2017: The Year When the World Economy Starts Coming Apart

Some people would argue that 2016 was the year that the world economy started to come apart, with the passage of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Whether or not the “coming apart” process started in 2016, in my opinion we are going to see many more steps in this direction in 2017. Let me explain a few of the things I see.

[1] Many economies have collapsed in the past. The world economy is very close to the turning point where collapse starts in earnest.  

Figure 1

Figure 1

The history of previous civilizations rising and eventually collapsing is well documented.(See, for example, Secular Cycles.)

To start a new cycle, a group of people would find a new way of doing things that allowed more food and energy production (for instance, they might add irrigation, or cut down trees for more land for agriculture). For a while, the economy would expand, but eventually a mismatch would arise between resources and population. Either resources would fall too low (perhaps because of erosion or salt deposits in the soil), or population would rise too high relative to resources, or both.

Even as resources per capita began falling, economies would continue to have overhead expenses, such as the need to pay high-level officials and to fund armies. These overhead costs could not easily be reduced, and might, in fact, grow as the government attempted to work around problems. Collapse occurred because, as resources per capita fell (for example, farms shrank in size), the earnings of workers tended to fall. At the same time, the need for taxes to cover what I am calling overhead expenses tended to grow. Tax rates became too high for workers to earn an adequate living, net of taxes. In some cases, workers succumbed to epidemics because of poor diets. Or governments would collapse, from lack of adequate tax revenue to support them.

Our current economy seems to be following a similar pattern. We first used fossil fuels to allow the population to expand, starting about 1800. Things went fairly well until the 1970s, when oil prices started to spike. Several workarounds (globalization, lower interest rates, and more use of debt) allowed the economy to continue to grow. The period since 1970 might be considered a period of “stagflation.” Now the world economy is growing especially slowly. At the same time, we find ourselves with “overhead” that continues to grow (for example, payments to retirees, and repayment of debt with interest). The pattern of past civilizations suggests that our civilization could also collapse.

Historically, economies have taken many years to collapse; I show a range of 20 to 50 years in Figure 1. We really don’t know if collapse would take that long now. Today, we are dependent on an international financial system, an international trade system, electricity, and the availability of oil to make our vehicles operate. It would seem as if this time collapse could come much more quickly.

With the world economy this close to collapse, some individual countries are even closer to collapse. This is why we can expect to see sharp downturns in the fortunes of some countries. If contagion is not too much of a problem, other countries may continue to do fairly well, even as individual small countries fail.

[2] Figures to be released in 2017 and future years are likely to show that the peak in world coal consumption occurred in 2014. This is important, because it means that countries that depend heavily on coal, such as China and India, can expect to see much slower economic growth, and more financial difficulties.

While reports of international coal production for 2016 are not yet available, news articles and individual country data strongly suggest that world coal production is past its peak. The IEA also reports a substantial drop in coal production for 2016.

Figure 2. World coal consumption. Information through 2015 based on BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy data. Estimates for China, US, and India are based on partial year data and news reports. 2016 amount for "other" estimated based on recent trends.

Figure 2. World coal consumption. Information through 2015 based on BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy data. Estimates for China, US, and India are based on partial year data and news reports. 2016 amount for “other” estimated based on recent trends.

The reason why coal production is dropping is because of low prices, low profitability for producers, and gluts indicating oversupply. Also, comparisons of coal prices with natural gas prices are inducing switching from coal to natural gas. The problem, as we will see later, is that natural gas prices are also artificially low, compared to the cost of production, So the switch is being made to a different type of fossil fuel, also with an unsustainably low price.

Prices for coal in China have recently risen again, thanks to the closing of a large number of unprofitable coal mines, and a mandatory reduction in hours for other coal mines. Even though prices have risen, production may not rise to match the new prices. One article reports:

. . . coal companies are reportedly reluctant to increase output as a majority of the country’s mines are still losing money and it will take time to recoup losses incurred in recent years.

Also, a person can imagine that it might be difficult to obtain financing, if coal prices have only “sort of” recovered.

I wrote last year about the possibility that coal production was peaking. This is one chart I showed, with data through 2015. Coal is the second most utilized fuel in the world. If its production begins declining, it will be difficult to offset the loss of its use with increased use of other types of fuels.

Figure 3. World per capita energy consumption by fuel, based on BP 2016 SRWE.

Figure 3. World per capita energy consumption by fuel, based on BP 2016 SRWE.

[3] If we assume that coal supplies will continue to shrink, and other production will grow moderately, we can expect total energy consumption to be approximately flat in 2017. 

Figure 5. World energy consumption forecast, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy data through 2015, and author's estimates for 2016 and 2017.

Figure 4. World energy consumption forecast, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy data through 2015, and author’s estimates for 2016 and 2017.

In a way, this is an optimistic assessment, because we know that efforts are underway to reduce oil production, in order to prop up prices. We are, in effect, assuming either that (a) oil prices won’t really rise, so that oil consumption will grow at a rate similar to that in the recent past or (b) while oil prices will rise significantly to help producers, consumers won’t cut back on their consumption in response to the higher prices.

[4] Because world population is rising, the forecast in Figure 4 suggests that per capita energy consumption is likely to shrink. Shrinking energy consumption per capita puts the world (or individual countries in the world) at the risk of recession.

Figure 5 shows indicated per capita energy consumption, based on Figure 4. It is clear that energy consumption per capita has already started shrinking, and is expected to shrink further. The last time that happened was in the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

Figure 5. World energy consumption per capita based on energy consumption estimates in Figure 4 and UN 2015 Medium Population Growth Forecast.

Figure 5. World energy consumption per capita based on energy consumption estimates in Figure 4 and UN 2015 Medium Population Growth Forecast.

There tends to be a strong correlation between world economic growth and world energy consumption, because energy is required to transform materials into new forms, and to transport goods from one place to another.

In the recent past, the growth in GDP has tended to be a little higher than the growth in the use of energy products. One reason why GDP growth has been a percentage point or two higher than energy consumption growth is because, as economies become richer, citizens can afford to add more services to the mix of goods and services that they purchase (fancier hair cuts and more piano lessons, for example). Production of services tends to use proportionately less energy than creating goods does; as a result, a shift toward a heavier mix of services tends to lead to GDP growth rates that are somewhat higher than the growth in energy consumption.

A second reason why GDP growth has tended to be a little higher than growth in energy consumption is because devices (such as cars, trucks, air conditioners, furnaces, factory machinery) are becoming more efficient. Growth in efficiency occurs if consumers replace old inefficient devices with new more efficient devices. If consumers become less wealthy, they are likely to replace devices less frequently, leading to slower growth in efficiency. Also, as we will discuss later in this  post, recently there has been a tendency for fossil fuel prices to remain artificially low. With low prices, there is little financial incentive to replace an old inefficient device with a new, more efficient device. As a result, new purchases may be bigger, offsetting the benefit of efficiency gains (purchasing an SUV to replace a car, for example).

