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.

Conclusion

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 inadequate supply.
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2,531 Responses to The “Wind and Solar Will Save Us” Delusion

  1. hkeithhenson says:

    From

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/green-tech/clean-coal/carbon-capture-is-not-dead-but-will-it-blossom

    “Nearly two dozen large-scale CCS facilities are now operating globally or under construction, according to the GCCSI. Together they will be able to capture about 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. (U.S. emissions in 2014 were 5.3 billion metric tons in 2014.)”

    That’s getting up toward 1%. Few doublings and that would be an interesting effect. At least a CCS plant makes steady power.

    • Tim Groves says:

      Keith, my petty irritation with this article and with the term “carbon capture” is, as I have said previously, that “carbon” and “CO2” are used interchangeably when they are two different things. It is CO2 that is sequestered—not elemental carbon but molecules containing carbon and oxygen. So the term should be “CO2 capture”. Calling it “carbon capture” is even more of a misnomer than calling it “oxygen capture” would be, as two atoms of oxygen, derived directly from our precious life-sustaining biosphere, are locked away deep in the bowels of the earth—no sun to light their morning!—where they can no longer play any further part in life’s rich pageant for thousands of years to come.

      Apart from that, I’ve nothing against CCS facilities if the captured CO2 is going to be used for something useful that makes it economically worth capturing. But I see no point in constructing a huge boondoggle industry just to prevent CO2 emissions that probably don’t amount to a hill of beans in this cray world. (I watched Casablanca last night. 🙂 ) Along with ground-based solar and wind power, CCS is going to divert precious resources and investment that could otherwise be going into ET (emergent technology) solutions such as your own personal favorite, space-based solar.

  2. kurt says:

    Where’s that Glenn guy? He was kind of fun for awhile. He’s probably on a slow boat back to Delusistan. Or maybe a renewable boat?

  3. Dr Fast Eddy says:

    http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/a-civil-war-for-control-of-the-u-s-government-has-erupted-between-the-deep-state-and-donald-trump

    If this is true then Trump needs to launch a Cultural Revolution… invite the ‘flowers out to bloom’ then chop them off….

    All dissent must be purged in a Holocaust.

    • Artleads says:

      “All dissent must be purged in a Holocaust.”

      Not sure this can happen in America right now, but it’s a worthwhile consideration.

    • Tim Groves says:

      A drone strike on Michael Moore is now fully in order, perhaps while he’s attending the Oscars. And I think it would be hard to miss him. Bush and Obama have set precedents. You’re either with the President or you’re with the terrorists and on the designated enemies list.

      • jeremy890 says:

        Hopefully Dubya is within striking range too. After all we don’t want to miss anyonr, now do we? Is Dick Cheney still alive or have they managed another transplant?

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          I’m pretty sure what I most recently saw is Donald Trump putting (so far) five Vampire Squids in senior administration positions.

          • Joebanana says:

            Duncan-
            A terrible sign of things to come.

            • psile says:

              The looting operation (final drawdown of irreplaceable resources using fiat) is still incomplete. I guess they believe money and power will save them from the consequences of overshoot.

          • Dr Fast Eddy says:

            I am sure that is what you saw….

            Doesn’t sound as if he intends to drain any swamps….

            Impossible to figure out what is going on with the Elders and Trump — is this all an act aimed at creating the appearance of ‘the rebel’ — if so it’s very impressive!

            • adonis says:

              the other possibility the elders do not exist they are a collective delusionarey manifestation of conspiracy theorists which would mean that trump is the result of disgruntled voters electing trump because he simply was one of the good guys an honest president like john f kennedy.

            • aubreyenoch says:

              They showed James Baker and Mike Pense sitting together in a booth at the Super Bowl?

            • InAlaska says:

              adonis, “the elders do not exist they are a collective delusionarey manifestation of conspiracy theorists .”

              Thank you for speaking rationally. The existence of Trump is proof positive that this “Elders” nonsense is just that… There would be nothing more destablizing to a hidden world order or more threatening to such a hidden deep-state cabal than a president such as the one we currently have. People on OFW like Fast Eddy have been spinning conspiratorial delusions for far too long and really do a disservice to those of us wishing to have a thoughtful discussion on the many folds and phases of on-going collapse. Cheers!

