication that the particular approach is very efficient, and thus is likely to produce an inexpensive energy product. Coal is a typical of example of a fuel with high EROEI. Wood cut using a hand saw would also have a very high EROEI. On the other hand, a low ratio of energy output to energy input, such as occurs in the production of biofuels, is expected to be high cost, and thus is not suitable for expanding.

A derivative concept is “net energy.” This is defined as the amount of energy added, when “Energy Input” is subtracted from “Energy Output,” or variations on this amount.There are many other related concepts, including “Energy Payback Period” and “Life Cycle Analysis.” The latter can consider materials of all sorts, not just energy materials, and can consider pollution issues as well as energy issues. My discussion here indirectly also relates to these derivative concepts, as well as to the direct calculation of EROEI.

The actual calculation of EROEI amounts varies a moderate amount from researcher to researcher. On the input side, the researcher must make decisions regarding exactly what energy inputs should be included (manufacturing the solar panel, transporting the solar panel to the construction site, building the factory that makes the solar panel, disposing of toxic waste, etc.). These energy inputs are then all converted to a common base, such as British Thermal Units (Btus). On the output side, amounts are fairly clear when the production of fossil fuels is involved, and the calculation is “at the wellhead.” When output from a device such as a solar panel is involved, there are many issues to be considered, including how long the solar panel is expected to last and how many hours of solar output will actually become available given the solar panel’s siting (which may not be known to the researcher). In theory, the energy costs of ongoing maintenance should come into the calculation as well, but will not be available early in the life of the panel when the calculations are made.

Two Kinds of EROEI: Return on Fossil Fuel Energy or Return on Labor

The type of EROEI we generally hear about today is what I would call “energy return on fossil fuel energy invested.” This is a concept developed by Charles Hall in the early 1970s, shortly after the book The Limits to Growth was published in 1972. In fact, it sometimes includes other kinds of energy in the denominator as well, such as hydroelectric. Most people who follow today’s academic literature would probably assume that this is the only kind of EROEI of interest when discussing today’s energy problems.

In fact, there is a different kind of EROEI analysis that preceded fossil fuel EROEI. This is return on the labor of an animal, a theory that now goes under the name Optimal Foraging Theory. Falling return on labor for animals represents the situation in which an animal has to walk (or fly or swim) increasingly far, or is required to swim increasingly upstream, to find the food it needs. Animal populations tend to collapse when their EROEIs fall too low. Prof. Hall taught ecology, so is well versed in the issues of energy return on animal labor.

There is also a parallel analysis of the return on human labor. Return on human labor has been studied for many years, and is documented in books such as The Upside of Down, by Thomas Homer-Dixon. In fact, Homer-Dixon talks about falling EROEI with respect to human labor being the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire.

The return on human labor can drop too low in several ways:

  1. If resources deplete or erode. For example, if topsoil becomes too thin, or energy supplies become depleted.
  2. If population rises too much, relative to resources. We are really interested in things like arable land per capita, and barrels of oil per capita.
  3. If a disproportionate share of the return the economy receives goes to some elite group, so the workers themselves don’t receive enough.

Falling return on human labor is very similar to falling wages. This falling return affects those at the bottom of the employment hierarchy most, such as young people just out of school and workers without too much education. These wages may or may not fall in monetary terms; what is important is that the goods and services that these wages buy fall on a per capita basis. Once falling return on human labor starts happening, the whole system starts unraveling:

  1. Governments cannot collect enough taxes.
  2. Businesses lose the economies of scale that they previously had.
  3. A large share of debt cannot be repaid with interest.
  4. Individual citizens find that they cannot afford to get married and start new families because their wages are too low, and they have too much debt.
  5. In earlier times, epidemics became more common because workers could not afford adequate diets.

I would argue that falling return on human labor is the primary type of falling EROEI that we should be concerned about, because it represents the summation of all of the types of returns that the economy is getting. It might be considered the Societal Return on Energy Invested.

I would also argue that Societal EROEI, defined in this way, is already too low. One way this can be seen is through the higher unemployment rate of young people in many countries. Another is a delayed rate of starting new families. Another is wages of many of the less educated workers rising less rapidly than inflation.

The key things that make the calculation of EROEI of human labor and EROEI of animal labor “work” as intended are

  1. Clear boundaries on what is to be included. The boundary is per animal, or per human being.
  2. Very close timing between when the energy is consumed (food or other) and when the output is available (animal energy used or goods and services consumed by humans).
  3. There is an easy way of adding up diverse inputs and outputs, namely using the financial system to count the worth of human labor, or an animal’s energy system to determine whether the food input is sufficient.

The one thing that doesn’t entirely “work” in this model is the fact that the actions of humans can have an adverse impact on other species, but this is not directly reflected in the EROEI of human labor. This is not handled by the wage system, but it can be somewhat handled in the tax system. Of course, if taxes are used to compensate for the adverse impact that humans are having on the ecosystems, the higher taxes will tend to reduce the return on human labor further, and thus bring about collapse more quickly.

Fossil Fuel EROEI as a Cost Estimate

When Prof. Hall developed the concept of EROEI, the concept was intended to be a rough cost estimate. If a particular type of alternative energy required a lot of energy to be created, it would likely be a very expensive type of energy; if very little energy was required, it likely would be inexpensive. When making one energy product using other energy products, energy is usually a major item of input. Thus, it seems reasonable to expect that EROEI calculations will work at least as a “blunt tool” for pricing.

The problem in making EROEI more than a blunt tool is the fact that none of the three characteristics that make EROEI on human labor work as expected is present for fossil fuel EROEI. (1) Fossil fuel EROEI boundaries can be made wider by making the list of energy inputs counted longer, but they always remain short of the entire system. (2) Timing is a huge issue, leading to a need for capital and a return on that capital, but there is no adjustment for this in the calculation. (3) The fact that energy quantities rather than prices are being used to add up inputs means that we can never determine something that is comparable to the overall cost of the complete supply chain. Furthermore, similar to the problem with humans adversely affecting other species, intermittent electricity adversely affects both the electric grid and the pricing of other types of electricity. EROEI calculations leave out these impacts.

The fossil fuel EROEI system ends up being similar to a system that compares tops of icebergs, when these icebergs are floating at somewhat different levels, and we can’t measure the relative levels well. Furthermore, our measuring tool is restricted to only one type of input: energy that can be counted somewhere in the cycle. Adverse impacts, such as damage to the grid or to the electricity pricing system, are not counted at all.

The danger with EROEI comparisons is that a person ends up with “apples to oranges” comparisons. Generally, the more similar energy types are, the more likely EROEI comparisons are likely to be truly comparable. For example, EROEIs for the same oil field, made with data a year or two apart, are more likely to be more meaningful than a comparison of EROEIs for fossil fuels with those for intermittent electricity.

Specific Problems with the EROEI of Solar PV

(1) Prospective EROEI calculations tend to have a bias toward what is “hoped for,” rather than serving as a direct calculation of what has been achieved. If the EROEI of an oil field, or of a hydroelectric plant that has been in operation for many years, is desired, it is not terribly hard to find reasonable numbers for inputs and outputs. All a researcher needs to do is figure out pounds of concrete, steel, and other materials that went into the initial structure, as well as inputs needed on a regular basis, and actual outputs; with these, a calculation can be made. When estimates are made for new devices, the bias is always toward what is hoped to be achieved. How much electricity will a solar panel produce, if it is properly sited, properly maintained, maintenance costs are very low, the electric grid can actually use all of the electricity that the panel produces, and all parts of the system last for the expected life of the solar panel?

(2) All energy is given the same “weight,” whether it is high quality or low quality energy. Intermittent energy, such as is produced by solar PV, is in fact extremely low quality output, but there is no adjustment for this fact in the calculation. It counts the same as much better quality electrical output, such as that provided by hydroelectric.

(3) There is no charge for the use of capital. When capital goods such as solar panels are used to produce energy products, this has several negative impacts on the economy: (a) Part of the energy produced must go to pay for the interest and/or dividends related to long-term capital use, but there is energy cost assigned to this; (b) A country’s debt to GDP ratio tends to rise, as the economy is required to use ever-more debt to finance all of the new capital goods; and (c) The wealth of the economy tends to become ever-more concentrated in the owners of capital goods, leaving workers less well off. EROEI calculations don’t charge for any of these deficiencies. These deficiencies are part of what makes it virtually impossible to scale up the use of wind and solar PV as a substitute for fossil fuels.

(4) EROEI indications tend to be misleadingly favorable, because they leave out hard-to-estimate costs. EROEI analyses tend to focus on amounts that are “easy to count.” For solar PV, the amount that is easiest to count is the cost of making and transporting the solar PV. Installation costs vary greatly from site to site, especially for home installations, so these costs are likely to be left out. Indirect benefits provided by governments, such as newly built roads to accommodate a new solar PV installation, are also likely to be omitted. The electric utility that has to deal with all of the intermittent electricity has to deal with a whole host of problems being dumped on it, including offsetting the impact of intermittency and upgrading the newly added electricity so that it truly meets grid standards. There are individual studies (such as here and here) that look directly at some of these issues, but they tend to be omitted from the narrow-boundary analyses included in the meta-studies, which researchers tend to rely on.

(5) Precisely how solar PV at scale can be integrated into the grid is unclear, so costs required for grid integration are not considered in EROEI calculations. There are a number of approaches that might be used to integrate solar PV into the electric grid. One approach would be to use complete battery backup of all solar PV and wind. The catch is that there is seasonal variation as well as daily variation in output; huge overbuilding and a very large amount of batteries would be required if the grid system were to provide electricity from intermittent renewables throughout the winter months, without supplementation from other sources. Even if storage is only used to smooth out daily fluctuations, the energy cost would be very high.

Another approach would be to continue to maintain the entire fossil fuel and nuclear generation systems, even though they would run only for a small part of the time. This would require paying staff for year-around work, even though they are needed for only part of the year. Other costs, such as maintaining pipelines, would continue year around as well.

A partial approach, which might somewhat reduce the energy needs for other approaches, would be to greatly increase the amount of electricity transmission, to try to smooth out fluctuations in electricity availability. None of these costs are included in EROEI calculations, even though they are very material.

(6) Solar PV (as well as other intermittent electricity, such as wind) causes direct harm to other types of energy producers by artificially lowering wholesale electricity prices. Wholesale prices tend to fall to artificially low levels, because intermittent electricity, including solar PV, is added to the electric grid, whether or not it is really needed. In fact, solar PV adds very little, if any, true “capacity” to a system, so there is no logical reason why prices for other producers should be reduced when solar PV is added. These other producers need the full wholesale cost of electricity, without the downward adjustment caused by the addition of intermittent energy sources, if they are to obtain a sufficient return on their investment to make it possible to continue to provide their services.

These issues tend to drive needed back-up electricity generation out of business. This is a problem, especially for nuclear electricity providers. Nuclear providers find themselves being pressured to close before the ends of their lifetimes, because of the low prices. This is true both in France and the United States.

In some cases, extra “capacity payments” are being made to try to work around these issues. These capacity payments usually result in the building of more natural gas fired electricity generating units. Unfortunately, these payments do nothing to guarantee that the natural gas required to operate these plants will actually be available when it is needed. But gas-fired generating units are cheap to build. Problem (sort of) solved!

(7) Electricity generation using solar PV cannot be scaled up very well. There are multiple issues involved, including cost, debt, difficulty in handling the variable output, and the adverse impact of the intermittent electricity on the profitability of other carriers.

What Should Be Done Next? 

It seems to me that a statement needs to be made that EROEI was a preliminary pricing method for various fuel types developed back in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, it is a blunt tool, and is not really suitable for pricing intermittent electricity, including solar PV, wind energy, and wave energy. It presents a far more favorable view of adding these energy types to the electric grid than is really the case. Hydroelectric energy is sometimes considered intermittent, but is really “dispatchable” most of the time, so it does not present the same problems.

EROEI calculations are in a sense the output of a very simple model. What we are finding now is that this model is not sufficiently complex to deal with the way intermittent electricity affects the system as a whole. What needs to be substituted for all of these EROEI model results (including “net energy,” Life Cycle Analysis, and other derivative results) is real world cost levels using very much wider boundaries than are included in EROEI calculations.

Euan Mearns has shown that in Europe, countries that use large amounts of wind and solar tend to have very high residential electricity prices. This comparison strongly suggests that when costs are charged back to consumers, they are very high. (In the US, subsidies tend to be hidden in the tax system instead of raising prices, so the same pattern is not observed.)

Figure 1. Figure by Euan Mearns showing relationship between installed wind + solar capacity and European electricity rates. Source Energy Matters.

Figure 1. Figure by Euan Mearns showing relationship between installed wind + solar capacity and European electricity rates. Source Energy Matters.

Even this comparison omits some potential costs involved, because intermittent electricity concentration levels are not yet at the point where it has been necessary to add huge banks of backup batteries. Also, the adverse impact on the profitability of other types of electricity generation is a major issue, but it is not something that can easily be reflected in a chart such as that shown in Figure 1.

It seems to me that going forward, a completely different approach is needed, if we want to evaluate which energy products should be included in our electricity mix. The low energy prices (for oil, natural gas, coal, and electricity) that we have been experiencing during the last 30 months are a sign that consumers cannot really afford very high electricity prices. Analysts need to be looking at various scenarios to see what changes can be made to try to keep costs within the amounts consumers can actually afford to pay. In fact, it probably would be helpful if building of new generation could be reduced to a minimum and existing generation could be kept operating as long as possible, to keep costs down.

The issue of low wholesale prices for electricity generated by nuclear, gas, and coal needs to be analyzed carefully, since, for example, France cannot easily get along without nuclear electricity. Nuclear energy is generally a much larger provider of electricity than wind and solar. Somehow, the financial returns of non-intermittent providers need to be made high enough that they can continue in operation, if they are not at the ends of their normal lifetimes. I am not sure how this can be done, short of banning intermittent electricity providers, including those currently in operation, from the grid.

A Long-Term Role for Solar PV 

It appears that our civilization is reaching limits. In fact, it seems likely that our current electric grid will not last many years–probably not as long as people expect solar panels will last. We also know that in past collapses, the only thing that seemed to partially mitigate the situation was radical simplification. For example, China transported goods in animal-powered carts prior to collapse, but changed to transporting goods in wheelbarrows, after it collapsed about the third century A. D.

Building on this idea, the place for intermittent renewables would seem to be off the electric grid. They would likely need to operate in very small networks, probably serving individual homes or businesses. For example, some homeowners might want to set up 12 volt direct current systems, operating a few LED lights and a few specially designed 12 volt direct current appliances. Businesses might want to do more. The problem, of course, comes in maintaining these systems, as batteries degrade and other parts need to be replaced. It would seem that this type of transition could be handled without huge subsidies from governments.

The belief that we can maintain our current electric grid system practically indefinitely, using only wind + solar + hydroelectric + biomass, is almost certainly a pipe dream. We need to be looking at the situation more realistically, and making plans based on what might actually be feasible.


[1] In defining net energy, some would say that Energy Input should be multiplied by a factor of three before the subtraction is done, because input energy is only partially counted in most calculations. Another variation is that the calculation varies by energy product, and whether EROEI has been calculated using a “wellhead” or “point of use” approach. These variations further add to confusion regarding exactly which amounts are comparable to which other amounts.

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.
This entry was posted in Financial Implications and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1,372 Responses to EROEI Calculations for Solar PV Are Misleading

  1. JT Roberts says:

    Well it took awhile but I finally figured out the core architecture of Bitcoin. It’s a pyramid scheme but like no other, highly complex. It is designed to create exponential inflation of the coins value. The coin is created as a reward for the work of mathematical computation. These computations take high power computers to produce. So it is actually trading real energy for perceived value, (because of work and high energy that limits the ability to counterfeit it) held in cyberspace (by the way not a real space). As each block chain is created by design the next block chain becomes increasingly difficult to generate this guarantees that the currency will have to inflate in value because more energy is required to generate the continued production. ( this is a similar situation in a gold mine). Then to generate demand they capped the number at 21 million. This is an interesting move because it creates a gold rush effect. If you wait you’ll lose the best claims. ( first production is cheapest last production most expensive hence pyramid scheme if your in early your rich if your in late your broke) Right now China is producing 70% of the Bitcoins being mined. But they’re not even covering their cost. So all the players have taken on massive debt speculating that the increase futures values (built on production limits )will bring them back into the Black. Bitcoin is also being used as a hedge against the falling yuan which is artificial demand. So it’s a productive tool only in converting yuan to Bitcoin. ( in effect Yuan is being used to buy energy to create Bitcoin ) Right now there are 15million Bitcoins in circulation maybe more like 16-17 I have old data. But at a 2.5 million annual growth rate the system is at its limit. The difficulty is the calculated iterations involved may make it impossible to generate the last coin. Not that they will stop trying. So in simple terms the value is being determined relative to cost of production ( electrical energy ) without debt included. What happens when the growth ends is a big question. It will depend on whether it maintains its perception of value. It’s quite likely that like other Ponzi schemes when the growth stops the system will collapse. The reason is as long as it can be produced it has productive value and a pricing mechanism (basically embedded energy, it is interesting to note that Bitcoin is around $900.00 and the energy required to produce one with CAPEX is around $900.00) When it can no longer be produced there is no longer a pricing mechanism. So the value becomes pure speculation. Without a floor there is no resistance so the price can drop to zero. This happened in Spain at the height of its power.
    So how much energy is being consumed for nothing?
    So if we add up the watts it costs to produce 1 bitcoin it looks like 3MWH ( Megawatt hours ) per coin. Presently bitcoins are being produced at 7200 per day. So that means 20-22 gigawatthours per day. That’s twice the power consumption of NYC. Produces absolutely nothing. At least a real mine brings gold to the surface so you retain the embedded energy. Must have been a psychopath who came up with this. No prizes wondering who is behind this one. Great way to ruin the planet.

  2. Jeff Hubbs says:

    In my EROEI presentation I point out that the number you estimate depends heavily on where you draw your “fence” – the closed curve through which flow the energy inputs and outputs that you’re identifying and tabulating. For example, one can analyze EROEI for underground coal mining with the fence drawn at the “mine mouth.” That’s a very cut-and-dried way to do it; energy goes in the hole in the form of human labor and fuel or electricity for machines and comes out in the form of coal. But to then compare the number you get from a mine-mouth analysis to some other energy production activity, you’ve got to draw that activity’s analysis’ fence in an analogous way and that’s not easy when you’re talking about e.g. wind or solar.

    There’s also a wrinkle in that the fence has to be drawn not only in space but also in time. A lot of energy goes into the production of a dam and hydro plant, but the moment it begins running, the EROEI for the entire installation starts at effectively zero, then rises past one once it makes up for its creation energy plus its operating energy consumption to date, and then continues to climb for as long as it’s in operation. The point is that you can’t talk about the total EROEI of a hydro dam unless you circumscribe the time period over which the dam operates past its first kilowatthour.

    The frustrating/fascinating thing about EROEI is that the true numbers actually exist for any given specific definition – but finding them or even their upper or lower bounds can be exasperating. And as I also say in my presentation, *societal* EROEI is a number that rose from a barely-over-one-to-one time when all our forebears had was their own strength to work with up to the point where labor could specialize…and eventually the day came when we could build schools, hospitals, lunar modules, and Angry Birds. If societal EROEI begins falling because the energy inputs required just to “fly level” keep increasing, so does the available surplus from which we create what we think of as “modern civilization.” And if that number continues to fall, society will be forced to descend through the stages through which it rose, and you won’t be able to have things like hospitals. In truth, such a descent would fall unevenly among the world’s population and we, as a civilization, face a decision as to either how the fall will be allocated among it or how to reengineer the energy system to keep the number from falling through those stages – if that’s even possible.

    • Niels Colding says:

      Money is the tokenization of energy. So just follow the money. So easy is it. However, Vestas doesn’t like it!

  3. Interguru says:

    If anyone thinks that wind turbines can survive beyond BAU check out this video

    The video above was taken at the National Wind Technology Center, a research facility run by the Department of Energy outside Boulder, Colorado. In it, DOE’s Simon Edelman scales the inside of a 270-foot GE wind turbine, pointing out various features of the turbine and safety procedures for moving around inside it. Eventually, he pops out on top, making my stomach flip.

  4. JT Roberts says:

    The events of the 1590s had suddenly brought home to more thoughtful Castilians the harsh truth about their native land – its poverty in the midst of riches, its power that had shown itself impotent… For this was not only a time of crisis, but a time also of the awareness of crisis – of a bitter realization that things had gone wrong. It was under the influence of the arbitristas that early seventeenth-century Castile surrendered itself to an orgy of national introspection, desperately attempting to discover at what point reality had been exchanged for illusion….

    The arbitristas proposed that Government expenditure should be slashed…

    Most of the arbitristas recommended the reduction of schools and convents and the clearing of the Court as the solution to the problem. Yet this was really to mistake the symptoms for the cause. MartínGonzález de Cellorigo was almost alone in appreciating that the fundamental problem lay not so much in heavy spending by Crown and upper classes – since this spending itself created a valuable demand for goods and services – as in the disproportion between expenditure and investment. ‘Money is not true wealth,’ he wrote, and his concern was to increase the national wealth by increasing the nation’s productive capacity rather than its stock of precious metals. This could only be achieved by investing more money in agricultural and industrial development. At present, surplus wealth was being unproductively invested – ‘dissipated on thin air – on papers, contracts, censos, and letters of exchange, on cash, and silver, and gold – instead of being expended on things that yield profits and attract riches from outside to augment the riches within. And thus there is no money, gold, or silver in Spain because there is so much; and it is not rich, because of all its riches….’

    The Castile of González de Cellorigo was…a society in which both money and labour were misapplied; an unbalanced, top-heavy society, in which, according to González, there were thirty parasites for every one man who did an honestday’s work; a society with a false sense of values, which mistook the shadow for substance, and substance for the shadow.

    J.H. Elliott, Imperial Spain: 1469-1716

  5. Greg Machala says:

    An interesting development Sunday. Apparently a US Destroyer fired warning shots at Iranian vessels in the Strait Of Hormuz:: . In a normal economic environment the oil price would almost certainly go up. But, oddly, the oil price fell this morning in early trading. Odd?

  6. Lastcall says:

    Then there is this….just because we can doesn’t mean we game playing with targets creates false this is not a positive outcome, but to some the replacement of coal is the narrow focus of their efforts.

