Researchers have been underestimating the cost of wind and solar

How should electricity from wind turbines and solar panels be evaluated? Should it be evaluated as if these devices are stand-alone devices? Or do these devices provide electricity that is of such low quality, because of its intermittency and other factors, that we should recognize the need for supporting services associated with actually putting the electricity on the grid? This question comes up in many types of evaluations, including Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI), Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), and Energy Payback Period (EPP).

I recently gave a talk called The Problem of Properly Evaluating Intermittent Renewable Resources (PDF) at a BioPhysical Economics Conference in Montana. As many of you know, this is the group that is concerned about Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROI). As you might guess, my conclusion is that the current methodology is quite misleading. Wind and solar are not really stand-alone devices when it comes to providing the kind of electricity that is needed by the grid. Grid operators, utilities, and backup electricity providers must provide hidden subsidies to make the system really work.

This problem is currently not being recognized by any of the groups evaluating wind and solar, using techniques such as LCOE, EROI, LCA, and EPP. As a result, published results suggest that wind and solar are much more beneficial than they really are. The distortion affects both pricing and the amount of supposed CO2 savings.

One of the questions that came up at the conference was, “Is this distortion actually important when only a small amount of intermittent electricity is added to the grid?” For that reason, I have included discussion of this issue as well. My conclusion is that the problem of intermittency and the pricing distortions it causes is important, even at low grid penetrations. There may be some cases where intermittent renewables are helpful additions without buffering (especially when the current fuel is oil, and wind or solar can help reduce fuel usage), but there are likely to be many other instances where the costs involved greatly exceed the benefits gained. We need to be doing much more thoughtful analyses of costs and benefits in particular situations to understand exactly where intermittent resources might be helpful.

A big part of our problem is that we are dealing with variables that are “not independent.” If we add subsidized wind and solar, that act, by itself, changes the needed pricing for all of the other types of electricity. The price per kWh of supporting types of electricity needs to rise, because their EROIs fall as they are used in a less efficient manner. This same problem affects all of the other pricing approaches as well, including LCOE. Thus, our current pricing approaches make intermittent wind and solar look much more beneficial than they really are.

A clear workaround for this non-independence problem is to look primarily at the cost (in terms of EROI or LCOE) in which wind and solar are part of overall “packages” that produce grid-quality electricity, at the locations where they are needed. If we can find solutions on this basis, there would seem to be much more of a chance that wind and solar could be ramped up to a significant share of total electricity. The “problem” is that there is a lower bound on an acceptable EROI (probably 10:1, but possibly as low as 3:1 based on the work of Charles Hall). This is somewhat equivalent to an upper bound on the affordable cost of electricity using LCOE.

This means that if we really expect to scale wind and solar, we probably need to be creating packages of grid-quality electricity (wind or solar, supplemented by various devices to create grid quality electricity) at an acceptably high EROI. This is very similar to a requirement that wind or solar energy, including all of the necessary adjustments to bring them to grid quality, be available at a suitably low dollar cost–probably not too different from today’s wholesale cost of electricity. EROI theory would strongly suggest that energy costs for an economy cannot rise dramatically, without a huge problem for the economy. Hiding rising energy costs with government subsidies cannot fix this problem.

Distortions Become Material Very Early

If we look at recently published information about how much intermittent electricity is being added to the electric grid, the amounts are surprisingly small. Overall, worldwide, the amount of electricity generated by a combination of wind and solar (nearly all of it intermittent) was 5.2% in 2016. On an area by area basis, the percentages of wind and solar are as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Wind and solar as a share of 2016 electricity generation, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017. World total is not shown, but is very close to the percentage shown for China.

There are two reasons why these percentages are lower than a person might expect. One reason is that the figures usually quoted are the amounts of “generating capacity” added by wind and solar, and these are nearly always higher than the amount of actual electricity supply added, because wind and solar “capacity” tend to be lightly used.

The other reason that the percentages on Figure 1 are lower than we might expect is because the places that have unusually high concentrations of wind and solar generation (examples: Germany, Denmark, and California) tend to depend on a combination of (a) generous subsidy programs, (b) the availability of inexpensive balancing power from elsewhere and (c) the generosity of neighbors in taking unwanted electricity and adding it to their electric grids at low prices.

As greater amounts of intermittent electricity are added, the availability of inexpensive balancing capacity (for example, from hydroelectric from Norway and Sweden) quickly gets exhausted, and neighbors become more and more unhappy with the amounts of unwanted excess generation being dumped on their grids. Denmark has found that the dollar amount of subsidies needs to rise, year after year, if it is to continue its intermittent renewables program.