            • Dr Fast Eddy says:

              Might you consider that anti Zionist (Elders) has put forward Trump as their front man because they need someone who would appeal to the masses on election day — that Putin (and perhaps China) — has allied with Team Trump to attempt to destroy the Elders?

            • Justin Time says:

              I think you’re on the right track…
              Remember… all roads lead to Rome.
              The Elders are nothing more than expendable subordinates.
              Much of what is going on is theatre. Nothing new there. But we’re getting closer to the endgame. We’ve had our extra time since 2008. Now come the penalty shootouts…
              And we all know how those go. There will be no fair resolution.

            • ITEOTWAWKI says:

              Yep FE, Calhoun’s experiment is a classic…and we are no different then those rats….

            • DJ says:

              The El-ders seems slightly more plausible than energy-to-cheap-to-meter-devices suppressed since the 60s. Slightly.

          • sheilach2 says:

            I’m guessing you know what a Vampire squid eats? they eat SHIT!
            I guess that also explains Trumps disgusting cabinet.
            Real Vampire squids however, are cute, you can’t say that about Trumps cabinet, their just VILE!

            • doomphd says:

              not to worry, they can always be fired. Donald’s good at that.

            • doomphd says:

              regarding the Calhoun crowding experiments on mice and rats, if you read the article’s comments they suggest those experiments and their conclusions, especially toward humans, were extremely flawed. also, humans face a far worse dilemma of lack of food.

          • Jinx#3 says:

            Whats wrong with vampires? That gal in underworld definitely had talent. Whats wrong with squids? Peacefully undulating through the ocean.

            Oh I forgot those two words placed next together are a sign that we all need to engage in a two minute hate. Because we are so good and they are so bad. My bad.

      • Jinx#3 says:

        “A drone strike on Michael Moore is now fully in order, perhaps while he’s attending the Oscars. And I think it would be hard to miss him.”
        No a precision munition would not be be needed, But why stop there? Why not declare all the press trrists? They obviously wouldn’t report a aardvark running down mainstreet if they didn’t get the ok. After all Obama pushed through the NDAA, the clear legalization of termination of any body or thing the prez perceives as a trrist . We all know Obama was a saint so if Trump was to declare all members of the press trrists it would be a affirmation of Obamas kindliness.

        • Joebanana says:

          Jinx#3-
          Obunghole passed all the laws needed for anyone in the future to do just as you say. Michael Moore could be “disappeared” legally, right now, if Trump gave the word.

          • Dr Fast Eddy says:

            I’d be quite pleased to see Moore disappeared…. he is a DelusiSTANI of the highest order

            Death to DelusiSTANIS!

            G-Had DelusiSTANIS!

            • jeremy890 says:

              Never mind the “Elders” or “PTB” are afflicted with the same delusional outlook and racing toward collapse…either one has a losing hand…

  4. Artleads says:

    Gail stated the opinion not long ago that the world (global civilization?) was a self-organizing system. I hope a future article will go further into it. A few immediate areas for consideration came to mind:

    – Means aspirationally inclusive philosophy–everything has to be included, with selected parts at any time given focused attention.
    – Intuition is the only capacity that can process such complexity (see link).
    – Necessary acceptance of incompleteness and imperfection.
    – The group is more important than the individual, although the individual should ideally come to this conclusion themself. Not to do so is problematic, and could require firm coercion to comply.
    – But no individual action or choice is exclusive of the operation of the self-organizing whole.
    – It is likely that homeostasis, balance, harmony are aims of a self-organizing process.

    Intuition:

  5. Glenn Stehle says:

    Can Other Oil Basins Ever Catch Up To The Permian’s Prosperity?
    http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?hpf=1&a_id=148529&utm_source=DailyNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=2017-02-16&utm_content=&utm_campaign=feature_1

    While many exploration and production (E&P) companies hustle to buy diminishing available acreage in the Permian Basin, other basins are lining up to the be next play that cashes in on $50-plus oil.

    Increasingly, the rig count bears out the possibilities. Although the Permian remains the leader in rig addition, others are showing signs of life. For the week ending Feb. 3, RigData reported another 33 rigs bringing the total to 707 rigs in U.S. service. Of those 33 new rigs, two were activated in the Midland and eight were added in the Delaware areas of the Permian. But outside of the Permian Basin, Eagle Ford added seven rigs and Haynesville added four…..

