The “Wind and Solar Will Save Us” Delusion

The “Wind and Solar Will Save Us” story is based on a long list of misunderstandings and apples to oranges comparisons. Somehow, people seem to believe that our economy of 7.5 billion people can get along with a very short list of energy supplies. This short list will not include fossil fuels. Some would exclude nuclear, as well. Without these energy types, we find ourselves with a short list of types of energy — what BP calls Hydroelectric, Geobiomass (geothermal, wood, wood waste, and other miscellaneous types; also liquid fuels from plants), Wind, and Solar.

Unfortunately, a transition to such a short list of fuels can’t really work. These are a few of the problems we encounter:

[1] Wind and solar are making extremely slow progress in helping the world move away from fossil fuel dependence.

In 2015, fossil fuels accounted for 86% of the world’s energy consumption, and nuclear added another 4%, based on data from BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Thus, the world’s “preferred fuels” made up only 10% of the total. Wind and solar together accounted for a little less than 2% of world energy consumption.

Figure 1. World energy consumption based on data from BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Figure 1. World energy consumption based on data from BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Our progress in getting away from fossil fuels has not been very fast, either. Going back to 1985, fossil fuels made up 89% of the total, and wind and solar were both insignificant. As indicated above, fossil fuels today comprise 86% of total energy consumption. Thus, in 30 years, we have managed to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 3% (=89% – 86%). Growth in wind and solar contributed 2% of this 3% reduction. At the rate of a 3% reduction every 30 years (or 1% reduction every ten years), it will take 860 years, or until the year 2877 to completely eliminate the use of fossil fuels. And the “improvement” made to date was made with huge subsidies for wind and solar.

Figure 2. World electricity generation by source, based on BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Figure 2. World electricity generation by source based on BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy.

The situation is a little less bad when looking at the electricity portion alone (Figure 2). In this case, wind amounts to 3.5% of electricity generated in 2015, and solar amounts to 1.1%, making a total of 4.6%. Fossil fuels account for “only” 66% of the total, so this portion seems to be the place where changes can be made. But replacing all fossil fuels, or all fossil fuels plus nuclear, with preferred fuels seems impossible.

[2] Grid electricity is probably the least sustainable form of energy we have.

If we are to transition to a renewables-based economy, we will need to transition to an electricity-based economy, since most of today’s renewables use electricity. Such an economy will need to depend on the electric grid.

The US electric grid is often called the “World’s Largest Machine.” The American Society of Civil Engineers gives a grade of D+ to America’s energy system. It says,

America relies on an aging electrical grid and pipeline distribution systems, some of which originated in the 1880s. Investment in power transmission has increased since 2005, but ongoing permitting issues, weather events, and limited maintenance have contributed to an increasing number of failures and power interruptions.

Simply maintaining the electric grid is difficult. One author writes about the challenges of replacing aging steel structures holding up power lines. Another writes about the need to replace transformers, before they fail catastrophically and interrupt services. The technology to maintain and repair the transmission lines demands that fossil fuels remain available. For one thing, helicopters are sometimes needed to install or repair transmission lines. Even if repairs are done by truck, oil products are needed to operate the trucks, and to keep the roads in good repair.

Electricity and, in fact, electricity dispensed by an electric grid, is in some sense the high point in our ability to create an energy product that “does more” than fossil fuels. Grid electricity allows electric machines of all types to work. It allows industrial users to create very high temperatures, and to hold them as needed. It allows computerization of processes. It is not surprising that people who are concerned about energy consumption in the future would want to keep heading in the same direction as we have been heading in the past. Unfortunately, this is the expensive, hard-to-maintain direction. Storms often cause electrical outages. We have a never-ending battle trying to keep the system operating.

[3] Our big need for energy is in the winter, when the sun doesn’t shine as much, and we can’t count on the wind blowing.

Clearly, we use a lot of electricity for air conditioning. It is difficult to imagine that air conditioning will be a major energy use for the long-term, however, if we are headed for an energy bottleneck. There is always the possibility of using fans instead, and living with higher indoor temperatures.

In parts of the world where it gets cold, it seems likely that a large share of future energy use will be to heat homes and businesses in winter. To illustrate the kind of seasonality that can result from the use of fuels for heating, Figure 3 shows a chart of US natural gas consumption by month. US natural gas is used for some (but not all) home heating. Natural gas is also used for electricity and industrial uses.

Figure 3. US natural gas consumption by month, based on US Energy Information Administration.

Figure 3. US natural gas consumption by month, based on US Energy Information Administration.

Clearly, natural gas consumption shows great variability, with peaks in usage during the winter. The challenge is to provide electrical supply that varies in a similar fashion, without using a lot of fossil fuels.

[4] If a family burns coal or natural gas directly for winter heat, but then switches to electric heat that is produced using the same fuel, the cost is likely to be higher. If there is a second change to a higher-cost type of electricity, the cost of heat will be even greater.  

There is a loss of energy when fossil fuels or biomass are burned and transformed into electricity. BP tries to correct for this in its data, by showing the amount of fuel that would need to be burned to produce this amount of electricity, assuming a conversion efficiency of 38%. Thus, the energy amounts shown by BP for nuclear, hydro, wind and solar don’t represent the amount of heat that they could make, if used to heat apartments or to cook food. Instead, they reflect an amount 2.6 times as much (=1/38%), which is the amount of fossil fuels that would need to be burned in order to produce this electricity.

As a result, if a household changes from heat based on burning coal directly, to heat from coal-based electricity, the change tends to be very expensive. The Wall Street Journal reports, Beijing’s Plan for Cleaner Heat Leaves Villagers Cold:

Despite electricity subsidies for residential consumers, villagers interviewed about their state-supplied heaters said their overall costs had risen substantially. Several said it costs around $300 to heat their homes for the winter, compared with about $200 with coal.

The underlying problem is that burning coal in a power plant produces a better, but more expensive, product. If this electricity is used for a process that coal cannot perform directly, such as allowing a new automobile production plant, then this higher cost is easily  absorbed by the economy. But if this higher-cost product simply provides a previously available service (heating) in a more expensive manner, it becomes a difficult cost for the economy to “digest.” It becomes a very expensive fix for China’s smog problem. It should be noted that this change works in the wrong direction from a CO2 perspective, because ultimately, more coal must be burned for heating because of the inefficiency of converting coal to electricity, and then using that electricity for heating.

How about later substituting wind electricity for coal-based electricity? China has a large number of wind turbines in the north of China standing idle.  One problem is the high cost of erecting transmission lines that would transport this electricity to urban centers such as Beijing. Also, if these wind turbines were put in place, existing coal plants would operate fewer hours, causing financial difficulties for these coal generating units. If these companies need subsidies in order to continue paying their ongoing expenses (including payroll and debt repayment), this would create a second additional cost. Electricity prices would need to be higher, to cover these costs as well. A family who had difficulty affording heat with coal-based electricity would have an even greater problem affording wind-based electricity.

Heat for cooking and heat for creating hot water are similar to heat for keeping an apartment warm. It is less expensive (both in energy terms and in cost to the consumer) if coal or natural gas is burned directly to produce the heat, than if electricity is used instead. This again, has to do with the conversion efficiency of turning fossil fuels to electricity.

[5] Low energy prices for the consumer are very important. Unfortunately, many analyses of the benefit of wind or of solar give a misleading impression of their true cost, when added to the electric grid. 

How should the cost of wind and solar be valued? Is it simply the cost of installing the wind turbines or solar panels? Or does it include all of the additional costs that an electricity delivery system must incur, if it is actually to incorporate this intermittent electricity into the electric grid system, and deliver it to customers where it is needed?

The standard answer, probably because it is easiest to compute, is that the cost is simply the cost (or energy cost) of the wind turbines or the solar panels themselves, plus perhaps an inverter. On this basis, wind and solar appear to be quite inexpensive. Many people have come to the conclusion that a transition to wind and solar might be helpful, based on this type of limited analysis.

Unfortunately, the situation is more complicated. Perhaps, the first few wind turbines and solar panels will not disturb the existing electrical grid system very much. But as more and more wind turbines or solar panels are added, there get to be additional costs. These include long distance transmission, electricity storage, and subsidies needed to keep backup electricity-generation in operation. When these costs are included, the actual total installed cost of delivering electricity gets to be far higher than the cost of the solar panels or wind turbines alone would suggest.

Energy researchers talk about the evaluation problem as being a “boundary issue.” What costs really need to be considered, when a decision is made as to whether it makes sense to add wind turbines or solar panels? Several other researchers and I feel that much broader boundaries are needed than are currently being used in most published analyses. We are making plans to write an academic article, explaining that current Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) calculations cannot really be compared to fossil fuel EROEIs, because of boundary issues. Instead, “Point of Use” EROEIs are needed. For wind and solar, Point of Use EROEIs will vary with the particular application, depending on the extent of the changes required to accommodate wind or solar electricity. In general, they are likely to be far lower than currently published wind and solar EROEIs. In fact, for some applications, they may be less than 1:1.