One of the major issues with adding intermittent renewables to the electric grid is that doing so distorts wholesale electricity pricing. Solar energy tends to cut mid-day peaks in electricity price, making it less economic for “peaking plants” (natural gas electricity plants that provide electricity only when prices are very high) to stay open. At times, prices may turn negative, if the total amount of wind and solar produced at a given time is greater than the overall amount of electricity required by customers. This happens because intermittent electricity is generally given priority on the grid, whether price signals indicate that it is needed or not. A combination of these problems tends to make backup generation unprofitable unless subsidies are provided. If peaking plants and other backup are still required, but need to operate fewer hours, subsidies must be provided so that the plants can afford to hire year-around staff, and pay their ongoing fixed expenses.

If we think of the new electricity demand as being “normal” demand, adjusted by the actual, fairly random, wind and solar generation, the new demand pattern ends up having many anomalies. One of the anomalies is that required prices become negative at times when wind and solar generation are high, but the grid has no need for them. This tends to happen first on weekends in the spring and fall, when electricity demand is low. As the share of intermittent electricity grows, the problem with negative prices becomes greater and greater.

The other major anomaly is the need for a lot of quick “ramp up” and “ramp down” capacity. One time this typically happens is at sunset, when demand is high (people cooking their dinners) but a large amount of solar electricity disappears because of the setting of the sun. For wind, rapid ramp ups and downs seem to be related to thunderstorms and other storm conditions. California and Australia are both adding big battery systems, built by Tesla, to help deal with rapid ramp-up and ramp-down problems.

There is a lot of work on “smart grids” being done, but this work does not address the particular problems brought on by adding wind and solar. In particular, smart grids do not move demand from summer and winter (when demand is normally high) to spring and fall (when demand is normally low). Smart grids and time of day pricing aren’t very good at fixing the rapid ramping problem, either, especially when these problems are weather related.

The one place where time of day pricing can perhaps be somewhat helpful is in lessening the rapid ramping problem of solar at sunset. One fix that is currently being tried is offering the highest wholesale electricity prices in the evening (6:00 pm to 9:00 pm), rather than earlier in the day. This approach encourages those adding new solar energy generation to add their panels facing west, rather than south, so as to better match demand. Doing this is less efficient from the point of view of the total electricity generated by the panels (and thus lowers EROIs of the solar panels), but helps prevent some of the rapid ramping problem at sunset. It also gets some of the generation moved from the middle of day to the evening, when it better matches “demand.”

In theory, the high prices from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm might encourage consumers to move some of their electricity usage (cooking dinner, watching television, running air conditioning) until after 9:00 pm. But, as a practical matter, it is difficult to move very much of residential demand to the desired time slots based on price. In theory, demand could also be moved from summer and winter to spring and fall based on electricity price, but it is hard to think of changes that families could easily make that would allow this change to happen.

With the strange demand pattern that occurs when intermittent renewables are added, standard pricing approaches (based on marginal costs) tend to produce wholesale electricity prices that are too low for electricity produced by natural gas, coal, and nuclear providers. In fact, wholesale electricity rates for supporting providers tend to diverge further and further from what is needed, as more and more intermittent electricity is added. The dotted line on Figure 2 illustrates the falling wholesale electricity prices that have been occurring in Europe, even as retail residential electricity prices are rising.

Figure 2. European residential electricity prices have risen, even as wholesale electricity prices (dotted line) have fallen. Chart by Paul-Frederik Bach.

The marginal pricing scheme gives little guidance as to how much backup generation is really needed. It is therefore left up to governments and local electricity oversight groups to figure out how to compensate for the known pricing problem. Some provide subsidies to non-intermittent producers; others do not.

To complicate matters further, electricity consumption has been falling rapidly in countries whose economies are depressed. Adding wind and solar further reduces needed natural gas, coal, and nuclear generation. Some countries may let these producers collapse; others may subsidize them, as a jobs-creation program, whether this backup generation is needed or not.

Of course, if a single payer is responsible for both intermittent and other electricity programs, a combined rate can be set that is high enough for the costs of both intermittent electricity and backup generation, eliminating the pricing problem, from the point of view of electricity providers. The question then becomes, “Will the new higher electricity prices be affordable by consumers?”

The recently published IEA World Energy Investment Report 2017 provides information on a number of developing problems:

“Network investment remains robust for now, but worries have emerged in several regions about the prospect of a ‘utility death spiral’ as the long-term economic viability of grid investments diminishes. The still widespread regulatory practice of remunerating fixed network assets on the basis of a variable per kWh charge is poorly suited for a power system with a large amount of decentralised solar PV and storage capacity.”