    A key reason the Permian remains a hot buy at $40,000-plus per acre is that profit can be made even when oil is $30 per barrel, according to both analysts and E&Ps. But the West Texas play might not be the only basin with a low breakeven cost. In fact, the powerhouse Permian production might be no more economic than Oklahoma’s SCOOP and STACK plays.

    “We think the SCOOP/STACK today is [profitable at] low $30 economics as well,” Turner said….

    Commercial potential of the SCOOP was found in 2011, and in the STACK, just two years later – indicating there’s a significantly longer learning curve.

    “There’s just been a lot more trial and error in the Permian, and we would say the SCOOP/STACK is much earlier on in its life,” Turner said. “And what you generally see is that as more drilling occurs, the operators start to understand the most efficient way to proceed with their drilling, so you can generally see costs coming down just because of expertise getting better.”….

    “When we think of the Permian versus the Eagle Ford or versus places like the Bakken, we still believe the Permian is in such a better place than those basins,” Turner said. “Our view would be you need to see oil move significantly higher … mid-$60s … before you would start to see capital truly move away from the Permian to the Eagle Ford or to the Bakken.”

    • Jarvis says:

      Glenn, Exxon published a third quarter report some months ago and if my feeble memory serves they were producing 2 millions barrels per day with a cost of $33 billion per year and if I’ve done my math right that’s around $44 per barrel. Keep in mind that’s drawing down legacy fields for the most part. Do you really believe oil can be fracked for $33? Or even $50??? I doubt you’ll win over any converts on this site.

    • Judy Trogolite says:

      Yes thats certainly a STACK and it certainly deserves to be SCOOPED. Corporate use of acronyms is probably the most prevalent examples of how there is most always a agenda and usually deception when acronyms are used. Its a example of the STOOP concept developed by the great sociopsychologist Frederick Larostic. 🙂 Name dropping in conjunction with acronyms. Is it in itself proof of intent to deceive? Modus operandi is modus operandi

  6. dolph says:

    One thing we must caution ourselves against is whether we are psychologically hoping for collapse. I know many here may disagree, but doing so allows us to think that somebody else is going to get theirs any day now, while we in the know are all of a sudden going to become important, prosperous, etc.

    The only thing one can do is get up each and day and ask, what are the conditions of my life today. That’s it. Here in America, I would describe things as in a sort of permanent holding pattern, stabilized but in intensive care condition. Personally, speaking, though, I have collapsed. I have no friends or connections or means to obtain a higher income.

    • Jarvis says:

      Dolph, I just got back from a bike ride where I was reflecting on that very issue. I think with practice and sufficient wealth you can live in both worlds. I have a nice house in the city where I carry on business like it’s going to be going forever and the mr Hyde plans and builds up his doomstead. It’s a cool doomstead in the mountains with an amazing garden on a beautiful lake with lots of fish and elk and deer in the woods. My neighbours think I’m slightly odd but enjoy the vegetables and got a great laugh when my $40,000 electric car got towed to the scrap yard but I’m ok with that. It’s all therapy!!
      Now if I could just solve my problem of nightmares……..

    • Chris Harries says:

      A very prescient thought, Dolph. Thank you.

      Some of the eagerness for collapse to happen as soon as possible stems from a ‘Waiting For Godot’ (title of famous book) experience. I’ve been sitting on this collapse idea for some 40 years, knowing that at some time our rampant civilisation must hit hard limits, but not knowing when. I may even get to my grave without witnessing it. Someone else said that they look forward to it just out of intellectual curiosity, to witness how it’s going to play out. We, here on this blog, are probably all in that boat.

      A pathological desire to bring on collapse in part comes from this, but I think you may be suggesting that this idea is also mixed with the typical male sense of personal invincibility. For instance, when people advocate for a desirable crashing of world population to 2 billion or so, they subconsciously think of themselves as being alive at the end, not amongst those billions who are expended. (Those who are expended are those nuisance extras that are preventing us enjoy our nice lifestyle that is threatened by human numbers.)

      The aftermath of a major disruption is unpredictable, but will be no bed of roes. In a worst case disruption scenario the survivors may well be the unlucky ones.