    “Each month, about 1 million tons of tree trunks and branches from southern U.S. pine plantations and natural forests is being turned into pellets and shipped to European power plants, mostly to Drax power station in the U.K. The growing transatlantic trade is being financed with billions of dollars in European climate subsidies because of a regulatory loophole that allows wood energy to count as if it’s as clean as solar or wind energy, when in reality it’s often worse for the climate than burning coal. Only the pollution released when wood pellets are produced and transported is counted on climate ledgers. Actual pollution from the smokestack — by far the greatest source of carbon pollution from wood energy — is overlooked.”

    Also overlooked is the fact that neither wind or solar are clean energy but oh well…

    • Artleads says:

      I’m the most optimistic person in the world, but this and Jeremy’s post above are testing that optimism beyond the limits. Anyway, let me show you an el primo piece of optimism on my part. Please don’t laugh!

      Wouldn’t it be nice if a systems thinking approach were used to energy procurement? Aren’t there some cases where mining coal is less harmful to water than fracking? What I mean to say is that it seems fracking is more universally harmful to water, while coal can be just as harmful but not in all cases. I don’t know the answer. But Trump could help some of his coal-country constituents by enabling careful mining in optimal places, while shutting down fracking? A possible trade off that makes him look good? Also, there’s so much history to coal mining that coal tourism might be tried as a way to add income while taking some pressure off the actual rush to mine ever more coal.

      • jeremy890 says:

        Last updated: 01/10/2017 04:53:29
        Send an e-Postcard
        Recent posts
        Feed aggregator
        User login
        Username: *

        Password: *

        Log in
        Log in using OpenID
        Request new password
        Obama administration, EPA hid planned radiation exposure 1,000s of times Safe Drinking Water Act limits

        January 1, 2017 by legitgov

        Forward logo Google logo Reddit logo Yahoo logo
        StumbleUpon logo Newsvine logo
        Obama administration, EPA hid planned radiation exposure thousands of times Safe Drinking Water Act limits –Radical Drinking Water Radiation Rise Confirmed in EPA Plan | 22 Dec 2016 | In the last days of the Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to dramatically increase allowable public exposure to radioactivity to levels thousands of times above the maximum limits of the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to documents the agency surrendered in a federal lawsuit brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These radical rollbacks cover the “intermediate period” following a radiation release and could last for up to several years. This plan is in its final stage of approval

    • and sitting here in the uk—-i know that to be truly insane

    • Thanks for the link! That is a good article.

      One of the key points it makes is that wood energy accounts for nearly half of Europe’s renewable energy production. If the accounting slight of hand were abolished, it would reveal that Europe is falling short of climate targets. So they need to keep the credit, to make it look like Europe is being “responsible”, even though it is working on cutting down forests.

      Living in the Southeast of the US, I have heard that previously, we were cutting down wood from these forests to make paper. Now wood for paper is coming from clear cutting forests in Indonesia. All of the figures I have seen shows that the total portion of forest being cut down around the world keeps rising. No doubt this regulation contributes to this.

      If our real intent were to save the environment, Europe would repeal this legislation. It does help US GDP however. Anything that increases the use of resources seems to increase GDP.

    • Yoshua says:

      Perhaps we will have time to cut down all trees as well before we run out of fossil fuels ?

      One autumn I climbed pine trees and collected cones, which contains seeds for planting new pine trees. The forest industry then plants new pine tree “forests” in straight rows to replace the ones they have cut down.

      It was really hard work in the wind, rain and cold… and the pay was lousy. It was nothing at all like the ol’ bines !

      • Artleads says:

        Getting kids in one school to plant those pines would not require money; it would be how they learn science. But doing that in one school would make no impact whatsoever. If you did the same thing in ALL schools globally, however, that would be something different. It would make a recognizable buzz that would get parents and others to do more.

        • Yoshua says:

          A global tree week. It would unite all the children in the world for a week.

          We use child labour in the school cantina. I believe it makes them feel good. They feel that they are useful and can take part in the “adult” world.

  7. jeremy890 says:

    Read this post in an article of radioactive bacon….I mean wild boars near Fukushima.
    Is this comment factual?

    You all do know that the radiation from Fukushima Japan is from coast to coast here in The United States? We are above safe levels in most of this country.. The government has raised our radiation safety limits in our drinking water 27,000 times and changed the acceptable death rate from 1 in 10,000 people to a new acceptable rate of 1 in 23 people. At one time out normal counts per minute was 4 to 20 CPM and 50 CPM was known to be abnormal 100 CPM was an alert/warning level and 300 CPM was an evacuation/hazmat level … and now… all I can say is WOW..

    Gun control heartburn: Radioactive boars are amok in Fukushima

    there is the problem with the meat. In short, there is no good way to make caesium-137 infused pork a balanced part of your complete meal without the diner glowing in the dark, no matter how much BBQ sauce you use.

    In Japan, they have to incinerate the carcasses (at 1,771 degrees Fahrenheit) then obliterate the fragments left over with hammers and box them up. Carefully.

    Furthermore, the animals are very smart.

    “They are the most adaptable animals that you’ll ever find: we call them the ‘opportunistic omnivore,’” says Smith
    Oh well, something has to take our place…

    • dolph says:

      It reads like satire, though it’s probably just fluff for the sake of it.

      Here is my response:
      -by 2025, the breakdown of global trade, the separation of the global economy into regional blocks, and the collapse of America into civil war will be within view; nobody will be thinking of technological utopia, they will be thinking, how do I hang onto this crap job so I can feed myself

    • This list is totally absurd–which no doubt is the reason you posted it.

    • Greg Machala says:

      After reading those 2025 predictions, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. None of it will happen though.

  8. dolph says:

    All of this constant talk about doom raises the important question, how will you actually know it’s the end? This is not a trivial question, I’ve thought about this and haven’t come up with an answer.
    Remember there were many people who thought the world had ended during WW2. Later, people thought we would blow each other up with nuclear weapons.
    Neither of these was true. So how do we know now? I suppose one can only say that my world has come to an end, rather than “the” world has come to an end.
    Personally speaking, has my world come to an end? The answer is yes, but I’ll spare you the details. Very few people will admit this, even unto death, being broke and dying in a hospital, nobody will admit it.

    • jeremy890 says:

      Dolph, good question! I ask myself “Do I even know the person I was a quarter century ago?
      Thomas Merton, Hippie Radical Trappist Monk, wrote he did not recognize the person who penned ” The Seven Storey Mountain”, which he finished at the age of 31, when he reached age 50.
      Suppose ones self identity is not as eternal as we wish or our psyche demands?
      If that is the case, perhaps a load of clinging with the fear of the end once we embrace the “what is”.

      • dolph says:

        Yes I’m afraid we must constantly re-evaluate life and where we find ourselves.
        The ugliness of the world in general now convinces me to be pessimistic. Including the fact that we are all becoming identity-less, which is the expressed wish of global capitalism. Despite what Trump may say, they need you without identity, without nationhood, because then you will substitute consumption for lack of identity.

    • I don’t think that anyone’s end comes before they are dead. There are always opportunities of many kinds–to see another sunrise, to greet a friend, to enjoy a good meal, to do good to someone else. Even a person who is in pain, or lacking for food, has some opportunities.

      It is easy for people to become depressed because things haven’t turned out according to their expectations. I think that we need to change our expectations, and do our best to make things work out.

  9. JT Roberts says:

    So near as I can tell an average bitcoin costs 3MWH to produce. Current production is estimated at 7200 per day. So 21600 MWH which is twice the power needed to run NYC. It produces absolutely nothing tangible. At least Gold retains the embedded energy. If any on this sight still believe technology will solve the problems created by technology they need some therapy of some sort. Even if we say this activity is increasing demand that keeps prices up to maintain the system we have to accept that we are far past overshoot and are grasping at straws as the whole thing is spiraling out of control.

    • bandits101 says:

      Yes agreed but technology Per Se has never been a problem. The technology exists to make use of helium-3, the technology exists to use power satellites and mine uranium or gold from seawater. Our existing technological capabilities right now are likely greater than most realise.

      Technology is not the tallest building, the fastest CPU or sports car or even best aircraft. It was in the distant past, a simple stone hand axe.

      It is the engineering that realises the potential of technology. Science theorised the plutonium and hydrogen bomb, their construction only made possible by engineers with access to adequate resources…….including funds.

      To summarise humans have been engineering since time immemorial. Our engineering abilities are exactly why we are in the predicament we now find ourselves, yet throughout OFW, in every new post there are advocates of more engineering to save the situation. Some of those advocates have been and are the most dangerous humans that walk or have walked the earth. Of course they and 99% of others would categorically deny it and that’s why we’re doomed.

      • The problem with technology is that it tends to produce an increasing dichotomy between rich and poor. We need to produce more devices. Some people own them, and get the benefit of them, but others do not. Some people obtain education to work in the more complex world, but others do not. When the poor can no longer afford the output of the economy, the economy tends to crash from lack of buyers.

        • Artleads says:

          But I find that one can have zero tech savvy but a good liberal education–the ability to think critically,etc. To me that’s an advantage over tech people who lack that background. Maybe I’m describing a temporary transition from a world that had the luxury for liberal education toward one that doesn’t. With the “benefits” being temporary as well.

        • Greg Machala says:

          I have been thinking about ways to extend and pretend our economic situation. What if the Fed came out with a program whereby the too big to fail banks would get money with negative interest rates to loan to home buyers at 0% – 1% for 40 or 50 years? The 0% loans for Veterans (and anyone who signs up for the military). The 1% loans for the rest.
          Combine that with a law capping property tax rates (with the promise that there will be more property tax payers). I think this could potentially get millions of Millennials into homes and buying stuff on the credit cards to fill the home. Then perhaps they would even buy a car too. Kinda like the Ghost cities of China but people will actually live in these homes for a while.

      • Stefeun says:

        Technology is a tool that helps us burn more energy.
        It co-developed with the amount of energy dissipated and the layers of complexity added, in a sort of positive feedback loop.
        To run, this tool requires energy itself, as well as some matter to work on. Take away one of those and the tool becomes useless.
        Technology helps us solve precise problems, with no regards for the externalities it generates. Our problem today is to deal with externalities, not technology (which cannot help us in this purpose, more of the same poison doesn’t heal).

    • Agreed! This seems like a stupid use of electricity. But if people in China can use it on a short term basis, when they are concerned about falling Yuan values, I suppose that there is a market for it. Somehow, the cost needs to be priced into the system.

    • Stefeun says:

      Upstream, it looks like the main difference between crypto-currencies and printed fiat money is the astounding amount of energy used to produce it, and that is definitely lost (not exactly “embedded”, but definitely totally stupid, unless the ultimate purpose is to burn as much as possible, not only by using the money, but by producing it as well).
      The other difference being to avoid taxes, but after a second thought I’m not so sure that printed money generates so much taxes either.

      Downstream, I don’t know, because both crypto and printed money seem to be used for financial purposes only, and never go down to the real economy.
      Probably there are some uses that help the global finance stand up a while longer..?
      I didn’t ask him, but I doubt my baker would accept bitcoins against my daily baguette.

  10. JT Roberts says:

    Bitcoin mining.

    I’ve been researching this alternative digital currency. Initially I thought it was free but it has a carbon footprint. So digital currency has a cost.

    Here’s the rub digital currency may accelerate energy consumption. I’ll share more as I can quantify it. But digital currency might crush the energy system.

    • Joebanana says:

      Bitcoin mining takes enormous amounts of power. Most people are very surprised to learn it is much like mining physical gold in energy terms. Bitcoins are “mined” where energy is cheap and plentiful.

      • JT Roberts says:

        Then here’s the conundrum. Price is based on cost of production not supply and demand that’s a false premise. So bitcoin has a real value. Energy. Same as Gold and Silver. So the flight we’re seeing into bitcoin is a speculative bubble. But I think if we move to a fully digital currency we may see a heavy energy cost associated with it.

        • Joebanana says:

          Absolutely. Any “currency” like bitcoin has the advantage of being able to set up a “mine” where the energy is cheapest to produce but will still suffer the problem of requiring more and more real energy to get it, so it would have a deflationary bias on the economy over time. Maybe little Iceland will hold the worlds reserve currency before it is all over;-)

          • JT Roberts says:

            I’m moving to Iceland 😁

            • edwinlloyd says:

              When the energy dies bitcoin vanishes, gold and silver will still be there. The third party with bit coin is the grid. Yea, I know each coin has a ‘ number’ that is unique. Without the communication of the net, who will be trading?

        • If we lose electricity, the value of Bitcoins will be $0.

          • Greg Machala says:

            I don’t suppose dollars would be worth much either if we lost electricity. I really don’t think gold or silver would be worth much either in that case. To me, what would have real value if our energy and finance system collapsed is: weapons, drugs, food, water, shelter and clothing.

        • A Real Black Person says:

          This is the same situation facing all “high tech”. Virtually all of them don’t have the ability, at present, to “scale”, to meet demand because they are too expensive.

          I had a brief conversation with an older man. I told him that I didn’t think I’d live to see his age. He said that “with the technology we have right now…” I should expect to.

          I didn’t ask him for clarification on what technology he was referring to.
          I hope he wasn’t referring to the expensive drugs and healthcare services that are only available to 20% of the global population. I hope he wasn’t referring to non-existent biotech. Biotech advocates have promised revolutionary “personalized medicine” that has yet to materialize. No one has grown an effective and affordable product with stem cells in any industrialized country since the Human Genome Project concluded and I don’t think it’s because of legal concerns.
          The older man I spoke with seemed to be oblivious to the fact that current healthcare technology is becoming more expensive as it is offered to more and more people, with the exception of vaccines.
          To quote a doctor in the link below, “At some point, our economy can’t support this.”

          Here’s another question for you know-it-alls ot OFW (I’m teasing),

          Why are the prices for some prescription drugs soaring in the U.S. only?

          • The technology usually involves devices. These devices need to be financed in some way. This is addition to all of our existing devices. The financing of all of these devices quickly becomes a major problem, unless the energy output is in a useful form, and greatly exceeds the energy input.

        • “Price is based on cost of production not supply and demand that’s a false premise. ”

          No, cost is cost and price is price. If the cost is higher than the price, supply falls. If price is much higher than cost, supply increases. Of course, there is latency, and people make mistakes, and speculation occurs, but all in all markets work better than central planning.

          Cryptocurrencies are quite energy intensive, so can only succeed in a world where total energy consumption is continuously growing. New energy is only needed to add new gold to the total supply. Energy is constantly needed to maintain the value of all existing units of cryptocurrency.

    • DJ says:

      “But digital currency might crush the energy system.”
      It would be extremely humourus if we went down because of “mining” fake money.

      • JT Roberts says:

        Let’s see what Modi does next.

      • greg machala says:

        At a fundamental level, fake money is no different than anything else we manufacture. Most all of what we make, modern housing,cars, plastics, boats, pavement, processed foods, etc is all artificial as it does not exist in nature. So, in a sense most of our modern world could be considered to just as fake as the money that flows through it.

        • Volvo740 says:

          Screwdriver with plastic handle and screwdriver with wooden handle. Does either make the real list?

    • Keeping energy “demand” at a high enough level is important. So if there is a way that bitcoin producers are siphoning off funds to pay for all of this electricity, it is in a sense, helpful to keeping the system from collapsing from low prices.

  11. dolph says:

    You are thinking of Mexicans, and Latin Americans in general, in some sort of halo light, they are coming to America and are great people, hard working, will make great Americans, etc.

    This is the incorrect way to think about it. Which is not to say that the racist, nativist way of thinking is correct either. Rather, think of Latin Americans as the “barbarians at the gates” storming into a dying system.

    It’s America that’s dying! All these Mexican workers are doing is propping up a terminal system with their labor. They get just enough money to make them do it, and not a penny more. Like I said, that’s the way to keep the system going. Keep the workers showing up.

    At some point down the line, and nobody knows when, all of these immigrants will realize they’ve been duped and they might have been better off staying at home. Though that’s a difficult question as well.

    • Yoshua says:

      The minimum wage in Mexico is $5 a day. It takes 12 days of work to fill the gas tank… if you can afford a car.

      It is almost as if the west is living on a different planet. I don’t know how they do it. I just know that if everything was dependent on me, we would not even have invented the wheel.

      The Chinese motto was: Don’t invade the barbarians, keep them out. Will Trumpolini’s Great Wall keep the barbarians out ?

      In Europe the muslim refugee flood is the hottest political topic today. No one is talking about the end of civilization yet due to thermodynamic death.

      • DJ says:

        A million or two migrants a year almost destroys europe, soon 500M will be looking for a new home.

      • A Real Black Person says:

        “one is talking about the end of civilization yet due to thermodynamic death.”
        No one is talking about it because no one understands it.
        The average person’s understanding of technology is synonymous with magic.
        The average person thinks civilization can be saved by having the right mindset, whether that mindset involves submitting oneself to an ideology.

        I’m still trying to understand out why Gail thinks the Earth will be a cold, icy planet long before the sun burns itself out. I thought the world was destined to end in fire. From what I have read, the Earth is destined to be vaporized by Sun when it becomes a red giant star in another five billion years.

        • and when it happens

          i can guarantee there will be a smartass finite worldster on hand to say:

          There—I told you so!!!

          • Joebanana says:

            Right on Norman! I’ve already stopped brushing my teeth and am fully stocked up on beans and Beano so nobody will suspect I have the beans! I think I have it all covered.

      • Someone calculated that the relative number of refugees in Europe was no higher than the annual number of immigrants to the US, many of whom are also refugees. I think the problems are in some ways parallel.

  12. aubreyenoch says:

    I’m a minority at my job. Most of those in the Maintenance and Housekeeping and Kitchen are Spanish speaking Native Americans. My friends and fellow workers are from Guatemala , Mexico, Brazil and Honduras. They are responsible, hard working people that I am grateful to have as associates to keep our facility functioning so that we all get a paycheck. The Idea that these people that have lived in the Americas for eons before Europeans “discovered” America is some how not connecting with modern Euroes.
    Humans have migrated to mitigate the effects of climate variability and resource competition back to pre-human times.
    “Build a wall” is another predatory dogma to create “other”. Create “other” is older than humans. ‘They are different from us so they are the “other” and it is OK to kill them and steal their stuff and rape their women”.
    Humans are predators. May the weak beware.

    • A Real Black Person says:

      Build a wall” is another predatory dogma to create “other”. Create “other” is older than humans. ‘They are different from us so they are the “other” and it is OK to kill them and steal their stuff and rape their women”.
      Euros migrating to Guatemala , Mexico, Brazil or Honduras or any non-white country will not be met with open arms unless they have a lot of money. Most countries have strict immigration policies.

      “‘They are different from us so they are the “other” and it is OK to kill them and steal their stuff and rape their women”. I take you believe only Europeans have raped, stolen and pillaged throughout human history? Is that what you learned in school?

      What alternative do you have to a “wall”? How can the U.S. share less resources with more and more people, who are not coming from Mexico, so much, because opportunities for Mexicans are greater in Mexico than in the U.S.

      Mr. Open Borders- is-a-good-idea-in-an-overpopulated human world, I want to know what solutions you have other than pathetic attempts at moral shaming people for looking out for their best interests in a Zero Sum world..

      • Joebanana says:

        Who can blame the poor people in other countries wanting a better life? But to every person who thinks like aubreyenoch, what are you ready to give up for it? How many young people would give up their iphone if it could save a frog let alone a person?
        aubreyenoch, would you give up your job?
        A Real Black Person; spot on.

        • And will the churches give up their wealth to save a frog……………………?

          • Joebanana says:

            The very best definition of an environmentalist I’ve heard is simply someone who uses less energy than the average. Church people are like everyone else for the most part, with the odd standout. Not very many takers for the prospect of using less energy in any walk of life.

            • People who use less energy than the average are poor people. Homeless people are the closest to zero energy using people. They of course need to eat, like everyone else.

              Environmentalists tend to be fairly rich people, who want to find “green” way of doing things. They eat organic vegetables, grown with irrigation in very dry areas and flown to their grocery stores, at a much higher energy cost than other foods. They fly to conferences. The make certain that their second or third car is an EV. They offer to buy “green” electricity, even if it is higher-priced than other energy.

            • Joebanana says:

              For the most part I agree. But I don’t mean using less by buying solar panels or driving an electric car. That is just a change in the form of how the energy is delivered. But things like driving less, choosing not to take vacations away from home, buying used clothing, growing as much food as possible, buying locally produced food, using wood to heat and cook with, using muscle power for tasks rather than powered machines etc. Even taking good care of ones health can be included as not to burden the health care system as well as living in a smaller home and not owning a smart phone.

              There really are many ways we can choose to use less energy but they pretty much all require a sacrifice and make life less convenient. They can also make people think you are weird or cheap.

              We got a foot of snow here last night. I could use a snowblower, pay somebody to come and plow it, or I could start shovelling.

              All my choice but huge difference in energy consumption.

            • The limiting amount on a person’s energy consumption tends to be the person’s wages. If you shovel snow, rather than use a snowblower, that leaves more income to spend on something else. The something else uses energy as well–hence Jevons’ Paradox.

              If you decide to leave your job, it doesn’t exactly help the situation either, because someone else will take the job, and get the wages. If the government gives you some form of unemployment insurance for losing your job, that might add to the government’s debt. Adding to government debt would help bolster fossil fuel prices, and keep the economy going longer.

              Things don’t really work in a rational way.

              Leaving money from your wages in the bank unspent does seem to be helpful, though, because it is not true that the amount banks lend depends on deposits. Usually, the two are not closely tied.

      • aubreyenoch says:

        This is very interesting.

        “I take you believe only Europeans have raped, stolen and pillaged throughout human history? Is that what you learned in school?”
        One thing I learned in school is how to read.

        “Create “other” is older than humans. ‘They are different from us so they are the “other” and it is OK to kill them and steal their stuff and rape their women.
 Humans are predators. May the weak beware.”

        Some how this implies that I believe that “only Europeans have raped, stolen and pillaged throughout human history” “Older than humans” becomes “only Europeans”

        “Humans have migrated to mitigate the effects of climate variability and resource competition back to pre-human times.” This is historical fact. Animal migration to more favorable conditions is undeniable.

        We definitely have an overpopulation problem. Overpopulation is the root of our current “less resources with more and more people” problem. The idea that a wall around our country is going to help with this problem is nothing more than divisive rhetoric.