The IEA investment report notes that in China, 10% of solar PV and 17% of wind generation were curtailed in 2016, even though previous problems with lack of transmission had been fixed. Figure 1 shows China’s electricity from wind and solar amounts to only 5.0% of its total electricity consumption in 2016.

Regarding India, the IEA report says, “More flexible conventional capacity, including gas-fired plants, better connections with hydro resources and investment in battery storage will be needed to support continued growth in solar power.” India’s intermittent electricity amounted to only 4.1% of total electricity supply in 2016.

In Europe, a spike in electricity prices to a 10-year high took place in January 2017, when both wind and solar output were low, and the temperature was unusually cold. And as previously mentioned, California and South Australia have found it necessary to add Tesla batteries to handle rapid ramp-ups and ramp-downs. Australia is also adding large amounts of transmission that would not have been needed, if coal generating plants had continued to provide services in South Australia.

None of the costs related to intermittency workarounds are currently being included in EROI analyses. They are generally not being included in analyses of other kinds, either, such as LCOE. In my opinion, the time has already arrived when analyses need to be performed on a much broader basis than in the past, so as to better capture the true cost of adding intermittent electricity.

Slide 1

Slide 2

Slide 3

Slide 4

Of course, as we saw in the introduction, worldwide electricity supply is only about 5% wind and solar. The only parts of the world that were much above 5% in 2016 were Europe, which was at 11.3% in 2016 and the United States, which was at 6.6%.

There has been a lot of talk about electrical systems being operated entirely by renewables (such as hydroelectric, wind, solar, and burned biomass), but these do not exist in practice, as far as I know. Trying to replace total energy consumption, including oil and natural gas usage, would be an even bigger problem.

Slide 5

The amount of electricity required by consumers varies considerably over the course of a year. Electricity demand tends to be higher on weekdays than on weekends, when factories and schools are often closed. There is usually a “peak” in demand in winter, when it is unusually cold, and second peak in summer, when it is unusually hot. During the 24-hour day, demand tends to be lowest at night. During the year, the lowest demand typically comes on weekends in the spring and fall.

If intermittent electricity from W&S is given first priority on the electric grid, the resulting “net” demand is far more variable than the original demand pattern based on customer usage. This increasingly variable demand tends to become more and more difficult to handle, as the percentage of intermittent electricity added to the grid rises.

Slide 6

EROI is nearly always calculated at the level of the solar panel or wind turbine, together with a regular inverter and whatever equipment is used to hold the device in place. This calculation does not consider all of the costs in getting electricity to the right location, and up to grid quality. If we move clockwise around the diagram, we see some of the problems as the percentage of W&S increases.

One invention is smart inverters, which are used to bring the quality of the electrical output up closer to grid quality, apart from the intermittency problems. Germany has retrofitted solar PV with these, because of problems it encountered using only “regular” inverters. Upgrading to smart inverters would be a cost not generally included in EROI or LCOE calculations.

The next problem illustrated in Slide 6 is the fact that the pricing system does not work for any fuel, if wind and solar are given priority on the electric grid. The marginal cost approach that is usually used gives too low a wholesale price for every producer subject to this pricing scheme. The result is a pricing system that gives misleadingly low price signals. Regulators are generally aware of this issue, but don’t have a good way of fixing it. Capacity payments are used in some places as an attempted workaround, but it is not clear that such payments really solve the problem.

It is less obvious that in addition to giving too low pricing indications for electricity, the current marginal cost pricing approach indirectly gives artificially low price indications regarding the required prices for natural gas and coal as fuels. As a result of this and other forces acting in the same directions, we end up with a rather bizarre situation:  (a) Natural gas and and coal prices tend to fall below their cost of production. (b) At the same time, nuclear electricity generating plants are being forced to close, because they cannot afford to compete with the artificially low price of electricity produced by the very low-priced natural gas and coal. The whole system tends to be pushed toward collapse by misleadingly low wholesale electricity prices.

Slide 6 also shows some of the problems that seem to start arising as more intermittent electricity is added. Once new long distance transmission lines are added, it changes the nature of the whole “game.” It becomes easier to rely on generation added by a neighbor; any generation that a country might add becomes more attractive to a neighbor. As long as there is plenty of electricity to go around, everything goes well. When there are shortages, then arguments begin to arise. Arguments such as these may destabilize the Eurozone.

One thing I did not mention in this chart is the increasing need to pay intermittent grid providers not to produce electricity when there is an oversupply of electricity. In the UK, the amount of these payments was over 1 million pounds a week in 2015.  I mentioned previously that in China, 17% of wind generation and 10% of solar PV generation were being curtailed in 2016. EROI calculations do not consider this possibility; they assume that 100% of the electricity that is generated can, in fact, be used by the system.