    • sheilach2 says:

      Actually the thought of collapse has me filling my pants almost every day!
      Like most here, I have seen what happens when a society collapses, I have read of past collapses & seen the piles of bodies strewn about those long dead streets, I’ve seen children, mothers & fathers slowly starving to death, out of reach of any help because of a siege. Anyone here remember Biafra? It tried to become separate from Nigeria, they were starved into submission, millions died, mostly of starvation.
      We got to watch it on TV, I don’t expect the next collapse to be televised.
      I don’t expect any supernatural help to show up at the last minute either.

    • Dolph, that’s sober line of thought.
      As we know from history, usually after severe dislocation and its chaos, the next temporary plateau is organized and ruled by just another faction gang of psychos. We can think of it as there is always some B, C, D, .. team waiting in the shadows to grab the proverbial one of the lifetime opportunity, disregarding or sometimes even enjoy whatever the human and or moral cost be paid. That’s frightening, but that’s life, unfortunately..

      I guess, we have here several types of instadoomers, one category wishing for a sudden sort of merciless end of it, and the other one even perhaps looking for quick profit as -soon as possible, not much fun (re-)gaining new prestige at age 70-80yrs, right..

      There are so many unknowns out there, will be some limited scale and number of nodes/hubs of civilization able to soldier on improvised lower level? Where exactly are we on the time line – progression path of collapse as of today? Was ~2008 really such serious threshold, or should we expect few more steps like that ongoing for decades, and live through “slow” grinding descent into inferno.

      I feel we are not there yet, I guess the real last shoe drops only when the current under ~20/30yrs youth category (mostly with zero hands on reference to material world) infiltrates in higher % into upper managerial positions in gov/mil and business. That seems as the last threshold when all the legacy tricks how to keep vertically integrated complex societies, can kicking, papering over problems, draining the existing infrastructure, hi-tech militarism, all finally droping dead under its weight.

      • dolph says:

        Interesting thought, and, as I’ve said before that gives us another few decades, maybe. But almost certainly not much longer than that.

    • aubreyenoch says:

      One consideration for collapse sooner rather than later is the importance of maintaining liquid water on the planet. The longer we continue BAU the higher the temperature we are going to generate on Earth. We don’t know all the feed backs that come in as the temperature rises, but everything is pointing to hotter. If we boil all the water off the surface and put it into the atmosphere as water vapor then it is curtains for this fusion powered, water soluble, self replicating chemical reaction that we call life. Humans and probably all mammals (but rats) are probably already done for. But it would be great if bacteria and maybe arthropods could get through the correction. I just wish there was some less painful way to get there.

    • ITEOTWAWKI says:

      I think many of us on this blog are VERY curious how this collapse will pan out, but to hope for it…I think most of us want to see BAU go on for as long as possible…however I don’t think any of us have any ideas of becoming important or prosperous..we will suffer the same fate as the 99.9% that have no idea what is about to happen…there is no escaping this…

    • xray6 says:

      “Personally, speaking, though, I have collapsed. I have no friends or connections or means to obtain a higher income.”
      Well I promise you tour income level is better than mine, Know any good bridges to live under? 🙂
      It is a difficult thing to accept our situation. It tales a strong individual to accept it. At least you can come here and hang out with the rest of us at the isle of misfit toys. Its not a lot but it is something. I feel very privileged to have been exposed to Gail’s work and to hang here. I wouldn’t return to ignorance for anything. Every individual has their own destiny. All you can do is accept.

    • Pintada says:

      Dear dolph;

      The silly postings by Glenn got me thinking along the same lines. His argument was that OFW doomerism is a religion.

      A religion is based on faith. Doomerism as practiced here is not based on faith, but on simple (to Gail) accounting, an observation of the fact that the earth is an isolated, finite sphere in space, and the laws of thermodynamics.

      What does require faith?

      Glenn is a charter member of the Church of Perpetual Growth. They have faith that the world, and the resources that come from it really are not finite. There is no proof that the world is infinite, they have faith that it is so.

      And of course Mark, because of his use of the ephemeralization myth, has identified himself as a died-in-the-wool singularitarian. Their faith is in Ray Kurzweil, and in the infinite world myth, and have confused pretty phones with actual progress. The delusion of the singularitarian is even more profound than Glenns group.