Thus, we cannot expect that the past pattern of GDP growing a little faster than energy consumption will continue. In fact, it is even possible that the leveraging effect will start working the “wrong” way, as low fossil fuel prices induce more fuel use, not less. Perhaps the safest assumption we can make is that GDP growth and energy consumption growth will be equal. In other words, if world energy consumption growth is 0% (as in Figure 4), world GDP growth will also be 0%. This is not something that world leaders would like at all.

The situation we are encountering today seems to be very similar to the falling resources per capita problem that seemed to push early economies toward collapse in [1]. Figure 5 above suggests that, on average, the paychecks of workers in 2017 will tend to purchase fewer goods and services than they did in 2016 and 2015. If governments need higher taxes to fund rising retiree costs and rising subsidies for “renewables,” the loss in the after-tax purchasing power of workers will be even greater than Figure 5 suggests.

[5] Because many countries are in this precarious position of falling resources per capita, we should expect to see a rise in protectionism, and the addition of new tariffs.

Clearly, governments do not want the problem of falling wages (or rather, falling goods that wages can buy) impacting their countries. So the new game becomes, “Push the problem elsewhere.”

In economic language, the world economy is becoming a “Zero-sum” game. Any gain in the production of goods and services by one country is a loss to another country. Thus, it is in each country’s interest to look out for itself. This is a major change from the shift toward globalization we have experienced in recent years. China, as a major exporter of goods, can expect to be especially affected by this changing view.

[6] China can no longer be expected to pull the world economy forward.

China’s economic growth rate is likely to be lower, for many reasons. One reason is the financial problems of coal mines, and the tendency of coal production to continue to shrink, once it starts shrinking. This happens for many reasons, one of them being the difficulty in obtaining loans for expansion, when prices still seem to be somewhat low, and the outlook for the further increases does not appear to be very good.

Another reason why China’s economic growth rate can be expected to fall is the current overbuilt situation with respect to apartment buildings, shopping malls, factories, and coal mines. As a result, there seems to be little need for new buildings and operations of these types. Another reason for slower economic growth is the growing protectionist stance of trade partners. A fourth reason is the fact that many potential buyers of the goods that China is producing are not doing very well economically (with the US being a major exception). These buyers cannot afford to increase their purchases of imports from China.

With these growing headwinds, it is quite possible that China’s total energy consumption in 2017 will shrink. If this happens, there will be downward pressure on world fossil fuel prices. Oil prices may fall, despite production cuts by OPEC and other countries.

China’s slowing economic growth is likely to make its debt problem harder to solve. We should not be too surprised if debt defaults become a more significant problem, or if the yuan falls relative to other currencies.

India, with its recent recall of high denomination currency, as well as its problems with low coal demand, is not likely to be a great deal of help aiding the world economy to grow, either. India is also a much smaller economy than China.

[7] While Item [2] talked about peak coal, there is a very significant chance that we will be hitting peak oil and peak natural gas in 2017 or 2018, as well.  

If we look at historical prices, we see that the prices of oil, coal and natural gas tend to rise and fall together.

Figure 6. Prices of oil, call and natural gas tend to rise and fall together. Prices based on 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy data.

Figure 6. Prices of oil, coal and natural gas tend to rise and fall together. Prices based on 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy data.

The reason that fossil fuel prices tend to rise and fall together is because these prices are tied to “demand” for goods and services in general, such as for new homes, cars, and factories. If wages are rising rapidly, and debt is rising rapidly, it becomes easier for consumers to buy goods such as homes and cars. When this happens, there is more “demand” for the commodities used to make and operate homes and cars. Prices for commodities of many types, including fossil fuels, tend to rise, to enable more production of these items.

Of course, the reverse happens as well. If workers become poorer, or debt levels shrink, it becomes harder to buy homes and cars. In this case, commodity prices, including fossil fuel prices, tend to fall.  Thus, the problem we saw above in [2] for coal would be likely to happen for oil and natural gas, as well, because the prices of all of the fossil fuels tend to move together. In fact, we know that current oil prices are too low for oil producers. This is the reason why OPEC and other oil producers have cut back on production. Thus, the problem with overproduction for oil seems to be similar to the overproduction problem for coal, just a bit delayed in timing.

In fact, we also know that US natural gas prices have been very low for several years, suggesting another similar problem. The United States is the single largest producer of natural gas in the world. Its natural gas production hit a peak in mid 2015, and production has since begun to decline. The decline comes as a response to chronically low prices, which make it unprofitable to extract natural gas. This response sounds similar to China’s attempted solution to low coal prices.

Figure 7. US Natural Gas production based on EIA data.

Figure 7. US Natural Gas production based on EIA data.

The problem is fundamentally the fact that consumers cannot afford goods made using fossil fuels of any type, if prices actually rise to the level producers need, which tends to be at least five times the 1999 price level. (Note peak price levels compared to 1999 level on Figure 6.) Wages have not risen by a factor of five since 1999, so paying the prices that fossil fuel producers need for profitability and growing production is out of the question. No amount of added debt can hide this problem. (While this reference is to 1999 prices, the issue really goes back much farther, to prices before the price spikes of the 1970s.)

US natural gas producers also have plans to export natural gas to Europe and elsewhere, as liquefied natural gas (LNG). The hope, of course, is that a large amount of exports will raise US natural gas prices. Also, the hope is that Europeans will be able to afford the high-priced natural gas shipped to them. Unless someone can raise the wages of both Europeans and Americans, I would not count on LNG prices actually rising to the level needed for profitability, and staying at such a high level. Instead, they are likely to bounce up, and quickly drop back again.

[8] Unless oil prices rise very substantially, oil exporters will find themselves exhausting their financial reserves in a very short time (perhaps a year or two). Unfortunately, oil importers cannot withstand higher prices, without going into recession. 

We have a no win situation, no matter what happens. This is true with all fossil fuels, but especially with oil, because of its high cost and thus necessarily high price. If oil prices stay at the same level or go down, oil exporters cannot get enough tax revenue, and oil companies in general cannot obtain enough funds to finance the development of new wells and payment of dividends to shareholders. If oil prices do rise by a very large amount for very long, we are likely headed into another major recession, with many debt defaults.

[9] US interest rates are likely to rise in the next year or two, whether or not this result is intended by the Federal reserve.

This issue here is somewhat obscure. The issue has to do with whether the United States can find foreign buyers for its debt, often called US Treasuries, and the interest rates that the US needs to pay on this debt. If buyers are very plentiful, the interest rates paid by he US government can be quite low; if few buyers are available, interest rates must be higher.