Slide 7

The pricing system no longer works because W&S are added whenever they become available, in preference to other generation. In many ways, the pricing system is like our appetite for food. Usually, we eat when we are hungry, and the food we eat reduces our appetite. W&S are added to the system with total disregard for whether the system needs it or not, leaving the other electricity producers to try to fix up the mess, using the false pricing signals they get. The IEA’s 2017 Investment Report recommends that countries develop new pricing schemes that correct the problems, but it is not clear that this is actually possible without correcting the hidden subsidies.

Slide 8

Why add more electricity supply, if there is a chance that you can use the new supply added by your neighbor?

Slide 9

South Australia had two recent major outages–both partly related to adding large amounts of wind and solar to the electric grid, and the loss of its last two coal-fired electricity generation plants. The first big outage came during a weather event. The second big outage occurred when temperatures were very high during summer, and because of this, electricity demand was very high.

One planned workaround for supply shortages was natural gas. Unfortunately, South Australia doesn’t actually have a very good natural gas supply to operate its units generating electricity from natural gas. Thus, the available natural gas generators could not really respond as hoped, except at very high prices. Some changes are now being made, including a planned Tesla battery system. With the changes being made, there are reports of electricity rate increases of up to 120% for businesses in South Australia.

The irony of the situation is that Australia is a major natural gas exporter. Businesses expected that they could make more money selling the natural gas abroad as LNG than they could by providing natural gas to the citizens of South Australia. These exports are now being curbed, to try to help fix the South Australia natural gas problem.

These issues point out how interconnected all of the different types of electricity generation are, and how quickly a situation can become a local crisis, if regulators simply assume “market forces will provide a solution.”

Slide 10

An expert panel in Australia has recommended an approach similar to this. It simply becomes too difficult to operate a system with built-in subsidies.

Slide 11

Slide 12

Timing makes a difference. The payments that are made for interest need to be made, directly or indirectly, with future goods and services that can only be made using energy products. Thus, they also require the use of energy products.

Slide 13

Slide 14

There is a real difference between (a) looking at the actual operating experiences of an existing oil and gas or coal company, and (b) guessing what the future operating experience of a system operated by wind panels and solar panels might be. The tendency is to guess low, when it comes to envisioning what future problems may arise.

It is not just the wind turbines and solar panels that will need to be replaced over time; it is all of the supporting devices that need to be kept in good repair and replaced over time. Furthermore, the electric grid is dependent on oil for its upkeep. If oil becomes a problem, there is a real danger that the electric grid will become unusable, and with it, electricity that is generally distributed by the grid, including wind and solar.

Slide 15

Slide 16

Economies and humans are both self-organized systems that depend on energy consumption for their existence. They have many other characteristics in common as well.

Slide 17

We know that with humans, we really need to examine how a new medicine or a change in diet works in practice. For one thing, medicines and diets aren’t necessarily used as planned. Unexpected long-term changes occur that we could not anticipate.

Slide 18

The same kinds of problems occur when wind and solar are added to a grid system. We really have to look at what is happening to see the full picture.

Slide 19

Anyone who has followed the news knows about medicine’s long history of announcements followed by retractions.

Slide 20

A fairly similar situation can be expected to happen with proposed energy solutions.

Slide 21

There is a whole package of costs and a whole range of direct and indirect outcomes to consider.

Slide 22

As far as I know, none of the attempts at producing a system that operates on 100% renewable energy have been a success. There has been some reductions in fossil fuel usage, but at a high cost.

Slide 23

2013 Weissabach et al. EROI analysis examines a situation with partial buffering of wind and solar (approximately 10 days worth of buffering). It leaves out several other costs of bringing wind and solar up to grid quality electricity, such as extra long distance transmission costs, and more significant buffering to allow transferring electricity produced in spring and fall to be saved for summer or winter. These authors calculated a partially buffered EROI of 4:1 for wind, and a partially buffered EROI range of 1.5:1 to 2.3:1 for solar PV.

Of course, more investigation, including looking at the full package of needed devices to provide non-intermittent electricity of grid quality, is really needed for particular situations. Improvements in technology would tend to raise EROI indications; adding more supplemental devices to bring electricity to grid quality would tend to reduce EROI indications.

If the cutoff for being able to maintain a modern society is 10:1, as mentioned earlier, then wind and solar PV would both seem to fall far below the required EROI cutoff, if they are to be used in quantity.

If, as Hall believes, an EROI as low as 3:1 might be useful, then there is a possibility that some wind energy would be helpful, especially if a particular wind location has a very high capacity factor (can generate electricity a large share of the time), and if pricing problems can be handled adequately. The EROI of solar PV would probably still be too low in most applications. In any event, we need to be examining situations more closely, instead of simply assuming that hidden subsidies can be counted on indefinitely.