        You have helped make my point that humans are predatory animals and that the “Other” are our prey. I’m not impressed with your name calling or assertion that my comment is a “pathetic attempt” at something, while you hide behind your racially loaded moniker. What has race got to do with the issues on OFW.
        My Son- in-Law is a fine hard working man that happens to be a real black person. My fellow workers are fine hard working men and women that happen to be Spanish speaking Native Americans. I am of western European ancestory.

        I imagine that the Europeans who sailed to Africa and chained up the Africans and hauled them to America to be used as live stock were “looking out for their best interests in a Zero Sum World”.

        We are all Earthlings……except for the space aliens that lurk amongst us.

        • couple of points

          1—in prehistory, human beings or whatever they were did not build cities og 10m plus on coastlines hence climate change was irrelevant

          2, africans caught and sold fellow africans—always lightskinned selling darkskinned…..europeans provided the transport and weapons
          africans also raided remote european coastal villages as slave traders until the 16th c

        • A Real Black Person says:

          “Some how this implies that I believe that “only Europeans have raped, stolen and pillaged throughout human history” “Older than humans” becomes “only Europeans””
          Yes it does because you presented the immigrants as responsible, hard working people
          as if someone had made an argument that they weren’t. Then you implied that they had a natural right to this land because some of their ancestors were traditional native Americans.Then you mentioned the “Other” ness thing and equated labeling a group of people as being different or a threat made it okay to steal their stuff and rape their women. These are activities that Europeans engaged in when they migrated to the Americas. You implied that any modern European should not try to restrict immigration because of past sins of their forefathers. That was a moral argument, whether you realized it or not. Like I said, . Redressing the moral wrongs of the past when we cannot afford to anymore is inappropriate and and pathetic.

          “My Son- in-Law is a fine hard working man that happens to be a real black person. ”
          And what does that have to do with anything? Did I say these migrants were bad people? Were you expecting me to give you diversity points?

          While nativism won’t solve our problems in the near-term, it does mitigate them. Continued migration is only going to make things worse since there will be less and less for each migrant.

          Migration, doesn’t work in a world suffering from human overpopulation. Any benefit that a migrant gains comes at the expense of someone else.

          (You don’t seem to care about that someone else. You display your “Progressive” colors by assuming that that someone else is a “Euro” when it could easily be “a real black person” or a Native American NATIVE to the United States. Your POV is very similar to subset of educated people who despise the poor within the United States while idealizing immigrants and migrants as not only being equal in capabilities s to domestic workers but superior and more importantly–MORE DESERVING of the jobs that remain than domestic workers because they are ” harder working” and because we killed some of them and took their valuable stuff back in their homeland so we owe them.)

          That is IF this migrant gains any benefit at all aside from three meals a day and clean water. If Europe is facing a problem with unemployment among many working age adults who “Euros”, what is the point of Europe accepting large numbers of migrants who aspire to get jobs and have children? This is what you do not “get”.

          Migration was not an issue prior to civilization. Prior to civilization, human population density was extremely low. Nomadic tribes could move with more ease because there was a lot of unclaimed territory. There was plenty to go around. That is not the case anymore.

          • Humans acted like an invasive species from earliest times. They moved into new territories, and killed off the top predators. Population tends to rise to then-current carrying capacity, then collapse.

        • Most of us in the US are ultimately immigrants from somewhere else, which makes this a difficult issue.

    • hkeithhenson says:

      “Humans are predators.”

      Humans are *conditional* predators toward their own kind. For good reason. Humans are without a doubt the top predator toward other species, but like other top predators they don’t fight their own kind unless the gain from doing so it greater than the risk of getting killed.

      If humans have to fight because otherwise half the tribe will starve, they do. If there are plenty of resources and they don’t need to fight, they generally don’t–for a good reason. There is roughly a 45% genetic disadvantage in fighting other humans when you don’s have to. There is roughly a 37% genetic advantage for fighting when the alternative was half the tribe starving.

      “May the weak beware.”

      The function of war among primitive people was to get the population back in line with the available resources. War always did that.

      • Tim Groves says:

        The function of war among primitive people was to get the population back in line with the available resources. War always did that.

        That was a result of war, certainly, but I’m not sure that was it’s function. Although perhaps it was, in the larger sense. But I doubt whether people went to war with the intention of getting population back into line. They had some more specific purpose in mind, such as o protect themselves from invasion, enslavement or death, or to invade, enslave or kill the other. For the Yanomami, for instance, the function was until fairly recently to raid their neighbors and get their chicks for free.

        The global elite might well contemplate using war as a means of “thinning the heard”, but I doubt primitive people would have reasoned in that way.

        By the way, Bronowski would not have included fighting between primitive people’s as war. He said:

        Of course it’s tempting to close one’s eyes to history, and instead speculate about the roots of war in some possible animal instinct: as if, like the tiger, we still had to kill to live, or, like the robin redbreast, to defend a nesting territory. But war, organized war, is not a human instinct. It is a highly planned and cooperative form of theft. And that form of theft began 10,000 years ago when the harvesters of wheat accumulated a surplus and the nomads rose out of the desert to rob them of what they themselves could not provide. The evidence for that, we saw, in the walled city of Jericho and its prehistoric tower… That is the beginning of war.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “But I doubt whether people went to war with the intention of getting population back into line.”

          I agree. I doubt there was any rational thinking involved at all. War is not rational from a personal viewpoint. It was quite a shock when the model showed the interest of a person and their genes to diverge under some situations. Genes are expected to prevail over the long term.

          “Bronowski would not have included fighting between primitive people’s as war.”

          I think he is just wrong here. And there is lots of archeological evidence that people were killing each other in wars that goes back way before agriculture. The natives of Australia never developed agriculture. It is certain that they had wars. Heck, *chimps* have something much like war.

          The fundamental problem, as Azar Gat and Steven LeBlanc see it, is that human reproduction fills up the environment until there is a resource crisis. Then it comes down to starve or kill the neighbors.

          How this maps into the modern high tech, high energy world is a good question. Poorly would be a good guess.

          • A Real Black Person says:

            Humans are territorial. Many animals are territorial–they have to protect their feeding grounds or find themselves starving. In addition to this, humans seem to have an innate need to compete much the same way dogs like to find things to chase and bite. We are egalitarian and hierarchical at the same time. This is very well displayed in sports and all kinds of contests in surplus societies aka “complex societies”. If we don’t have causes or fights, we create causes and seek out conflict because it gives us “purpose”, as well as status (respect) from others.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              First sentence, agree. Second “innate need” also true, understandable given that our ancestors (particularly male ancestors) were successful status seekers. Seeking out lethal combat without there being a really cost effective reason tend to get weeded out of human behavior. It’s really complicated, not to mention being poorly matched to the current culture.

            • Women are the ones who have babies. If some of the men are lost through combat, it really doesn’t matter much to future population, because men can have more than one wife/girl friend.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              For a recent historical example of population reduction by war, in 1864 Paraguay found itself
              at war with three of its neighbors. Paraguay was- needless to say -defeated.

              “Few defeated nations in the world’s military history exhibited such a degree of devastation as the Paraguay of 1870. Its population, now estimated at only 221,000, had suffered war casualties of at least 220,000 people. Among the survivors there were only 28,000 men; women over fifteen were said to outnumber men at a ratio of more than four to one.” [Kolinski(1965) p. 198].

              Exactly on your point, “Women are the ones”:

              “[T]here was nothing normal about the postwar era, least of all the birthrate. In a population with four or five times as many women as men and with a male occupying army present, birthrates not only could but must have been higher than under normal circumstances.”

              The population doubled in 16 years if the 1870 and 1876 census number are reasonably accurate.

            • Right! Lots of farmland per capita, for example. Lots of opportunity for children to find a job that paid well.

            • DJ says:

              surrogate activity

          • Artleads says:

            “Seeking out lethal combat without there being a really cost effective reason tend to get weeded out of human behavior. It’s really complicated, not to mention being poorly matched to the current culture.”

            I keep thinking that humans are not only or obligatorily energy guzzling psychopaths. But that’s just me.

            As to having a need for combat, why aren’t the challenges currently faced by our species not convert-able into an equivalent of war?

            • DJ says:

              “why aren’t the challenges currently faced by our species not convert-able into an equivalent of war?”
              They are, we are just getting started.

            • if a foreign bacillus, whether flu or bubonic plague, invades your body, its intention is to overcome your ”home” bacteria for its own purposes—these are many and varied.

              in the ensuing battle within your puny body, you might overcome them and spend a few days sneezing and coughing over everyone you meet——which is what the invading bacteria wants, or you might be dead in a few days, which also what the invading bacteria wants.
              The invading bacteria or virus or whatever seek to appropriate the energy resources (which happens to be you) of the incumbent bacteria

              either way, you are a battle ground for invasive species, because that is the purpose of all invasive species of whatever size or shape. The purpose of that lethal combat is to spread their own kind
              Humankind just fools itself into thinking it’s the dominant species, but the purpose of our lethal combat is to spread our own kind.—we just dress it up as religion or politics.

              it is what we are intended to do, to acquire the energy resources of others.
              The steak on your plate is the energy resource of a cow or pig, the cereal in your bowl is the energy resource of plantlife
              it is called survival, and we are all engaged in survival whether we admit it or not. We have no choice in energy resource acquisition.
              We just deliver it on plates, while somebody else does the messy bit in an abbatoir. In previous eras, to acquire the meat resource of another animal meant betting your life in the struggle.
              Now we’ve domesticated our food sources so that they submit meekly to the butcher’s knife.

              In this period of of history, hydrocarbon fuel has made our survival easier, (give or take a war or two) we have overcome our bacterial invaders for the time being.
              The wars of the 20th c were made possible by readily available fuels.
              We can no longer afford to put armies of millions in the field to go head to head with each other, but we still involve ourselve in resource acquistion by trade and commerce.
              This will go on until there’s no worthwhile energy resource available, then our civilisation will come to an end.

              Which is exactly what infection does inside your body. The world recognises humanity as a plague species consuming her resources, and is using natural forces to get rid of us.

            • Interesting analogy!

            • @ yorchican
              Bacteria have been evolving for 2 billion years.
              Humankind has been around 1 m years depending how you count.

              That makes bacteria etc the dominant species on the planet.

              The virus of the common cold has evolved so that we act in its best interests and live to pass on the bugs to those around us. The purpose is to gain an infective hold, then grow and die within a week or so,

              The plague bacillus’ purpose is to grow, and generally overwhelm its host, allowing other carriers (fleas) to pass it it on ASAP as the host dies.
              Just different end results to fit different niches.

              Bacteria and viruses have no sense of “purpose” in doing this, only that 2 bn years of evolution has ensured this to be the way in which they propagate their kind—after that length of time, you can be sure its highly efficient, and all higher lifeforms are ultimate behaving to suit bacterial patterns

              Human beings are no different. We too have evolved to procreate as fast as possible, and to do that we too consume our host. There is no “awareness” of wanting the host dead, anymore than the plague bacillus has that awareness in the sense that we know it.
              It might be that our actions will kill our host—we cannot know that. But we certainly have the capacity to render our host lifeless through our greed. There is no “purpose” any more than bacteria have a purpose.
              We look on mother Earth as a place to graze and feed
              Which is exactly how bacteria look on us—we are no more than their prairies.

            • Stefeun says:

              Can’t resist to show you again this “New Tree of Life”:


              We’re eukaryotes, far bottom-right of the drawing…

            • It seems like this is another version of “greater complexity.” Is all of this differentiation helpful to the average person who, for example, works as a bank teller or an elementary school teacher? Will children be better off learning the new more complex organization? Or does it just fill their heads with little-needed “facts”?

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ““greater complexity.””

              The tree of life is certainly complicated, but it’s not *our* complexity.

              Mother nature did it without any help from us, we are just awestruck observers.

              “Will children be better off ”

              It seems to me that knowing how the living things in the world are related is basic knowledge. Kids need to know something about the world and the modern understanding of how living things came to be is probably less complicated than previous explanations.

            • Stefeun says:

              I’m not sure I get your point here.
              Are you saying we’d better ignore such basic facts?
              In my view, what this tree of life says, is that the best defence against microbes is other microbes in great variety, and that we would have been better off working together instead of arrogantly and systematically fight them all (with substances we’re running out of).

            • Stefeun says:

              A parallel question is why do most of the microbes keep on grazing peacefully on us, while a few other species behave like Attila the Hun, until they’re stopped by some antibiotic (I can hear them laugh here) or by death of the host?

            • it might be summed up by the two words on the front of ”the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy”, by Douglas Adams
              when defining the human race

              ”mostly harmless”

              it is not in the interests of most organisms to kill us off
              but on the other hand—the killer bacteria are there to ensure we don’t grow out of control.

              Unfortunately we screwed up that balance

            • Stefeun says:

              We also rigged the markets, and so many other things, as soon as that was enabled by fossil fuels.

            • Yorchichan says:


              “in the ensuing battle within your puny body, you might overcome them and spend a few days sneezing and coughing over everyone you meet——which is what the invading bacteria wants, or you might be dead in a few days, which also what the invading bacteria wants.”

              I would disagree with the part about invading bacteria wanting you dead. Leaving aside the question of whether a bacteria “wants” anything (I know this is just semantics), it’s not usually a good idea to kill one’s host, certainly not without a long preceding contagious period. Humans are about to find this out the hard way. Fortunately for the rest of the universe, our contagious period is never likely to be greater than zero (Keith may disagree).

            • Yorchichan says:


              My only point was that it’s not in the interest of a bacteria to kill it’s host if it wants to continue propagating itself. Isn’t that the main reason HIV (admittedly a virus) is far more widespread than ebola?

              Humans are only different in that we have the capacity to be aware we are killing our host, even though this is not our aim. Collectively we are unable to act on our awareness, however, for all sorts of reasons.

            • the problem might be that there is a mass denial that we are killing our host

            • Interesting points!

        • I am afraid I don’t understand this argument. If there are not enough resources to go around, some way of handling the situation must be found. Human beings, with their intelligence, figure out that individually they can do a lot less than they can as a group. They organize themselves and start a war for more resources. If some people die in battles, that also tends to lead to a better ratio of resources / population.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “Human beings, with their intelligence”

            I don’t think “intelligence” is involved, at least no more than mother-baby bonding is.

            Another example is

            “Partial activation of the capture-bonding psychological trait may lie behind Battered-wife syndrome, military basic training, fraternity hazing, and sex practices such as sadism/masochism or bondage/discipline. ”

            Rarely activated psychological mechanisms are really scary. Close to a million people died in Rwanda, most being hacked to death with machetes. Interviews with the killers are close to uniform, they have no idea what happened to them.

            There is a great deal of reluctance for people to accept that humans even have such behavior modes as mobs.

          • Stilgar Wilcox says:

            “There is no “awareness” of wanting the host dead, anymore than the plague bacillus has that awareness in the sense that we know it.”

            Yes, no awareness.

            “There is no “purpose” any more than bacteria have a purpose. We look on mother Earth as a place to graze and feed, which is exactly how bacteria look on us—we are no more than their prairies.”

            That whole post is great in my opinion, Norman Pagett.

          • doomphd says:

            There are many folks that are working on hot (and cold) fusion. I recently heard that a collegue’s company has been funded to pursue muon-catalyzed fusion (hot variety). The point being that fusion, if contained and sustainable with a high energy yield, can provide a primary energy source that is not all that polluting and has an essentially infinite fuel source in water. As Keith has mentioned many times here, once you have the primary energy, you can begin fabricating liquid fuels from base sources, essentially doing what the plants did with photosynthesis, as a first step. You can also make waste into more benighn forms, via nuclear alchemy. Heck, you can even make sub-light speed warp drives to visit the nearby stars.

            Even if successful, at this late date, the climate change we’ve begun with fossil fuel burning may take us down. If fact, it looks unstoppable to me.

            • Right–timing is very important.

            • DJ says:

              And unless this fusion is really cheap … having a very, very high EROEI 😉

              How will bankrupt countries like Venezuela, Greece, US and Syria being able to afford this?

              “We” found no good reason to share with Africa and south Asia when oil returned 100:1.

            • when oil returned 100 to 1, –around 1930/40–asia and africa did not possess the means to consume it.
              no industrial infrastructure existed outside a few small cities

            • DJ says:

              Do they have the means to consume large quantities of electricity now?

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” it looks unstoppable to me.”

              It may be unstoppable. On the other hand, I have very little confidence in any prognostications (including mine) about the future. Still, physics does not preclude a habitable world, perhaps one with a lot more promise than we think.

              Long term, I suspect that people will abandon bodies and live in digital simulations. Talk about something that would cause economic disruptions, having the physical world population drift down to near zero over a decade or two would be challenging to put it mildly.

              Would the species go extinct? I have little to no confidence in such projections. However, if you want to write stories about this time, you have to include human characters since a story about beings that are practically gods would leave the reader with little to identify with. There are so many unanswered questions, starting with the Fermi question, “Where are the aliens?”

              The next year or two of investigating Tabby’s star may answer some of the questions.

            • Yorchichan says:

              “Long term, I suspect that people will abandon bodies and live in digital simulations.”

              You cannot abandon your body, because you are your body. Even if your consciousness could be uploaded, whatever the resultant consciousness would be, it would not be you.

              If your consciousness were uploaded twice, would both of the resultant consciousnesses be you? Clearly not, hence neither is you.

  13. dolph says:

    I have mixed feelings on Mexico, like I do so many things.
    On one hand, they have not been net beneficiaries of being so close to American empire. Indeed, many of their problems stem from the resulting inequalities.
    On the other hand, they are corrupt and dump their surplus population on America. Which, in spite of how much Americans may love Mexican food and workers, I do think Americans have a right to complain about.

    • DJ says:

      The staff FELT healthier and more present, but in reality sick leave decreased 0.6%.

      While costing about €1M per year for one retirement home.

      • DJ says:

        I think 30 hour work week is a great idea.

        The work week is just a norm that could be negotiated away.

        But the work week is the basis for the welfare system including retirement, sickness, parental leave.

        If the work week decreased gradually from 40 to 30 through no real wage raises the welfare commitments would be lowered by 33%.

        Those with work could continue working 40 hours, getting 33% more pay, paying more taxes while avoiding getting sick or retired.

    • xabier says:

      If they were truly working, they’d be frustrated at be allowed only 6 hours a day. That’s just settling in time…..

    • Costs too much!

  14. Rainydays says:

    Collapse is like a ladder where each step represents a group of humans with relative wealth higher/lower to the other steps. Most people are getting poorer and poorer, and then they get pushed further down the ladder as goods become ever less affordable. Eventually they fall off the ladder and die. The steps go something like this:

    Bill Gates
    Less filthy rich
    middle class
    lower class

    I think we are in collapse right now, but the descent for people down the ladder is very slow. I don’t think the ladder itself will fall down (instant collapse) but there will be events that shake the ladder heavily, like war, nuclear meltdown and climate change.

    • I hope this was meant as quick illustrative example only, since Bill perhaps throughout his entire life have perhaps actually seen in person a few seriously rich/powerfull people.. But it’s doubtful he achieved full status among them.

      The problem people usually have, they see first/second gen opulent displays of wealth like Gulf Sheikhs, tech wizards like Gates and go uhm, so large yacht and jet, he must be something.. When in fact serious generational wealth of centuries is way past the point of these kiddie toys, they play in different league: central banks, international alliances, fraudulent reserve currencies, wars by invasion or proxy, legislative-regulative powers over “elected” govs, … etc.

      • Greg Machala says:

        I agree. The wealth of Bill Gates is nothing compared to those ordained with the ability to set interest rates and create money.

    • Add financial system collapse to your list of things that will shake the system. I expect that such problems will make the electric grid and Internet collapse.

      • We always get to these nuances, don’t we..

        Norman posted above in his fine recent responses, that after all he believes in some sort of intermediate stage, where the core of military / administration takes over the scraps and ~stabilizes the situation for a while in totalitarian fashion, i.e. he expects a pre-collapse proper stage at least in some regions/parts of the world. Similar thesis has been voiced here by a minority up to this point, and usually washed over by ever repeating JIT complexities and other no answers and so on.

        I think it’s important on several levels, personally it makes a great difference if there is elevated probability of having some sort of openly totalitarian rule in the final pre-collapse stage, be it most likely at only regional/subcontinent basis of power projection limits.

        Because you can expect several trends, notably civil rights/property rights invaded in brutal fashion, unless being inside tiny minority very close to the warlord/dictatorial class of the day, obviously expecting worsening sanitary conditions, decrepit hospital care, failed transport, malnutrition, etc.

        That’s a much bleaker yet realistic vision, than just proclaim, it’s the end, everybody and everything just disappearing on a dime, which seems to me as an quick opt out to me, sorry.

        In the same vein, on practical measures in such times, that means not to been seen and easily singled out, so no noticeable PV array or generators, no offroad carz parked in front of the haus, no wearing-showing off expensive set of camping/trek gear, not showing any signs of good nutrition and health etc.

        Actually, it’s not funny, there is plenty of literature with real accounts how to play on these dynamics from past larger waves of war, epidemic, revolutions..

        • It is possible that there is some intermediate stage, as Norman says. Clearly the intermediate group cannot “save” everyone, but they may be able to save a few. If someone were convinced that this route would work, the obvious choice would be to try to join the military or whatever group looks like it will succeed.

        • as i see it there has to be an intermediate stage, primarily focussed on denial, where the military has to assume control—there being no other capable force.

          this will be under the control of an ”emergency” governing body—also preaching ”denial” while promising a return to normality ”soon”
          the constituition will go out the window, as will democracy.
          Democracy can only function in times of prosperity.
          Military theofascist dictatorship is inevitable.

          There will be little choice but to follow this mantra–the alternatives being too awful to contemplate.
          Nation states will reassert sovereignty—multi Brexit?/
          The USA will devolve into nation states while the military tries to prevent it.
          But the military is a function of energy availability, so can only last through the intermediate stage.
          Empires can only be held together by surplus energy input.
          There is no other way.

          At the terminal stage the military will be powerless, (and nobody will pay their wages.)

          Maybe the whole thing will settle down when everybody runs out of ammunition

          • Joebanana says:

            How long do you think before this comes to Europe and North America and how long before even the military can no longer exert force? I know it will vary from region to region but I suspect it will happen all over pretty fast once the Western nations experience financial collapse.