Back when Saudi Arabia and other oil exporters were doing well financially, they often bought US Treasuries, as a way to retain the benefit of their new-found wealth, which they did not want to spend immediately. Similarly, when China was doing well as an exporter, it often bought US Treasuries, as a way retaining the wealth it gained from exports, but didn’t yet need for purchases.

When these countries bought US Treasuries, there were several beneficial results:

  • Interest rates on US Treasuries tended to stay artificially low, because there was a ready market for its debt.
  • The US could afford to import high-priced oil, because the additional debt needed to buy the oil could easily be sold (to Saudi Arabia and other oil producing nations, no less).
  • The US dollar tended to stay lower relative to other currencies, making oil more affordable to other countries than it otherwise might be.
  • Investment in countries outside the US was encouraged, because debt issued by these other countries tended to bear higher interest rates than US debt. Also, relatively low oil prices in these countries (because of the low level of the dollar) tended to make investment profitable in these countries.

The effect of these changes was somewhat similar to the US having its own special Quantitative Easing (QE) program, paid for by some of the counties with trade surpluses, instead of by its central bank. This QE substitute tended to encourage world economic growth, for the reasons mentioned above.

Once the fortunes of the countries that used to buy US Treasuries changes, the pattern of buying of US Treasuries tends to change to selling of US Treasuries. Even not purchasing the same quantity of US Treasuries as in the past becomes an adverse change, if the US has a need to keep issuing US Treasuries as in the past, or if it wants to keep rates low.

Unfortunately, losing this QE substitute tends to reverse the favorable effects noted above. One effect is that the dollar tends to ride higher relative to other currencies, making the US look richer, and other countries poorer. The “catch” is that as the other countries become poorer, it becomes harder for them to repay the debt that they took out earlier, which was denominated in US dollars.

Another problem, as this strange type of QE disappears, is that the interest rates that the US government needs to pay in order to issue new debt start rising. These higher rates tend to affect other rates as well, such as mortgage rates. These higher interest rates act as a drag on the economy, tending to push it toward recession.

Higher interest rates also tend to decrease the value of assets, such as homes, farms, outstanding bonds, and shares of stock. This occurs because fewer buyers can afford to buy these goods, with the new higher interest rates. As a result, stock prices can be expected to fall. Prices of homes and of commercial buildings can also be expected to fall. The value of bonds held by insurance companies and banks becomes lower, if they choose to sell these securities before maturity.

Of course, as interest rates fell after 1981, we received the benefit of falling interest rates, in the form of rising asset prices. No one ever stopped to think about how much of the gains in share prices and property values came from falling interest rates.

Figure 8. Ten year treasury interest rates, based on St. Louis Fed data.

Figure 8. Ten year treasury interest rates, based on St. Louis Fed data.

Now, as interest rates rise, we can expect asset prices of many types to start falling, because of lower affordability when monthly payments are based on higher interest rates. This situation presents another “drag” on the economy.

In Conclusion

The situation is indeed very concerning. Many things could set off a crisis:

  • Rising energy prices of any kind (hurting energy importers), or energy prices that don’t rise (leading to financial problems or collapse of exporters)
  • Rising interest rates.
  • Defaulting debt, indirectly the result of slow/negative economic growth and rising interest rates.
  • International organizations with less and less influence, or that fall apart completely.
  • Fast changes in relativities of currencies, leading to defaults on derivatives.
  • Collapsing banks, as debt defaults rise.
  • Falling asset prices (homes, farms, commercial buildings, stocks and bonds) as interest rates rise, leading to many debt defaults.

Things don’t look too bad right now, but the underlying problems are sufficiently severe that we seem to be headed for a crisis far worse than 2008. The timing is not clear. Things could start falling apart badly in 2017, or alternatively, major problems may be delayed until 2018 or 2019. I hope political leaders can find ways to keep problems away as long as possible, perhaps with more rounds of QE. Our fundamental problem is the fact that neither high nor low energy prices are now able to keep the world economy operating as we would like it to operate. Increased debt can’t seem to fix the problem either.

The laws of physics seem to be behind economic growth. From a physics point of view, our economy is a dissipative structure. Such structures form in “open systems.” In such systems, flows of energy allow structures to temporarily self-organize and grow. Other examples of dissipative structures include ecosystems, all plants and animals, stars, and hurricanes. All of these structures constantly “dissipate” energy. They have finite life spans, before they eventually collapse. Often, new dissipative systems form, to replace previous ones that have collapsed.

The one thing that gives me hope is the fact that there seems to be some type of a guiding supernatural force behind the whole system that allows so much growth. Some would say that this supernatural force is “only” the laws of physics (and biology and chemistry). To me, the fact that so many structures can self-organize and grow is miraculous, and perhaps evidence of a guiding force behind the whole universe.

I don’t know precisely what is next, but it seems quite possible that there is a longer-term plan for humans that we are not aware of. Some of the religions of the world may have insights on what this plan might be. It is even possible that there may be divine intervention of some type that allows a change in the path that we seem to be on today.

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 inadequate supply.
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1,607 Responses to 2017: The Year When the World Economy Starts Coming Apart

  1. JT Roberts says:

    I think anyone who posts on this site should have a mandatory reading of Limits to Growth. What seems to be missing is that some feel the issue is financial rather than a resource-based crisis. So far the world has racked up an incredible amount of debt in an effort to reverse declining rates of growth but not contraction yet. The value of currency is linked to previous purchase power. Much of it is tightly correlated to energy cost. Some here on this site are suggesting that energy cost can be infinite. This is not true. Energy eventually costs more in energy terms then its value to any economy and for that matter to itself. The contraction will begin when the net energy system reaches zero. That has not yet happened but is very close. The reality is that we have already lived through the long emergency. This has been accomplished by buying the future through debt since 1980. The current exponential growth in debt is an expression of the net value of the currency in energy terms declining. This is not easily understood even by the creators of Limits to Growth because no one ever has lived through a declining rate of growth or contraction. At least not to tell his or her story. It’s basically like driving your car on the highway by looking in the rearview mirror. When the highway is straight you can do it but when the system takes an unexpected turn you’re going to overshoot. That happened in the 70s. Once the contraction truly begins there is no floor there is no bottom. The effects will be self reinforcing and quick. Already Exxon Mobil Chevron and others are in liquidation. They are living off legacy energy inputs from the past in there infrastructures which is true of the entire planet. This has been the trade off in the global energy system. Some view it as progress ironically when a city like Detroit decays and a city like Phoenix grows. What they’re not seeing is the legacy energy of Detroit sustaining it’s self because of prior inputs but Phoenix is no Detroit and never will be. The net energy now is so low that any attempt to reverse the decay of infrastructure will wipe out any kind of growth in the system. So we will simply trade one city for another one value for another. Once this happens in earnest the prior purchase power will cease functioning and with it money itself will disappear.