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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3,302 Responses to Researchers have been underestimating the cost of wind and solar

  1. jerry says:

    For Tesla lovers lol management is apparently into all kinds of dirty tricks to stop unionization and working for Elon is pure hell!!!!

    For Musk, the billionaire CEO of the electric car company, that hell is a technical inconvenience. Tesla, which currently sells a small number of high-end cars, recently announced its plans to massively increase production and enter the mass market with its Model 3 car. “Frankly, we’re going to be in production hell,” Musk told Tesla employees during a July 28 announcement. “For at least six months, maybe longer
    For a number of Tesla factory workers who are currently trying to unionize, hell feels like herniated neck disks, carpal tunnel, and tendinitis.

    “Having to look up every day, 12 hours a day, six days a week, hands over my shoulder, it was two herniated disks in my neck,” Michael Sanchez told The Daily Beast. He has since moved to less-intensive work on door panels. “After three-plus years working at Tesla, it just starts adding on until you’re living the pain every day. Whether you’re off work or not.”

    Tesla casts itself as the eco-friendly car of the future, but the tech company still depends on the physical labor of workers who assemble vehicles in its factory in Fremont, California. As the company enters a production blitz, some of these workers are demanding a union, citing a high rate of past injuries.

    So when factory workers started murmuring about a union last summer, Sanchez got on board. But a year out, while Tesla shifts into high gear, its union drive is still stalling.

    • Tim Groves says:

      Why aren’t robots doing the assembly work at Tesla? Have they got a better union?

      • Davidin100trillionyears says:

        the Robot Union boss, who is also a robot, has apparently been compromised.

        someone tampered with its software and now it is not doing its job.

        suspiciously, a potential replacement robot boss has had production delays.

  2. Cliffhanger says:

    Rio Looks Apocalyptic a Year After the Olympics

  3. timl2k11 says:

    Tesla Feels the Bond Market Love in Debut Sale to Fund Model 3
    Save us, Elon!

  4. Cliffhanger says:

    For every one percent of conventional oil production that declines. Shale oil would have to increase by twenty percent to cover the difference.

    -Douglas B Reynolds Professor “Oil and Energy Economics”

    • Davidin100trillionyears says:

      that’s why oil will likely be in permanent decline by about 2025.

      • Cliffhanger says:

        Two trillion dollars worth of future CAPEX cuts and lowest new oil discoveries in history last year. And you think we will be fine until 2025?

        • Davidin100trillionyears says:

          yes, because that’s what all the available data says. by the way, 2025 is coming VERY SOON.

          remember, OPEC just cut their quotas recently. They are NOT pumping at full capacity.

          the data says peak oil will hit in the 2020’s and then a slight decline will begin.

          severe declines, with severe economic consequences, will arrive in the late 2020’s or early 2030’s. Not a prediction, but a projection based on oil fields data.

          ps: I can’t see into the future and neither can you.

  5. Dorvek says:

    #2 is GW-related, but, but, but, hold on Fast Eddy, there’s still hope for #1:

    • Davidin100trillionyears says:

      most of the list is about natural disasters which are far from imminent.

      if Cracked really wanted to scare the daylights out of their readers, you know, where they would have a hard time sleeping at night…

      they would have made this #1:

      almost instantly, the finances of the world, which exist only on computers, could seize up and fail totally, either by human accident or intentional action.

      good night, everybody! sweet dreams!

  6. Cliffhanger says:


    Dr Peter Gray: “Once collapse is in full swing health care will disappear almost overnight. Of all the industries in our complex world medicine has become one of the most energy-intensive, technology-dependent, and thus fragile endeavors that exists…”

    • Marcus T. Monihan says:

      Oh, I’m sure those people will still find a way to rake us over the coals.

  7. JT Roberts says:

    What is economics? What is it made from? What does it value? What is it’s purpose and goal?

    Often economics has been described as “The dismal science”. But why? Perhaps only because no one truly understands it. So any attempt to regulate it has failed.

    Economics fundamental function is to disburse resources. Without goods and services there is no real economic activity. In all cases the economy is driven by destructive consumption. In this, economic activity resembles thermodynamics, because it exists only when there are transfers and these transfers always move from low to high entropic states.

    However unlike thermodynamics that are an unemotional and irrational system that simply functions based on favorable circumstances. Economies are created by desired circumstances.

    So to simplify the concept it might be expressed that thermodynamics determines the relationship of dissipative systems particularly related to their isolated development. Economics is an attempt to create and control dissipative systems particularly in their relationship to other dissipative systems.