            • richardA says:

              I’ll step back from the timescale of any collapses, and point out a few things to bear in mind. From a global perspective “we” are the 1%. We could probably cut our energy consumption by 80% and still get by.
              Next, automation means more government and more bullshit jobs. If there was a way around the hit to confidence the entire financial sector could be dissolved and things could carry on pretty much as before except 50% of the jobs would go. Some 50% of Western GDP would vanish, but it was never really there in the first place.
              That said, the financial sector should serve a purpose. We need to find a way of distributing energy at a cost of around US$ 0.03-0.04 per KWh, or as close to that as possible, and that implies a structure that our present financial systems provide.
              If or when we can’t do that, then it’s time to talk about collapse.

            • energy per se might be thought of as a two edged sword

              you have to obtain it

              then find ways to use it.

              No matter how much energy you have available, it is of no use unless you have products that stem from it
              eg—You put liquid fuel –Hydrocarbon– in a car to make it go, but without another variant of hydrocarbon, to make the tyres, insulate the wiring and all the other whirry gizmos in every vehicle, your cars go nowhere. The road it runs on is also a product of hydrocarbon.
              The car itself is a product of hydrocarbon, the original energy source,

              now—take that thought a step further, and get hold of the same “amount” of electrical energy from “renewables”. According tp popular myth, there should be a seamless transition from one form of energy to another. Energy is energy.

              Except that it isn’t.

              You can charge the battery of an electric vehicle with electricity—but you can do nothing else.
              You cannot build the car, or the road it runs on, or the infrastructure that exists around it, or even the battery that powers the car.

              So if you have an infinite capacity to generate electricity, but no means of building products to use it, then electricity generation will not sustain continued employment of workers (they are the people who build all the things that consume the energy)
              Infinite energy supplies do not provide infinite employment and infinite prosperity.

              Though why it should be necessary to keep restating the obvious, is beyond me.

            • DJ says:

              US 318M
              EU 743M
              14% of world population, then Japan, au and rich people everywhere.

              The average american is no 1%er, the average European even less.

              And there is no cutting 80%, most of the energy you consume is consumed on your behalf in the society.

              Maybe fossil fuel use could be cut 80% by stop shipping stuff around the whole world.

            • @joe
              this is a rather long winded response, because it wasn’t any easy question.—
              I don’t think it’s possible to pin it down to less than a decade or so, but in historical terms, that’s pretty much instantaneous.

              The other critical factor, is that when oil/energy availability is seen to be in terminal decline, conflict will start to break out randomly because all the promises and platitudes will be seen to be meaningless (making America great again etc etc.) Blame will have to be put somewhere, because ‘humankind cannot be at fault’. Conflict is inevitable and unpredictable. One of the wild cards.

              So what real facts might we work with? (As opposed to conjecture).
              Saudi is possibly the linchpin because they produce freeflowing oil in quantity, and supposedly have the biggest reserves of it. The Saudis need around $100 a barrel to sustain their lifestyle, but already Saudi is already having to sell part of its ‘family silver” to keep its citizens happy and further the lie it can go on forever:

              Saudi oil reserves have been put at 269bn barrels, every year since the 80s. At 10Mbd, this gives 70 years supply. Yet they are pumping 94bn barrels a year while somehow maintaining an unchanged inventory. So a skeptical raised eyebrow might be in order there I think.
              Stocks are a government secret, and with good reason:

              We don’t know the actual reserves of Saudi oil, but it’s unlikely to be more than 20 years worth in any economically recoverable sense not through volume, but through plunging use/value.
              . Oil has no value unless the means is there to use it……so say 2035 ish.
              But the oil won’t just run out in 2035.
              Already the Saudis use a third of their oil to stay alive in a literal sense.

              Long before 2035 they will be using all of it just to eat and drink. But this will crash their lifestyle; suddenly the realization will dawn that nobody wants to rent space in their fantasy towers when there’s no oil underneath them.
              Then the country will disintegrate into warring religious factions, all in a state of denial, that their nation was built on sand after all.

              Or we can quote a Saudi “energy prince”:
              “I think by 2020, if oil stops we can survive,” —- “We need it, we need it, but I think in 2020 we can live without oil.”
              Which is one helluva scary ‘if’ there.
              He is of course talking utter nonsense, they would be facing certain death.
              But the 2020 year is the scary part. —but maybe 2020 is too close….and 2030/35 is too far ahead. They are at opposite ends of the guessing scale.
              So we pitch the answer somewhere between.
              That “between” point is where Saudi itself starts to break up because the oil that created the Saudi nation 100 or so years ago is no longer there, and the life of comfort starts to disintegrate.
              That would appear to be mid 2020s possibly a bit earlier. Others seem to have reached the same conclusion.

              But switch back to the USA.
              Collapse there seems to be predicted for the same period; they are linked, because the world is commercially linked:
              As with Saudi, the USA is also a nation created entirely from its hydrocarbon energy resources. Without those resources, there could have been no other form of industrial development, or means to sustain ”one nation” as it exists now.
              As with Saudi it would have remained an area of disparate peoples.
              Right now the USA is held together by the hydrocarbon input/output of its industrial infrastructure.
              Remove that and the nation dissolves.
              Just as Saudi will dissolve.

              The USA is now run as a debt economy, not the energy surplus economy it was until 1970. But the USA consumes 18Mbd, but produces only 10Mbd, so that debt is kept viable only by hydrocarbon input from elsewhere; it is a debt gap maintained by borrowing, and that debt has been growing since 1970, and it sustains the fragile ‘standard of living’ of US citizens. The EU is the same.

              Trump’s fiscal policies, such as they are, are entirely predicated on infinite growth. He is dismissive of energy depletion, insisting that there’s 400 years worth of coal, oil is infinite and promises growth of 4%. And millions believe him. Trump is wrong of course, and when that becomes obvious to even the dimmest of his supporters the result will be economic breakdown and social collapse. It happens whenever debt finally overwhelms income.

              Whether Saudi or USA collapse comes first is irrelevant, because one will trigger the other. They are on the pendulum of co-dependency.
              Or maybe a rigged roulette wheel—anybody care to put a bet on 25?

          • Could be. But is there enough military, located in areas that are close to population areas? I don’t see many where I live.

            • There is way enough military to feed the forming stages of the ultimate re-localization/re-feudalization effort in the latter collapse stages, i.e. ex army-gangs-warlords-dictators-oligarchs commingling escapades, this will just produce and secure their smallest denominator scale fiefdoms in some workable fashion. It could well cascade through time again, from initial stabilization phase on individual (US) state level into even much smaller units of counties or even just few hundreds and thousands of acres under control.

              Today the US fed gov is very interested in the Russian Federation and vice versa, later through collapse progress one of the successor entities, e.g. something like the Republic / Kingdom of Tex-Arkana will be very much less interested in what’s The Russian Empire (or smaller units) about these days on different continent, yet looking after their own very shoulder at neighboring entities.

          • Joebanana says:

            Thank you for such a thoughtful reply. To be honest, I would take the bet as less than 25. Some days just diving into a bottle of whisky and staying their till its over looks mighty tempting.

            BTW, I’m on page 57 of the book and can’t put it down. The historical details are very interesting to me.

  15. Not sure this has been mentioned few pages back on this thread in the Mexico turning into oil importer debate, but they have got some first taste of pre collapse rioting-looting there now:

    ps videos available elsewhere quite funny, people calmly looking for the right size of shoes and apparel inside looted malls, lolz

    • Veggie says:

      Yep, when a country transitions from being a net exporter to a net importer of energy, it is usually a death blow for it’s economy. Eg: Egypt and UK.
      One by one the lights are going out for smaller oil producing countries.

    • I notice also, “Prior to the price hike, fuel shortages were being experienced in at least 15 states, generating panic.”

      So it doesn’t look like there is a way out.

      • this is a dress rehearsal for every gas guzzling nation, particularly those where governments have subsidised the true cost of oil.

        It will hit different countries at different times and intensity—but the end result will be the same for all.

        The Mexicans haven’t got time for ‘renewables” to save their system, it’s crashing now. This is what the renewable fans don’t get.
        The Egyptian govt has done the same thing in the last few months, they are barely keeping a lid on it, as gas prices have gone up as the E£ value has been floated on the open market.
        while the actual cost of basic foodstuffs is heavily subsidised so the the poorest people will be hardest hit when reality bites.

        Saudi will provide the ultimate crash in all this, —they have the highest living standards vs lowest fuel costs, the ultimate insanity—all subsidised by cheap oil

    • urbangdl says:

      Mexico imports gasoline and exports oil, with the oil glut not dissapiring Mexico has lost its number one source of revenew now the government is trying to compensate that by rising taxes.
      The riots happened in only one state in a single location, the rest of the people is demmanding for alternatives in an orderly but urgent mannner, nontheless many are still indifferent to the situation…

  16. psile says:

    The nutcracker, it’s coming. And this, in another OPEC member…

    Looting, Riots In Mexico Spiral Out Of Control Over 20% Gas Hike; Hundreds Arrested
    A man runs with toys as a store is ransacked by a crowd in the port of Veracruz,
    Mexico after gas price hikes rage out of control

    Four days after the first sporadic protests emerged in Mexico City, following the infamous “gasolinazo”, or mandatory 15%-20% increase in Mexican gas prices which went into effect on January 1, the mood across the country has significantly deteriorated, with hundreds of demonstrators blocking highways, snarling traffic, raiding gas stations, jeopardizing critical supplies, and looting stores as angry but impotent motorists lashed out at the price surge, which is only going to get worse as inflation spikes even more following the record plunge in the Mexican Peso.

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      I’m currently in Puerto Vallarta, and will be for several months.
      No issues here so far, and asked a taxi driver yesterday.
      Pointed to a Petro guzzling SUV– “Problem”

    • Greg Machala says:

      This is the future for every industrialized country on Earth! And this, in Mexico, where poverty is already a huge problem. Imagine what will happen in a country like the US where there is a lot farther to fall, an entitlement mindset and a general disdain for police and each other and lots of guns.

    • Not good!

  17. Yoshua says:

    The Cult of Doom

    I am a secret cult member who has gone over to the dark side.

  18. psile says:

    Brace for the oil, food and financial crash of 2018

    “80% of the world’s oil has already peaked, and the resulting oil crunch will flatten the economy.
    A report by HSBC shows that contrary to industry mythology, even amidst the glut of unconventional oil and gas, the vast bulk of the world’s oil production has already peaked and is now in decline; while European government scientists show that the value of energy produced by oil has declined by half within just the first 15 years of the 21st century.

    In order to avoid the [oil] price affordable by the global economy falling below the extraction cost, debt piling (borrowing from the future) becomes a necessity, yet it is a mere trick to gain some time while hoping for something positive to happen,” said Meneguzzo. “The reality is that debt, basically as a substitute for oil, does not work to produce real wealth, as apparent for example from the decline of the industry value added as a percentage of GDP.

    Today, we are all supposed to quietly believe that the economy is in ‘recovery’, when in fact it is merely transitioning through a fundamental global systemic phase-shift in which the unsustainability of prevailing industrial structures are being increasingly laid bare.”

    The chickens will soon be coming home to roost…

    • Greg Machala says:

      Good read. Thanks for the link.

    • This article goes on to talk about cheap wind and solar. Nafed Ahmeez still doesn’t understand how things are hooked together.

      • psile says:

        There aren’t that many who do.

        • Stefeun says:

          True, but Nafeez Ahmed has all the clues to understand the situation.
          Leads me to think he does, and only wants to sell his book.

          • it seems different people have different threads of belief

            as I pointed out, Stephen Hawking bangs on about colonising the universe, It can’t bring him any material benefit, and he seems oblivious to the fact that we havent yet invented the means to do it, and that out energy resources will run out before we even get close to doing so.

            He can “think” it—therefore it must be possible—just as I “think” myself a lottery winner—so it must be possible.

            Which of course it is.

          • Nafeez Ahmed is a Facebook friend of mine. I had a tiny bit of correspondence with him long ago, but recently he doesn’t respond to my comments or e-mails.

      • Rodster says:

        His new book appears to go into why the failing systems, globally are in some ways energy related. His theory is that everything is converging on us all at once.

        • i added my own twopennorth to Ahmed’s piece, I though it needed some balance if Gail will allow me to repost it here


          While one cannot but agree with what Dr. Ahmed says in this excellent and thought provoking lecture, I think it is necessary to take issue with his (rather wishful) thinking.

          Whether engaging in trafficking human beings, or ferrying vast quantities of oil around, the intent has always been the same, to get rich by converting one form of energy into another.
          That is the basis of the society we live in. It is all we (collectively) have.
          We cannot remain prosperous by taking in each other’s washing and mending each other’s shoes.

          If every fuelpump and oilbarrel since oil went into commercial production in 1859, had had OIL KILLS PLANETS printed on it in letters a foot high, we would still have burned the stuff as fast as possible, with or without Rockefeller’s help. We may see him as the epitome of greed, but we’ve all shared in it, willingly and eagerly, even though the wars it spawned killed millions and destroyed the planet we live on.
          Wailing weeping and handwringing now will not rectify the mess we’re in, neither will we stop burning oil, despite Dr Ahmed’s exhortations to “do something’—aimed and governments as well ourselves.
          That, if I may say so, is wish politics, together with a liberal dash of wish economics and wish science.
          Oil consumption is not like smoking, with health warnings printed on packets.
          Smoking is a lifestyle choice.
          Oil is the choice of life or death. Except that we don’t have a choice.

          We have pulled off the neat trick of converting petroleum into food, (to quote prof Albert Bartlett.)
          That has put 7.4 billion people on the planet, 6 billion of who would not be here without hydrocarbon support.
          Remove hydrocarbon fuels, and those 6 billion don’t have a future.
          1 Bn people are at starvation level now.
          We are on course to reach 9 or 10 bn by 2050. Common sense says that we cannot sustain that number, so something has got to happen within the next 30 years to stop it. This is going to be our ultimate holocaust.

          And thinking oneself into a utopian future of renewable energy systems is not going to prevent it. Windfarms and solar panels deliver electricity.
          Without or (hydrocarbon based) infrastructure, electricity is of very little use, and cannot sustain civilization in any sense that we know it.
          Doubters should imagine electric cars running on unmade roads. Or making a single lightbulb. We are headed back to the ‘naked light’ society from whence we came only a few generations back.
          We are perhaps expecting to have a “downsized” future where we will be only mildly inconvenienced by changed (energy) circumstance—where ‘they’ will fix things.
          We must get real here. Your future, my future is dependent on business as usual supporting us through a healthy lifespan and into secure old age.

          We are all complicit in the madness, everyone demanded (and is demanding) that oil should make princes of us all, governments of whatever stripe have had no choice but to concede to everyone’s demands.
          Even now, Trump is offering what might be the final straw to clutch at, promising to ‘make America great again”, in denial that it was cheap energy that provided that greatness.
          And having no other straw to clutch at, millions reached out in desperation.
          But of course, we are navigating through the rear view mirror of history, where we see that the faster we burned oil, the richer we got. It seemed to good to be true, which it was. We called everything “GDP” when in fact GDP was exclusively a result of consuming hydrocarbons.
          But our leaders still offer that future.
          Whether saint or charlatan, they can offer no other.
          There is no other.

          Dr.Ahmed asserts that “things must change”. I can offer the certainty that humankind has never collectively changed unless forced to do so.
          That change has invariably been unpleasant, and driven by (short lived) dictators intent on tribal supremacy.
          Homo sapiens has existed for 100,000 generations, give or take. Those countless generations have had one overriding factor, that of homicidal intent, driven by the genetic force of survival. That drive has brought us to where we are now.
          Nevertheless, Dr Ahmed, though sincere and well meaning, is suggesting that we mend our ways over the course of the next 20 years or so. (just a single generation).
          I’d like to believe it to be possible, but oil driven resource wars of the past 100 years would suggest otherwise.

          This book will explain how we got into this mess:

          I only wish it could explain how to get out of it

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “I only wish it could explain how to get out of it”

            It’s a technical problem. I think there is at least one solution. But it takes a considerable amount of engineering knowledge to analyze.

            • there may well be a technical solution

              our problem is that we only have a single generation in which to find it, and whatever that solution might be, we have to expend energy and resources to utliize it.

              We are forced to face up to the facts as they stand now—–As I put at the start of the book.

              The Triumvirate of Chaos,= Overpopulation, Energy depletion and climate change.

              Solve one, and you are still left with the other two.
              The fact remains that all three are locked into our living system as we know it right now.
              Energy fantasies just might become reality, but that will not stop climate change, and it will be climate change that knocks off our excess numbers.

              As I pointed out above, humankind does not change direction unless hit by a force greater than its collective self. We are genetically motivated to consume lierally what is in front of us. In that sense, we are no different to our hunter gatherer forebears.—They killed an animal and ate it, certain that the herd over the hill would be there to provide another feast when they got hungry again. (their source of energy, it was their oilfield). They had no concern for future generations, and neither do we. Their concern was that their energy resources should remain constant.

              We might think we are different, but we in our time are equally certain that our sources of energy will always be there, and to allay doubts about it, we convince ourselves of technical ‘’fixes’’.
              Our ancestors did exactly the same thing, They created the most wonderful cave paintings to make sure the animal
              “ energy resources” would always be there. That was the certainty of the future on their terms.

              We also sit in circles and convince one another that, even if ”conventional energy” sources are no longer available—our fantasies will be made real if we think long and hard enough about it. So we do just that.
              Except that our “designs” go worldwide instantaneously, rather than remaining limited to viewing by a few thousand cave dwellers. And because millions see these fixes, millions believe them to be true. Just as the cave dwellers did

              But the “belief certainty” is exactly the same. And applies to asteroid mining, orbital energy systems, even planet-colonisation. Hawking advocates that; despite the fact that no technology exists to do it, and we have 20 years at most to produce it.
              Hawking, with his planet sized brain, has missed the fundamental point that humans can only get off the ground by using the same means as the Wright brothers– (or am I missing a trick here?).
              A loose correlation to our predicament might be to imagine our current population, sitting around waiting for Karl Benz and Henry Ford to come up with a mass transport system to enable our ongoing survival.

              We cannot sustain 8-9-10 billion people, and we have overheated our planet through excess burning of hydrocarbon.
              In addition to all that, most discussions around this problem ignore the politics of the situation. We “demand” solutions, so loonytoons politics promises endless growth. No politician dare stand up and tell the truth. A politician, like everyone else, wants to keep his job.
              The result of that will be civil disorder when those promises aren’t met. That in turn will bring in military intervention, and ‘temporary” dictatorship in an attempt to prevention breakup of existing nation states.
              The USA has one in waiting right now

              That will be the ‘intermediate’ stage before total collapse, because military force is itself a derivative of energy input.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Overpopulation, Energy depletion and climate change.

              Solve one, and you are still left with the other two.”

              No necessarily. Very large amounts of energy from space would let us reverse climate change. It’s not a small problem, takes 300 TW years to sequester 100 ppm of CO2, (as hydrocarbons) but it could be done.

              Population growth slows down when people get rich. Japan is ahead of the curve here. And while the Earth (at current technology) may be considered overpopulated, the solar system is amazingly underpopulated.

              BTW, the biggest climate change problem might be a very large volcanic eruption. The climate upset from typical past events, like “the year without a summer” would result in large scale famine.

              In such a case it would be very helpful to put billions of people into long term hibernation, but biotechnology is not there yet.

              If humanity transcends, i.e., uploads, will a money based economy come with us into cyberspace?

            • er—I did say “prehistory”

              1815 and 1247 are definitely not prehistory

              Taking a line from a comment, and reposting it without the preceding line to try to confirm a point is the stuff of politics and politicians

              And thus not worthy of further discussion

            • hkeithhenson says:

              If you read just a little further down, I mentioned Toba. That darn sure was prehistory and from the data, the climate change it caused came close to ending the human species.

              Quoting a line is to give a link back to the post I am commenting on. No intent to distort your meaning.

            • with tambora—as i said, there were no coastal cities

            • Good points!

              I think a lot of people miss your original point: “The Triumvirate of Chaos,= Overpopulation, Energy depletion and climate change.

              Solve one, and you are still left with the other two.”

            • I don’t there’s anywhere else where the big three are examined as a whole.

              Yet it is critical that they should—I don’t have a clue what to do/suggest about that.

              Ahmed’s lecture as an example seemed to stress that if only we can solve the energy crisis we will be fine.
              But of course you can’t grow food/deliver with electricity.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “But of course you can’t grow food/deliver with electricity.”

              Why not?

            • I’m OK—I decided to buy a 3D printer and print all i need to eat that way

              Food works fine—I’m just having a problem with printed booze flooding my desk right now

              Any suggestions?

            • Not with the devices that farmers currently have on their farms today, and the trucks we are currently using. Also, it is hard to repair roads with electricity.

            • DJ says:

              If Japan or US or a corporation make non-intermittent electricity available, why should they share with Venezuela, Syria, Greece? Or Africa.

            • I suppose any country that will pay a high enough price, and also pay for all of the electric transmission lines to get the electricity there, could theoretically have the electricity.

              But since the device for collecting the electricity is in one country (presumable Japan or the United States), the issue of building the transmission lines still exists. There is also a problem with losses in transmission. It would seem like systems would have to be set up for individual countries. Presumably, those countries would need to pay for them.

            • Volvo740 says:

              “I think there is at least one solution. But it takes a considerable amount of engineering knowledge to analyze”

              On the CO2 front: There are a lot of smart people out there. No one has found a cost efficient solution to a population of Billions and a stable CO2 level. None of the ‘renewables’ are CO2 free when you take the manufacturing and installation into account. So the best we can hope for is less CO2.

              And we have known about the problem since 1896 at least:

              It’s even possible that if we knew of a solution that we would not deploy it due to human greed.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” No one has found a cost efficient solution to a population of Billions and a stable CO2 level.”

              It’s only been in the last year that a cost effective solution emerged. It been less than two months since NOAA came out with an article clearing the way for enough flights to build power satellites in the numbers needed.

              In short, NOAA says we can fly parts for large numbers of power satellites into space without wrecking the ozone.

              What an aggressive power satellite program would do the the CO2 is in slides 6 and & here:


              If it holds up (it might, it might not) your information is recently out of date.

          • adonis says:

            have you got a paperback version?

            • Siobhan says:

              The End of More: Infinite demand on finite resources Is making humankind unsustainable
              by Norman Pagett et al.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Get it while stocks last!

              Norman, that was an excellent review of and partial rebuttal of Dr. Ahmed’s rather optimistic view of our predicament. Very well said!