A related topic is return on human labor. Return on human labor is equivalent to how much a typical worker can afford to buy with his wages. In [4], we saw a situation where the cost of heating a home seems to increase, as a transition is made from (a) burning coal for direct use in heating, to (b) using electricity created by burning coal, to (c) using electricity created by wind turbines. This pattern is eroding the buying power of workers. This direction ultimately leads to collapse; it is not the direction that an economy would generally intentionally follow. If wind and solar are truly to be helpful, they need to be inexpensive enough that they allow workers to buy more, rather than less, with their wages.

[6] If we want heat in the winter, and we are trying to use solar and wind, we need to somehow figure out a way to store electricity from summer to winter. Otherwise, we need to operate a double system at high cost.

Energy storage for electricity is often discussed, but this is generally with the idea of storing relatively small amounts of electricity, for relatively short periods, such as a few hours or few days. If our real need is to store electricity from summer to winter, this will not be nearly long enough.

In theory, it would be possible to greatly overbuild the wind and solar system relative to summer electricity needs, and then build a huge amount of batteries in order to store electricity created during the summer for use in the winter. This approach would no doubt be very expensive. There would likely be considerable energy loss in the stored batteries, besides the cost of the batteries themselves. We would also run the risk of exhausting resources needed for solar panels, wind turbines, and/or batteries.

A much more workable approach would be to burn fossil fuels for heat during the winter, because they can easily be stored. Biomass, such as wood, can also be stored until needed. But it is hard to find enough biomass for the whole world to burn for heating homes and for cooking, without cutting down an excessively large share of the world’s trees. This is a major reason why moving away from fossil fuels is likely to be very difficult.

[7] There are a few countries that use an unusually large share of electricity in their energy mixes today. These countries seem to be special cases that would be hard for other countries to emulate.

Data from BP Statistical Review of World Energy indicates that the following countries have the highest proportion of electricity in their energy mixes.

  • Sweden – 72.7%
  • Norway – 69.5%
  • Finland – 59.9%
  • Switzerland – 57.5%

These are all countries that have low population and a significant hydroelectric supply. I would expect that the hydroelectric power is very inexpensive to produce, especially if the dams were built years ago, and are now fully paid for. Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland also have electricity from nuclear providing about a third of each of their electricity supplies. This nuclear electricity was built long ago, and thus is now paid for as well. The geography of countries may also reduce the use of traffic by cars, thus reducing the portion of gasoline in their energy mixes. It would be difficult for other countries to create equivalently inexpensive large supplies of electricity.

In general, rich countries have higher electricity shares than poorer countries:

  • OECD Total – (Rich countries) – 2015 – 44.5%
  • Non- OECD (Less rich countries) – 2015 – 39.3%

China is an interesting example. Its share of energy use from electricity changed as follows from 1985 to 2015:

  • China – 1985 – 17.5%
  • China – 2015 – 43.6%

In 1985, China seems to have used most of its coal directly, rather than converting it for use as electricity. This was likely not difficult to do, because coal is easy to transport, and it can be used for many heating needs simply by burning it. Later, industrialization allowed for much more use of electricity. This explains the rise in its electricity ratio to 43.6% in 2015, which is almost as high as the rich country ratio of 44.5%. If the electricity ratio rises further, it will likely be because electricity is being put to use in ways where it has less of a cost advantage, or even has a cost disadvantage, such as for heating and cooking.

[8] Hydroelectric power is great for balancing wind and solar, but it is available in limited quantities. It too has intermittency problems, limiting how much it can be counted on. 

If we look at month-to-month hydroelectric generation in the US, we see that it too has intermittency problems. Its high month is May or June, when snow melts and sends hydroelectric output higher. It tends to be low in the fall and winter, so is not very helpful for filling the large gap in needed electricity in the winter.

Figure 4. US hydroelectric power by month, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Figure 4. US hydroelectric power by month, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

It also has a problem with not being very large relative to our energy needs. Figure 5 shows how US hydro, or the combination of hydro plus solar plus wind (hydro+S+W), matches up with current natural gas consumption.

Figure 5. US consumption of natural gas compared to hydroelectric power and to compared to wind plus solar plus hydro (hydro+W+S), based on US Energy Information Administration data.

Figure 5. US consumption of natural gas compared to hydroelectric power and compared to hydro plus wind plus solar (hydro+W+S), based on US Energy Information Administration data.

Of course, the electricity amounts (hydro and hydro+S+W) are “grossed up” amounts, showing how much fossil fuel energy would be required to make those quantities of electricity. If we want to use the electricity for heating homes and offices, or for cooking, then we should compare the heat energy of natural gas with that of hydro and hydro+S+W. In that case, the hydro and hydro+S+W amounts would be lower, amounting to only 38% of the amounts shown.

This example shows how limited our consumption of hydro, solar, and wind is compared to our current consumption of natural gas. If we also want to replace oil and coal, we have an even bigger problem.

[9] If we need to get along without fossil fuels for electricity generation, we would have to depend greatly on hydroelectric power. Hydro tends to have considerable variability from year to year, making it hard to depend on.

Nature varies not just a little, but a lot, from year to year. Hydro looks like a big stable piece of the total in Figures 1 and 2 that might be used for balancing wind and solar’s intermittency, but when a person looks at the year by year data, it is clear that the hydro amounts are quite variable at the country level.

Figure 3. Electricity generated by hydroelectric for six large European countries based on BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Figure 6. Electricity generated by hydroelectric for six large European countries based on BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy.

In fact, hydroelectric power is even variable for larger groupings, such as the six countries in Figure 6 combined, and some larger countries with higher total hydroelectric generation.

Figure 4. Hydroelectricity generated by some larger countries, and by the six European countries in Figure 3 combined.

Figure 7. Hydroelectricity generated by some larger countries, and by the six European countries in Figure 6 combined, based on BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy.

What we learn from Figures 6 and 7 is that even if a great deal of long distance transmission is used, hydro will be variable from year to year. In fact, the variability will be greater than shown on these charts, because the quantity of hydro available tends to be highest in the spring, and is often much lower during the rest of the year. (See Figure 4 for US hydro.) So, if a country wants to depend on hydro as its primary source of electricity, that country must set its expectations quite low in terms of what it can really count on.

And, of course, Saudi Arabia and several other Middle Eastern countries don’t have any hydroelectric power at all. Middle Eastern countries tend not to have biomass, either. So if these countries choose to use wind and solar to assist in electrical generation, and want to balance their intermittency with something else, they pretty much need to use something that is locally available, such as natural gas. Other countries with very low amounts of hydro (or none at all) include Algeria, Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, Netherlands, and South Africa.

These issues provide further reasons why countries will want to continue using fossil fuels, and perhaps nuclear, if they can.

[10] There has been a misunderstanding regarding the nature of our energy problem. Many people believe that we will “run out” of fossil fuels, or that the price of oil and other fuels will rise very high. In fact, our problem seems to be one of affordability: energy prices don’t rise high enough to cover the rising cost of producing electricity and other energy products. Adding wind and solar tends to make the problem of low commodity prices worse.   

Ultimately, consumers can purchase only what their wages will allow them to purchase. Rising debt can help as well, for a while, but this has limits. As a result, lack of wage growth translates to a lack of growth in commodity prices, even if the cost of producing these commodities is rising. This is the opposite of what most people expect; most people have never considered the possibility that peak energy will come from low prices for all types of energy products, including uranium. Thus, we seem to be facing peak energy demand (represented as low prices), arising from a lack of affordability.

We can see the problem in the example of the Beijing family with a rising cost of heating its apartment. Economists would like to think that rising costs translate to rising wages, but this is not the case. If rising costs are the result of diminishing returns (for example, coal is from deeper, thinner coal seams), the impact is similar to growing inefficiency. The inefficient sector needs more workers and more resources, leaving fewer resources and workers for other more efficient sectors. The result is an economy that tends to contract because of growing inefficiency.

If we want to operate a double system, using wind and solar when it is available, and using fossil fuels at other times, the cost will be very high. The problem arises because the fossil fuel system has many fixed costs. For example, coal mines and natural gas companies need to continue to pay interest on their loans, or they will default. Pipelines need to operate 365 days per year, regardless of whether they are actually full. The question is how to get enough funding for this double system.

One pricing system for electricity that doesn’t work well is the “market pricing system” based on each producer’s marginal costs of production. Wind and solar are subsidized, so they tend to have negative marginal costs of production. It is impossible for any other type of electricity producer to compete in this system. It is well known that this system does not produce enough revenue to maintain the whole system.

Sometimes, additional “capacity payments” are auctioned off, to try to fix the problem of inadequate total wholesale electricity prices. If we believe the World Nuclear Organization, even these charges are not enough. Several US nuclear power plants are scheduled for closing, indirectly because this pricing methodology is making older nuclear power plants unprofitable. Natural gas prices have also been too low for producers in recent years. This electricity pricing methodology is one of the reasons for this problem as well, in my opinion.

A different pricing system that works much better in our current situation is the utility pricing system, or “cost plus” pricing. In this system, prices are determined by regulators, based on a review of all necessary costs, including appropriate profit margins for producers. In the case of a double system, it allows prices to be high enough to cover all the needed costs, including the extra long distance transmission lines, plus all of the high fixed costs of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, operating for fewer hours per year.