    If we are to pause and think about that fact we start to realize the immense complexity of any attempt to control multiple dissipative subsystems that all eventually become critical to larger dissipative structures. Obviously the larger a system becomes the more fragile it becomes because it risks a misallocation of critical resources to a particular sub sector of the greater system. Having been built on multiple dissipative systems the loss of anyone creates a gyration through the entire system.

    So having that in mind it isn’t hard to comprehend that having groups of substructures operating at different objectives will create unwanted turbulence in the overall system. So basically for the system to sustain itself it requires unity of purpose. So the question of what is the economic purpose of a given system becomes an important one. Actually it defines economic systems.

    The Western World has been indoctrinated in believing the only economic system that works is Free Market Capitalism. And this mentally emotional concept has served them well. The pure function of that system is more. More is always better then less. This is an easy concept and an easy one to scale. So resources are driven to the most productive activity for the sake of more. The only limitation is demand must be created to absorb the supply.

    It’s important to understand that artificial demand is required to service the system. Growth is the objective. There is no evidence that people who live in the suburbs are any more materially better off then they were in their urban communities. However the perception of more had to be maintained to keep demand growing. And perhaps a few violent racial riots might have helped as well. However this a unique American issue not repeated in Europe. Likely a growth opportunity.

    The concept that less is more doesn’t compute in the average Western mind. To test this theory on yourself try this. Ask yourself what is more desirable renting a boat or owning a boat? Or renting a vacation house or owning a vacation house?

    The reality is that from a cost perspective ownership is a losing proposition but people lean toward owning for emotional reasons but not rational ones. Those emotional reasons are created by the culture of the system. And to some extent a persons view of his personal mortality.

    In this regard Free Market Capitalism has a real weakness in detecting weaknesses in critical subsystems. And this has lead to repeated attempts to establish governmental oversight to stabilize resource allocation. Because of this the thought that Free Market Capitalism truly exists is false. What the Western world actually exists in is a Centrally Planned economy that’s purpose is to create the impression of Freedom and Prosperity.

    Command economies basic function has been for the most part to maintain the command. For only a brief time from 1917-1936 the Soviet system broke from the traditional system which was crushed by Stalin who recognized that ultimately anarchy would develop in a pure democracy. So information had to be controlled to preserve the economic system. This is accomplished by banning information and books. However it is weak in suppressing thought and has even created a more competent intellectual class.

    Make no mistake the entire world lives in a command economy of some sort. Some recognize it some do not. The most economically prosperous countries have been able to convince their population that they are Free Market. The genius behind the Western Command economy is rather then control information by limiting it. They flood the system with information which creates cognitive dissonance and leads to an easily lead bewildered group of highly productive consumers. Who for the most part accept the government narrative.

    When we accept this isn’t an Adam Smith utopia we start to learn we start to see thing as they are. There is no such thing as Austrian Economics.

    Presently there are only a few economies that have escaped the Western command economy but as their predecessors have learned resistance is useless.

    Cross purposes will not be tolerated. Russia and China are now crossing the invisible line by trading in their own currency.

    North Korea is a proxy war. The BRICS are breaking rank. The center won’t hold.

    • Rendar says:

      Excellent analysis, JT. This brings to mind the often heard and misguided libertarian cry for laissez-faire capitalism. “If only government would just get out of the way and let the free market rule!” When you look at the history of money creation and the world’s first markets you find central planning, through and through. Economic historian Karl Polanyi provides eye-opening evidence to this in “The Great Transformation.”

    • Kurt says:

      That would be too much typing.

    • Tim Groves says:

      You packed lots of good stuff in there, JT.

      The idea that the Western world operates on a command economy rings true to a certain extent. We cant trust corporations to work for the common good on their own. They need to be regulated. And we can’t trust the regulators to regulate fairly and appropriately if they have too much power, so they have to be regulated, influenced or lobbied. Meanwhile, as long as individual consumers get a reasonable choice of donuts or cars, its easy for them to believe in the free market.

      Incidentally, the big front page headline in the Asahi Shimbun today was about how resort property prices in Japan have fallen so low that people literally can’t give their unwanted plots and condos away. In the bubble years, lots of urbanites bought into the dream of owning their own bungalow or cottage down by the beech and many paid 10 or 20 million yen for the freehold on an unbuilt lot that is now worth next to nothing.

  8. Cliffhanger says:

    This Is What The End Of Shale Will Look Like

    Oil service firms see fewer, but bigger, bankruptcy filings in 2017: report

  9. Ed says:

    I am so tired of the slow decline from importing 3rd world poor. I want to see Germany take 20 million of the world’s poorest each year for the next 50 years. That is one billion by 2067.

    • zenny says:

      I get a kick out of the Germans…They think they are on top of it…They thought that also when they supported Hitler.