              Ahmed did some good work after 9/11 in putting together two books, The War on Truth and The War on Freedom, which as I remember them were at least in part studies on official disinformation and were critical of both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

              His style of writing draws heavily on reviewing and analyzing documents and reports prepared by governments, corporations and think tanks, etc., and using them to illuminate the surrounding terrain. In the past decade, he has been drawn more toward the interface between environmental issues, energy and strategic security. He had a blog at the Guardian but was fired a few years ago for daring to write about how Israel had its sights on developing the natural gas resources off the coast of Gaza. It is an article of faith among Guardian writers, as I’m sure we’ve all noticed, that cheap wind and solar will save us. I think he’s still deeply immeshed in that particular line of groupthink.

          • Ert says:

            @All: Bought the Paperback version and enjoyed it very much – clear thinking, clear writing and even issues and examples even I didn’t came across in the last 10 years.

            @norman: Very well put! Evolution strives toward complexity and increase of population (of each species) by using all the the usable energy there is. Exactly that is that ‘humanity’ does – until it doesn’t. That “doesn’t” will no occur by “free” will but instead if/when the physical base that allowed that complexity increase runs out or is no longer available.

            • thanks for all the nice words Ert, Tim, Adonis and others—my other half sends xx’s too

              makes all the sweat and tears of writing it worthwhile.

              You are all invited to the movie premiere once i sell the rights to the highest bidder —do they still make disaster movies these days?

              if anyone feels like summing up the book on amazon review window sometime—that would be appreciated, it helps to spread the word

            • DJ says:

              “do they still make disaster movies these days?”

              I heard the sequel to 50 shades is premiering soon.

            • then they definetly still make disaster movies

          • If you listen to Nafeez Ahmed, all we need to do is substitute wind and solar. What nonsense!

            • Yorchichan says:

              He said in “The Crisis of Civilization” documentary that we will be able to feed 11 billion people by switching to organic farming. He really is clueless.

            • I suppose that we just use more irrigation, and ship food farther. These are favorite “organic” techniques.

          • Stefeun says:

            Great one Norman.
            Btw, isn’t it somwhat proselytist to believe that one’s individual conclusions could be implemented by several billions all at once? (Not even talking about feasibility, even less of viability, of the ‘solutions’)

        • For $55, I won’t buy it. Actually $38 plus shipping for used version–still too pricy.

          • i thought it was a bit steep too, for only 96 pages

            • The book is actually a 96-page paperback book. Springer charges high prices, because the books are in color and it expects to sell very few of them. It doesn’t pay the authors much either–I was offered $1,000 for a < 100 page book. You are mostly on your own for editing as well.

  19. JeremyT says:

    Strange that your commenters still wonder at the tax credit/subsidy regimes for renewables. In any transformation newer technologies will have tax concessions relative to established mature technologies. Large scale adoption takes time. On this you might be interested how Google to be powered 100% by renewable energy from 2017. A frequent reference on FW is to the two Stanford PhDs who poopooed this possibility!
    Another point, while we’re pondering renewables.
    You’ve shown the graph that shows how comparatively high German and Danish domestic electricity prices are. But an argument oft repeated here is that intermittency drives wholesale dispatchable electricity prices down. There’s a tension here I haven’t resolved. Good work being done here, happy new year to you all, and thanks to Gail.

    • DJ says:

      “The company’s 100% renewable energy does not mean Google is getting all its energy directly from wind and solar power, but that on an annual basis the amount it purchases from renewable sources matches the electricity its operations consume.”

      • Greg Machala says:

        Google needs the entire grid infrastructure, cell tower network and internet network infrastructure to function. Not only that, they need PC’s and smartphones for end point use too. Sorry, Google will never the 100% “renewable”.

        • Joebanana says:

          I personally hate Google for helping to erode privacy and the baloney about being %100 renewable is nothing more than a marketing ploy. Go DuckDuckGo!

      • Volvo740 says:

        If Google buys that much, that must mean someone else is not… And also they are not willing to pay the costs for storage! Actually even if they wanted to, the ‘google battery’ isn’t available right now.

        Storage is the deal breaker. The other arguments can’t be won in public. The topic is too confusing. Add that not every kWh has equal value.

        But we can see some things:
        1. Still only 1-2% penetration of electric cars (even with the discounts). To move the fleet would take time even with 50% penetration.
        2. Where I live (48 deg N) very few roofs have solar panels – even when the slope is just right to the S.
        3. Germany has issues in the market.
        4. Denmark still has very high energy costs. Why? It is also true that wind is a killer for wildlife. (And humans apparently – if you believe the stories of flicker and humming)
        5. The number of nuclear plants is going down – even though it is a potential mitigation to CO2 issues.

        Once a year I look into the Markbygden project. Still just approved…

    • Hm, as always on this topic lets not forget to mention the most important fact, that Germany is balancing its renewables destabilized base load thanks to on demand electricity imports from nuclear France/Czech/Swiss and Austrian/Swiss hydro.. among other suppliers, perhaps even Polish coal powerplants occasionally..

      It was possible thanks to EU energy pseudo liberalization legislation, good will of neighbors, biz relations, and also not yet installed grid separation transformers at the border line. And these are going to be finished in most of these countries very soon.. simply not allowing Germany to destabilized neighboring grids anymore when they have huge surpluses or deficits!

      And then, bye bye stable grid in Germany, lolz.
      Another gift which will keep on giving for long time from the generation of the worst “public servants” in decades ala the Merkel witch and other evildoer enablers like the green psychos..

    • “A frequent reference on FW is to the two Stanford PhDs who poopooed this possibility!”

      They are not necessarily directly running on renewable energy; rather, they are using power purchasing agreements. So, the wind farm sells power to the grid, and the grid delivers power to Google, but they are not produced and consumed at the same time:

      “The company’s 100% renewable energy does not mean Google is getting all its energy directly from wind and solar power, but that on an annual basis the amount it purchases from renewable sources matches the electricity its operations consume.”

      Important to note, the previous article was about solar and wind power. The article you linked notes:

      “Oman said that while the falling price of solar and wind meant they had been the cheapest technologies to get to 100% by 2017, Google was now looking to sign 10-year agreements for low-carbon power that was not intermittent, such as hydro, biomass and nuclear.”

      Also, I’m fairly confident those “lowest prices” includes government subsidies, rather than paying taxes into the system.

    • JT Roberts says:

      I’m sure it was tax subsidies that brought the transformation of coal to oil. The subsidies are the only way the technology exists. Why? Because they are net energy sinks. So you have to bring the energy from other sectors to develop the industry.

    • Niels Colding says:

      The wings of the windmill are already close to perfection. Still a windmill has a very low leverage of energy input/energy output and you cannot integrate intermittent energy in the net without heavy costs. This means that after 50 years of error and trial no essential progress has been made or will be made.

      • In fact, tremendous progress has been made past three decades in AC micro grids with batt. storage, it’s already available, working, non subsidized costs for ~4kWp PV (~ 40kWh nominal storage – much less daily usable for shallow stage of charge cycling) for around GBP ~2.5-4 per day per 10-15yrs of system longevity with premium DE/AT made brand quality. And even for less but with higher risk from Asian value vendors. Is it more expensive than !today’s! grid? Most prolly yes, but such calculations depend also on the future and reliability of the grid and society, anyway is it possible to decentralize or re-localize grid at such advanced centralized stage at all everywhere, I doubt it.

        In summary, there is a faction pushing for individual AC microgrids with PV and household batt storage (Tesla wall, Daimler, ..), meaning the phase out of the traditional grid. And there is another faction, namely Russians and perhaps Chinese, doubling or tripling down on next gen nuclear systems within traditional centralized grid pattern. The race/fight is definitely on.. Depending on the profile of collapse it could be a short forgettable episode or perhaps instead important milestone for the mid term future.

        • To keep costs down (and to have a reasonable chance of the system operating without the need for endless replacement parts), I think that any local grid needs to be DC rather than AC. Such a system could be for an individual home.

          • If you look at some of the top PV inverter brands like “SMA” manuf facilities videos, it’s almost microchip electronics level operation. This is obviously very fragile complexity chain and not collapse or reset proof by any means, that’s obviously understood. The debate and message was if you buy it wisely now, it will work at least next 10-15yrs without service/replacement with a little bit of luck.

            You are right, that on the other hand, rudimentary DC systems ala 1930/40s are known to work with token upkeep for long decades, perhaps over a century. But forget about all the advanced features (and compatibility with tools) today’s AC micro grids provide in such a little magic box. I’d say DC grid today as replacement tool for anything is out of the question, perhaps some individual islands as large as few houses-streets keeping some technical knowledge might have it for some time and achieving limited benefit but that’s about it..

            So in summary, either the particular region alliance keeps the collapse at bay and re-saddles on different pathway, e.g. next gen nuclear, and or base load renewables like tidal hydro. Another option is brutal and likely even mid term non workable triage, supporting very specified products and industries (while closing other entropy sinks like carz, entertainment, frivolous consumerism – junkfood, ..). People are doers, both approaches will be likely attempted in diverse places, actually are in some stage to be attempted as we speak, but longer term viability is of low probability from FW vantage point.

            • I think a major step down is needed for even a chance at survival for more than a few years. That is why I was suggesting a simple DC system, probably for individual homeowners. Clearly, there would be a need to buy small low voltage DC appliances to work with this system. I cannot imagine any of the complex systems having a chance of working for very long.

            • Pintada says:

              Dear Ms Tverberg;

              You said, “I cannot imagine any of the complex systems having a chance of working for very long.”

              A properly installed and carefully maintained high end PV inverter is warranted for 10 years. It is my understanding that they will operate for 30. My poorly installed cheap inverter has already lasted 10 years. The high end one I recently purchased for backup then will last at least 10 years after BAU. Since the planet is not likely to be habitable for more than 20 more years, and BAU just keeps going on and on and on, I have every confidence that I will have AC powered lights as my family and I starve to death.

              Solar PV is a very practical way to power a home, or a very small community of perhaps 3 – 4 houses. It is clearly an irrational bias on your part to insist otherwise.

              Sorry to be so blunt,

    • Jeremy,

      I am sorry I missed your comment earlier.

      Intermittent renewables drive wholesale dispatchable electricity prices down, because they provide electricity, at random times, whether it is needed or not. The pricing of this electricity depends on what demand is at that time of day/year, and how many others are available to produce electricity. If the intermittent electricity happens to hit a high priced time (often the case for solar), it tends to cut off the high prices that “peaker” natural gas plants depend on for profitability. If the intermittent solar/wind happens to hit a low time, it very often drives the price (for all producers) negative. This happens, because for wind and solar producers, the marginal cost of electricity production is actually negative. This is far too low a price for anyone else.

      Because wind and solar cannot be counted upon, the system really needs all of the backup electricity producers. But the pricing of the system, based on marginal costs, does not give enough dollars for all of the carriers. In Europe, there is at least some attempt to put some of the costs of the system (such as additional transmission needs) back into the retail prices. This is why the retail prices are so high. In addition, the coal/natural gas, and nuclear producers really need subsidies to continue producing. This has not been priced back into the system (and in fact, contributes to the tendency of the system to collapse), except on a very partial basis in some places.

      In my opinion, the interference of wind and solar with the pricing mechanism is a reason, in itself, for banning their use. Price information is a form of stored energy of the system; loss of proper pricing information is a form of entropy. We should ban these entropy-producing devices! This is a different type of pollution than the type we are usually concerned about.

      • What we might expect is some sort of open re – feudalizing effort in which the poor (no longer credit leveraging consumers ~2/3 population) are shafted towards dependency on legacy infrastructure (aka e.g. the grid, pensions, ..), which is no longer to be supported. While the “elite” is parceling up the stuff “always” worked: land, forest, water, crafts-specialists in armaments and basic industries, ..

        Such development is broadly conforming with previous bottlenecks and shallower collapses. To their surprise, lolz, the “elite” usually in the process falls/drags everything down into much lower complexity level than expected – previously desired. And the surviving fraction of the “poor” will be more or less oblivious since in 2-3 generations after the collapse, all the past will be judged on the level of fairy tales, murky legends.

      • Cristopher says:

        Why can’t the market compensate for this by higher prices when wind/solar is not producing sufficient power? After all we still need these non intermittent producers and if all of them need higher prices this kind of mechanism seems reasonable. The markets of electric power are complex and seems to vary a lot between different areas of the world but are they really in general working as bad as you describe?

        • Our basic reason why we cannot pay for a big rise in electricity prices is a “too low wage problem.” The too low wage problem is coupled with the fact that energy products are used to make absolutely everything, from food to homes to vehicles, so that an increase in electricity prices affects all other prices at the same time. So if electricity prices rise, the cost of making and selling everything goes up, but in a way that doesn’t raise wages. The result is that a significant rise in electricity prices is likely to result in a recession, because people will need to cut back in discretionary expenditures.

          Also, the rise in electricity prices needed to accommodate intermittent solar is very high, because we essentially need a double generating systems–one little used one, for wind and solar, and a backup system needed for winter and night times. Workers need to be employed for both of these systems, 365 days per year, if they are to be able to stay in the industry and support their families. Thus, we end up paying for a double system, greatly raising our electricity costs.

          • DJ says:

            Why can’t the market correctly set electricity prices during windless winter nights?

            Anti-RE writers claim that dispatchable producers don’t get paid when the sun shines and during nights they don’t get paid enough.

            What mechanism forces gas plants and hydro to sell below true market price windless nights?

            • Cristopher says:

              Exactly my question. I saw Gails answer which only is a partial answer.

              “What mechanism forces gas plants and hydro to sell below true market price windless nights?”

              At some point bancruptcies will decrease power production for gas/hydro plants then price will have to increase. They can’t go on selling at a loss. At least according to intuitive economics.

              Maybe the markets of electric power will react in a highly unintuitive way. I understand that increased electric power price will have negative feedback on the demand of power. But is there also any other mechanism at play.

          • Pintada says:

            “Thus, we end up paying for a double system, greatly raising our electricity costs.”

            The electricity for my little farm costs $8.00 per month. When I paid cash for my PV system, those dollars were converted from debt to wealth.

            Given that I wish BAU would end sooner rather than later, I am tickled to have been able to stick it to the power company … one doesn’t get many chances to do so … especially since they paid for 70% of it through their rebate program.

            • Yep, recently there was a unique limited time window of subsidies, yet enough developed high end technology to get a very nice household or little farm sized system for almost nothing. Today, the most direct/visible subsidy part is mostly gone, but nevertheless the PV system prices are still good (as I mentioned above just a few bucks per day for 10-15yrs), especially in comparison what people tend to spend on various frivolous crap instead..

      • Pintada says:

        “We should ban these entropy-producing devices!”

        To what end? Either you are saying that you have been wrong for the past several years and that banning my PV system might save BAU, or you want to prevent me from taking care of my family just out of spite. Since BAU is ending regardless, then installing a PV system does no harm.

  20. Tim Groves says:

    We knew this already, but it’s nice to see it confirmed by Forbes. Corn-based biofuels come with few pros and plenty of cons.

    It’s Final — Corn Ethanol Is Of No Use

    • Greg Machala says:

      Yep! If ethanol doesn’t help our energy problem (and in my view) is less complex than solar PV and wind on the grid (with battery backup), then I have major doubts “renewable” energy will solve anything?

      • Joebanana says:

        A 60mw biomass here plant requires huge amounts of fuel. On the order of a couple of thousand cords of wood a day and still not be at full load. In my small province the unit might produce %1 of its electricity. It is a rounding error in electricity supply but is having a huge impact on the forest. The only upside is employment for locals and money not leaving the province for purchasing coal.

        • I suppose doing this also helps support the oil industry, because we need oil to operate all of the equipment that transports the biomass to the electric generating plant.

          • Artleads says:

            That doesn’t look like a great trade off, though. If the forest has never been replanted, replanting it now (if ever) would not keep pace with deforestation. From the sound of his post, the plant will lead to deforestation and then go bust. And that would also end its support for the oil industry.

        • Artleads says:

          Thanks for the info JoeB. I’ve sensed between the lines from reading Gail that coal is overly condemned. She hasn’t come out and defended coal, so I just have to use intuition somewhat. Coal comes with health, economic and environmental problems, but I’m questioning a) what might be its countervailing advantages, and b) what mitigation can address the use of coal. As to advantages, I can only guess that there is a lot of coal near to where most live and that it’s easier to mine and manufacture than oil or gas.

          Please bear with me, since I know so little about the nuts and bolts of anything. These are issues that I’m listing quickly. Thinking them through is obviously a work in progress…

          – Investment in proper gear for miners
          – Openness to innovate with cheap, non or low tech means of cleaning emissions

          – Climate change is promoted much more from deforestation than from emissions.
          – Barring a high level of rigidity and dysfunction in the economic system, there is no reason to deforest or to not reforest (especially the latter and as ways to mitigate coal).
          – Openness to innovate with cheap, non or low tech means of cleaning coal emissions.
          – Pollarding and coppicing can yiels wood for energy withyout destroying trees.
          – Planting industrial forests for charcoal that are, systems-wider, calibrated to the rate and manner of their consumption.

          – An economic systems driven by debt, profit and greed is no match for the task of maintaining a survivable level and quality of civilization.
          – A volunteer/gift/sharing economy ought to be possible in some critical areas of society.
          – systems thinking needs to be applied.
          – Civilization must be maintained by jettisoning the parts that can’t be afforded, while maintaining the indispensable core.
          – People will have a social obligation to support that indispensable economic core, either voluntarily or through coercion. They must purchase, use and reuse indispensable products (which must have a life cycle not oriented to profit but to system-wide functionality).
          – The transition away from a profit/greed economic model is ongoing, but the trend must be amplified and accelerated.
          – The academy must do its part. While there is money, curricula must be bent toward what will work in the whole system. We also need to relearn how to mine and burn coal effectively in the local community.
          – Local coal resource, owned by community (either own or control, or both), used locally, ought to be of minimal harm to the environment.
          – Coal goes way back and has a rich cultural history that can serve tourism.
          – Tourist economy can use the existing roads and vehicles, thus supporting a reduced degree of the oil economy, while facilitating coal economy.
          – Ways to combine the money economy and the gift economy must be considered. (Maybe the money economy could be networked widely, and the gift economy applied locally.)

          • Joebanana says:

            That is a lot to think about but our coal plants burn mostly imported coal from Columbia and the eastern U.S.. It is a blend if different coals but being low sulphur is the primary reason. There is a hard limit on how much sulphur dioxide can be emitted for the year.

            There is high BTU, high sulphur coal here but it is below ground and more expensive than the imported stuff. A 160mw unit needs about 1400 tonnes for full load for 24 hours.

            Scrubbers can be installed to remove the sulphur but they increase the cost per mega watt a fair bit. Production cost right now is about $45 a mw. The biomass plant is well over $100 a mw.

            People hate the power company here and think rates are way too high as it is. $0.14 per Kw for residential.

            • As I recall, you live in Canada. It would seem like Canada would have low sulphur coal in the West (since the US does), but transporting it from Western Canada to Eastern Canada would be expensive. I don’t think that there is a good East-West rail route across Canada either.

          • Van Kent says:

            Artleads, its a good list you have there. But we are in an awful hurry. The time to do all of the needed things on your list is less then short. And whatever we do, its not possible to continue economic growth on a finite world. And without economic growth.. well.. everything just collapses

            The ‘Modus Operandi’ of our world today is growth. Everything we do is a derivative of that need to grow. Population growth is good because it grows the economy. Consumption growth is good becsuse it grows the economy. Using resources is good because it grows the economy. Depleting the oceans from fish is good because it grows the economy. Causing the sixth massextinction is good because it grows the economy. Dissipating energy as fast as possible is good because it grows the economy. All in all, we are unable to make decisions that do not grow the economy.

            The real question is, can we have a ‘Modus Operandi’ of anything else than growth? And if yes, how does a global growth system make that transition without collapsing? And even if we could make the transition, we would STILL need to solve overpopulation, energy depletion and climate change.

            I was reading Randall Carlson and his ideas of cycles of huge catastrophies. Asteroids or something coming every few thousand years or so. And he might be right. What we could really need is a huge asteroid coming our way, that simply has to be stopped. That could change the ‘Modus Operandi’. But could it be changed without a collapse. Don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. But the beauty of having a life ending catastrophe coming our way, would be, that nonetheless the change would/could be made. But nothing short of ending all life on earth, I’m not that convinced our growth based system can be changed.

            Overpopulation can be solved with tyranny and slavery. It is possible. Energy depletion can be changed with tyranny and slavery also, until fusion, Keiths power satellites or some quantum thingy comes along. Climate change can also be solved with tyranny and slavery, with some additional techniques of sequestration and every farmer in the world using biochar.

            Artleads, as I see it. Either we continue the growth based system untill it collapses in a Seneca Cliff SHTF catastrophe die-off. Population dropping in the magnitude of the reindeer on the St. Matthews Island from 6000 to 42. Or.. we threaten to kill all life on earth, with and asteroid impact or other somesuch, and change everything to tyranny and slavery right away.

            • Stefeun says:

              In theory we should have been able to use “better” instead of “more” as a modus operandi (ie favor quality, not quantity).
              In practice, unfortunately, the tenants of the “more” seem to have always had the last word.

            • Pintada says:

              “But the beauty of having a life ending catastrophe coming our way, would be, that nonetheless the change would/could be made. But nothing short of ending all life on earth, I’m not that convinced our growth based system can be changed.”

              We have a life ending catastrophe coming our way – well no, it is here – its called global warming. Its existence is proof that, no, people will not change.

          • It seems like nearly every modern economy that has grown to large size has done so with coal as a base.

          • Joebanana says:

            I think you are right about the rail situation because we do get PRB coal from the western U.S. sometimes but it comes by boat as does virtually all our coal. We have burned coal from Russia and Indonesia as well. There are many things to consider when buying coal and there are a great variety of coals.

    • Thanks! Corn ethanol helped reduce price support payments for farmers, and keeps them busy even today. This seems to be the real reason for corn ethanol.

      • doomphd says:

        Sounds like a good plan at first glance, but the farmers are blowing through the mid-west soil and groundwater resources to make that ethanol. I don’t know how long they can store corn, but it must be good for a few years in silos. Maybe it’s better to make food than fuel extender for a bunch of mindless trips to the shopping malls and fast food outlets?

