A Video Game Analogy to Our Energy Predicament

The way the world economy is manipulated by world leaders is a little like a giant video game. The object of the game is to keep the world economy growing, without too many adverse consequences to particular members of the world economy. We represent this need for growth of the world economy as being similar to making a jet airplane fly at ever-higher altitudes.

Figure 1. Author’s view of the situation we are facing. World leaders look at their video screens and adjust their controllers to try to make the world economy fly at ever-higher levels.

World leaders look at their video game screens for indications regarding where the world economy is now. They also want to see whether there are specific parts of the economy that are doing badly.

The game controllers that the world leaders have are somewhat limited in the functions they can perform. Typical adjustments they can make include the following:

  • Add or remove government programs aimed at providing jobs for would-be workers
  • Add or remove government sponsored pension plans and payments to those without jobs
  • Add or remove laws regulating efficiencies of new vehicles
  • Change who or what is taxed, and the overall level of taxation
  • Through the above mechanisms, change government debt levels
  • Change interest rates

There are numerous problems with this approach. For one thing, the video game screen doesn’t give a very complete picture of what is happening. For another, the aspects of the economy that can be controlled are rather limited. Furthermore, the situation is very complex–there seem to be several “sides” of the economy that need to “win” at the same time, for the economy to continue to grow: (a) oil importers and oil exporters, (b) businesses and their would-be customers, (c) governments and their would-be taxpayers, and (d) asset holders and the would-be buyers of these assets, such as families needing new homes.

An even bigger problem is a physics problem that is hidden from the view of those operating the control mechanism. Jet airplanes in the real world cannot rise beyond a certain altitude (varying depending upon the plane), because the atmosphere becomes “too thin.” There is a parallel problem in the economic world. The atmosphere that allows an economy to grow is provided by a combination of (a) an increasing supply of cheap-to-produce energy, and (b) increased technology to put this growing energy supply to use. This atmosphere can become too thin for several reasons, including the higher cost of energy production, rising population, and growing wage disparity.

We know that in the real world, a jet airplane cannot rise ever-higher. Instead, at some point, the airplane hits what has been called its “coffin corner.”

Figure 2. Diagram of Coffin Corner by Aleks Udris of Boldmethod. On the chart, Vs is the velocity; MMO is the Maximum Mach Number.

According to Aleks Udris, “The region is deadly. Get too slow, and you’ll stall the jet at high altitude. Get too fast, and you’ll exceed your critical mach number. The air over your wings will go supersonic, you’ll pitch down, the aircraft will accelerate, and your wings will fall off. Also bad.”

What Happens As Coffin Corner Limits Are Reached in the Economic World?

What do world leaders do, as the world economy hits limits? One temptation is for the world leaders in Figure 1 to take their foot off the throttle that is operated by low interest rates and more debt, because they don’t seem to be providing very much benefit anymore. The leaders fear that if more debt is added at low interest rates, it risks creating “asset bubbles” that are easily disturbed if any little bump to the economy occurs. If a big bubble pops, there is a significant risk that the economy could fall down to a much lower level. This is like stalling the jet at high altitude.

World leaders can also use approaches that create situations more like “making the wings come off” the economy. These approaches involve favoring one group over another. For example, a government can give big tax breaks to businesses, but raise taxes on individual citizens. Businesses will ultimately be harmed by this approach, because they depend on individual citizens for their sales. The result is like tearing the wings off the airplane.

Another approach that would tear the wings off the economy involves actions by a different group of world leaders than those shown in Figure 1, namely the leaders from OPEC and Russia. These leaders have different video game screens and different game controllers. They can manipulate the world economy by reducing the supply of oil they provide. With this approach, they hope to increase the price of oil, and thus obtain a larger share of the world’s goods and services through higher tax revenue.

Raising the oil price would benefit oil exporters, but would make goods and services more expensive for oil importing countries. Ultimately, this approach would lead to recession in oil importing nations. The result would likely be worse than the 2008-2009 recession–another way to make the wings come off the economy.

Let’s look in a little more detail at what is happening, and what goes wrong:

[1] Energy plays a huge role in this game, because a growing supply of cheap-to-produce energy allows greater worker productivity.

It takes energy of various types to make the economy grow, because energy is needed whenever we move something, or heat something, or use electricity to operate something. We use energy products to leverage our human labor. For example, we use a truck to deliver a package, rather than walking and carrying the item in our hands. If fresh water is in short supply, we use energy to operate a desalination plant, and thus produce the fresh water we need.

It is generally workers who produce goods and services. If energy supply is inexpensive and readily available, it is easy for governments or businesses to create “tools” to make these workers more productive. These tools include such things as roads, vehicles, machines of all types, and even computers. If the quantity and capability of these tools are increasing, the labor of these workers is increasingly leveraged by the availability of these tools. This is what allows economic growth.