      I have no faith,
      Pintada

  7. Chris Dodgy says:

    I have encountered many who believe in “suppressed” technology that will yield free energy for all, A golden age once the greedy oligarch oil barons are disposed of, When I ask them to refute entropy a puzzled look comes to their face. Then they start eyeing me as a candidate for the guillotine. Viva la revolucion! Well I was wrong. I am big enough to admit when I am wrong . Here it is a clear refutation of entropy.
    https://www.liveleak.com/view?i=48f_1487375851

    • Tim Groves says:

      One variation on the belief is that “free energy” will be made available to everybody just as soon as the Elders work out how to tax it.

      • xray6 says:

        Not buying it. They can tax whatever they want. Taxation is a function of force, No one pays voluntarily. The threat of force is enough motive that all pay. If you got it you pay it. Even if the chance of discovery is small you still comply and pay. Who wants to share a cell with Bubba? No one so you pay.
        If a “free energy” source existed the “Elders” would have rolled it out long ago. The black goo was our free energy, We are ants in a sugar jar that is running on empty. Ants that have gone insane and think they are gods.

        • Justin Time says:

          “We are ants in a sugar jar that is running on empty. Ants that have gone insane and think they are gods.”

          There’s a lot of that goin’ around, that’s for sure.
          I often think that human beings on the whole are mentally ill. Most of the planet believes in one delusion or another. Most wars in history were avoidable. It takes a lot of effort, resources, organisation and belief in sky gods to go to war. More now than ever.

          Most human activity has become frivolous, superfluous, overly complex and wasteful. There is so much fat that we could trim but no one appears to want to do it. Our economies are made up of people serving coffee to each other… making weapons to kill each other too. When you stop to think about it, much of what we do is sheer insanity. Our children now spend much of their time glued to screens. The next step is subdermal biochips so that they’ll always be plugged in. In other words… no escape from the system.

          For a time, I wanted to believe in humanity. I really did. I gave it my best shot. But then I came to the realisation that if anything was to emerge from our human experiment it would not necessarily represent our better values – if we have any. Natural selection would choose the traits most appropriate for continuation of life. And that life could take any form – possibly with intelligence and cooperation as key aspects. Humanity could simply be a conduit for something that comes next. A vastly more efficient organism that ditches the superfluous and costly behaviour of our species. How much do we waste on makeup and tobacco with its related health costs? Most of our food goes to feeding animals. A tremendous waste. The same goes for all other industries. We are gluttonous wasteful creatures.

          If there was a remote possibility that some form of intelligence could carry the flame for life on this planet, I would bet that it would not be us. At least, not in this form with all our biological and mental and sociological baggage. We can’t even rise above skin colour for god’s sake! Or left and right, or red and blue, or whatever artificial divisions we create in our defective minds.

          There is no good or bad outcome. Only perspective. I truly believed our problems were solvable if only we could’ve all pulled in the same direction. Population could have been curbed, the growth economy revamped, energy issues solved had we not been suffering from a collective form of mental illness. Alas, it appears to be too late to cure this particular patient. Maybe, we’ll have better luck next time.

          • Artleads says:

            Do you ever read John Michael Greer’s blog? He (for one among quite a few) sees the dysfunctions you do, but brings different ways of thinking (and an incredible store of knowledge) to it.

            http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/

            If you don’t have time to check out the archived, rather long articles, just glancing through the blurbs on his books (listed on the right of the screen) you’d see whether his basic philosophic endeavors grip you or not.

            • Justin Time says:

              Thanks Artleads. Having a look at it now. Looks like interesting material.

              I’ve reached a point where a lot of the stuff that goes on in the world doesn’t make any sense to me at all. Maybe I’m an idealist, but in all seriousness… is this the best we can do?

    • Ert says:

      @Chris

      Yes its funny. I see a lot of people calming ‘alternative energy’ sources as ‘Tesla’ machines, ‘Space/Field-Energy’ and the like…. and a lot of people wanting to believe that.

      When I then ask those believing people: Please tell me: How expensive is a 1MW generating machine, how much Power-Input does it require and how much constant power-output do I get to how many years? And: How much maintenance / material-Input (and its cost) do I need in the first 10 years to keep that thing running.

      … I get no answer….. never. But those are the basic question of the machines energetic viability…. and most people without any clue are likely to believe anything which suites them to overcome their fears….