  21. Dan Johnson says:

    Gail, first, thanks for this tremendous body of work. I look forward to new posts.
    Your recent concept of “falling return on human labor” provides a missing link for my understanding of the world situation. There is a parallel body of work that sees demographic transition (alone), rather than peak oil, as the reason for most of the same economic problems you describe. See for example for great charts. I believe both lines of reasoning are correct, and probably interrelated. “Return on labor” provides the link for me. So it goes like: 1. Declining cheap oil and diminishing EROEI -> 2. Falling return on human labor -> 3. Young people don’t have as many babies (college loans, housing costs, see JAPAN) -> 4. Growth in new consumers & households & credit slows -> 5. We see many economic effects. I think you have been writing about #1,2, and skipping to #5. The demographic writers have been focusing on #3-5 without examining WHY birth rates have slowed. “Young people reluctant & late to marry.” Yes, but WHY? Answer = “Falling return on human labor”. Thank you. Dan J, California.

    • Dan Johnson says:

      Example of the typical demographic commentary, linking “4 million missing babies” to the Great Recession: “It’s no mystery why. People who are experiencing economic and financial difficulty are less likely to have children. The missing babies have a macroeconomic effect.” Etc. These authors are perhaps missing Gail’s EROEI reason for the economic hardship which in turn causes declining births, downstream macro effects, demand destruction.

    • Yep, thanks for the reminder. We link the great work of Econimica blog here often,
      it’s the best place for linking the demographics to (finite world issues) economy angle viewpoint, perhaps with the Alhambra guys and very few others..

      • Governments have their books on a cash basis, so any pension payments come out of this year’s taxes. This causes a major problem, as the baby boomers hit retirement age–which is now.

    • Falling return on human labor is closely tied to a mismatch between population and resources. The big problem historically has been rising population; declining resources was often an issue as well, especially through erosion, or increased salinity of the soil, leading to lower crop yields. It is only recently that the whole idea is of peak oil, and diminishing cheap oil and EROEI has been brought up. In my opinion, today’s current Peak oil view misses a lot of important points. The problem is not particularly oil, and it cannot necessarily be measured in EROEI. The issue is ultimately falling resources per capita, because extraction of resources becomes too expensive for workers to be able to afford the output of an economy with such expensive resources.

      I think of falling return on human labor as falling inflation adjusted wages. If people can’t afford children, they are less likely to get married and have children. Many people have indeed missed this point.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “If people can’t afford children,”

        The operative word here is “afford”. Western culture, even the lower classes are well off compared to India, but they are used to a much more expansive life which many of them realize is slipping out of their grasp.

        It doesn’t have to be that way, but very few are able to understand the ways we could avoid a bleak world and even prosper.

      • Stefeun says:

        Been thinking recently about this “mismatch between population and resources” in more general terms of speed of adaptation of a dissipative structure to its changeing carrying capacity.
        Yet another way to describe the increasing divergence between our needs and our possibilities.

        The dissipative structure has to grow and is “following” its carrying capacity. The risky zone is when the size of the dissipative structure comes close to the carrying capacity (which it always tends to do), because the latter therefore must keep on growing as well.
        As long as both rates of expansion remain relatively low, or the growth of the dissipative structure is limited by some negative feedbacks (epidemies, wars, …) it more or less works.

        The big problem occurs when some way is found to increase the carrying capacity, mostly artificially via technology (tool to use energy) by use of fertilizers, transports, etc…
        The dissipative structure then follows the carrying capacity’s growth, at an increasing speed because they reinforce each other (sort of co-evolution, e.g. more coal helps produce more steel, which in turn helps produce more coal).
        The growth rapidly becomes exponential, and there doesn’t seem to be any negative feedback that could mitigate the acceleration, or inflect the curve (cf. Malthus’ Exponential Vs Verhulst/Ulanowicz Logistic curves).

        At some point, the ‘additional’ carrying capacity starts to stall due to various entropic effects, which leads the dissipative structure to pitch dangerously. That is partially -but increasingly- compensated by putting forward parts of the future carrying capacity (debt).
        Of course, this is not a long term strategy, because it implies a future diminished carrying capacity. It nevertheless may have been the only way to maintain its -even fake- mandatory growth (e.g. growth of assets but not of production).

        This period of stagflation is aslo that of an increasing overshoot, as the dissipative structure has bigger and bigger difficulties to follow the carrying capacity, rather to slow down its expansion (by modifying its internal information at sufficient pace).

        At some further point, the decrease of the carrying capacity accelerates, likely until looking like a crash (Seneca cliff), and the dissipative structure has no possibility to adapt itself at such a speed, especially on a downward slope, thus no other choice than to crash as well, at a magnitude proportional to the actual gap (overshoot) between the curves.
        Since this gap is now made of monetary tricks that have no connection with the physical reality, I’d say we’re in pretty uncomfortable situation.

        That’s only a theory.

        • I think what tends to happen before the crash is that the dissipative structure tends to fragment into local dissipative structures. Some of the local dissipative structures can sort of continue, because they find a niche that they can at least temporarily operate in.

          I read a WSJ article this morning called “Uncomfortable Truths Behind California’s Economic Surge.” It points out that California has disproportionately benefited from lower fossil fuel prices, because their prices were higher to begin with, thanks to environmental laws. GDP has grown more than almost any other state. In San Francisco the average monthly rent exceeds $4,500. The median home price has doubled to $620,000 in Oakland in the last four years.

          It also points out that California makes a lot of high value goods. It also has strict environmental laws, which have driven out middle class workers, many of whom have left for other states because living costs are so absurd. The economy is becoming more and more a place for the very rich and the very poor. More than 25% of people in California are immigrants from outside the country. The article points out that immigrants don’t mind living in cramped quarters and commuting long distances. California also has a disproportionately high number of homeless.

          I pointed out in an earlier post that California imports an increasing amount of its electricity from other states. This “works” as long as it works.

          California Electricity Consumption

          Before the low fossil fuel prices, we often heard about the dire financial straights of California. This problem is no longer in the news.

          • Stefeun says:

            Fragmentation is no doubt a symptom of the stagflation phase, that’s what we’re witnessing today. Generally speaking, boundaries (or perimeter) of any entity tend to enlarge during expansion phases, and shrink during stagflation.

            Now that we’re on the downward slope (energy per capita), everybody, states and citizens, tends to preserve its own part of the shrinking pie, with protectionism, building walls, etc.. All those attempts are rearguard battles, short-lived because each part tends to forget it cannot hold by itself, without other parts running well too. So when a “key” other one fails, everybody fails. Self-sufficiency is no longer an option at today’s level of global interconnectedness. BAU is in an all-or-nothing situation.

            So IMHO, before the crash some parts of our system can exhibit good-looking of some of their aspects for a while, but in a context of decreasing energy, increasing entropy and tight-coupled global interdependancy, it’s necessarily fake and ephemeral.
            What emerges after the collapse -if ever allowed by the new conditions- are new independant structures, by force very different and much smaller, be it only because of much lower energy input.

            • Right. One the downward slope of energy per capita, everyone tries to preserve its own part of the shrinking pie. These parts of the whole can only be successful for a short time, for the reasons you mention.

  22. Paul A. says:

    To bring this back to the topic of this blog, consider a set of counter-arguments (to the anti-renewables thesis), developed by Mark Jacobsen, professor of engineering at Stanford. Although he does not acknowledge any need to reduce energy demand overall, his proposal results in an 11 terawatt reduction in global energy consumption (or 42% of the 20.2 TW projected for 2050) supplied by fossil fuel alternatives, with ZERO use of batteries and using existing technologies.

  23. MG says:

    Businesses split up, as the members of the big financial groups that originated in Slovakia in the 90s are dividing and leaving them. There are various reasons mentioned: the divided debt looks smaller, the management of the big financial groups with the stakes in various sectors became too complicated. Also, the age of their members in mentioned: now they are around 50 year old men and want individual smaller bussineses. This process started after the financial crisis of 2008.

  24. dolph says:

    It’s not forced labor. It’s coerced labor. Which is, anyway, the situation that most of us find ourselves in.

    You have to provide a minimal amount of food, shelter, and diversions. In this, there are problems currently as shelter is rising in price, but beyond a certain point, it can’t go any higher.

    Managing descent is all about perception. Strange but true. I disagree that it’s a question of energy. As long as you control people, you control collapse. Fail people control, and yes you will have big problems on your hand quickly.

    Are people close to getting out of control? No. And the ones who are – Africa and the Middle East – they are too poor anyway, and easily dealt with by their own leaders and the western powers. Everybody else is presently well herded on the industrial plantation, working and getting closer to death every day. You almost have to stand in awe of the system. I’m afraid this is going to take decades yet.

    • Yep, to phrase it as to “be afraid” is the most correct point, since we can expect the slowly grinding torture of gorilla taping the plantation to continue and in some respect even to intensify..

    • Greg Machala says:

      “Are people close to getting out of control?” – I think they are. Look at the rioting going on, over a presidential election no less. If folks are getting crazy over an election what will they do when they are forced to work for now wages? When people feel like they have lost everything they loose it and riot. We have been fortunate to have lived in an era of plenty. We are heading for an era of shortages. The rules we grew up with will no longer apply.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Yes, it’s been a very ugly US election and the losing side seems determined to act up, while after a short period of euphoria the winning side will be faced with the realization that winning won’t make a lot of difference to their prospects. Anyone who thought the Tea Party or the BLM people were nasty will be in need of a redefinition of nasty.

        • Greg Machala says:

          “Anyone who thought the Tea Party or the BLM people were nasty will be in need of a redefinition of nasty.” – I agree. If we are indeed past peak net energy (of all types) then things will continue to deteriorate. I see a trend in my lifetime to where (generally) people today have zero respect or consideration for others. Road rage is an everyday event now that doesn’t even make the news. When shortages hit (and they will) it is over!

  25. dolph says:

    It’s all a question of:
    -how do you keep workers showing up

    Answer that question, and you have figured out the response to collapse dynamics. If workers show up, we undergo a slow decline. If workers don’t show up, we undergo a quicker collapse.

    How many of you go to jobs every day? If you do, you are contributing to the slow decline, to mitigating collapse through your productive activity, at whatever level it is.

    • prior to the industrial revolution, workers walked to their place of work

      now billions expect transport to their place of work

      That is your critical factor in keeping the “economy” afloat.
      The means by which we earn a living is no longer close to where we live
      If getting to work consumes fuel, and actually working consumes fuel, then the endgame is frighteningly obvious when fuel itself is depleting

    • Greg Machala says:

      Where the rubber really meets the road is energy production. If it takes more energy to drill for the oil than is recovered from the Earth, having workers doesn’t do you much good. All the other “jobs” are useless without resources and energy.

      How does finance work in a forced labor society? Does everyone just show up to work without pay? What happens to all those home loans? I would think that financial firms and the people who work for them would have to just disappear somehow for this to work. Otherwise, the people doing the real work would riot that the free-loaders are not pulling their weight.

      What about colleges and higher education? Would they keep showing up to work too? Do students continue to get loans to go to college? Or, would college be free?

      I see a lot of problems with the idea that “workers keep showing up”..

      • Artleads says:

        “How does finance work in a forced labor society? Does everyone just show up to work without pay?”

        I din’t see it as forced labor. Maybe you get credits to procure housing and/or you get free meals where you work. If all possible incentives are considered, using a systems approach, I suspect many rewards will be found for people who work. A systems approach ensures that there be a chain of supply backed up by a source of energy to make the whole work. Systems thinking would be needed.

        • zrogmon says:

          Systems thinking is a concept. Concepts are a luxury. We approaching the end of luxury.
          In the age of fossil fuels people like the luxury of their ideas. They feel special. Only easy to extract energy allows this. Energy has value. Ideas do not. People know this so they try to associate their notions with energy using words. They try to equate themselves with the source so they can reap the benefits of a messiah.

      • This statement isn’t quite true, even though you hear a lot of peak oil folks making the statement: “If it takes more energy to drill for the oil than is recovered from the Earth, having workers doesn’t do you much good.”

        We often use inexpensive cheap energy (such as coal, natural gas) to produce electricity. We also use them to produce biofuels, which are substitutes for oil. The issue has much more to do with the cost of making the various fuels (including wage costs, interest costs, taxation, and other factors), than it has to do with the amount of energy involved. Also, once a capital good is made (drilling rig, for example), we keep using it, regardless of the relationship between the energy that went into making it compared to the energy coming out. If we built a road that lasts, we will keep using it as long as it is available.

        We have a financial system for measuring costs. This is what we use.

        This story became very popular when it was believed that we would “run out” of fossil fuels. We won’t run out of fossil fuels. Their price will fall below their cost of production (really, already has), and their production will stop.

        • Greg Machala says:

          “We have a financial system for measuring costs. This is what we use.” – Well I agree certainly that is the case now. However, the post above was implying that society can go cashless. Which would to me seems to suggest that financial system goes away and worker just show up to work. I just don’t see how that can work where workers will just all carry-on without pay? Or, am i misunderstanding the original post? I mean at some point even if there is not financial system and workers just continue working extracting energy and resources, at some point it will take so much energy just to get energy it won’t even matter is workers keep showing up. I just can’t wrap my head around this concept of workers just keep showing up to work and how that will allow a slow collapse.

          • I think the post above was indirectly referring to the way Russians continued to go to work, even without pay, when most of the system was provided for them — transportation to work, food at work, ability to work in their own little gardens, some food provided otherwise. We don’t have any way of making most of the system continue onward.

            What I was commenting on is the tendency of you and many other readers to talk about our issue as if our issue is purely an energy issue, the way “peak oilers” talk about the issue. What I was explaining is that their statements aren’t generally true, even though they are repeated endlessly.

    • One of the big precursors of collapse proper would be the sight of an “American” average ~poor no longer able to joy ride – commute daily theirs 300-400hp carz..
      Or from another angle, German pensioner even no longer able to vacation almost for free around his little ring of colonies and protectorates within Europe.
      Still, how far is that moment into the future though?

      We went through several stages over this issue since ~1970s throughout past decades already on global scene, oil wars/proxy, fraudulent debt issuance, even self inflicted wounds, fake ethnic minority national “leader” etc. Now what?, it’s getting crazier by the day..

      I’d say we have to wait for two major trends colliding, severe depletion of liquid fossil energy flows for one thing. And China + wider Asian bloc trading more among themselves for the other contributing factor, i.e. NA+European markets of lesser importance for them from some future point.

      Clearly, these visible trends tend to strengthen slowly as we go along, but it could take couple of few more volatile decades before such major impact (reset of dominant structures) derails the status quo for ever.

      • It is low commodity prices that are likely to bring the system down. Currently, commodity prices are up somewhat from their low level early in 2016, but they are still quite low, relative to the level needed for profitability.

        Way too much has been said about depleting oil supplies. Reduced energy supplies for any reason are a problem. This is true, even if the reduction is in coal usage, because these plants are polluting. I doubt we have enough natural gas available cheaply, to offset this loss of coal. Once total energy per capita starts falling (and I think that is happening now), we are in big trouble. Too many people believe that oil is our only problem, or our major problem. It isn’t. Our problem is lack of good paying jobs, and that is related to low energy supplies in total. The lack of good paying jobs then causes low commodity prices, and production will eventually falls because the price is too low.

        • Yes, I tend to agree with your point in the end.
          My comment above was sort of looking for the visible thresholds in the “affluent” countries as we march forward.

        • Greg Machala says:

          “Once total energy per capita starts falling (and I think that is happening now), we are in big trouble.” – Agree. Energy supplies per capita has probably peaked.

    • It takes energy to show up for work. The workers need to have fuel for their cars, or need to have an operating transit system.

      I expect that even if workers want to show up, within a month or so of any disruption, there will be enough “links” that break in the system that it will no longer make sense to try to go to work. The electricity may be off, so no computers, no ventilation, no elevators, and no stop lights will work. Neither with gasoline pumps at gas stations.

      I could be wrong though–these breaks may occur at different times in different countries, so links stay together longer in a few more resilient countries.

    • Pintada says:

      “The up-front cost of such an energy system is $124.7 trillion …”

      Apparently, the decentralization of the world energy system would not disrupt the grid at all. Which is a very interesting claim since it is self contradictory.

      “The plan requires approximately 653,200 square km offshore wind turbines, 1,105,000 square km of onshore wind turbines, 87,410 square km of rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, and 260,500 square km of photovoltaic and concentrated solar power (CSP) systems run by utility companies. “

      • Greg Machala says:

        $124.7 trillion will buy about 2.5 trillion barrels of oil at $50.00 per barrel. Is there that much recoverable oil even left?

        • Details! If you build solar panels, etc., you build them with coal I expect. The question could also be raised about coal, but with a much lower cost per unit.

          • Greg Machala says:

            I agree. Either way $124.7 trillion is a lot of energy units. This at a time when energy itself is peaking.

      • Greg Machala says:

        And, I am so sick of hearing the term “renewable” energy. How are solar panels renewable? Wind turbines? Is the grid itself renewable? What about inverters and batteries, are they renewable? What about all the appliances that run on electricity, are they renewable? The only thing remotely renewable is the actual sun light and wind that blows. Everything else is 100% artificial infrastructure that must be built, maintained and replaced.

        Oh, by golly we can recycle those solar panels and wind turbines. Uh, no. I guarantee you it will cost more energy to recycle those things than it originally cost in energy terms to build them.

        If there is a future to solar and wind power, it is sailing ships and a bucket (if your lucky) of warm water heated by the sun.

        • I think picking the name “renewable” was a stroke of genius for “green” folks, because it labels things in a way that makes them seem very benign and useful. Of course, this is a bunch of nonsense.

    • The existence of such nonsense allows people to think that there is a technological solution.

      • yet another genius ignoring the fact that ”renewables” largely deliver only electricity

        makesyou even more aware of our futile future.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          ”renewables” largely deliver only electricity

          That’s not etched in stone. It’s straightforward chemistry to make hydrocarbons out of CO2, water and electric power. And we already grow biodiesel. “Largely” is correct though for now.

  26. Yoshua says:

    I believe that religion is based on astrology, sun worship and the precession of the equinoxes which gives the new ages.

    The age of Taurus: Egyptian magic.
    The age of Ram: Judaism.
    The age of Pisces: Christianity.

    In 2012 we entered the age of Aquarius: The New Age Cult.

    The new age cult is still waiting for their messiah and never befor in human history has a messiah been needed like today.

    But there will be fierce competition since the Christians won’t accept anything less than the second coming of Christ… and the Muslims’ won’t accept any infidel… so interesting times ahead.

    • DJ says:

      I think religion is rules for living.

      If the rules are good (for the collective) the religion spreads.

      I am sure there is and had been religions proposing really stupid things, like sui-cide to get onboard the spaceship. But such stupid practices doesn’t survive.

      • it was on today’s news that one of the last 3 members of the ”shaker” religious cult had died aged 89 leaving just 2 alive

        one of their central tenets is celibacy

        which seems to pose a problem

        • DJ says:

          At least they have more time to recruit new members than a sueiside cult.

          • i think i follow the groucho marx approach to religion

            i wouldnt want to belong to any cult that would have me as a member

            • common phenomenon says:

              Never call anybody a cult, and leave their member out of it.

            • Religions have different appeal to different people.

              Subsistence farmers often want someone to appeal to, to help give better crops and timely raid. They also thank whoever helped them in this quest.

              Women tend to need a place to meet other women, apart from business places and bars. Meetings of religious groups can be helpful in this respect. If religious groups can help pass along good approaches to life to their children, this is important to them as well. Men are not as interested in these aspects of religion, IMO.

            • I would also add that before countries were rich enough to have elected officials, religions were what allowed rulers to say that their power came from god (or that they themselves were a god). Once energy consumption per capita rose high enough to have an elected government, then a state religion was not needed–at least of this kind.

              Instead, we seem to have created new state religions. The government will save us. This religion seems to be especially strong in Europe, where there is a strong (looking) safety net for almost everyone. A variation on this is “Central Banks will save us.” The primary way of making the economy operate is seen to be more debt. By playing with debt levels, debt can be made to rise to high enough levels to keep everything going. Part of this religions is the belief, “Technology will save us.” One version of this is, “Technology not only will save us, but can save the environment, including climate as well.” Another version is that we need to look to more use of fossil fuels, to allow technology to save us.

            • Duncan Idaho says:

              Religion brought genetic fitness in the past, even working as health insurance, through group cohesion.

              They have evolved into parasitic meme sets, using humans as hosts for their own replication.

            • Joebanana says:

              Duncan Idaho
              “Religion brought genetic fitness in the past, even working as health insurance, through group cohesion.They have evolved into parasitic meme sets, using humans as hosts for their own replication.”
              Could not the same be said of governments? It is amazing to read the very bright people here who think “religion” is a root cause of our problems. As if you could separate “religion” from culture anymore than you could “bad parenting”. I’m sure there are more than a few here who have children that have not lived up to expectations even while you provided a wonderful home. Can’t blame that on religion. I’d like to see what a non religious culture would look like without fossil power in the future. Was there ever one in the past?

            • doesn’t the judeo christian book tell its cult members to multiply and fill the earth?

              says it all really I think

            • If humans are to fill their role as dissipative structures, they need to multiply and fill the earth, to the extent possible.

            • “to multiply and fill the earth?”

              But at what point is it considered full, and what do you do then? Stop multiplying?

            • Joebanana says:

              “doesn’t the judeo christian book tell its cult members to multiply and fill the earth? says it all really I think”
              On the one hand, you and others say we are hardwired to dissipate energy. It is the meaning of life, so to speak, and there is nothing we can do to change this. On the other hand you blame religion. If you believe the first part the existence of religion would not have changed a thing.

            • having kids is one of the quickest ways to dissipate energy—trust me–i had 3 daughters

            • Stefeun says:

              Yes it would, Joe, it’s a matter of speed, or rate of energy flow.
              In favoring our numbers, in helping make everybody behave in same ways and go in same direction, in making control of the people easier, …, religions have widely contributed to increase the energy rate.
              There also have been a selection among religions, as Van Kent explained earlier in the thread, and those that are present today are those that ‘worked’ better, ie the tools that allowed maximum energy dissipation.

            • Joebanana says:

              I just don’t buy any of that. Religions are nothing more than a rounding error in terms of population growth. Everything you point out can also be said of government.
              It is fossil energy that is the root cause of our population today.

            • Stefeun says:

              I agree that the same could be said of governments since, like religions, governments are a form of organization of populations, in order to make them push in the same direction.

              Fossil fuels, by themselves, aren’t the root cause of our explosive development. They were already there thousands years ago, and humans too. Rather, it’s their use, the ways to use them for our own profit, aka technology.

              Development of technology was enabled by groups of people working together in an organized way. Wether such organizations were promoted by religion, governments or any other label, is moot, in my view.