  10. Pingback: O lado sombrio da energia solar: escassez de insumos, lixo e poluição – Água Doce Ltda

  11. Yoshua says:

    I don’t have pets, but last night one of gods creations, a fly, flew into my apartment. I named him Oscar. He has been walking up and down on my arm. I think he is feeding off me. After a shower he lost interest in me and started to examine my apartment.

    I usually don’t get fly’s since its too windy up here, but I do get spiders. I have heard that we get some of our protein from spiders. At night they search for water in our mouths and by reflex we then swallow them. I don’t know if it’s true, but the spiders seems to disappear. Tonight I will make sure that everything is powder dry for Oskar. I don’t wanna miss him for dinner now that he has been feeding off me.

    • Davidin100trillionyears says:

      you should leave some food out for him.

      after the fly lays its eggs on the food and they hatch, you will have a bunch of little Oskars which are called maggots.

      then you can name them.

    • Interguru says:

      Call in a swat team.

  12. The probability of further escalation into kinetic action is relatively low, nevertheless the US is evidently falling through new depth layers of psychodrama, who knows, there’s lot of reactors near the NK-SKorea border line..

    Therefore I inquired in the local (big) pharmacy near medical center complex and potassium iodine was even available from several -vendors. I’m going to buy some just for the kids in 7-14day dosage, should it get into upper atmosphere and travel around the globe. I guess it’s not completely stupid, we don’t know the sequencing and scenarios, for example there could be stop&go style protracted limited nuclear exchanges for decades, in that case there would be lot of survivors affected in between the stages..

    I’m not into Martha G. or FE’s style of final days planning yet, so every precaution for the young is good.

  13. Third World person says:

    is mexico become the next Venezuela
    Inflation Spikes Most since 2008 in Mexico
    Inflation is a touchy topic in Mexico where wages are tight and not growing fast enough. Inflation is spiking. And consumers, trying stretch ever further just to keep up, are not happy.
    Consumer prices, as measured by the national consumer price index, soared 6.44% in July compared to a year ago, according to Mexico’s statistics agency INEGI. It was the sharpest annual inflation rate increase since December 2008, sharper than economists had forecast. It has now accelerated for the thirteenth month in a row. And it’s very much unwanted by regular Mexicans

    • Davidin100trillionyears says:

      if their oil industry keeps on declining, they are in bigger trouble.

      after all, the root of Venezuela’s problem is the low price of oil.

      well, that and an insane dictator.

      at least Mexico doesn’t have the dictator problem.

      • Third World person says:

        mexico oil industry is gonna collapse very soon
        Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex, is a perfect example of the ongoing collapse in the global oil industry. Falling oil prices and declining production are putting severe pressure on the company’s financial balance sheet. It has been four long years since Pemex posted a small profit. However, since 2012, Pemex has suffered huge annual losses while its long term debt has exploded.
        The result is Pemex is technically bankrupt×532.png

        • Probably right about to be technically bankrupt by now, but does it matter near-mid term at all? There are many conduits on global level how to prop up countries (and their industries) in such situation, e.g. IMF/WB/..

        • Jesse James says:

          One point that I think is missed is that the very development of shale technology is a response to declining oil production from the traditional major oil field. Thus, the existence and reliance on shale to keep production up verifies that we are in deep trouble due to future shortages

          • timl2k11 says:

            We are far past peak oil, IMO.

          • Greg Machala says:

            Yes, and as all the old cheap conventional oil is replaced by expensive shale oil the situation is getting worse by the day. We have passed the affordability threshold in 2014. It seems to me that we reached the limit of how much conventional oil can be replaced by shale oil.

          • Cliffhanger says:

            For every one percent of conventional oil production that declines. Shale oil would have to increase by twenty percent to cover the difference.

            -Douglas B Reynolds Professor “Oil and Energy Economics”

        • Davidin100trillionyears says:

          “Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex…”

          Pemex debt is Mexican debt which will result in financial problems for the country.

          “mexico oil industry is gonna collapse very soon”

          that is not what the graph shows.
          they have an ongoing long term decline for these 11 years.
          at that rate, their decline is likely to extend into the 2030’s.

          by then, a failed state is a big possibility.

    • zenny says:

      Sooo build that wall

    • Lensman says:

    • Davidin100trillionyears says:

      “There is no doubt in my mind that these destructive and ill-conceived policies will lead to a collapse in the dollar. It may already be starting. We see Russia, Iran, China, and other nations starting to trade in local currencies and bypass the dollar. Russia is developing its own payments system to avoid having to use the SWIFT system of international funds transfer. China and Russia are trading goods now in local currencies. Others are starting to do the same.”

      so it’s not that these US sanctions on other countries will directly destroy the dollar.