    • common phenomenon says:

      Well, just look at the electron, whizzing round all day and never running out of energy. How do you explain that? Just imagine if we could tap into that energy source. I expect Nikola Tesla had a good go. Maybe if he’d lived longer.

      Then there’s John Hutchison (not “Hutchinson”) and his Hutchison effect. Trouble is, we never get to see his contraptions from a distance when they’re supposedly working, just the “effects”. Though the twisted metal, also as seen after 9/11, is impressive. Apparently the Americans confiscated his home laboratory in Canada (he is Canadian) with the connivance of the Canadian authorities. Allegedly he later worked for the US military-industrial complex. Who really knows? Anyway:

      • xray-6 says:

        ” Who really knows? Anyway:”
        True dat.
        However this is what I have observed.
        These are the most common

        1;Energy inputs to extract and use product-which are larger than the energy contained in the product- are ignored.- example Hydrogen from water

        2;Blind faith in technology- the world is like star trek-technology is akin to magic.

        3;My friend had a free energy device(he had to destroy it so THEY did not get him).

        The commonality of all that hold these beliefs is a entitlement belief system. A belief in a religious entity or spirit is usually but not always involved.

        Another commonality is extreme anger and spite is usually but not always encountered when exploring beliefs. Avocation of free stuff = good person. Limits to free stuff= bad person.

        Lisa Simpson, we all know she is cool. Lisa has a perpetual motion machine. Homer, we all know he is a dolt. Homer believes in entropy.

        Be a Lisa don’t be a Homer! Reality be damned.

        Chicks dig free energy.

        In my opinion the core of the free energy crowds beliefs are adopted in order to deny the realities of a finite world. This allows entitlement and some use this strong desire for entitlement to scam. I have learned to stay far away from this topic. Other peoples lives are none of my business. Sometimes when all they do is advocate free energy I stay far away from them. Fanatics are dangerous.

        The flip side is the drill baby drill crowd. The party is eternal.

        99% of people fall in one tub or the other.

  8. Glenn Stehle says:

    Baker Hughes: US Drillers Add Oil Rigs For Fifth Straight Week
    http://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/148556/Baker_Hughes_US_Drillers_Add_Oil_Rigs_For_Fifth_Straight_Week?utm_source=DailyNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=2017-02-17&utm_content=&utm_campaign=industry_headlines_3

    U.S. energy companies added oil rigs for a fifth straight week, extending a nine-month recovery as drillers take advantage of crude prices that have held mostly over $50 a barrel since OPEC agreed to cut supplies in late November….

    Since crude prices first topped $50 a barrel in May after recovering from 13-year lows last February, drillers have added a total of 281 oil rigs in 34 of the past 38 weeks, the biggest recovery in rigs since a global oil glut crushed the market over two years starting in mid 2014.

    .Shale oil production for March is expected to rise by nearly 79,000 barrels per day – the most in five months – to 4.87 million bpd, its highest rate since May last year, government data showed on Monday.

    Analysts said they expect U.S. energy firms to boost spending on drilling and pump more oil and natural gas from shale fields in coming years now that energy prices are projected to keep climbing.

    Futures for the balance of 2017 were trading around $54 a barrel, while calendar 2018 was fetching less than $54.50.

    BofA Merrill said this week U.S. shale oil production could grow by 3.5 million bpd to 2022, delivering more than 80 percent of incremental non-OPEC barrels.

    Shale producers, however, are facing their first production cost hike in five years as industry activity picks up and energy service providers hike fees to take a bigger share of the profits generated by higher oil prices. The break-even production costs will rise an average of $1.60 to $36.50 per barrel this year, according to data from Rystad Energy, which surveys producers.

    Analysts at U.S. financial services firm Cowen & Co said in a note this week that its capital expenditure tracking showed 37 exploration and production (E&P) companies planned to increase spending by an average of 45 percent in 2017 over 2016.

  9. Here is a February 15 article on using solar arrays along railroad routes that currently are electrified. On the surface, it seems a good idea, as they explain. I wonder what the actual numbers would tell us: how many solar panels, maintenance costs, etc. Thoughts?
    https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/feb/15/solar-powered-trains-uk-india-renewables-tracks-electric

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