Of course, these much higher electricity rates eventually will become unaffordable for the consumer, leading to a cutback in purchases. If enough of these cutbacks in purchases occur, the result will be recession. But at least the electricity system doesn’t fail at an early date because of inadequate profits for its producers.


The possibility of making a transition to an all-renewables system seems virtually impossible, for the reasons I have outlined above. I have outlined many other issues in previous posts:

The topic doesn’t seem to go away, because it is appealing to have a “solution” to what seems to be a predicament with no solution. In a way, wind and solar are like a high-cost placebo. If we give these to the economy, at least people will think we are treating the problem, and maybe our climate problem will get a little better.

Meanwhile, we find more and more real life problems with intermittent renewables. Australia has had a series of blackouts. A several-hour blackout in South Australia was tied partly to the high level of intermittent energy on the grid. The ways of reducing future recurrences appear to be very expensive.

Antonio Turiel has written about the problems that Spain is encountering. Spain added large amounts of wind and solar, but these have not been available during a recent cold spell. It added gas by pipeline from Algeria, but now Algeria has cut back on the amount it is supplying. It has added transmission lines north to France. Now, Turiel is concerned that Spain’s electricity prices will be persistently higher, because he believes that France has not taken sufficient preparations to meet its own electricity needs. If there were little interconnectivity between countries, France’s electricity problems would stay in France, rather than adversely affecting its neighbors. A person begins to wonder: Can transmission lines have an adverse impact on new electricity supply? If a country can hope that “the market” will supply electricity from elsewhere, does that country take adequate steps to provide its own electricity?

In my opinion, the time has come to move away from believing that everything that is called “renewable” is helpful to the system. We now have real information on how expensive wind and solar are, when indirect costs are included. Unfortunately, in the real world, high-cost is ultimately a deal killer, because wages don’t rise at the same time. We need to understand where we really are, not live in a fairy tale world produced by politicians who would like us to believe that the situation is under control.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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2,531 Responses to The “Wind and Solar Will Save Us” Delusion

  1. Duncan Idaho says:

    Dam hippies right again——–

    Oroville Dam: Feds and state officials ignored warnings 12 years ago

    Three environmental groups — the Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba Citizens League — filed a motion with the federal government on Oct. 17, 2005, as part of Oroville Dam’s relicensing process, urging federal officials to require that the dam’s emergency spillway be armored with concrete, rather than remain as an earthen hillside

    The groups filed the motion with FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They said that the dam, built and owned by the state of California, and finished in 1968, did not meet modern safety standards because in the event of extreme rain and flooding, fast-rising water would overwhelm the main concrete spillway, then flow down the emergency spillway, and that could cause heavy erosion that would create flooding for communities downstream, but also could cause a failure, known as “loss of crest control.”

    FERC rejected that request, however, after the state Department of Water Resources, and the water agencies that would likely have had to pay the bill for the upgrades, said they were unnecessary.

    Federal officials at the time said that the emergency spillway was designed to handle 350,000 cubic feet per second and the concerns were overblown.

    • Greg Machala says:

      “the concerns were overblown.” – Hardly! Water is a very powerful force. Dammed water even more so. Fast moving water could erode the structural support for the dam itself causing it to fail. Just not something you want to take a chance with and risk not evacuating.

    • Pintada says:

      “Dam hippies … ”


  2. Wolfgang Star says:

    Glenn, your frantic posting, this mixture of incoherent facts, political, philosophical and religious ideas only serve as a method to avoid the real questions and that is not at all a sign of optimism. Quite contrary it is a sign of utter, utter desperation. You are the most desperate person here, Glenn. And with this Armageddon meme you got something wrong. Armageddon is not just about destruction, Armageddon comes with a winner. The faithful remnant, you know. The people that go around with “The End Is Near” signposts, expect to be saved. This seems not to be the attitude of the people here. When BAU stops, there will be no winner.

    • Duncan Idaho says:

    • ITEOTWAWKI says:

      Excellent comment Wolfgang!!! For the many of us on this blog that see that BAU is nearing the end of it’s post WW2 run, and that with it, it will bring the end of JIT and by extension pretty much the end of all of us, it is not because we wish Armageddon or that we are doomsters. We are realists and we have realized that IC is totally unsustainable. And what is not sustainable….will not be sustained. We come to this site because Gail backs it up with hard numbers + it is nice to exchange with other people that have come to the same conclusion. I can tell you we are very few to have understood this predicament that we are in (predicament = no solution), and you can’t talk about this with anyone because they just think that you are crazy…

      • Tim Groves says:

        Agreed!! Most atheists have given up on individual salvation and they realize we are mortal and therefore doomed, regardless of how many vitamins we take. But very few of us have come to the realization that we are collectively doomed any time now in what the military call “strategic terms”. For the vast majority, this realization is a delusion. I have to be careful when chatting to the neighbors to keep to the weather and “how’s your farther?” so as not to reveal the full extent of my eccentricities.

    • Mark Bahner says:

      “This seems not to be the attitude of the people here. When BAU stops, there will be no winner.”

      Is there some amount of time beyond which you will reach the conclusion that you were wrong? For example, if there’s no collapse in 10 years? Or 20? Or 30? Or 40?

      • dolph says:

        I cannot speak for everyone, but I’ve long believed our system will end by late 2030s at most. I think we have another 20 years give or take. And no, I will not just keep updating my prediction, to adjust as I see fit.

        • Mark Bahner says:

          “I cannot speak for everyone, but I’ve long believed our system will end by late 2030s at most. I think we have another 20 years give or take.”

          And what signs do you think would indicate that the end is only a 1-3 years away? Or do you think that signs won’t be present until less than a year before the end?

          • DJ says:

            The income difference between UBI and a construction worker is minimal and the living standard of UBI is approaching riot level.

          • Greg Machala says:

            “do you think that signs won’t be present until less than a year before the end” – There will be no official warning or notice of collapse. I think what will happen is credit will freeze and no one will have access to money and commerce will stop on a dime. I think this will happen very suddenly. There will be no time for I told you so proclamations. There will be no collecting on gambles from bets of when the system collapses.

            I have thought 2015-2016 would be an inflection point where we pass a point of global indebtedness where the growth in debt goes exponentially through the roof. We are there now. at $20T in debt in the USA. I also felt the net energy per capita would begin to fall around the 2015-2016 time frame as well. And that seems to be the case as well. The waiting game begins no in earnest as the poor will have less and less. At what point do they riot. Considering the poor are making up ever increasing numbers of persons in the US, that will be quite uncontrollable.

            We can see other countries around the world falling apart: Venezuela, Greece, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Spain and Italy on the verge too. If oil prices don’t or can’t go up to $80+ we are doomed in my opinion. Getting this industrial train to go past 2020 is going to be a mighty rough ride with lots of passengers falling off. How many people fall off the train before riots start. Look at the presidential election – there are people rioting over that. How much longer are the tensions going to stay in check?

          • Tim Groves says:

            I share your view, Greg. In fact, I think the end of BAU will come like the proverbial thief in the night. You and I won’t get to vote on it.

            On the other hand, I don’t think a date has been set yet by the Elders. Everyone wants to keep kicking that can down the road for as long as they can.

            By the way, I read some rumors in the Japanese press that there is a lot of project planning going on here for the period up to the 2020 Olympics, but not very much after that, with a faint suggestion that this could be ominous. Are they planning a reset? Or is this just idle gossip? If I hear anything more concrete, I’ll post on it.

            • InAlaska says:

              In Japan’s case, a lack of forward planning is probably rightly, so. Is there any industrialized economy more screwed then Japan? A small, but densely packed, urbanized country with almost zero natural resources, completely reliant on oil and gas imports, surrounded by potential and real Fukushima events and encompassed by a very large and powerful, aggressive China. Not a good bet for post collapse survival.

        • Ert says:


          I hope you are right! – since me gut feeling points to an earlier demise. Can’t imagine for example cheap Air-Travel for the masses by 2027. And if that goes.. a lot of dependent and equally complex / energy consuming things will parish.

      • Given that our lives literally hang by the dripping thread of oil, we (humankind that is) will not reach the end of our collective oil production/ use, look down the pipe, then look around and say “now what?”

        You can take that as a certainty.

        So by definition something must happen before we get there.

        We are offered platitudes that we have oil to last 40 years—but that is based on my ”last drop” scenario above.
        So we can say: before we get there we will start to fight over diminishing reserves, because electricity is useless without an oil based infrastructure.
        And as fighting intensifies, access to what little oil is available will become almost impossible.

        Imagine Syria magnified across Saudi, Iran an Iraq. (with Russia sitting just to the north) Already we have a loony president saying—why can’t we just take their oil?–As if it is a trophy that can be shipped out en masse under armed guard.
        Crazy?—Obviously, but it reflects the thinking about the “oil prize” that somehow the nation that holds all the oil cards wins the global pot.