    • Artleads says:

      I’ve heard about arrested decay, stopping it where it is. That allows some degree of continues usefulness. What does reversing decay mean?

      • JT Roberts says:


        • From indirect view on that question, we can witness Chinese already freaking out, not only for the obvious reasons – prospects like threats to balance of trade, currencies value etc, but most importantly they certainly counted for some extra time on other ongoing strategic catch up projects, and that counted upon time window seems now slam shut out of nowhere Jan 2017, hah.

          In essence this development smells like something got poured on the bonfire.. as we know psychos and psychotic cultures tend to thrive from d/d chaos, that can not be said about measured technocratic politburo of China, so they are left puzzled on receiving end for the moment.

      • ARBP says:

        The concept of “Reversing decay” , I’m sure, is an attempt by individuals “to go back to the good old days.” It is an attempt to fight entropy by trying to re-create better social and economic conditions that existed in the past ,in past in present.
        It is nostalgia.
        In America, it means “Happy Motoring” , reversing declines in energy production, manufacturing employment.

        It also means lower regulation, I’m sure that the thinking behind lower regulation goes along the lines of, ‘if complexity that gives rise to more and more regulation is ignored, it doesn’t exist.’ Resources can be devoted to something that is deemed to exist.)

        In summary, “reversing decay” a great example of that wonderful abstract thinking that got us into the predicament we’re in right now.

    • dolph says:

      This is right, the money system itself will collapse.
      All money today is a claim on purchasing power. It works because it works, it is self reinforcing in this way.
      But the problem is that the debts are so high that the money itself needs to be created in order to liquidate the debts. This reduces purchasing power for most of the populace, whose wages don’t increase, but face higher costs.
      People will talk about everything under the sun, but won’t talk about money. But there is a reason for this: if you talk about money, the implication is that you don’t have any, and are poor. So nobody wants to talk about it.

    • Yoshua says:

      When it takes one BTU to produce one BTU we are dead. We are not there yet, but we are getting closer by the day.

      I have reached the dead state.

      • Volvo740 says:

        Problems come earlier. Because when it take 1 BTU to produce 2, the one that can be used won’t go to the public.

    • Hi JT

      That’s good observations however your introductory premise is a little imprecise and we could tease it out to expand your argument for the common good.

      I believe you are misrepresenting the breadth of divide between financial `limits` and resource limits. What is being discussed about financial implosion is how our monetary tools for handling resource limits will impact our economies before the resource limits become acute enough to cripple economies. This is why Gail has taken pains to use words like affordability and diminishing returns so as to highlight our economic predicament. The message is what will happen as we approach resource limits not what will happen purely as a result of hitting a resource wall. I believe even the author’s of limits to growth had this in mind when the graphs they present often imply that crisis happens before resource limits.

      • Well, sorry but the above type of thinking is double aged sword..

        Because as we have empirically witnessed they digit papered over that most likely ~2005 edge of conventional peak oil, and still the factories, service economy and all the rest of the global economy is humming (or pretends to) along quite fine (apart from early examples of jettisoned periphery countries). We are not growing dramatically anymore, that’s correct, but this change of pattern is also subject to various “new and clever” can kicking schemes not to derail the system prematurely..

        In that light we can say the authors of Limits to Growth predicted profound changes to our societies taking place well before reaching hard resource limits. That’s true on the organizational/admin level. And hopefully you will be enough game to admit that’s completely different statement from claiming financials must be blowing up first, then with delay resource crisis second.

        Sorry, that’s precisely the bit, where the “philosophy/history/human nature ideologues” folks have it right, because it’s mostly based – observed lessons of the past human action, namely and simply the pain of looming crash will be postponed beyond any imaginable practical limits.

      • JT Roberts says:

        I think we only diverge on our definition of resource limits. The US hit them in the 70s. The world seems to have hit them in 2001. Affordability is absolutely the issue. The accumulation of debt has kept the boat afloat till now. So looking back we see the crises of ever harder to get more costly resources is actually behind us. Much of what we presently are living on is legacy infrastructure built during an age of low cost resources. These things represent energy that’s imbedded in them. Do to entropy every hour of every day that energy is being depleted. The system has simply outgrown its sustainable levels even without resource depletion. So if financial manipulation has got us to this point, in essence masking the collapse, there is only a resource wall in our future.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          Excellent summary!

        • Resources are limited by affordability–basically the “return on human labor” has to be high enough. This is the EROI we should be considering. It really is wages of non-elite workers. With our networked world economy, it is really total resources, and our ability extract them cheaply, that counts. The addition of coal from China, as well as oil bypassed as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 have saved us so far. But we are now not far from hitting the wall. The wall will look like a financial wall, in my opinion.

          I agree with you pretty much on what you are saying, however.

        • Van Kent says:

          Resource walls..

          There should be several resource walls coming at 200 mph just about… now..

          The Ghawar oil field is in decline just about… now..

          The global fish stocks are in decline just about… now..

          Global grain production is in decline just about… now..

          Sure there are fluctuations from one month to the next. And in some years some grains succeed, and in some years some grains decline. But it seems we are at peak everything just about now. At the same time as there is less and less of just about everything, we know that:
          Global population 2017 = 7.515
          Global population 2018 = 7.595
          Global population 2019 = 7.671
          Global population 2020 = 7.740

          FE couldn’t believe he’d see 2017. Gail expects 2017 to be ‘problematic’. Norman expects serious trouble between 2025 and 2030, if I remember correctly. But to me the dynamic I see, is the same as ever. Sheer blind luck and financial wizardry will get us through 2017 and 2018, but the equation simply becomes impossible in 2019 and 2020. Therefore no more grid in 2020.

          Global population 2021 = 0.774
          Global population 2022 = 0.077

          Resource walls.. yup

    • Samy says:

      “It’s basically like driving your car on the highway by looking in the rearview mirror.” great analogy, i would just add that we are sitting in the backseat and trump is driving the car.

    • Dear JT,

      I probably missed this comment, “Some here on this site are suggesting that energy cost can be infinite.” I clearly am not saying this.

      Reading “Limits to Growth” is good, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It is sort of told from an engineering point of view. My Overly Simple Model post, was somewhat directed at even the Limits to Growth story. It really doesn’t consider the financial connection.

      I don’t agree with the belief, “The contraction will begin when the net energy system reaches zero.” Even if it were true, I think that our ability measure net energy is terribly poor. It is really “Point of Service” net energy that a person wants. This has not been calculated at all for intermittent electricity, for example, and our knowledge of it is poor elsewhere.