      I see it like this: most other countries must know that the US (govt + Wall Street etc) is doing many things to plunder the rest of the world.

      so their response is justifiably to fight back against any US policies that hurt them.

      but they will have to be careful about it, because the US is the big bully of the world.

  14. Cliffhanger says:

    Another tech titan joins Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg in supporting free cash handouts for Americans

    • Greg Machala says:

      Handouts (or UBI) is about all that is left to try. Likely the only thing that will extend BAU and keep the people in order.

    • Jesse James says:

      It makes sense for them to support free money….they have been getting it for years. Monopolys exist based upon no competition, and implicit support by the government, which they control. The same is true for Google, Facebook and Amazon.

  15. Cliffhanger says:

    Tesla Cars Aren’t As Carbon (And Taxpayer) Friendly As You Think

    • This is Euan Mearns’ latest post on the subject of electric cars:


      Fuel costs

      In the UK domestic electricity costs ~15p / kWh. Diesel costs ~120p / liter of which about 80p is tax [ref 2]. The B-Class Sport will consume 249p of electricity to run for 100 km. The B-Class 180d will consume 478p worth of diesel, and so at face value I will save £229 / year going electric based on 10,000 kms. In no way is this enough to compensate for the extra £9,425 / £4,925 that I have to pay up front for the electric version.

      If the electrification of cars goes ahead then governments are going to lose substantial tax revenues from fuel sales. Does anyone believe that electricity will not be taxed at the same level? To level the playing field, the fuel cost of driving the 180d for 100km without tax works out at 159p, 36% lower than the electric version. Hence, I have to conclude that there is no fuel cost benefit going electric at current prices.


      To re-charge the B-Class Sport EV takes an eye-watering 9 to 21 hours using normal domestic power supply. This reduces to 3 to 4.4 hours using a 400 V / 16A industrial grade supply that most European homes quite simply do not have. This compares poorly with the 10 minutes it takes to fill the tank of the 180d.

      If the pattern of use is to use the car during the day and to re-charge at night, then it is indeed the case that a 9 hour charge period is of little consequence. Re-charging en-route remains a problem, even with the Tesla supercharger:

      “Stay charged while you’re on the road using the Tesla Supercharger network. Placed along well travelled routes, a Supercharger provides up to 170 miles of range in as little as 30 minutes.”

      • xabier says:

        Relays of Teslas, like the old relays of carriage horses and couriers which could take you from London to Geneva,and beyond? 🙂


      An article by a Seeking Alpha author who thinks that the numbers are worse than reported. Too many switches in comparisons. He also says, “Tesla’s customer deposits again fell sequentially to just $603 million,” and that net sales are below the reported gross sales, that the company reports. (It is my understanding that customers put $1000 down, but can cancel their order for any reason and get their money back.)

    • timl2k11 says:

      Tesla made $100 million from selling ZEV credits last quater to other manufacturers. ZEV is an oxymoron. Obviously (to anyone here) EVs just shift the emissions to the manufacturing side of things. What nonsense.

  16. xabier says:

    Excellent quotes from the mysterious Baron Iseux von Pfetten -aka ‘Monsieur. 2%’ after hs regular commission, (from a French mag) :

    ‘Human rights issues in China are not my concern: I deal with economics.’

    ‘Chinese Communism cannot be compared to Soviet Communism. It has never been as bad.’

    • Well, we know why he had to say that..

      These two systems were incomparable anyway, just on the ground of history, culture, and geographic settings.

      It’s pretty funny to observe Western scholarly propaganda, each decade they tend to substantially (and quietly) decrease the count on Soviet purges, now the latest estimate is ~5M as the cost during forced country side collectivization, late 1920s-early mid 1930s. And without collectivization and massive industrial buildup they (nobody) would never ever defeated in conventional warfare those ~200 divisions dispatched from Reich v3.0 in 1941. So, realistically, ~5M might have been ~3M in actuality, the war took almost ~30M (both soldier and civilian), if we subtract ~30% for botched summer of 1941, i.e. not expecting the invasion – no early retreat from western border maneuver related to 1937 officer rank purgers, which still had effect on temporarily incapacitated command, we are at less than ~ *15M extra death toll. That’s frankly not much for such huge country to be retooled from mostly peasant feudalism into super power hitech giant in 2-3 decades. I’m not fanboy advocating for this avenue of history just commenting on the facts.

      * not counted are the extra losses from ~1917-22 civil war, Western intervention, early revolutionary Bolshevik rule period etc. But perhaps it should be counted in the above, because without it there would be no prewar Soviets nor post WWII Soviets.. so in total ~20-24M..

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