        The “end” will not arrive on the instant, unless Korean Kim starts throwing nukes out of his pram–instead fighting will gradually intensify as it becomes obvious that oil has no substitute.
        Shortage will drive conflict and thus compound shortage incrementally with more conflict.

        When?—If we have 40 years of oil left (being ultra generous there) then we cannot go on pumping it out to provide “infinite growth” until 2060 and then just stop.
        So as the flow slows, conflict will begin. Saudi has to buy off its unemployable young men–they cannot return to their desert to herd goats. So they are going to fight for survival.
        Collapse will accelerate until an oil-less balance is achieved, probably over a 10 maybe 20 year period (denial is a powerful human trait— terminal decline is still being seen as sporadic warfare, but we are in terminal decline now).
        The USA will decline further–that will be blamed on “outside forces”

        You don’t need me to elaborate on the next move of an unstable president.

      • Wolfgang Star says:

        I just stated a fact, Mark. When BAU stops there will be no winner. That´s a fact. Like it´s a fact that infinite growth is not possible in a finite world. Or that there are no real substitutes for fossil fuels. And that you cannot feed 7,5 billion people without fertilizer. And that you need oil for the fertilizer. And that oil production makes no sense when the netenergie factor is to low. And so on and so on.
        It will not happen as long as the Ponzi works. As long as you can make people believe that throwing good money after bad money makes actually sense. But when you are really looking, you can see the cracks in the story. You know, 2008 I was not yet into the energy thing. I was just wondering about the sudden intense panic on the highest level of finance and government worldwide. And then a situation caused by depth was covered by more depth. And then this panic was replaced by overconfidence. And with low oil prices and zero interest rates. But no investions, no demand came out of it. Strange. And purchase power dropped. Then I came into the energy thing and I understood. And many people understand already that the party is over. But mostly on the level of unconscious fear sometimes disguised as overconfident hopium. Like you. Otherwise you would not bring again and again this stupid bet business into this thread.

        • Mark Bahner says:

          “When BAU stops there will be no winner. That´s a fact.” –>That’s a prediction, not a fact.

          “Like it´s a fact that infinite growth is not possible in a finite world.”–>Assuming you’re claiming that the economy can’t be infinitely large in a finite world, that’s a prediction, not a fact.

          “Or that there are no real substitutes for fossil fuels.”–>A prediction and an opinion.

          “And that you cannot feed 7,5 billion people without fertilizer.”–>Another prediction.

          “And that you need oil for the fertilizer.”–>Nitrogenous fertilizers are made from natural gas, not petroleum.

          “And many people understand already that the party is over.”–>Here is a fact. The average per-capita gross world product in the past decade has been higher than in any decade in 10,000 years of human civilization.

          • Glenn Stehle says:


            You are absolutely right.

            A great many people who comment on this blog don’t know the difference between a prediction and a fact.

            I mark this up to another telltale sign that peakism is a religion, because this is one of the hallmarks of religion.

            But it might also be indicative of a much more profound problem, and that is how science and epistemology have gone off the rails. Nietzsche was perhaps the first to render such a harsh judment on science, noting that the differences between religion, philosophy and science are not thaqt great. As he notes in The Birth of Trajedy:

            Thus, though metaphysics is an illusion from the point of view of science, science in turn becaomes but another stage of illusion as far as absolute truth is concerned… But faith in the omnipotence of reason shatters, for the courageouly persistent thinker, not only on the fact that science can never complete its work but chiefly on the positive apprehnsion that reality is irrational.

            — FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, The Birth of Trajedy

            The absolutism that we see manifested from many commenters on this blog is a characteristic of relgion, not science, because as Carroll Quigley notes in The Evolution of Civilizations:

            Eventually, to be sure, erroneous theories will fail to work and their falseness will be revealed, but it may take a very long time for this to happen, especially if men continue to operate in the limited areas in which the erroneous theories were formulated.

            Thus scientific theories must be recognized as hypotheses and as subjective human creations no matter how long they remain unrefuted.

            — CARROLL QUIGLEY, The Evolution of Civilizations

            • Joebanana says:

              “I mark this up to another telltale sign that peakism is a religion, because this is one of the hallmarks of religion”

              It is not religion to do math and really, this is math. There is only so much “stuff” to be used up. I certainly hope you are right and it is a problem far into the future but how hard is it to understand that if we kill every codfish in the ocean there will be no more codfish?

            • Wolfgang Star says:

              You two really deserve each other. Although I sense a certain reservation from Mark getting into your realm, Glenn. He seems not to be a religious person. Give it a try Mark, Glenn really needs you. I by the way am not at all an anti-religious person. But for the time being I do not want to discuss this here. Gail had in the post before this one some very interesting remarks that touched on a transcendental, even religious perspective. It made definitely sense to me. Anyhow, this discussion here is not about science versus religion or science as religion or whatever, it is just about common sense. I am through the bubble, the house bubble and some other bubbles. And I met some very intelligent people in all this bubbles that went completely astray. And also you and Mark are intelligent people but seemingly without common sense and thus believing absurd things. Like for instance, that software is something immaterial and therefore our economy is driven by immaterial things and therefore when the SHTF we come simply up with another immaterial thing that will save us. Without realizing that immaterial software is completely useless without material hardware. A hardware that depends on a high energy input on an industrial scale for its production and maintenance. An energy input that depends on and is not possible without fossil fuels. Or believing that shale production is workable without subsidies and ponzi financing. However, I leave you with your hallucinations.

            • Glenn Stehle says:


              It is true that in Modernist ideology math is believed to be the one true way to reveal absolute truth, and without the imprimatur of and some elaborate display of mathematical virtuosity, a theory is dismissed out of hand.

              But as Robert H. Nelson notes in Economics as Religion,, economists mathed up their science too — because according to Modernist ideology if your science isn’t mathed up,it isn’t science at all — and how has that worked out?

              Friedman made heavy use of the same mathematical and statistical methods that Samuelson and his Cambridge colleagues were making standard operating procedure throughout the economics profession.

              — ROBERT H. NELSON, Economics as Relgiion

              In The Human Condition Hannah Arendt goes on to explain why math offers no path to revealing absolute truth, and that it often does more to obscure reality than to reveal it: The “mathematization of physics,” she observes,

              by which the absolute renunciation of the senses for the purpose of knowing was carried through, had in its last stages the unexpected and yet plausible consequence that every quesiton man puts to nature is answered in terms of mathematical patterns….

              Its highest ideal must therefore be mathematical knowledge as the modern age understands it, that is, not the knowledge of ideal forms given outside the mind but of forms produced by a mind which in this particular instance does not even need the stimulation — or, rather, the irritation — of the senses by objects other than itself. This theory is certainly what Whitehead calls it, “the outcome of common-sense in retreat.”….

              When Descartes’ analytical geometry treated…nature and the world, so “that its relations, however complicated, must always be expressible in algebraic formulae,” mathematics succeded in reducing and translating all that man is not into patterns which are identical with human mental structures…

              Now the phenomena could be saved only in so far as they could be reduced to a mathematical order, and this mathematical operation [serves] to reduce these data to the measure of the human mind, which, given enough distance, being sufficiently remote and uninvolved, can look upon and handle the multitude and variety of the concrete in accordance with its own patterns and symbols….

              Under this condition of remoteness, every assemblage of things is transofmred into a mere multitude and every multitude, no matter how disordered, incoherent, and confused, will fall into certain patterns and configurations possessing the same validity and no more significance than the mathematical curve, which, as Leibniz once remarked, can always be found between points thrown at random on a piece of paper….

              The modern reduction scientiae ad mathematicam has overruled the testimony of nature as witnessed at close range by human senses in the same way that Leibnitz overrruled the knowledge of the haphazard origin and the chaotic nature of the dot-covered piece of paper.

              — HANNAH ARENDT, The Human Condition

            • Dr Fast Eddy says:

              You are both trying to so hard to outdo each other with ridiculous comments… I can see you are both very keen on wearing the crown.

              How about a compromise – Glenn you can be the Village Idiot of FW …. and Mark … you are hereby appointed The Jester (aka The Fool) of FW.


          • Glenn Stehle says:

            Hannah Arendt, in The Life of the Mind, gives this explanation of how science and epistemology went off the rails::

            [I]t is true that without Kant’s unshackling of speculative thought the rise of German idealism and its metaphysical systems would hardly have been possible. But the new brand of philosophers — Fichte, Schelling, Hegel — would scarcely have pleased Kant.

            Liberated by Kant from the old school dogmatism and its sterile exercises, encouraged by him to indulge in speculative thinking, they actually took their cue from Descartes, went hunting for certainty, blurred once again the distinguishing line between thought and knowledge, and believed in all earnest that the results of their speculations possessed the same kind of validity as the results of cognitive processes.

            — HANNAH ARENDT, The Life of the Mind.

      • Pintada says:

        Dear Mark Bahner;

        “Is there some amount of time beyond which you will reach the conclusion that you were wrong? For example, if there’s no collapse in 10 years? Or 20? Or 30? Or 40?”

        There is a chance that collapse will be so slow that it will be very hard to identify the start of the collapse, much less forecast its inception.