      I think that return on human labor is much more of the issue. Charlie Hall’s background is as an ecologist. He studied the return on the labor of fish. This type of analysis of return of labor of animals is common. The corresponding return for humans is wages (or really, the collection of goods and services that those wages buy). When this return starts falling for non-elite workers, we have a big problem. This calculation depends on the number of workers, as well as energy supplies available. When the return on wages falls too low, prices for commodities tends to fall below the cost of extraction. The whole economy tends to collapse, in a very different manner than the naive Limits to Growth model proposed.

      Charlie Hall thought that he could adapt the EROEI idea to fuels, but it is very hard to set proper “boundaries” when EROEI is calculated in this way. Too narrow boundaries is a huge problem in EROEI analyses. The analyses tend to suggest that net energy is decades away. (Of course, they are not properly calculated Point of Service EROEI.) Also, there are huge quality differences. The electricity from a solar panel is far different from electricity delivered to the point of use from the electric grid, for example, and coal is different from oil, which is different from natural gas. Trying to make sense out of all of this becomes incredibly complex, and often misleading, IMO.

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        It’s messy in a open system, but in the end, you can’t win against the Second Law.
        Life is somewhat counter en tropic, but we know a positive energy flow is needed.

      • Agree, thanks for the clarification in detail.

        But the “Point of Service EROEI of net energy” is pretty stretchy concept as well, at least from the “slow time flow” of single human life experience perspective. Since we can be pretty sure dozens of million western style consumers are changing their habits as we speak, i.e. less ponny carz vs. more couch potato console gaming and other virtualities, which consume much less on the end user point.

        Now consider another factors like falling availability & quality of health care, the inroads of cheap junk food through the distribution channels, underfunded infrastructure of secondary/tertiary importance all over etc. All these and similar effects tend to stretch the Point of Service EROEI into the future.

        Also, we have to add effects or contributing factors from other rank, like triage on consumers from the global periphery (e.g. Venezuela, Greece, India, ..). And obviously all these arch fraudulent debt-credit schemes propping up the system likely possibly negative energy schemes like Arctic oil, etc.

        Again, in summary, adding it all up, it’s about continuous stretching effort 24/365, can kicking some more, human nature..

        ps JT made great point we can’t be sure about our exact point on this trajectory, as the events since 1970s should/could be interpreted as stretching period as well, or as the Hill people predict hitting the net energy wall before ~2022-30 even inside the affluent world.

    • Thomas Malthus says:

      Agree — but they also should have to pass an IQ test before they are allowed to post…

      • Thomas Malthus,

        Are you still in New Zealand? We noticed you were a little worried about pools of spent nuclear fuel…that fear caught our eye. See beforethecollapse.com/about

        Some of your output is quite funny. BTW, Gail your output is amazing. I wrote you a personal letter. Excellent analysis.

        Cathal Haughian

        • Thanks! Sorry I have not been responding too much right now. I am trying to finish up another post, and that takes time.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          I remain in New Zealand — mostly spending my time reading poetry and working on my origami skills at my west coast hideaway.

          Sometimes I fire my high-powered rifle at the waves as they crash into the rocks and scream ‘you think you so bad’

      • Greg Machala says:

        It there such a thing as a critical thinking quotient test? It just boggles my mind how people cannot see that the technological “fixes” only exacerbate the predicament we are in. To have BAU-lite is akin to having your cake and eating it too. To have BAU-lite you have to have economies of scale (to provide all the inputs into the system). But BAU-lite means you can’t have economies of scale anymore. It is an oxymoron.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Gail might consider a simple ten question test — anyone who gets even one question wrong gets booted off FW.

          Question 1: Do you believe BAU LIte is possible? Yes No

          Question 2: Do you believe that space solar is feasible? Yes No

          And so on…..

    • ARBP says:

      I think the Fall of Complex Societies is closer to what Gail considers is the real problem.
      BUT…the engineering/technocrat perspective that exists in Limits to Growth is not too off the mark and the authors admit that they arrived at their conclusions with limited information. Interruptions in the growth cycle can throw collapse further off but the dates they presented where we will encounter difficulty are close to Gail’s–between now and 2050. We don’t have a lot of time. And black swans, which I think, unlike Gail, may be political or social (social and political polarization is an under-discussed issue here. ) may hasten the whole thing way before we “run out” of anything.

      • Artleads says:

        “And black swans, which I think, unlike Gail, may be political or social (social and political polarization is an under-discussed issue here. ) may hasten the whole thing way before we “run out” of anything.”

        What’s the opposite of a black swan; a white swan? A colored swan?

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “And black swans”

        I happen to think that in a time frame out to 2050 technical innovation such as AI and nanotechnology may be more significant than social or political.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          • ARBP says:

            I’m not sure if having an unusual belief system makes one any more crazy than someone who doesn’t. Keith is performing a bit more more technology worship and technology idolatry than the average person…

        • ARBP says:

          ” AI and nanotechnology ”
          I’m going to avoid pointing out that neither of those technologies are useless being they aren’t being developed to solve any human problem…including “making more money”.
          There won’t be enough available energy to power AI or nanotechnology.
          Nanotechnology is passe. Not even the techno-utopians are talking about it anymore because it’s obvious that humans are already having a very hard time controlling the behavior of the few nano-products that are being used currently.

          “may be more significant than social or political.”
          I doubt it since many decisions will still be made by humans even if those technologies become perfected.
          Humans may not be smarter than yeast but they aren’t foolish enough
          to relinquish all control to super-intelligent machines. It just doesn’t make any damn sense. It’s horrible sci-fi.

    • Ed says:

      Cheaper to abandon used up cities and build new ones.

  2. adonis says:

    jt roberts once the easy oil is all gone the party is over how long have we got within one year within two years it doesn’t matter how much money someone has it will be worth nothing the only things of value will be tools , seeds , bottles of booze,hunting gear, cans of food or anything that has long shelf life and knowledge of skills to assist you in surviving, the clock is ticking two and a half minutes to Doomsday..

  3. jeremy890 says:

    Monsanto and Roundup….
    Monsanto, EPA Seek to Keep Talks Secret on Glyphosate Cancer Review


    EPA has spent the last few years assessing the health and environmental safety aspects of glyphosate as global controversy over the chemical has mounted. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared in March 2015 that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, with a positive association found between glyphosate and NHL. Monsanto has been fighting to refute that classification.

    Rowland has been key in Monsanto’s efforts to rebut the IARC finding because until last year he was a deputy division director within the health effects division of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, managing the work of scientists who assessed human health effects of exposures to pesticides like glyphosate. And, importantly, he chaired the EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC) that issued an internal report in October 2015 contracting IARC’s findings. That 87-page report, signed by Rowland, determined that glyphosate was “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

    The EPA finding has been highly valued by Monsanto, helping bolster the company’s defense against the Roundup liability lawsuits, and helping shore up market support for a product that brings in billions of dollars in revenues to the company annually. The EPA’s stamp of approval for the safety of glyphosate over the last few decades has also been key to the success of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, glyphosate-tolerant crops, which have been popular with farmers.