            • I agree. Back in early days, keeping population from collapsing was a real issue. Telling people to have several children made good sense. Of course, if the area had enough resources, it was very easy to build up the population to a point where resources/capita started falling, causing collapse. All of this is built into the system, whether the reason for the children is to provide children to help on the farm, or to provide someone to help parents in their old age, or because of government edict, or because a government decides to import young foreign labor (today’s version of the problem), or because of a religious edict.

            • Joebanana says:

              Agree completely, and more or less the point I was trying to make in my clumsy way.
              It almost seems it was inevitable that things would work out like this.

            • Stefeun says:

              We’re all ‘clumsy’ in some way (my frenglish doesn’t help either) and the purpose of a constructive discussion is actually “to make things clearer for all. Nice when it works.

              I’m also convinced that we cannot avoid the way things are working out. Maybe we could have changed some details of the journey, such as its exact path or the speed at which we’re making it, but even that is not sure. We burn as fast as we can, that’s the rule.

        • Tim Groves says:

          The shakers had their messiah.

          Well, I said shake, rattle and roll
          I said shake, rattle and roll
          I said shake, rattle and roll
          I said shake, rattle and roll
          Well, you won’t do right
          To save your doggone soul

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “I think religion is rules for living.”

        It might be that that is one of the functions.

        But I make a case that the origin of the human capacity for religions is very dark. Religions are memes, I doubt anyone will argue that. Religions (as near as I can tell all of them) emerged in the past as xenophobic memes. Unlike chimps in which “kill the stranger” is the default behavior, the way humans treat others of our species is variable and context dependent.

        Obviously, if attacked, we fight back. But what provokes one human group to attack another? The immediate reason is xenophobic (religious) memes that have spread in the attacking group, dehumanizing the attacked group and displacing the normal reluctance of going at the risky business of attacking “the most dangerous animal on Earth.”

        This is common behavior for virtually all humans. Common behaviors become that way through selection. So in the past, there was a selection bias for those who went to war with the neighbors when it was *cost effective* for their genes. Azar Gat’s writes:

        “. . . let us understand more closely the evolutionary calculus that can make the highly dangerous activity of fighting over resources worthwhile. In our societies of plenty, it might be difficult to comprehend how precarious people’s subsistence in pre-modern societies was (and still is). The spectre of hunger and starvation always loomed over their heads. Affecting both mortality and reproduction (the latter through human sexual appetite and women’s fertility), it constantly, in varying degrees, trimmed down their numbers, acting in combination with disease. Thus, struggle over resources was very often evolutionarily cost-effective.”

        Robert the Monk comments on the first crusade are in harmony with Azar Gat.

        Down thread there is mention of Scientology. I was deeply involved for in the fight which started when the cult tried to destroy a part of the internet. Trying to understand human vulnerability to this class of memes led eventually to a couple of articles. Sex, Drugs and Cults was the first, the other has been mentioned here a time or two.

        Scientology tries to keep their (shrinking) numbers motivated by emphasizing they are under attack.

        • Joebanana says:

          This forum is odd. Gail is religious and brought everyone here together through her hard work, and I suspect, her faith. Atheists who think they stand outside of memes are taking a huge leap. Wisdom is hard to come by and most religious people understand that religion is not a cure for all cultural faults. Religious saints are rare but don’t think they don’t influence good people who do not believe in life after death.

          This existential crisis we are facing will test all theories. One thing I know, I would rather be on the end of a set of rifle sights of a person who thinks there will be an afterlife penalty to pay for shooting me than the one who does not. But that may all be the meme I grew up with where I live.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “Atheists who think they stand outside of memes ”

            Hmm. Given that memes are elements of culture, I don’t see how anyone who thinks a thought could stand outside of memes.

            “One thing I know, I would rather be on the end of a set of rifle sights of a person who thinks there will be an afterlife penalty to pay for shooting me than the one who does not.”

            Ah . . . you are aware that there are religions, in fact one of the largest, where people think they will be rewarded in an afterlife with 72 virgins for killing infidels?

            If you read the bit on Pope Urban, rewards in the afterlife for killing others have been the case for Christianity at times. “Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre; wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it to yourselves … God has conferred upon you above all nations great glory in arms. Accordingly undertake this journey for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

            I think there is a formula for keeping people out of religious wars, but it’s not obvious.

            • Joebanana says:

              You are a smart guy, but do you really think religious people don’t understand there are bad people who use religion to manipulate others? I’m a Catholic. I fully understand the Pope is a man like me; subject to all my faults. I just find it so strange when non-religious
              people think finding a religious bad guy is some sort of revelation. Are the saints who practice heroic virtue not a part of our evolutionary process? Or those who do great evil?

              Hans von Balthasar wrote; “It is to the Cross that the Christian is challenged to follow his Master: no path of redemption can make a detour around it.”

              That is the the guy I want on the end of the gun pointing my way.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “I just find it so strange”

              Please understand that I am not singling out any particular religion even if I use a particular one as an example. It’s an evolved human trait that humans go to war and that religions (xenophobic memes that is) are part of the process by which humans work themselves up to kill the infidels (i.e., those not of my kind). This human trait evolved *long* before any of the current religions were founded.

              I also have an inclusive view of religions, counting communism as one of them or in a class of memes so close that it competes. I think eventually the wars against communism in the last century will eventually be recognized as religious wars.

              “That is the guy I want on the end of the gun pointing my way.”

              I don’t want anyone pointing a gun my way. Have you ever been shot at? I have, 3 times and hit once.

            • Joebanana says:

              hkeithhenson- “I don’t want anyone pointing a gun my way. Have you ever been shot at? I have, 3 times and hit once.”
              I’d suggest you think about moving;-)

            • here in uk its a shock if you hear a car horn blow

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “I’d suggest you think about moving;-)”

              I am almost 75 now. I was in my early 20s last time I was shot at. But you don’t forget. It was while walking back to the boarder in Naco, Sonora. I was there with a friend who wanted to buy a case of beer, but it was too expensive for him. We were talking back to the border when someone fired on us from behind with a shotgun. We were both hit, It was long enough range that the shot stung like crazy but didn’t penetrate.

              Why did someone shoot at us? I have no idea, and didn’t try to find out.

            • obviously an unhappy beer salesman who was on commission

            • DJ says:

              Happened to my uncle. He didn’t make it.

            • Joebanana says:

              I know this will sound stupid but that is a great story about getting shot. You were lucky. Can’t say I’ve been shot other than ricochet from my own gun. I used to do a fair bit of competitive shooting with IPSC and three gun as well as plenty of hunting.
              Norman, I’m still laughing about the beer sales guy. Obviously, he was on commission. That is why I only buy my beer from unionized guys getting paid by the hour.

            • Joebanana says:

              My comment showed up below yours. Sorry if it sounded insensitive towards your uncle.

          • adonis says:

            all theories will evaporate once you’re cold and hungry we shall all revert to our natural state being an animal and thinking by instinct which is simply summed up as kill or be killed

          • doomphd says:

            “Religious saints are rare but don’t think they don’t influence good people who do not believe in life after death.”

            Wow, your sentence contains a triple negative. I think I understand it, anyway.

          • vreetop says:

          • merrifield says:

            “One thing I know, I would rather be on the end of a set of rifle sights of a person who thinks there will be an afterlife penalty to pay for shooting me than the one who does not.”

            Oh, I would much rather live next to or be at the end of a rifle sight of someone who does the right thing becasue it’s the right thing–not becasue they are either trying to earn a “heavenly reward” or avoid some eternal punishment.

            • and if youre in the rifle sights of some who is convinced they WILL go to heaven as a reward for shooting you

              and be rewarded with 70 virgins as a bonus?

            • Tim Groves says:

              I would pray that the guy with the rifle would be overawed by the prospect of having to deal with that many virgins and would settle instead for a few vats of extra virgin olive oil.

            • “I would much rather live next to or be at the end of a rifle sight of someone who does the right thing becasue it’s the right thing–not becasue they are either trying to earn a “heavenly reward” or avoid some eternal punishment.”

              But what is the right thing? There is no universal answer.

        • Dmitry Orlov mentions in his writings that if groups are under attack, it helps them stay together. Thus, he does not seem to be a believer in do-good green groups getting together as survivalist bands. Instead, he sees religious groups or groups of related individuals as having more staying power.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “if groups are under attack”

            This is the Pearl Harbor effect. It not hard to understand why it evolved. It’s easy to understand why a group that has been attacked jumps into war mode. It was harder to figure out the transition to an unprovoked war. The one that hung me up for a year or so was the US Civil war.

            Eventually I discussed it with someone who wrote his thesis on Cleometrics. I had already made the point about anticipation being a major factor in the run up to war. He noted that slavery was the underpinning of the economy of the South, and that the the South took a hundred years to recover from the disruption of that economy by freeing the slaves. So the buildup to war (in terms of evolved psychological mechanisms) made sense.

            Since then I have thought about how the South could have won the war. Attacking the North was not rational. Had they not done so, chances are fair that the North would have let the South go their own way. But one of the things war mode does to people is to make them irrational. Thus they attacked.

            • Obviously, the South was using human labor in the form of slaves to provide energy for its economy while the North was using coal and hydropower to fuel its economy. The North no doubt felt superior to the South, in terms of GDP per capita, and in terms of using a “better” form of energy to power its economy. I don’t know how those feelings translated to Southerners of the day. With the South so much poorer than the North, the South clearly had no chance of winning.

              I hadn’t focused on the South attacking the North. My husband, who grew up attending a school in North Carolina, was taught about the “Southern War for Independence.” Somehow, it may have been that this idea was used to “sell” the plan of attacking the North.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “no chance of winning”

              Which makes a war irrational. But irrational thinking is a universal feature for people in war mode. Normally irrational thinking and actions are anti survival. While that’s true, it was a real revelation to find that under commonly occurring stone age situations, irrational thinking was good for genes–though hard on the individuals.

      • I think religions often offer rules for living, based on the perception of people at the time regarding what “works.” For example, going out and getting drunk every day is not seen as a useful behavior, whether or not this activity is explicitly prohibited in any religious writings. Spending one’s time worrying about getting retribution for past “sins” of others is, in general, a waste of time and energy. People could figure out these things for themselves, but it is helpful for a group to put together suggested emphases. How a person should treat others is another important emphasis.

        Since humans are dissipative structures, there is a need to keep birth rates high. This is a reason for all of the Biblical emphasis on women having babies. At the same time, it should be pretty obvious that there are limits to high birth rates, because resources per capita tend to fall. When resources per capita fall, wages fall (or rather, the goods and services that wages can buy fall, on a per capita basis). This is what leads to collapse. The Bible does indicate that the current system will come to an end. I don’t know about other religious writings.

  27. adonis says: this is what will ultimately speed up collapse if anyone is looking for the black swan event that will bring in the fast collapse i think the drive to go cashless will result in a major drop in demand from consumers for energy

    • Niels Colding says:


      I think you may be right, but I would be grateful if you would explain why this cash ban could be the black swan event that will bring in the fast collapse?

      • adonis says:

        this is the initial result of the cash ban in india contraction of the economy in other words will cash bans brought in worldwide cause a massive contraction of the world economy ushering in a seneca cliff collapse scenario read the following article for the details

      • Cash is a major (important) form of debt. Banning cash makes it very hard for common people to make the transactions that they normally make. This by itself tends to cut back “demand,” and lower prices. As a result, it tends to push the economy into recession.

        Lower prices particularly affect commodities such as coal (which is more local in supply), natural gas (often local as well), and oil (more international). With low commodity prices, production of coal and natural gas, especially, tend to become unprofitable, and for this reason, tend to drop. The low demand also contributes to the tendency for world oil prices to stay low.

        • JT Roberts says:

          I tend to agree in India people can resort to bartering for local goods. Like eggs for milk or other services. Or create a system of IOUs. Which effectively is an alternative currency which I believe was the reason the government bans large bills. But as you go up the supply chain you have to get recognized currency. You just can’t trade eggs for oil. And this isn’t because the energy companies wouldn’t like to they just can’t. They have to cover their fixed cost. I think Modi has realized the error of what he’s done but digital currency won’t happen quickly enough to help the majority in the country. What he has already floated is a living wage. So he either hands money out of trucks which will lead to death and chaos. Or bread lines like the Soviet system. Here it’s quite different because we already live in a digital currency all you need to do is electronically transfer funds to the needy. So the only reason we don’t see bread lines is the welfare system works on a credit card based system administered by Chase Bank. This prevents looting and rioting that would result in physical cash handouts and also gives the illusion we’re not living in the 1930s. We are so far past overshoot I’m not sure people are comprehending. Capitalism ends in Socialism. But despite the best of humanitarian efforts the energy system is too diluted to keep the system a float.

          • Bartering doesn’t work well unless there are markets set up, and someone marks all goods in common units, say “rupees.” Bartering is difficult, though. Storage is needed for goods, and some goods (chickens for example) don’t store well, especially without refrigeration, unless alive. I expect even India would have a difficult time with the transition to bartering.

        • Niels Colding says:

          “Cash is a major (important) form of debt”

          I am not quite sure that I understand the above sentence. If you go some thousands years back in time a farmer could sell his products on the market and get a coin or some other token representing the value of his products. He could then choose to buy other goods for the money, or he could lend his money to some other person. Only in the second case a third person has taken on debt because in this case he has made a promise to repay the loan some time in future. But why is cash debt in the first case?

          • DJ says:

            Isnt the coin a token representing debt from the system to the farmer?

          • Stefeun says:

            why is cash debt in the first case?
            Because it is, as is any debt, the promise of a future compensation that will be made by dissipating the equivalent amount of energy.

          • All cash is a marker for government debt. Even a gold coin is a marker for debt. Currency of any kind is basically notes, paying zero percent interest, which can easily be transferred from one person to another. The government, in effect, promises that these portable notes can be traded for goods and services. You can’t eat the gold coin or the note; you need appropriate goods and services. Once you pass the cash on to someone else, that person has the government’s promise that the cash will be good for goods and services.

            In a way, cash is like the “store credit” that a store gives a customer, when a customer returns something. Store credit allows the customer to buy something else in the store. The store must treat this as debt on its balance sheet. Similarly cash is a form of debt for any government, because it allows citizens to buy goods anywhere in the country.

            What a government recalls its cash, in a sense it is breaking its promise that the cash will be able to be redeemed for goods and services. The government makes an alternate promise, regarding electronic funds, but this makes the funds inaccessible to a lot of people, because they don’t have appropriate credit cards and don’t have transportation to the bank. They have lost the ability to change the cash into goods and services, when it is recalled.

            • Niels Colding says:

              Very well explained – I just didn’t count government in and its abilities to make that sort of promises.

    • DJ says:

      Why should the consumers consume less if cashless? Coupled with negative interest they could even, for a while, spend more.

      • adonis says:

        i believe the majority of cash consumers would never go down the path of cashless easily unless helicopter money was employed in other words free digital money which would lead to hyperinflation so what will these former cash consumers do they will drop out of the system leading to less growth

        • DJ says:

          If you are talking about black market economy that can’t happen at scale in the west.

          If you are talking about just working less, then maybe … but just the whole losing incentives thing is probably taking care of that anyway.

          I think Indias mistake was being to abrupt. Sweden is already more or less voluntarily cashless, businesses get angry if you want to pay cash. Even the local pizzeria want you to pay with card … I suppose they finally pay taxes.

          • India started from “way back” relative to Sweden. Sweden can almost get away with being cashless, as long as the electricity is working and banks are operating.

      • “Cashless” is a push to complexity. In order to spend more, people need a source of credit, such as credit cards. (Cash was, in a sense, a portable source of credit.) In India, people do not have credit cards. They do not have easy ways to get to banks frequently. They often do not have regular electricity. Trying to change this over a short time period is virtually impossible.

        One barrier to a major change in India is the fact that there are incredible number of different languages used in India. Most Indians have limited ability to read and write. If they do read and write, it is in one language–not very often English. One Indian lady explained to me that the script can be totally different for a local language, relative to the national language. English is supposedly taught in the schools, but the actual ability of most Indians to use it is very low, based on my visit to India. (Schools in India use a split school day, with half of the students going in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. All of the subjects need to be crammed into the half-day session. Teachers may know a bit of written English, but they very often cannot speak English.)

        Negative interest rates do not get back to consumers yet–I am not sure that they ever will. The excess amount tends to transfer wealth to those who are already wealthy.

        • DJ says:

          Ok, cashless lessens consumption in developing economies and increases in developed economies?

          My previous bank in about a week now takes about 5% negative interest if you take the fee through average amount. This for getting my salary, paying bills and getting the rest out.

        • Aravind says:

          Please do not generalize by saying “Schools in India…”. I am not sure where you saw the split session schools. That may be because of shortage of facilities or shortage of staff or both. When talking about India, please remember that it is a subcontinent. What you see in, say the north Indian state of Bihar, may be diametrically opposite to what you see in the small south Indian state of Kerala. India is a microcosm of the entire world in terms of language families, food, culture, religion, geography and human development.

          • The schools I saw were outside Mumbai. In fact, I am pretty sure I also heard about the split-day system within Mumbai, which I understand is about as “Upscale” as it gets in India. I suppose schools elsewhere could be better.

            • Aravind says:

              Yes, Gail, I understand. That’s the danger of generalizing. Am living in a small town in Kerala. And the “upscale” schools here are on par with those in places like Singapore (I had lived and worked in Singapore for close to 12 years, from where I used to comment at under the handle maram). And there is no split-day system here. At the same time, there are run-down (mostly Government-run) schools, some of which actually produce very good results. Would be glad to host you or anybody on this forum if you fancy a trip down here!

            • Thanks for the offer.

              Obviously some people from India are well educated. I was fairly surprised when I visited that virtually none of the taxi drivers in Mumbai seemed to speak English. I took a note pad with me, with the addresses of (1) where I was staying and (2) where I wanted to go. The taxi driver would then stop somewhere and try to get a translation. When this problem was put together with various other differences (not staying within lanes on expressways, treating stop lights as optional), the whole process was worrisome. Somehow, the accident rate didn’t seem terribly high, though, even with the (to me) strange way of doing things.

    • The move to make India cashless has to be one of the stupidest ones I have run into. I expect that India’s economy will contract next year, as well as China. I can believe that someone from the US was behind the move. It sounds like some idea a consultant would come up with.

      • Rodster says:

        In reality the entire globe is pushing for a cashless society. Just another way of controlling the wheels.

        • Rodster says:

          Should have read controlling the sheeple and not wheels.

        • common phenomenon says:

          Just think of the tons of metal you need to mine and transport and distribute, in order to operate cash systems all around the world. And metal is subject to depletion too. Apparently you need to dig up at least 500 tons of muck and sift thru it, in order to get a ton of copper.

          Here in the UK, the Royal Mint instituted a copper-nickel replacement programme in 2012, to replace the pre-2012 copper-nickel 5 pence and 10 pence coins with nickel-plated versions. What does that tell you about the cost or scarcity of copper? So copper-nickel coins of those denominations are almost non-existent in circulation now. That’s weird. As a child in the 1960s, I could find Victorian pennies and halfpennies in change, going back to the 1860s. That all stopped after we went decimal in 1971, of course, though QEII and George VI shilling and two shilling coins still circulated as 5p and 10p coins, until 1990 and 1992 respectively.

          • Tim Groves says:

            As a teenager in the UK, I once found a very thin and well-worn 1837 Victorian penny in my change. It was the pride of my coin collection. Those old pennies, halfpennies, and threepenny bits were a wonderful link with the past that gave the British people a warm fuzzy sense of continuity and of being participants in a shared culture. That’s a big reason why decimalization was implemented in the seventies and the end of red phone boxes followed not too long after.

            • common phenomenon says:

              Nice. Modernity does destroy continuity to an extent, of course, but that wasn’t why it was implemented. Britain was one of the few laggards, as regards decimalisation, and in the early 1960s nobody in Parliament spoke against it, when it was decided we should begin the process.

        • When the electricity goes off, a cashless society makes it difficult to make any kind of transaction. Don’t people think ahead?

          • Tim Groves says:

            Unless they are reading your blog regularly, I don’t suppose the thought that the electricity will go off ever occurs to them.

            • DJ says:

              The sad thing is you can’t insure yourself by carrying cash. When the electricity is off, or even only internet is down, the store is closed.

              So no happy shopping for cash persons while the card people stand envious outside.

      • urbangdl says:

        Venezuela is escaping by switching to Bitcoin which is thanks to the low cost electric supply, however there are plenty of drawbacks in regrds to criptocurrencies, not to mention they are useless without technology.

  28. anybody with access to UK TV should watch BBC 4, —How/why the industrial revolution stated in UK, Tuesday 3rd jan 9 pm

  29. ARBP says:

    Gail, would you mind releasing the lengthy post I made that is currently under moderation?

    • Sorry, I was busy with some other things this morning, and didn’t have a chance to check for comments in moderation. I released yours, as well as some others that somehow got lost.

  30. Yoshua says:

    The Tree of Life

    The trees are batteries that collect energy from the sun through their the solar cells, the leaves, that actually do grow on trees.

    But haven’t we been here before ? Wasn’t this how it all started ?

    The first prime minister of Israel told scientists to study the mountains to grow trees there.

    The scientists studied the mountains: Just dry rock and sand. They told the PM: Sorry, but it’s impossible to grow anything there.

    The PM responded: No problem. Give me a new group of scientists.

    Today there is a large forest stretching over the mountains. They found the answer by studying the old testament to see what trees had been growing there in old times.

    • trees are not the problem

      it’s what you can and do use them for.

      you can use any old tree for firewood, but to build a secure house or a ship’s mast you need straight strong treetrunks.
      so just growing ”trees”anywhere for any purpose doesn’t work.

      also you will die before you can grow enough tree to build a house.
      our resource crisis is going to hit this generation.
      the world will not begin to reforest itself until the current population has be reduced sufficiently to allow that to happen

      • Yoshua says:

        The Tree of Life is Artleads new/ old religion… so don’t blame me for it.

        But people need religion to have a vision of the future to be able to endure hell… as long as that hell isn’t too radio active.

      • Artleads says:

        Yes. Yoshua is right. I’m the tree religion person. Your points are well taken. But here’s my main point. To do anything big, you have to start somewhere. So my proposal is very broad brush, a precursor to many iterations of nuances. So please take my suggestion in that light.

        Further to that, it isn’t a recommendation based on individual choice, but more of a social and institutional intention. (It might well be a core program of schools worldwide.) And the planning and development establishments would have to be wrestled to the ground to gain their compliance as well. .