        Did the collapse begin in 2001? On 9/11 the US was attacked, but the countries that the US punished had nothing to do with it. It wasn’t just the US that bombed the wrong country BTW.

        Did the collapse happen in 2008? Anyone that can read and understand economics knows that 90% of the population is worse off now than in 2007.

        Pick another date … 1972 for example.

        The thing is, that we can’t be wrong in the long run. Infinite growth using the finite resources available from a finite planet is impossible, and what cannot continue will stop. Therefore, a collapse is inevitable and unstoppable.

        Kieth the local space nut will insist that we must (and can – thus the nut part) leave the planet to save the species. If we had not squandered so much oil and other FF to buy cheap crap, pointless wars, etc. and instead had invested in what was called “Pie in the Sky” starting in the ’70s then he might be correct. Now, he is a nut.

        So Mark, I’ll ask the reverse question: What makes you think that infinite growth on a finite planet can occur?

        Think about it,

        • Mark Bahner says:

          “So Mark, I’ll ask the reverse question: What makes you think that infinite growth on a finite planet can occur?”

          It depends what the growth is. If it’s something that’s physical, it can’t grow infinitely. For example, if it’s the number of people on earth, that can’t grow infinitely.

          But if it’s something that’s *not* physical, then there’s the possibility that it can grow infinitely. For example, gross world product per capita is the total annual *value* of goods and services per person. *Value* is not physical. Let me some examples:

          1) Suppose Bill Gates could buy a pill for himself and his family and friends. Suppose one pill cost $5 million, but would guarantee that anyone who took it would live to age 100, with the healthiness of a 25-year-old. Well, Bill Gates would probably spend billions of dollars on that pill, but the pill would be miniscule.

          2) There was an author I admired as a young person, by the name of William (Bill) Nolen. He died in 1986 at age 58 from heart disease. I had surgery a few years ago, in which tiny drug-elutriating stents were put in my left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery…aka, “the widow maker.” If I hadn’t had that surgery, I probably would have died near the same age as Bill Nolen. Because of those stents, hopefully I won’t. Those stents are tiny, tiny things, but they’re very valuable.

          3) Many of the richest people in the world today made their billions from software. Software isn’t physical. It’s valuable, but it’s not physical.

          4) I think perovskite solar cells are the “next big thing” in photovoltaics. But they’re incredibly thin, and take extremely little energy to fabricate. Compared to, for example, a lignite-fired power plant, 1 megawatt-hour of electricity generated by perovskite solar cells will take far less energy, and far fewer materials. So it’s possible to create things that generate equal or greater value than things we currently have, while actually taking *less* energy and *less* physical resources than we use today.

          Gross world product per person is a measure of value. That’s why it can be infinitely large.

          • ITEOTWAWKI says:

            Okay now you’re just trolling us…you have to be…that answer is surreal…

            • Mark Bahner says:

              “Okay now you’re just trolling us…you have to be…that answer is surreal.”

              No offense…this is my “Asperger’s” talking ;-)…but I’m not the one here with the wacky idea that energy/resources are going to cause the world economy to crash sometime within the next few decades. Y’all won’t see that in models by people who make their living modeling the world economy and energy…people like the World Bank, the US. Energy Information Administration, the IPCC, BP, etc.

              As Carl Sagan used to say, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The claim that the world economy is even going to stop growing…let alone crash…in the next few decades is an extraordinary claim. And the claim that energy/resources will be the reason for the crash is extraordinary squared.

            • Dr Fast Eddy says:

            • ITEOTWAWKI says:

              Mark said:

              As Carl Sagan used to say, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

              What do you think this blog has been doing for the past few years. How long have you been here? Have you been reading Gail’s articles?

              Mark said:

              but I’m not the one here with the wacky idea that energy/resources are going to cause the world economy to crash sometime within the next few decades.

              Loll next few decades? Try next 5 years…

            • Mark Bahner says:

              “Loll next few decades? Try next 5 years…”

              So the world economy is going to crash within 5 years? Crash to what level, as a percentage of the current level?

            • Dr Fast Eddy says:


            • Joebanana says:

              Nobody really knows. I’d suggest doing some research on 2008 and how fast things went south. I’m still buying green bananas but I don’t worry about pension plans.

            • Mark Bahner says:

              “Nobody really knows. I’d suggest doing some research on 2008 and how fast things went south.”

              Per this website, the world GDP growth rate was:
              4.32% in 2007
              1.82% in 2008
              -1.7% in 2009
              4.37% in 2010
              3.10% in 2011


              This is the sort global economic crash y’all are worrying about?

            • Dr Fast Eddy says:

              Look – they just dreamed up another stupid comment to post.

              It is incredible what two profoundly stupid morons when they put their two quarters of a brain together.

              Nice one Mark — brilliant — considering the combined IQ of you and Glenn is 47.

            • what those figures show is freewheeling
              as long as sufficient debt is taken on, then growth rate can continue forever

              but debt is a call on future growth, and future growth can only happen if there is sufficient energy in the system to support it.–If you think energy availability is infinite then you have no problems at all.

              example—i buy a house now—that shows up on the gdp figures as growth.–the house itself is a block of embodied energy. that enegy cannot be used again.(unless i burn it down to keep warm)
              if i pay cash for it–i’m using previously earned energy tokens—maybe an inheritance

              on the other hand, if i take out a mortgage—i am mortgaging a future in which i must earn sufficient new ‘energy tokens’ whose value exceeds that of the house itself–over the next 25 years.

              as our ‘economy’ is entirely oil/gas/coal-funded, you must ask yourself honestly if there will be sufficient fuel in the system to sustain it for 25 years–ie to pay your wages.
              Bear in mind that 80m people show up every year wanting a share of available fuel supplies.
              So there is less and less to go round, thus diminishing the real value of wages.

              The inevitable result of that will be that while the ‘debt’ of the mortgage will remain constant, the availability of money to pay it off will not.

              Then you fall off the debt cliff.

            • Joebanana says:

              Do some research as to how much of a problem the negative GDP had on the the financial system. The system we have is not made to deal with negative growth. Once you understand that and move on to understanding what causes it to grow, cheap energy, it will start to dawn on you how big the problem is. You are getting their.

          • Joebanana says:

            A stent, in itself, is inexpensive, but the energy it took to develop the knowledge and technology to create and install it is enormous. You just can’t seem to make that connection. The same with the pill.

            • Mark Bahner says:

              “A stent, in itself, is inexpensive, but the energy it took to develop the knowledge and technology to create and install it is enormous.”

              1) A stent, by itself, isn’t inexpensive. Despite being smaller than and having less mass than a paperclip, a drug-elutriating stent costs over $1000.

              2) The energy it took to develop the knowledge. I don’t even know what that means.

              3) Even if I accepted your claim that, “…the energy it took to develop the knowledge and technology to create and install it is enormous…”–which I don’t–how does that have any effect on the world going forward? Those tiny amounts of energy have already been expended. Going forward, stents add a tremendous amount to world gross domestic product for an incredibly small amount of energy expended to manufacture them.

            • Dr Fast Eddy says:

            • Froggman says:

              Mark, it’s one of the basic premises of the work that Gail and many others operating in this space build from: people don’t generally understand how interconnected industrial civilization is and that you can’t just take the pieces you like and leave out the others.

              The stent is actually a great example. Expensive, inexpensive, valuable, not valuable- these are just human constructs. The point is, we have stents here in the first world because of 200 years or so of explosive fossil fuel growth and expansion. There’s a reason they don’t have stents in little villages in sub-Saharan Africa or the jungles of southeast Asia. The stent is a pinnacle of technology, that depends on there being a massive scientific and medical industry, supported by huge flows of resources and energy. Thomas Edison couldn’t have just invented a stent: you still need another hundred+ years of added complexity, energy, growth, pollution, etc, before you can arrive at a stent.

              Every little piece of crap we have today, no matter how valuable, is there because of the massive infrastructure of oil wells, gas pipelines, cars and trucks rushing around, coal plants pumping out electricity.

              When Gail spends thousands of hours laying out the case why this cheap abundent energy is coming to an end, those of us who understand the fundamental interdependency of civilization realize that this mean an end to the viability of the system.

            • LEDs are not in biotechnology, but they could not be built either without the whole system. Same with computers and cell phones. The Internet depends on consumers being willing to spend money on accounts to download movies and other stuff. It probably could not run on a handful of applications.

            • Mark Bahner says:

              “When Gail spends thousands of hours laying out the case why this cheap abundant energy is coming to an end,…”

              She posted this curve in her comments on this post:


              …how does that curve “…lay out the case why this cheap abundant energy is coming to an end…”?

            • Our basic problem is that we cannot get the price up high enough. If we could get the price up high enough, there would not be a problem. This issue is an affordability problem. People’s wages do not go up. That is why crude oil is stuck in a price range ($52 to $54 for WTI) that is way below the cost of production for most providers. Certainly on a worldwide basis it is way too low. Even Saudi Arabia, with its Manifa project, is likely not doing well, especially when needed tax revenue is factored in.