    Considering 1% of mainstream grocery foods are grown organically… (a fraction of that with Permaculture methods), what does that reflect of the health of your way of life?
    With or without fossil fuels…

    • “New study reveals holier-than-thou attitudes raise blood pressure to dangerous levels”

    • richardA says:

      The UK’s government faces challenges arising from Monsanto’s use of glyphosate and other chemicals in Wales:
      “Dr Mason adds that Swansea has over the years been a testing ground for glyphosate with the outcome being a huge spike in illness and disease among the local population as well as ongoing environmental devastation. There has been a long-term reckless use of a glyphosate-based weedkiller in Swansea, regardless of EU recommendations.”

      • jeremy890 says:

        | The world is awash in glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, produced by Monsanto. It has now become the most heavily-used agricultural chemical in the history of the world, and many argue that’s a problem, since the substance comes with concerning albeit incompletely-determined health effects.

        A study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe reveals that Americans have applied 1.8 million tons of glyphosate since its introduction in 1974. Worldwide, 9.4 million tons of the chemical have been sprayed onto fields. For comparison, that’s equivalent to the weight of water in more than 2,300 Olympic-size swimming pools. It’s also enough to spray nearly half a pound of Roundup on every cultivated acre of land in the world

        The first resistant species to pose a serious threat to agriculture was spotted in a Delaware soybean field in 2000. Since then, the problem has spread, with 10 resistant species in at least 22 states infesting millions of acres, predominantly soybeans, cotton and corn.

        The superweeds could temper American agriculture’s enthusiasm for some genetically modified crops. Soybeans, corn and cotton that are engineered to survive spraying with Roundup have become standard in American fields. However, if Roundup doesn’t kill the weeds, farmers have little incentive to spend the extra money for the special seeds.

        Roundup — originally made by Monsanto but now also sold by others under the generic name glyphosate — has been little short of a miracle chemical for farmers. It kills a broad spectrum of weeds, is easy and safe to work with, and breaks down quickly, reducing its environmental impact.

        Sales took off in the late 1990s, after Monsanto created its brand of Roundup Ready crops that were genetically modified to tolerate the chemical, allowing farmers to spray their fields to kill the weeds while leaving the crop unharmed. Today, Roundup Ready crops account for about 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States.

        But farmers sprayed so much Roundup that weeds quickly evolved to survive it. “What we’re talking about here is Darwinian evolution in fast-forward,” Mike Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University, said.

        Now, Roundup-resistant weeds like horseweed and giant ragweed are forcing farmers to go back to more expensive techniques that they had long ago abandoned.

        Mr. Anderson, the farmer, is wrestling with a particularly tenacious species of glyphosate-resistant pest called Palmer amaranth, or pigweed, whose resistant form began seriously infesting farms in western Tennessee only last year.

        There is no free lunch!

  4. MG says:

    The two concepts of the hell:

    – the eternal flames consuming the man
    – the total isolation from the God

    These two concepts reflect the two energy situations:

    – too much accumulated external energy for the mand
    – too little energy acumulated external energy for the man

    The optimum for the life of the man is the Earth, as it is not too close to and at the same time not too far rom the Sun.

    The ability to regulate the temperature of its living environment using accumulated external energy is the basic characteristics of the human species.

    When there is no God (i.e. the accumulated external energy), the man dies.

    The cooling down of the Sun and the cooling down of the Earth constitute the threat that governs the behaviour of the human species towards finding the eternal energy source, i.e. the God.

    “Love thy neighbor” represents the equilibrium that prevents consuming energy on chasing other individuals and other individuals consuming energy on escaping. The so called egoism is simply the growing lack and the decline of the accumulated external energy.

    • Interesting ideas! I hadn’t thought of them.

      • MG says:

        Well, the human body is also the heat generator. Not only the engine providing mechanical energy.

        To love somebody means that one human body invests energy into another human body.

        The reality is that you can not love a too “bad” or an “egoistic” person, as its energy intake is like the intake of a black hole. The rise of egoism is connected with the decline of an energy intensive system: its human elements need too much energy for their survival.

  5. adonis says:

    there is a secret to eating and health which renders al mainstream groceryl food no matter how its grown completely safe it involves heavily reducing food and water intake exercise and most important of all staying stress free and continuously happy you’ll live to 100 guaranteed l’m already halfway there/

    • Interguru says:


      there is a secret to eating and health which renders all mainstream grocery food no matter how its grown completely safe it involves heavily reducing food and water intake exercise and most important of all staying stress free and continuously happy you’ll live to 100 guaranteed l’m already halfway there/blockquote>

      Life is a crapshoot. Healthy (or unhealthy) living can load the dice, but it is still a crapshoot. The first fifty years is the easy part,

  6. Artleads says:

    No opinion about this. It’s not a direction I’d look to in any way.

  7. davidbeach2014David Beach says:

    Gail, it seems from your last paragraph that you see the need for a Messiah, complete with miracles. As the root cause of mankind’s troubles is overpopulation, perhaps the epidemiologists have the answer – a virus with no cure – that they have been predicting for years. Only the naturally immune will survive.
    In my youth the world population was 2.5 billion. It is now triple that figure. The only reasonable solution is get back to a viable population. Perhaps 2 billion?

    • Ed says:

      Yes, a vastly reduced population is required. It will one one way or the other. I feel 0.07 billion is a better number.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “0.07 billion is a better number.”

        You are thinking inside the box. I think around 10 trillion is a good number, with perhaps a billion or less living on Earth and the rest mostly in habitats out in the asteroids.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          The biophysical world will ultimately decide.
          And, as far a humans colonizing anything other than Earth Orbit Stations with huge supply issues, I would not old your breath.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            The human supply issues go away if you are hauling up 1000 tons a day (eventually 30,000 tons per day). It’s not going to be easy, sometimes I despair at the complications. If it were not for all the work done back in the mid to late 70s it would be too difficult to even outline what’s needed enough to get a rough cost.

            BTW, power satellites are not the only solution. There is a lot to be said for StratoSolar and gravity storage though it doesn’t get us off the planet. There are also partly biological solutions. Nuclear might be more acceptable if people were just immune to radiation. Lithium fission is another and who knows what other projects people are working on.

            I may fail, the entire human race may fail. We may not have enough time. But if we flicker out, it may be a universe wide tragedy, we just don’t know. Have to do the best we can.

            • doomphd says:

              Keith, I help with fusion energy projects, but I think I understand the can kicking aspects of it, if successful. There is a lot of energy needed to keep what we humans have constructed going, including proper care of the planet’s ecosystem.