        As to my capacity for planting trees, that’s a non starter. Of the trees we inherited on buying this property, five have probably died. Under watering was the main culprit, but gross ignorance and aphids played a role. To successfully plant and nurture trees, you need skills that I’m not interested in acquiring. It’s not up to me. The world either wants trees or it does not. Meanwhile, I’ll preach the religion of trees for what it’s worth.

        I think you might get a lot of utility out of 20 year-old trees, and many here could be around till then. Not log cabin lumber I’m sure. But building materials are abundant in landfills, and with increasing scarcity, they will be dug up and utilized. The big question is who will do the digging up and utilizing. As things stand, it would be big corporations looking to increase their store of wealth at the expense of the many. But it doesn’t have to be that way in all cases. Doubtless, we have 40 years worth of industrial detritus to build with as APPROPRIATE trees have time to mature. The trick is to plant them now, benefiting meanwhile from all the near term benefits of trees barring longer-term ones like building supply.

        • Van Kent says:

          Artleads, some quick pointers on this project of yours, on how religions have been created before.

          First you need money. This money isn’t actually for you (that part comes later). Its for some scholars extremely well versed in contemporary religious culture. They’ll take a dozen religions that exist today, or whose myth they know, and mesh them up and create a new one. With the fine tuning you wanted (trees). Or actually the scholars will write the new religion you wanted in to an ‘holy book’. Here comes the downside, the scholars will create a hero or two, the protagonist of the new myth, and they cant be you. The guy, guys, they’ll create, has to have died some time ago. A couple of millenia is good, so is a couple of centurues, or just thirty years. As long as nobody alive today can say anything against the protagonists. Ok. Now starts your part. You’ve gotta announce you have found an extremely old book, ancient, that is a very, very holy text. Then you’ve gotta monopolize where and how the worship according to that text is done. Remember you are the highpriest. Your house is the only church where real atonement can be done (if the pay is right). And you are the only one with the right to sell franchising rights (other temples and other high priesthoods to other cities). But the holy text must stay in your possession. That way you can pay the scholars in the coming decades to fine tune the text according to the popular demand. And as always, these (new) old and ancient texts must be found the same way, as heirlooms to your people, left there to be found by you, by the ancients.

          Thats the gist of it. This method was first invented in 700BC by the king in Jerusalem (of Judah, the richer northern kindom of Israel had just been decimated by the assyrians, bringing refugees to the poorer southern kingdom of Judah). The method was later refined many times. So far it has produced the bible, the new and the old testament, the Quran and whatever the mormons call their stuff. Some variations of this method can also be found in hinduism, buddhism and zoroastrianism.

          Good luck, and godspeed in your new tree-religion.

          • Artleads says:

            Interesting perspective, Van Kent. I’ve actually been the object of this kind of adulation by people who I wish were actually DOING something practical instead. OTOH, I now live in a (de facto) anarchist community where no one wants a leader (and this is sort of better, if also frustrating).

            I really don’t care whether people get it together or not. I would want to stick around long enough to see the look on some faces…if they don’t.

            I’m working too hard, already, too “out there,” too alone for comfort. So I’m unlikely to go to any great trouble to invent a successful religion. The disposition of the planet is up to everybody. At some point, I have no use for people who are not pulling their weight. They’ll get what they deserve, as we all will.

            “I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, whence commeth my help.”

            “Who wrote the books of the Old Testament and when did they do it? As ORIGINALLY inspired it was divided into three major divisions. The first division was the Law, the second was the Prophets, and the third was the Writings (which included the Psalms and Proverbs). It was written from approximately the 1660s B.C. to the 400s B.C. The original canonized version contained twenty-two books, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.”

            • There is a lot of oral tradition that preceded what was actually written down in the Old Testament. For example, the story of the flood seems to occur in other oral traditions. It very likely relates to a real event.

          • I think all religions are self-organized, just as economies and ecosystems are self-organized. They do depend on flows of energy and thus money–hence your comment about, “First you need money.” Each religion thus has a finite life, and can be expected to eventually collapse (although this might be from loss of members).

            Religions each discover “truths” for their day. They may also discover “eternal truths.” If nothing else, they form social ties and get members to sit down and think about what is “right” and “wrong.” It is easy to pretend that because money is needed, they have to be wrong. I don’t think this is true.

            • Stefeun says:

              We don’t need religions neither for morality nor sociability.
              We’re hard-wired for that:


              Their purpose must be somewhere else…

            • I agree. However, in self-organized systems, these natural tendencies lead to many repeated themes in different religions. Cooperation works better than competition (at least within a reasonable size group); we need some way of reinforcing this. At the same time, if population levels get too high relative to resources, religions act as one unifying force in fighting against other religious groups, in keeping populations down.

              It is all part of the way the system “works,” whether we “need” religions or not.

            • Stefeun says:

              I only see that we’re labelling as religious, and sometimes nothing else, many things that actually have nothing to do with religion. So easy to hide behind unquestioned dogma. And yes, it works, which means it allows us to organize in ways that dissipate most energy.

              You often emphazise that it also reinforces the good traits ; I tend to think it exacerbates the worst. Let’s say it’s a difference in points of view.

            • Artleads says:

              Reinhold Niebuhr wrote about religion as enabling the “divine madness of the soul” as being the only force intense enough to do very (beyond) difficult things. And very difficult things seem to be what we’re faced with. I see that Stefeun has a different view, however. 🙂 There are different levels of difficult, I suspect. Commonsense difficult, and existential difficult. Existential difficult might be the exclusive province of the hyper complex human mind and culture?


            • Stefeun says:

              Not really, Artleads,
              I agree that faith is a very powerful tool to acheive very difficult tasks.

              I see it as putting blinders in order to over-focus and direct all energy onto a goal that fits in with some narrative (regardless if the goal and the narrative are realistic or pure fantasy).
              Such extremely arrogant attitude is by itself creating unmanaged externalities.
              But it works, until shtf.

            • I am afraid I am not very knowledgeable about religious theory.

            • Artleads says:

              “I see it as putting blinders in order to over-focus and direct all energy onto a goal that fits in with some narrative (regardless if the goal and the narrative are realistic or pure fantasy).”

              I don’t see what’s the problem with this. Don’t you have to over focus when faced with a life or death emergency? Or is it that somebody knows what is realistic to over focus on and what is not?

              “Such extremely arrogant attitude is by itself creating unmanaged externalities.
              But it works, until shtf.”

              You over focus, since it is only way to have the presence of mind to save yourself from a crisis. What’s the arrogance here?

            • Stefeun says:

              I wasn’t talking of life or death emergency, rather of everyday’s life.

              Putting blinders on implies to neglect the “rest of the world” and contemptuously follow a narrow pre-determined purpose, with no regard for the real world and its constant changes.

              As for arrogance, I understand that you took it as “saving oneself’s life”. Well, for me it depends of what’s in balance, it shouldn’t be “at all costs”. What’s arrogant here is to pretend that “my” life is more imortant than any other. I know this is what our reptilian brain is telling us, but I think it loses some credibility when we have a neocortex over it.

            • Artleads says:

              “I wasn’t talking of life or death emergency, rather of everyday’s life.

              Putting blinders on implies to neglect the “rest of the world” and contemptuously follow a narrow pre-determined purpose, with no regard for the real world and its constant changes.

              As for arrogance, I understand that you took it as “saving oneself’s life”. Well, for me it depends of what’s in balance, it shouldn’t be “at all costs”. What’s arrogant here is to pretend that “my” life is more imortant than any other. I know this is what our reptilian brain is telling us, but I think it loses some credibility when we have a neocortex over it.”

              I think I see what the problem is. Language. I don’t know English grammar well, so I can’t explain the form of speech I was using. Call it generalizing. I meant just the opposite of what you thought I did. I’m indeed talking for the totality of life. But it gets even more philosophical than that. What we’re destroying is not only animals and people, but something even more fundamental. My religious ideal posits that the land is the fundamental material life form. You can actually communicate with the land. The land can give you clues. If you believe in the land as your spiritual anchor, you will defend it to the death. It is more important than people, and that “it” (the land) might not be distinguishable from the animals in it. So I’m very harsh about this: you protect the land and the animals or you die. In one related sense, *I* don’t lump people together with the rest of nature. They stand apart. They have assumed the unprecedented status of planetary re-shapers. They do it out of arrogance, but I think more out of blindness and ignorance. There’s a saying, “if you break it you own it.” We have broken it. We fix it or perish. No two ways about it. It’s not the animals that must die, as they are dying now. It’s the people and their stupid economics and money.

              The land is the autocratic ruler of all. I act as I’m instructed. If it’s a choice between saving wild animals and killing poachers and hunters, I say kill the poachers and hunters. They don’t have a scarcity issue.

            • Stefeun says:

              If it’s a problem of language, then I’m in bad position as I’m sure your expression is much better than my Frenglish.

              I now better understand your point of view, and fully respect it, as you respect “the land and all what’s on it”, instead of the personal profit you could make out of it. A pity the latter category is also that of the winners. Short-term winners, but they (we) don’t care what comes after.
              What counts is the profit now, in this stupid race. Respect is a long gone concept. I don’t think it has anything to do with religion, but that’s my own opinion (I’ve always taken religions from the wrong side, it seems).

            • I am not sure that we have very much choice in who dies; it may be both us and many of the higher forms of animals. The climate will change (as it always has done, only perhaps more so). The changed climate will determine what ecosystems survive. I don’t think that anything we personally can do now will make much difference in the whole scheme of things.

              I am not necessarily convinced of an afterlife, but I am convinced that there is some plan behind the long-lasting universe that we have been able to inhabit so far. A lot of what religion is about is how to get along better in this world today.

          • Pintada says:

            It is very possible for one person to create a very successful religion out of whole cloth. The last person to do so, stated early in his efforts, “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.”

            After writing the first book, he famously stated, “THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM. You can write that down in your book in great big letters. The only way you can control anybody is to lie to them.”

            The man? L. Ron Hubbard
            The religion? Scientology

            From reading a good portion of the available religious books, I think one of the points that Van Kent left out was that the principals of the religion must be completely absurd. Any reasonable ideas (if present) must be hidden within the crazy stuff.

            • Artleads says:

              I think the average person responds to aesthetics more than to scientific reasoning. So whatever is explained to them has to be accompanied by a spoonful of sugar. Poetry might work better than prose. Eloquence and oratorical excellence matter. Abbreviations are part of that process. But I wouldn’t call that lying.

            • Tim Groves says:

              I realize I may be condemned to Scien-to-logical hell for saying this, but Hubbard’s SF was pretty krappy. His old friend Robert A. Heinlein was much a more entertaining writer whose work will continue to enlighten and delight readers for generations to come, who realized that there were many more important things in life than getting rich, and who preached a gospel of rational commonsense and good old fashioned humanist values delivered with snippets of Ayn Rand and a dash of Groucho Marxism. Although his philosophy has fallen out of favor in recent decades, I see Heinlein as a genuine religious figure who may end up being revered as a prophet or a saint one day while Hubbard will undoubtedly be consigned to the dustbin if historical frauds.

              Here’s a short sampling of Heinlein’ style:

              One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh.

              The universe never did make sense; I suspect it was built on government contract.

              I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.

              It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.

              The difference between science and the fuzzy subjects is that science requires reasoning while those other subjects merely require scholarship.

              When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.

              And last but not least:

              Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              It’s always nice to run into another Heinlein fan. My psychology/politics were strongly influence by RAH. Eventually I met Heinlein and talked him into being on the L5 Society board. I think I am one of the few people who have put references to SF authors (Heinlein and Asimov) into a peer reviewed paper, the EP, memes and war paper mentioned here.

              “When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.”

              That’s the reason I got into the fight with Hubbard’s cult. They have successfully used the government, copyright laws particularly, to stifle discussion of their criminal activities.

              It will be interesting to see how hard the government clamps down on discussing climate effects of human activities.

          • Artleads says:

            Thanks for the encouragement to think more what religion entails and how you get it going. I think religions require that you worship something. While these “somethings” have traditionally been centered in churches, or at such specific places as sacred sites, a more modern form of religion might entail worshiping entities within everyday life, entities that might be there when you look out the window, or entities that comprise the interior of your home… Just a thought.

            • just as a casual bit of thinking, the origins of religion , to me at any rate, have always seemed simple and obvious:

              animals, as far as we know, are not cursed with religious beliefs
              and the fundamental difference between ourselves and animals is fire.

              therefore, when the first man learned how to control fire (and there had to be a first) that made him a pretty smart knuckle dragger.
              The most important thing with fire—after youve made it—is to keep it alight.
              How do you do that?—By putting it inside a shelter of some kind.
              And who better to care for the fire?—the man who knows how to make it of course, and being smart hes going to keep that secret to himself—and pass on the secret to his sons.

              If he’s the only one with the secret, then everyone else is going to have to come to him for “fire”, and to help build a formal building around it.—in no time at all that becomes a temple.
              Firekeepers are then sustained by the rest of the tribe,

              Doesn’t take long for that arrangement to become fire worship (fire itself was a mystery until the 18th c–nobody knew exactly how to explain it)
              The keeper of the flame become your high priest, and his children inherit the secret.
              They too become fire priests, and then you have a priest-king dynasty or something along those lines

              To bear that out old churches still have “rood screens” behind which the priests carried out their holy doings, out of sight of the unwashed masses.

              Just a bit of free thinking folks—feel free to shoot me down in flames so to speak— but remember everything in history had to start somewhere. Nobody woke up one morning and thought—I think I’ll believe in a god today

            • Stefeun says:

              You say “in no time at all that becomes a temple”, talking about a shelter for the fire.

              Fire was mastered 1.8 million years ago, and the oldest shelter dates back half a million years (see and
              Even stretching a little those figures, your “in no time” made me smile (thanks for that!).

              Both were acheived by H. Erectus, who was a nomadic hunter-gatherer, afaik. Instead of a fix building, to keep the fire alive, i’d rather go for some portable structure, such as that described in 1981 JJ. Annaud’s film Quest for Fire (sorry I can’t find any correct picture).

            • Stefeun says:

              You can see the fire-transportation urn at 0:20:


              It’s an encosure made of rib-bones (probably on a flat stone) and covered with some pelt, like a little tent.

            • Tim Groves says:

              I saw this movie when it first came out. The English title is “Quest for Fire”. There’s a lot of comedy in that story.

              Quest for Fire takes place some 80,000 years in the past. A primitive homo sapiens tribe huddles around a natural fire source for comfort and survival. When that source is extinguished, tribesmen Naoh (Everett McGill), Amoukar (Ron Perlman), and Gaw (Nameer El-Kadi) are sent out on a “quest for fire.” After several days of wandering through the prehistoric landscape (the film was shot in Canada, Scotland, Iceland, and Kenya), the three come across a cannibal tribe that knows how to produce fire; they save a young girl, Ika (Rae Dawn Chong), from the clutches of the cannibals, with the hope that she’ll reveal the secret. Based on a novel by J. H. Rosny Sr., Quest for Fire convincingly creates the world of the past and believably molds its characters within the context of their surroundings and their limited knowledge of the world. The credibility factor is aided by technical consultants Desmond Morris and Anthony Burgess, who respectively developed a set of gestures and a simplistic language for the Ulams and Ivakas. An Oscar went to John Hay and Penny Rose’s costume design.


            • Joebanana says:

              The way those guys pick up women in quest for fire has a real Trump thing going;-)

            • yes i was thinking of using a new pickup line:

              ”Can I blow on your fire” has a more original ring to it than ”can i buy you a drink”

            • Stefeun says:

              C’mon, Baby

            • Joebanana says:

              The very thought that you would be kind enough to speak first would be considered a huge turn on. You would have her at “Can”

      • xabier says:

        When Early Man saw an ash tree he thought: ‘Great! I can spear my neighbour!’

        Early Woman thought: ‘My Hero!’

      • Stefeun says:

        Another example of the difference of energy flow-rates between the ‘producer’ and the ‘consumer’.
        Stocks are used faster than replenished. Time lag issue, in the first place.

        • Stefeun—-my thinking on fire and religion was just a bit of wild conjecture, not meant to be definitive. A bit of What if?? so to speak

          I always run with the notions that religions and suchlike evolve and come into being imperceptibly, before they take root as ‘established fact”—thus we can only guess at the absolute origin of gods and religion.

          Fire obviously is delivered from heaven and the gods, or through volcanoes and the ”nether world”.

          therefore it seems logical to worship it, especially as its true origins and meaning are unknown. If you worship something, or at least have some kind of fear or reverence for it, it would seem logical to have a guardian of it–ie another word for priest.—someone with a knowledge of how to control or create it.

          Enjoyed the little video—as usual the cackling neanderthal totty was running around nekkid, while her knuckle dragging friends were all in furs.
          I must be missing something?

          • Stefeun says:

            Yes Norman,
            Quite a lot of caricatures in the film.
            The whole film is available and rather pleasant to watch. At least you won’t be bothered with dialogs.
            As for the link between fire and religion, all I can say is that I’m always fascinated (hypnotized?) watching a fire gently crackling in a fireplace.

          • Van Kent says:

            Norman, fire was a life saving resource for a million years. Therefore it was known by every member of the tribe, as soon as possible. Thats the only logical conclusion of fire.

            Origin of religion. Ok.. let me have a whack on that sweet ‘what if’ game..
            the first time humans actually became ‘human’ was, when our brain could imagine that abstract symbols meant something. Abstractions were made to have a life of their own. That’s what human are made from.

            Let me explain.

            There is a hunter gatherer walking on the vast plains of Africa. He sees some antilope tracks. From the tracks the hunter gatherer can deduce that -yes, it was an antilope. -yes, it went that way. -yes, it was not that long ago, the tracks are fresh. And they seem to go to a water source. Now. Just by looking at some abstract symbols in the sand, the hunter gatherer was able to make several deductions. And according to these deductions he is able to deduce what the animal was ‘thinking’ aka. where it was going, what it was doing, what it wanted, was it in a hurry, or was it injured.

            Take this ability and extrapolate it a hundred, or a thousand, generations forward. Now the hunter gatherer tribe knows every sign, track, smell, or whiff of cloud in the environment they live in. Everything has a meaning. Everything has a will. Everything has a ‘soul’. Everything is a part of one big ‘mother nature’ that has thousands if nit millions of spirits in it. This ability to deduce abstract symbols, and give them a ‘will’, give them a ‘life’, becomes an integral part of being human. Thus could the mile-long list of cognitive biases that every being of our species has in common be explained

            Such a long list of cognitive biases should be explained somehow..

            Ok. Second to last step. Monotheism. One god. Resurrecting. Miracles and wonders.
            When this story is told for the first time. Then the ability of our brains to imagine things to life, that really aren’t there, makes it possible to believe in it. It’s almost, very close, to having those abstract symbols in the sand and therefore to deduce that an antilope walks this way every morning to go to the waterhole. But after a generation or two, our cognitive biases take over. The one god myth becomes a cultural tradition, with the bias of ‘if everybody else believes this, if this authority figure says this, then it must be true’, this will become a stronger and stronger force by the generation. Affecting a larger and larger part of the population.

            Ok. Last step. One church. Why do we need one god, one religion and a one church?
            With a one god and a one church, it becomes a possibility to rule and legislate numerous different peoples. It is exceedingly difficult to legislate, judge, tax and recruit soldiers from a mass of peoples that don’t talk the same languages, don’t have the same rituals or traditions, and have completely opposite cultures concerning women, wealth, posessions and authority. With a one god and a one church, legislation, judging, taxing and recruiting a huge territory becomes a possibility. A one world religion, would therefore mean more power to the ruling class.

            • “Origin of religion.”

              I think humans are (one of if not the only) species that is aware we are all going to die. We are probably the only species that spends time worrying and thinking about dying. From an economic view, as far as I can tell, religion seems to exist primarily as a service to help alleviate the fear of death.

              Any particular religion may have other services it provides, like charity, or providing employment for a second son who has no claim on the family farm, or education, health care, etc. However, practically every religion seems to offer some hope to lessen the fear of death.

            • Joebanana says:

              “However, practically every religion seems to offer some hope to lessen the fear of death.”
              I would agree but would expand on that to include suffering and hardship in general. I think fossil fuels have made it possible to live without religion. Why pray for rain when I can just turn the sprinkler system on?

            • Also, when you have a government that provides a safety net while you are young, and retirement income when you are old? Europeans have such a built in safety net, that I can see there is little need for religion.

              Since governments are elected, those running the government don’t need religion to reinforce their power.

    • I live in an area where the bedrock (or some kind of rock) is very close to the surface. We have lots of trees here too. Trees seem to be able to make use of whatever little dirt is available.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Pine trees are very good at growing on what looks to us like bare rock. As long as the temperature and rainfall are adequate, they tend to do well along the tops of ridges where most other species don’t have sufficient resources to develop, Then over the decades, they drop pine needles and cones and dead branches, which brake down to form a thin layer of topsoil that can support other trees, which leads to competition, which will eventually choke most of the pines out of existence,

    • Artleads says:

      A (the?) major planning blog that I know of touches the housing crisis in many US cities. The remedies are always pathetic…not even SYMBOLIC of a reasonable effort to address the problem, The site is

      Where one of my comments on the issue was recently removed:

      Here is my post that was removed:


      What if the state allowed communities to do pilot experimental project? No rules. In a given area, under structured conditions that minimize possible harm, let people build shanty town-type shelter on government property or wherever else is feasible. See how it works or doesn’t work, improve it, and try it again. Admittedly, this is more of an artists’ approach than a planners’. Artists and architects could be consultants too.

      Artleads 1/3/17

      I notice my post was removed. Did JustJake’s obscure comment have anything to do with it? If so, what criteria were involved for removing the post? Is this an example of JustJake’s Democracy by any chance?

      JustJake • 15 hours ago

      Having the AstroTurf anarchist from SFBARF as a panel member relegates this pro-developer forum into the propaganda folder. Democracy will prevail, thankfully.

  31. Artleads says:

    This is not recommended reading. I read it just because I’m stubborn. Even before I separated the paragraphs, which were all jammed together. It’s not recommended reading, but it’s posted here because there could be some other stubborn (mildly masochistic) soul out there who enjoys unpleasant challenges. Be it as it may. 🙂

    “The observer effect confirms that we as people are always a subjective and objective part of a process and outcome and therefore are fully responsible for our choices and actions. ”

    Oh, and here is a related thought that just came to me: To report or record is to change.