            • Mark Bahner says:

              Gail writes, “Our basic problem is that we cannot get the price up high enough.”

              So cheap and abundant energy is going to come to an end because we cannot get the price up high enough…?

            • Froggman says:

              If a meal costs $10 and I only have $8 to pay, I go hungry.

              If producing a barrel of oil costs $60, $70, or $80 and the world can barely afford $50, we all go hungry.

            • stents consume a vast amount of energy in keeping people alive who would otherwise be dead

              thus they stay around to consume more of a finite fuel supply.

              The global economy/energy system cannot afford to sustain every breath of life—thi is why we have 7.5 bn instead of 1 bn.

          • Pintada says:

            Dear Mark Bahner;

            “But if it’s something that’s *not* physical, then there’s the possibility that it can grow infinitely.”

            Too true! You certainly got me.

            I can readily imagine the growth of the number of angels on the head of a pin, or the number of unicorns in the local forest to grow indefinitely. I was talking about little details, like food, water, infrastructure … you know the things stupid people like me want in their lives.

            Thanks for the insight,

            • Pintada says:

              My god where do these m-o-r-o-n-s come from?

            • Mark Bahner says:

              Obviously, Pintada, you consider yourself quite the clever fellow. The current per-capita gross world product (purchasing power parity basis) is over $15,000. What is the limit to the per-capita gross world product?

            • Dr Fast Eddy says:

              Mark – this is the sign of anti-genius…. how did you come up with such anti-brilliance?

              Do you have a wall? Do you drink drano/roundup? Were you dropped head first on the ground repeatedly as a child?

              Truly anti-magnificent! Anti-Bravo! Anti-Applause!

              “But if it’s something that’s *not* physical, then there’s the possibility that it can grow infinitely.”

        • Tim Groves says:

          Keith the local space nut is in good company.

          • Pintada says:

            Hawking is partly correct. He should have said, “I think the human race has no future.” Since obviously we will not go further into space than we have already gone.

      • Glenn Stehle says:

        Mark Bahner,

        You’ve hit upon the dilemma which all end-times theologies face.

        As Matthew Schneider-Mayerson observes in Peak Oil: Apocalyptic Environmentalism and LIbertarian Political Culture, peakists have been predicting that peak oil and social collapse are imminent for nye on forty years now. And yet, none of the doomsday predictions have come true.

        You have to give the more thoughtful Christian end-timers one thing, and that is that they, quite unlike the peakists, at least acknowledge that this repeated failure of the prophecy to come true creates a credibility problem for their gospel. Here’s how Glenn L. Hill and Don Preston describe the problem in Christianity’s Great Dilemma: Is Jesus Coming Again or Is He Not?:

        Do you ever ponder about how very long you have been promised that “Jesus is coming soon,” but He has not? ….

        For most of my fifty of years preaching I taught that Jesus’ Second Coming was near, so near that I expected to live to see the Advent. The ministers I listened to as a boy had the same message and expectation, but they died without seeing Jesus.

        Most ministers of the past hundred years have proclaimed that “Jesus is coming soon,” but He has not returned. Do you ever wonder why? Modern-day prophets have kept us in great anticipation as they predicted the imminent coming of the antichrist, along with the great tribulation, rapture, end of the world, end of time, and Armageddon. Do you ever consider that decades pass, and one century ends and another begins, yet NONE of these prophecies come to pass?

        • Peter Molon says:

          Name dropping, “following”, quotes, and links but no honest discussion. All marks of avoidance to avoid the a honest discussion.

          Address infinite growth, finite planet. You dare not. All you do is slander and avoid. Boring.

        • sheilach2 says:

          All these men of “god” had to do was to just READ THEIR BIBLES!!
          It’s written right in there when Jesus was suppose to have returned, he said “Those STANDING HERE WOULD LIVE to SEE him return with the father, to judge~” .
          Now unless your a hopeless IDIOT or a “true believer”, you would know that humans don’t live for thousands of years & therefore, Jesus will never return!
          He was just a deluded “god” man who’s message competed with that of the Jewish priests & they had to get rid of him, he could cut into their PROFITS!
          Remember the thing with the money changers at the Temple? That’s why they had to get rid of him! He cut into their PROFITS!
          If he even existed, he died on a Roman cross like any other ordinary human would have & was stashed away someplace so it could be claimed that he had “risen”.
          NO he didn’t, he just died – period.
          I hope I’m not still around when those billions of believers finally realize that they have been duped for thousands of years by those self made “god” men & their LIES.
          I would also hate to be a “god” man when & if they did finally wake up!

        • WhatCreatureIsAmongUs says:

          “Apocalyptic Environmentalism and LIbertarian Political Culture,”
          Those like yourself Glenn who are unable to have honest conversations like to characterize. Created dualism is convenient to retain ignorance.

          I would characterize the left as have a overwhelming belief in humanism. That everyone can have everything. This is obviously contrary to the truth of finite resources.

          Your characterization of the left in association with those exploring ideas on this blog holds no merit. Your writing works against the truth.

          The word conservatism however implies finite resources, If there are infinite resources why need to conserve. In practice those calling themselves conservatives are not while conservationists are. Generally those calling themselves conservatives acknowledge finite resources with the caveat that only those deserving should have access which is of course them.

          Your next characterization of the “Christian end-timers” with those exploring ideas on this blog also has no merit, Belief in a finite world not religious beliefs is the true characterization of those exploring ideas on this blog, Your writing works against the truth.

          You can not just come out and say “you guys are crazy because you believe in a finite world” because it obviously the truth that we live in a finite world. You instead create these elaborate fantasy associations rather than address the fundamental exploration of this blog; the implications of exponential growth in a finite world. You run and hide from any exploration of the implications of exponential growth in a finite world and spin elaborate distractions. Your writing works against the truth.

        • bandits101 says:

          “Peakists”….”predicting”…..”social collapse”…..”imminent”…….”nye on forty years”….”doomsday predictions”.
          I say strawman creations. Do you have some proof or examples, just to ease my skeptical intuition.

        • Lastcall says:

          But but… its not the Stent that is important in-of-itself; its the structure surrounding that surgery that is incredibly resource hungry. Trained Doctors, nurses, the infrastructure for training, the hospitalisation and surgery, the manufacturing of all the equipment needed etc etc …etc.

          These are complex assemblies of people, services and equipment. Perhaps you would be prepared to undergo surgery using the products of your perovskite world and hope for a sunny day ;or be connected to the windmill after you consult the weather forecast..from satellites put into orbit with ..oh you know, fossil fuels! Be pretty sparse operation in Germany over winter.

          The thing about complexity is that it is complex, and with diminishing returns.

          But hey keep up the commentary, its hilarious.

          • Jesse James says:

            I just came out of biotech after 15 yrs. I can assure you that the entire biotech industry, including stents is in a fed funded bubble. Everything is based on fed payments, fed reimbursements, etc. and all that is based on printing $1T /yr of fake money. When the fed debt based budget is forced to be scaled by the energy scarcity, biotech will nosedive. Stents may still be around but only for the wealthy…for a while. I know a guy with a medical related business…he got taken off the reimbursement list…and his business is hurting big time.

            • Thanks! I hadn’t thought about biotech being a bubble.

              I think the Fed budget will need to be scaled back because of recession cause by low demand (low wages, etc.) This may or may not look like scarce energy. It may look like energy glut and low prices.

  3. Tim Groves says:

    It is no surprise that this post attracted the ire of renewables enthusiasts, particularly as Gail employed one of the more emotive “D” words — “delusion” in the title. That was like a red rag to a bull. There are many people who for various reasons have absorbed the idea that so-called “renewable energy” collection-based electrical generating technology such as photovoltaics and wind turbines is either the solution to or else a major part of the solution to the world’s energy supply problems. They certainly don’t believe they are deluded and they probably resent being labeled as such. Hence the appearance of some rather snappy and even hostile commenters earlier in this thread.

    Some people are convinced renewables ARE the solution and they can give detailed reasons why. Among this group we find industry insiders and evangelists for the technology as well as academics and journalists who have made an ethical commitment to promote the adoption of the technology. Others who are pro-renewables merely assume it is a solution because they can see more and more solar and wind units being deployed all over the place. What none of these enthusiasts have done, apparently, is to look at the bigger picture of the impacts on the overall economic system of how renewables are produced, how they are deployed, how they interact with the existing electrical production and distribution system, their total cumulative environmental impact from initial materials mining through to scrapping and recycling or abandonment, and how cost effective, practical, disruptive and, ultimately useful they are.

    Gail has spent a lot of time and done a lot of good work over the years collecting and analyzing relevant data and using it to try to create a reasonably clear view of the situation pertaining to real world energy issues and trends. This endeavor is a very welcome one to those of us with an interest in how the economic system works, because our usual view of the thing is through a glass darkly at best and more probably through a thick fog. In looking at the position of renewables within the whole, I think it’s fair to say that her views have become more critical over time as more data and evidence have come in. She has now reached the point where she feels she is on firm enough ground to declare that the idea that “Wind and Solar Will Save Us” is a delusion.