              BTW, you must have listened to Prof. Al Barlett’s lectures on human population and the exponential function. If so, what parts of it are you rejecting and why?

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “including proper care of the planet’s ecosystem.”

              Indeed. Of course that’s subject to some modification. There are people who are looking into graphene or graphene oxide paint that will keep Cl and CO2 out of concrete. That would massively extend the life of concrete structures. But you are certainly right. We need, for example, to refill the aquifers.

              “Barlett’s lectures”

              No, I have not. On the other hand, I read the system dynamics works of Jay Forrester on which LTG was based and, of course, LTG. Was there backing up Dr. Peter Vajk who talked at the LTG conference in Houston in 1975. Report here: http://www.nss.org/settlement/L5news/L5news/L5news7511.pdf Fundamentally the math is sound. The assumptions, that we are limited to the surface of the Earth is not. Of course the same math applies to the whole solar system, indeed to the whole universe. But if we can get off the Earth, those limits are a long way out. There is also the effect that if everyone was as rich as the upper 10% are now, the population would quit growing. Why this happens is a mystery, but as Edward O. Wilson says we are very lucky it does.

            • DJ says:

              “There is also the effect that if everyone was as rich as the upper 10% are now, the population would quit growing. Why this happens is a mystery, ”

              People for some reason decide they can’t afford more than 0-2 kids. Strangely this does not apply to the rich or the poor who does not support the children themselves.

              Both parents working full time, welfare systems and unwillingness to give up living standard from before the children. We are even moving towards not wanting to give up living standard as a single.

            • Thanks! I think wages are too low, relative to living costs, for most city couples to afford a second child.

            • YOU despair if the complication????

              wat about the rest of us?

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “what about the rest of us?”

              If you want to help, you can sign up on the power satellite economics list. Take charge of a part of the problem. Ghod knows there is plenty to do.

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              How can I join the team?

              I would like to volunteer for the job of pulling the lever that releases hopium into the garage whenever the “highly qualified” researchers start to come to their senses and realizes the utter futility of what they are doing….

            • wouldnt it save a lot of trouble if you started the car engine and sealed the doors and windows?

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              OD on hopium….

            • if its expertise in procrastination you’re looking for—I’m your man

              International expert. I’m so good at it, I even thought there should be an olympic event in it, I was on the point of submitting the basic details to the olympic committee, then decided to put it off till next time.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Whoops! Looks like those campers added a bit to much industrial strength Kumbaya to the fire.

    • Duncan Idaho says:


      • doomphd says:

        Prof. Al BARTLETT, late professor of Physics at Univ. Colorado, Boulder. Recorded lectures available on YouTube.

        • everybody should watch bartletts lectures

          the problem with them is, that there’s no room for argument in them—he presents stuff as it is, pure truth. you cant argue with the laws of mathematics

          it makes a lot of people uncomfortable so they reject it, giving all sorts of nonsense reasons

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “laws of mathematics”

            None of the people I know argue with the math. It’s done right. The problem is the assumption that we are confined to the Earth.

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              Some people should be confined… no doubt about that

            • well Keith—like i said a while ago

              if you’re working on some new form of propulsion—plus a few other useful extras like suspended animation and radiation shielding

              will you please get a move on–there’s a queue forming here to make their getaway and they’re all relying on you…the new POTUS is making folks uneasy

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “new form of propulsion”

              I work around the edges of the Skylon project. Caused this to happen.


              From LEO up, arcjets using beamed power look like the right way to go (at least for now).


              “suspended animation”

              Do you count cryonics?

              “radiation shielding”

              The last seems to take 6 meters of polyethylene to get the radiation down to earth surface levels. The cost isn’t so bad, but the time to add in 4000 extra Skylon flights to get the shielding up is a problem.

            • I’m OK with polythene sheeting—is it the bubble wrap version—I will need something to do while en route to Sirius or wherever—plastic bubble popping would be ideal

              Cant be doing with cryogenics—my other half is always complaining about me having cold hands and feet as it is—so that’s a no no.—If I was chilled all over she would sue you

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              Perhaps Keith might use his mathematical skills to work out how much bubble wrap will be required to keep Norm busy on his journey into outer space.

              Let’s make some assumptions:

              Norm usually spends 6 hours per day popping bubbles

              He can pop 10sm of bubbles per day

              It will take ___ days to get to the destination

              How much bubble wrap does Norm need to purchase https://www.aliexpress.com/w/wholesale-bubble-wrap.html

            • zakly

              now we’re gettin somewhere with these space travel problems

              i just called my fried Elon, and he is prepared to invest some big money in bubble wrap

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              If it means you retain your sanity on the long Save the World Flight — I think that the FW community would be more than happy to pass the hat around to purchase a big roll or two

              Keith – when you are designing the space ship please make sure to leave enough space….

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              Keith – you should contact the producer of the Star Trek movies…. I am sure there is a place for you on the writing team…

              Alternatively have you considered reviving The Jetsons cartoon series?

              When you check out of the facility you really should consider channeling your passion in this direction.

            • doomphd says:

              if you understand the math of an exponential function, its doubling time, etc., then you will realize that even having extra Earth-like planets to occupy and exploit (which we do not) will not help a growing human population for very long. even only 1% growth will double the population in 70 years. the math is clear, it is immutable. you cannot change it or wish it away.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “1% growth will double the population in 70 years.”

              For reasons I have talked about before, I don’t think we can profitable speculate about what will be going on out that far. Population is not the only thing on an exponential path. *IF* technology continues to advance . . . .

              From “The Clinic Seed”

              Then they discovered that sex in the spirit world was more fun, especially after they talked Suskulan into locally reducing the gravity in the physics models. (Sex in the simulation had no biological consequences. Producing food _out_ of the simulation or producing babies _in_ the simulated world were two built in limits Suskulan had no desire to break.)


              Zaba often talked to Suskulan. She eventually acquired a top-level understanding of all of human knowledge and had access to the details through simulated memory. Suskulan warned her that she might have a difficult time in the physical world if she got out of communication because her mind had expanded well beyond what could be supported in a brain.


              . . . but even without the net, Zaba’s mind was impressive. She remembered what Suskulan had said about staying awake and learning while being healed and how it would change her and the people of the tata.

              It certainly had!

              For better or for worse?

              For better in that nobody died of fevers, nasty parasites, or malnutrition since Suskulan had come into their lives. People didn’t even die of old age with a clinic to regress age for them and they aged in the spirit world only to the extent they wanted.

              For worse in that she could not have children unless she left the clinic for their gestation. Zaba had read the design notes that led up to the creation of the clinics and their spirits and had long understood the mathematics behind Suskulan’s limits. In the long run, births and deaths had to match. If you wanted no deaths, then there could be no births.

              (end quote)

              Slower economic growth than population growth lies behind wars. It’s shaped human psychology in the stone age. We could deal with some population growth as long as it is less than economic growth. To maintain any growth at all, heck, just to keep from starving, will take replacing fossil fuels.

              A population of trillions would be interesting, but it’s a really unlikely that could happen unless the vast majority of them were not on Earth. Even at that, growth has to come to a halt eventually.

              On the other hand, who knows? If technological life is common, then something causes the lot of them to vanish.

  8. richardA says:

    Enerdata : “27 January 2017 – New delays in Fukushima fuel removal plans (Japan)

    Plans to remove spent fuel from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been postponed again, due to delays in the preparation works (building decontamination and debris clean-up).

    Japanese power utility TEPCO initially expected to start removing fuel in the third reactor house, where 566 of the 1,500 rods of spent and unspent fuel are stored, in the first half of fiscal year 2015 (starting in April 2015). However, the installation of removal equipment was postponed to January 2017 and removal operations were expected in fiscal 2017 (starting in April 2017). Delays in the preparation works will now postpone them to fiscal 2018 at the earliest. Fuel removal from the reactors 1 and 2 is expected to start in fiscal 2020, though it might be delayed as well.”

    • Thomas Malthus says:

      It would be most unfortunate if when removing these rods….two of them were to bump into one another…

      Forget about end of oil — forget about financial collapse…. forget about global warming…

      This would trigger then end of BAU.

      Containing radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima 68 years ago, more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies packed tightly together need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse, should another large earthquake hit the area. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/14/us-japan-fukushima-insight-idUSBRE97D00M20130814

      The problem is if the spent fuel gets too close, they will produce a fission reaction and explode with a force much larger than any fission bomb given the total amount of fuel on the site. All the fuel in all the reactors and all the storage pools at this site (1760 tons of Uranium per slide #4) would be consumed in such a mega-explosion. In comparison, Fat Man and Little Boy weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki contained less than a hundred pounds each of fissile material – See more at: http://www.dcbureau.org/20110314781/natural-resources-news-service/fission-criticality-in-cooling-ponds-threaten-explosion-at-fukushima.html

      • Ed says:

        so there is a total of about 4.5 billion tons of uranium in seawater

        • Yorchichan says:

          It’s the Ceasium 137 and Strontium 90 in the seawater you need to worry about. These are stored in the body once ingested and concentrate up the food chain.

        • Pintada says:

          Wait until the oceans blow up! Imagine 4 billion tons of U in a massive super-mega explosion!

      • richardA says:

        “The problem is if the spent fuel gets too close, they will produce a fission reaction and explode with a force much larger than any fission bomb given the total amount of fuel on the site.”
        I’m guessing you were off sick at the time your schoolfriends were taught how to make nuclear bombs. On second thoughts, it was probably all for the best in the end.
        Just by way of explanation, the cores of one or more reactors at Fukushima ran out of water, melted together, and are now somewhere deep underground. So, no nuclear explosion, though some have suggested dropping one or more bombs on the site as a way of cleaning up the radioactive materials. Clear now?

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          The March of the Morons continues… unabated…

          Pick your poison. Fresh fuel is hotter and more radioactive, but is only one fuel assembly. A pool of spent fuel will have dozens of assemblies. One report from Sankei News said that there are over 700 fuel assemblies stored in one pool at Fukushima. If they all caught fire, radioactive particles—including those lasting for as long as a decade—would be released into the air and eventually contaminate the land or, worse, be inhaled by people. “To me, the spent fuel is scarier. All those spent fuel assemblies are still extremely radioactive,” Dalnoki-Veress says.


          The spent fuel ponds at Fukushima did NOT run out of water. Some of the ponds are damaged — another stiff quake could cause them to collapse — that is why TEPCO would like to move the fuel rods to another pond.

          The reactors melted down and are sitting outside of the containment building — and they are being kept cool by pouring sea water onto them using diesel powered pumps 24 hours per day – 7 days per week.

        • Pintada says:

          “Clear now?”
          Fast Eddy and his new incarnation has not indicated in the past several years that he can grasp this science. It will never be clear to him, he doesn’t have the mental capacity.

          • Thomas Malthus says:

            No – I do not have the mental capacity to qualify for the Club of DelusiSTAN.

            I really want to be a member. I really want to be able to reject facts and logic and go about with my head in the sand.

            I want to belong to the masses living in ignorance — because — as I am told – it is blissful.

            But I am deficient. Is there therapy for this? A pill perhaps?

      • Pintada says:

        “The problem is if the spent fuel gets too close, they will produce a fission reaction and explode with a force much larger than any fission bomb given the total amount of fuel on the site.”

        Of course that is complete and utter nonsense. If this absurdity was true, why would anyone wanting to build a bomb spend billions of dollars purifying the uranium? This is SPENT fuel, stupid.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Yes of course — why not just hoist the spent fuel pond into the sky using helicopters — then drop them on the enemy.

          Brilliant idea!

          If you have any questions or concerns about that ‘nonsense’ feel free to contact the author

          Dr. Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress

          Location CNS Building, 499 Van Buren St.
          Email jdalnokiveress@miis.edu
          Phone 831.647.4638

          Scientist in Residence and Adjunct Professor

          Dr. Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress is Scientist-in-Residence at CNS and holds an MSc and PhD in high energy physics from Carleton University, Canada, specializing in ultra-low radioactivity background detectors and has professional experience in the field of astroparticle physics, primarily neutrino physics.

          He has been involved in several major discoveries in the field of neutrino physics and has worked on several international collaborations in Canada, Germany, Italy, and the United States (see below) including the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), Double Chooz and Borexino experiments.

          He was a member of the SNO Collaboration that won the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics.

          He is also a laureate along with his team of the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Physics.


          Perhaps if you email him your credentials in advance along with your theory you might be able to get through to him with a call…

          He might be willing to collaborate on the spent fuel pond/bomb idea when he realizes it has Nobel Prize potential!

  9. dolph says:

    If you ask the question “are we going it to make it 2020” that’s meaningless
    -if you are 90 years old or have terminal cancer, your chances aren’t good; but that would be true anyway
    -even if you are healthy, at any moment you can get into a life altering or terminating accident or situation – auto accidents, crime, natural disasters, etc.
    -if you are in a war-torn country or shut off from food production, your chances overall for year to year survival are low

    -if however you are a healthy, young or middle aged person in a country with resources, access to food or trade, good leadership, etc., then chances are you will continue to have life for some time; as long as you aren’t drafted into the military or something

    • common phenomenon says:

      Do you think WAR is in the air, dolph? (Pity we can’t do polls on here). Can YOU spot the signs?

Comments are closed.