    As I said above, “delusion” is an emotive word. It’s probably as strong a rebuke as Gail’s unfailingly polite vocabulary will allow her to use. Is she correct? I think so — for all the reasons she’s given above. Moreover, I think it’s telling that nobody among the many pro-renewables advocates who have commented here have been able to debunk any of the things Gail said in the post. I had been hoping for at least one or two pieces of new information to be presented that would cast doubt on some of her assertions, because that’s the way we learn more. But there was nothing, not a sausage…..

    • Thanks for your vote supporting my use of the word, “Delusion.” You are right, this is as strong a rebuke as my vocabulary allows. It is hard to get people’s attention. They seem to believe that somehow wind and solar are step in the right direction, even if they don’t go far enough. I think the situation is far worse. They are generally a step in the wrong direction. You can sometimes use a little bit, with subsidies. But there is no way you can scale them up, and any reasonable amount tends to drive prices too low for the backup generation that is needed.

    • sheilach2 says:

      Oh my goodness, I have been reamed up one side & down the other for my refusal to believe that solar panels & wind turbines & their “renewable” bretherin are OUR SAVIORS!
      Their just a way of making PROFITS & JOBS at the end of the oil age & that they are as tied to OIL as our computers, cars & US.
      I’m so tired of hearing over & over how cheap their getting, how EVERYONE is buying them, how they can “replace” oil, how they can produce enough energy to replace themselves, how “clean & green” they are etc etc etc. These good people are just CLUELESS & their being LIED TO.
      As I have said many times, I’m not nearly as smart as Gail but even I could see that those “renewables” were a SCAM, since they are made with NONrenewable materials & required so much ENERGY to produce, they cannot save BAU.
      Nobody is addressing the fact that they produce NONE of the essential raw materials we now get from FF.
      I think too many people will only see what they WANT to see.
      Thank you Gail for giving us so many valid, logical reasons why “renewables” are a dead end, we are far beyond the edge of the cliff, we are already falling, we just haven’t gone “splat” yet.

      • Babakaput says:

        “I think too many people will only see what they WANT to see.”
        How true. Usually combined with a very strong entitlement belief tied in with humanism.
        I find the snarl that comes to their lips as they are confronted with their nonsense that is based on the supposed loveliness of the human species ironic.

  4. adonis says: interesting article of the past during the great depression will we have the chance to follow in their footsteps.

    • I think that there may already be some of this issue–inability of the rich to spend money, because it would make them stand out too much from the less wealthy. Most of our children are doing noticeably less well than we as their parents are doing. Do we want to show off our wealth, if this would make our children feel poorer by comparison? This is also true with friends a person meets on a regular basis. If the friends are not rich, showing off wealth is not of a lot of benefit.

      • sheilach2 says:

        There is another reason to hide your wealth, it makes you a TARGET for those without!
        I have a little money but I’m not about to try & look “rich”, I dress in old cloths, wear flip flops, zories, beach sandals, drive a old fuel efficient car, my home is small & plain, my jewlery is costume & I let people know those “diamonds” are fake.
        When TSHTF, wealthy people may regret having that BIG mansion.

      • In Georgia, maybe. In NYC, SF, Silicon Valley and West LA, they are not shy spending money and showing off to the people who have to sleep at street how wealthy they are, and how miserable the street people are, without impunity since they know police will side with them.

  5. psile says:

    Oil and gas discoveries dry up to lowest total for 60 years

    Discoveries of new oil and gasfields have dropped to a fresh 60-year low, as companies put a brake on exploration and large fields have become harder to find. There were only 174 oil and gas discoveries worldwide last year, compared to an average of 400-500 per year up until 2013, according to IHS Markit, the research group. The slowdown in exploration success shows that the world is likely to become increasingly reliant on “unconventional” resources such as US shale oil and gas to meet demand for energy in future decades. The typical time from discovery to production is five to seven years, so a shortfall in oil and gas discoveries now implies tighter supplies in the next decade. However, there are signs of a tentative upturn in conventional exploration this year, with some companies including Statoil of Norway planning to step up drilling activity. Discoveries hit a six-decade low in 2015, and then dropped again last year to about 8.2bn barrels equivalent of oil and gas. The slowdown reflects both the cyclical cuts in exploration made by companies struggling to stay afloat after the drop in oil and gas prices since 2014, and the structural shift in the industry towards onshore shale and similar reserves, especially in North America.

    • This has to do with low prices, and thus lack of money for drilling exploratory wells. Also, there is no point in extracting oil, if the market price is too low.

      • Greg Machala says:

        We can thank those big discoveries in the 50s, 60s and early 70s for most of the infrastructure we have today. Looking at the discoveries in the 90s’, 00s’ and 10s’ one can infer that the future infrastructure build-out will be much less.

      • psile says:

        Most conventional oil has already been found. ~90%. The planet is like swiss cheese from all the exploration for new provinces during the past century. There might be one more giant (0.5B-5B barrels) discovery during the drawdown of the last ~10%, but it will be too little too late.

        • If the price were high enough, there is a lot of very heavy oil and oil from shale that could be tapped. We have known about a lot of this for a long time. It simply hasn’t been worth pursuing extracting. It most likely never will be.

          • Chris Harries says:

            I’ve been surprised by the estimates of remaining oil. Approx 21 trillion barrels, having extracted just over 1 trillion barrels. Sounds stupendously huge, but this is very misleading if not understood. Most oil (hydrocarbon liquids) isn’t sitting in huge underground ponds waiting to burst forth. It’s locked in geological matrices. At an immense cost about 6 trillion are conserved technically recoverable. This doesn’t take into accounts the economics of trying to do so. The constraints are inability to keep delivering to meet world demand plus cost of recovering increasing dirty and hard-to-get product.

            • psile says:

              Where talking about conventional oil. Crude + condensate. The stuff that built the modern world, and is currently backstopping unconventional production.

          • psile says:

            We’re talking about conventional oil. Crude + condensate. The stuff that built the modern world, and is currently backstopping unconventional production.

            • We would be doing all right with unconventional oil, if it weren’t for the price. We can “crack” long molecules to become short molecules, if we need oil with shorter molecules. We know how to make small engines that use gasoline, and we have lots of uses for natural gas. We can gradually adapt to a somewhat different energy source fairly well, if that energy source is cheap enough.

            • Tim Groves says:

              So all we need is enough ingenuity and innovation to lower the cost of turning difficult-to-recover and difficult-to-process unconventional oil to somewhere around 20 bucks a barrel and we’re sorted for a few more years and then Eddy can get on with his bucket list.

  6. Dr Fast Eddy says:

    Alert – Alert – Alert —– deflationary death spiral picking up steam….. step to the side please….

    And consumers have reached a breaking point. The government’s statistics agency IBGE reported today that its narrower measure of retail sales, which excludes cars and building materials, dropped 4.9% year-over year in December, “frustrating hopes that end-year markdowns would boost demand for electronics and home appliances,” as Reuters put it.

    In all of 2016, this narrow measure of retail sales dropped 6.2%, the worst decline in the IBGE’s data series going back to 2001.

  7. Lastcall says:

    Hey there, this dude says in 5 years the great transformation to Solar will be ON!!

    So drill baby drill until then huh…?

    Meanwhile from a commentator on Wolf Street we have…

    ‘So the real question is in light of all the things going on in the financial world as well as the overall world’s economic situation is ;
    When does the House of Cards finally come falling to the ground . And what might finally cause it ? A quote from the now deceased Wall Street Baron , creator of over the counter trading , staunch Conservative , hard core capitalist as well as one of the wealthiest men in the US in his day : Morris Cohon to his son* back in in the early 70’s that might provide a clue ; [ edited for excess profanity only ]

    “ Capitalism is dying boy . Its dying of its own internal contradictions . You think the revolution is gonna take five years . Its gonna take fifty . So keep your head down . And hang in there for the long haul because I’ll tell you something , The sons of [ censored ] running things don’t give a damn about their children or their grandchildren and they certainly don’t give a [ censored ] about you . They’ve paid their dues and they want to get out with theirs . They’re gonna sell off everything thats not nailed down to the highest bidder . Don’t get crushed when it topples down . Take care of yourself and your family . If you can make a difference do it but there are huge forces at work here and the have to play themselves out according to their own designs not yours . Watch yourself . “

    • The problem with the perovskite is that the output is still intermittent. That has a huge cost associated with it.

    • Pintada says:

      Dear Lastcall;

      So, this guy thinks the research points to a practical application of a scientific principle, and he may be correct. What society needs is a cheap available technology to power everything now. There is a 20 year difference in the two ideas.

      Bench scale scientific work precedes practical employment by years,

  8. Dr Fast Eddy says:


    THE YEAR IS 2030. Forget about the flying cars, robot maids, and moving sidewalks we were promised. They’re not happening. But that doesn’t mean the future is a total unknown.

    According to a startling Pentagon video obtained by The Intercept, the future of global cities will be an amalgam of the settings of “Escape from New York” and “Robocop” — with dashes of the “Warriors” and “Divergent” thrown in. It will be a world of Robert Kaplan-esque urban hellscapes — brutal and anarchic supercities filled with gangs of youth-gone-wild, a restive underclass, criminal syndicates, and bands of malicious hackers.

    At least that’s the scenario outlined in “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” a five-minute video that has been used at the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations University. All that stands between the coming chaos and the good people of Lagos and Dhaka (or maybe even New York City) is the U.S. Army, according to the video, which The Intercept obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

    The video is nothing if not an instant dystopian classic: melancholy music, an ominous voiceover, and cascading images of sprawling slums and urban conflict. “Megacities are complex systems where people and structures are compressed together in ways that defy both our understanding of city planning and military doctrine,” says a disembodied voice. “These are the future breeding grounds, incubators, and launching pads for adversaries and hybrid threats.”

    The video was used as part of an “Advanced Special Operations Combating Terrorism” course offered at JSOU earlier this year, for a lesson on “The Emerging Terrorism Threat.” JSOU is operated by U.S. Special Operations Command, the umbrella organization for America’s most elite troops. JSOU describes itself as geared toward preparing special operations forces “to shape the future strategic environment by providing specialized joint professional military education, developing SOF specific undergraduate and graduate level academic programs and by fostering special operations research.”

    More including the video:

    • DJ says:

      There will still be cafes with biijii robots?

    • Greg Machala says:

      All that takes energy. In such a chaotic mess where will the energy and resources come to maintain the city? Food? Clothing? Heat? The big cities will collapse very quickly. Once the thugs kill off (or run off) the people that bring in the food and keep the utilities going the thugs will die of starvation. Thug life thrives off stealing and looting. When there is nothing to steal or loot they will croak. Robots, computers and electricity will be some of the first modern conveniences to go kaputskie.

      • Dr Fast Eddy says:

        The world described in that video would actually be utopia — relative to what is actually going to happen when the power goes off – permanently

    • Greg Machala says:

      I used to think that we were heading for a totalitarian, dystopian future with millions in prisons and high-tech means of controlling the remaining slave population with implants, robocops and such. But, I realized that all that takes a functioning financial system, global trade,modern technology, energy and resources. We are actually living the dystopian future right now with drones killing people and the surveillance apparatus we have in place. All the plebs mindlessly tooling away their lives on iDevices voluntarily relinquishing their private lives. I no longer believe there is a dystopian future. Rather I think that populations will collapse back to pre-industrial levels and there will be a return to abject simplicity.

      • dolph says:

        This is a good point.
        I think of the world today as high tech but decreasing energy per capita.
        Inevitably, we will reach low tech and low energy per capita.

        • the bottom-line concept is:
          that we will find ourselves in an environment that can support 1 billion people, but with 8 or 9 bn
          people demanding a share of it.

          there’s a thousand ifs and maybes and dates to dress that up, but those 9bn are set to arrive by 2050 and no argument is going to alter that.

          if you believe they can be supported adequately–then fair enough.

          if they can’t be supported, then several of those maybes are going to kick humanity in the collective teeth, and soon.

          you cannot feed people on the output of solar panels and windmills—and as those 9bn grow to adulthood they are going to fight for survival

          • doomphd says:

            i seriously doubt a human population of 9 billion by 2050, as we’ll probably peak at 8 to 8.5 billion by 2025-2030. the backside will be doubly exponential downward, a real cliff. of course, few will be around to witness and record these events. no apps, no internet, no working iPhones, PCs, TVs.

            • no one can put an accurate figure on the 2050 population—I was following the current projections.

              Personally I think there must be some kind of catastrophe to prevent us reaching that level—but any statement about that has to be a wild guess—no one, including me, can imagine that our current comfortable lifestyle could be anything other than it is now.

              Yet I cannot ignore the fact that 2 world wars killed 100m, and barely dented population growth, so whatever it is has to be infinetly greater than that.

      • Dr Fast Eddy says:

        I reckon that the scenario anticipated in ‘the plan’ describes what happens for a short period as BAU hits the wall…. it is the total chaos that comes as the riots start…. an attempt to hold the wall…

        It will without a doubt fail — probably as strategic reserves of petrol run out … and the military goes to pieces.

        That’s when the really grim scenario starts — mass starvation — extreme violence — with no police or military to stop it —- then the spent fuel ponds blow…. and soon afterwards it’s all over….

        • and in the absence of wages, police and military always resort to self employment

          • bandits101 says:

            Starvation and disease have in the past been the main drivers of any population decrease. In the absence of a devastating nuclear exchange they again are likely to be the main contributors of a population decrease………in the short term that is, for in the long term global warming will put paid to anything larger than a rabbit.

            The world wars didn’t reduce populations because they were over a period of a combined ten years. They also predominately killed males, leaving females to continue breeding. If you want wars to reduce populations then send the females off to fight and die.

            • Agreed! This is also the reason that China and India have long had a preference for male babies. Killing off unwanted females, or aborting female fetuses, acts as a way of holding population growth down. If the sex imbalance becomes a problem, it is possible to change the laws so that two bothers can share the same wife. The wife tends not to have more babies, however.

  9. Greg Machala says:

    “If you can thrive on 90% less energy and still get some critical industrial needs met” – This is a common delusion as well. Here are four pitfalls with this statement: 1) Critical industry may need parts from industries you assumed were not critical. 2) You assume that if one person can thrive on 90% less energy that everyone can. 3) Can this be done voluntarily? 4) Can this be done peacefully? 5) This statement has no historical precedent. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution there has never been a 90% reduction in energy consumption and a thriving economy.

    • Dr Fast Eddy says:

      It’s not so much different from suggesting a person can remain alive and functioning at some reasonable level with 90% of his organs not functioning….

      BAU is an interconnected system — as is a living body.

      • Greg Machala says:

        “BAU is an interconnected system — as is a living body.” – That is an interesting way of putting it.

  10. There is new BBC documentary about the post Brexit European situation, they visited several member states as example of the fracturing lines be it the question on economy, national sovereignty and borders etc: Italy, France, Hungary, ..

    What is kind of shocking, they openly conclude in their narration with possibility just in two years it could be all over, both the EU and EUR, that would be impossible message few years ago in the mainstream media.. Although one can expect it has now became sort of British state interest (BBC) to see it fall apart further on the continent, i.e. German’s Reich IV derailment, but I guess that’s not the major point of the docu.

    Another take away home message could be all those strange characters there, both on the political establishment as well as the surging populists, all delusional, incompetent, childish,..
    Compare and contrast with the real battle hardened political actors of previous times, for the good and bad, obviously.

    Well, I’m afraid now this “could be it” for real soon, how you can further paper over such situation, the buttons on the control panel simple are not working anymore in such surreal circus.

    • Greg Machala says:

      Wow! I can’t say I am surprised by the outlook. But, I am surprised it was a BBC documentary. Two years seems all too brief a time for each country of the EU to transition to a local economy. How is trade going to work between the wealthier and poorer EU countries? Seems like a lot of things are beginning to unwind.

      • Well, if the unwind comes to fruition, it basically means reenactment of tariff barriers to some degree, selective taxation schemes of multinationals vs. domestic oligarchies etc. Eventually also tighter passenger and cargo border controls again, ..

        In short, the countries with highest export surplus and defunct agriculture self-sufficiency would be hit the hardest in the short term, sort of reply of the Great Depression when the biggest companies went down not by 20% but to 20% (1/5 or lower) of former production output. This is bankruptcy, national interest and expropriation taking over and so on. This assumes some form of depression only, should it immediately trigger ~FW realization crisis, it would be much worse still.

        In practice, speaking about the EUR dissolution, it means huge volatility, the Germans were bamboozled by the global playerz to put large part of the national savings into various speculative gambles. This will be wiped out, what is worse though, large part of the subsidized export markets would be dead, and that means high unemployment and related political aftershocks. If I’m not mistaken the old DM currency has not been disposed off, but they have probably some newer version printed already as backup anyway. Also, in terms of timing, should Italy proceed to leave and France stay for the moment, there is some slight chance of EUR severely crippled yet soldiering on for some limited time..

        All this would obviously take many stages and take time to unravel.

        • Dr Fast Eddy says:

          Enjoy… there is a good example around page 56 of what collapse looks like… once it starts — it is fast — and unstoppable

          • Read it again.
            We don’t know if EU/EUR collapse happens soon, we don’t know what exactly will be the effect on the overall global finance structure consisting of several nodes, contagion is more or less certain, but it doesn’t automatically imply the end of “petro-dollar” nor fast collapse overnight in one swing. Other areas and hubs emerged, increase their global share in recent decades, namely China now prints staggering ~ .5T per month! if I recall it correctly..

            So, we could be close to the big one and in effect the last one, I admitted it, the probabilities seem increasing d/d, m/m, y/y. But it’s not 99% probability. We can get chaos in European area and in reaction some ad hoc patching up on the US-China-ME-Russian front for a temporary fix..

    • It takes cheap energy to keep the system together–in fact a growing supply of cheap energy, to provide growing economies. Once this is not available, it is the highest level of organization that seems to disappear first, like the EU.

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