[2] The extent of world economic growth seems to depend primarily on how quickly total energy consumption is growing

If we look at historical economic growth, we see that the rate of growth of energy consumption seems to play a major role.

Figure 3. World GDP growth compared to world energy consumption growth for selected time periods since 1820. World real GDP trends for 1975 to present are based on USDA real GDP data in 2010$ for 1975 and subsequent. (Estimated by author for 2015.) GDP estimates for prior to 1975 are based on Maddison project updates as of 2013. Growth in the use of energy products is based on a combination of data from Appendix A data from Vaclav Smil’s Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects together with BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015 for 1965 and subsequent.

The highest rates of world economic growth took place in the 1950-1965 period, and in the 1965-1975 period. These were both periods of very high growth in energy consumption. As we will see below, these were both periods when the price of oil was less than $20 per barrel, for almost the entire period.

If we look at economic growth over shorter periods, we also see a strong correlation between world economic growth and growth in energy consumption:

Figure 4. World growth in energy consumption vs. world GDP growth. Energy consumption from BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017. World GDP is GDP in US 2010$, as compiled by World Bank.

[3] On Figure 4 (above), the widening gap between GDP growth and energy consumption since 2013 could either represent (a) Much greater efficiency in using energy or (b) A problem in measuring true economic growth.

We can see true efficiency improvements in the 1975-1985 and the 1985-1995 periods shown on Figure 3. These were the periods when the world was truly trying to “get away from oil,” after a spike of high prices in the 1970s. Governments around the world were encouraging new smaller cars; electricity generation was being changed from oil to nuclear; home heating was being changed from oil to natural gas or electricity. The new furnaces installed were much more efficient than the old ones. Thus, during this period, efficiency/technology improvements were aiding economic growth to a greater extent than usual.

Now, in the period since 2013, much of the “low hanging fruit” has already been picked. We may still be finding some technology gains, but it seems likely that at least part of the problem is an “economic growth counting problem.” GDP looks like it is growing, but it is really very hollow economic growth. Governments invest in projects of essentially no value, and their investment is counted as GDP. For example, they invest in unneeded roads, in apartments that citizens cannot really afford, in educational institutions that do not produce graduates with wages that are sufficiently high to pay for education’s high cost, and in high-priced medical cures that are unaffordable by 99% of the population. Are these things truly contributions to GDP?

We also find businesses that look like they are growing, but in fact are taking on increasing amounts of debt as they sell off assets. This is not a sustainable model! We encounter energy companies that claim to be doing “sort of” alright, but their profits are so low that they need to cut back on new investment, and they need to borrow in order to have funds to pay dividends to shareholders. There is something seriously wrong with this growth!

[4] The economic “atmosphere” becomes thinner and thinner, when oil prices rise above an inflation-adjusted price of $20 per barrel.

Back in the time period prior to 1973, oil prices were generally below $20 per barrel, in inflation adjusted terms. Since then, prices have tended to be above this level.

Figure 5. Historical oil prices are Brent oil prices in 2016$ from BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017; $20 per barrel is the maximum price level where oil is truly affordable; and $300 per barrel is the maximum price per barrel that the International Energy Agency seems to believe is possible for the world economy.

When oil (and other energy prices) were very low, companies could add tools to make workers more effective with little expenditure. As a result, the United States saw wages growing much more rapidly than inflation prior to 1968 (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Chart comparing income gains by the top 10% to income gains by the bottom 90% by economist Emmanuel Saez. Based on an analysis of IRS data, published in Forbes.

Once prices of oil started rising, prices of tools (broadly defined) rose. Governments and companies needed more debt to buy these tools. It became more of a burden to add capital goods of all kinds. Governments tried to raise GDP by adding debt, but to a significant extent they ended up with higher debt to GDP ratios rather than the rapid growth they were looking for (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Worldwide average inflation-adjusted annual growth rates in debt and GDP, for selected time periods. See post on debt for explanation of methodology.

The changes in the economy that allowed continued growth (more debt and more technology) tended to push the economy toward more wage disparity, in part because more technology required more training for some of the workers, but not for others. This allowed wages of the workers with special training to rise.

Furthermore, the need to repay debt with interest tended to funnel wealth toward the financial sector, and toward those within the economy who could afford to hold financial assets. These changes left less of the output of the economy for non-elite workers.

Economists never really understood what was happening. They had never thought through the important role that energy plays in the economy. Cheap energy is needed to create jobs. It is jobs, and the wages that those jobs pay, that tend to suffer when oil prices are too high (Figure 8). Thus, high-priced oil has a double impact on the economy:

  1. It makes goods of many kinds more expensive.
  2. It reduces job availability and wages.

Figure 8. Average wages in 2012$ compared to Brent oil price, also in 2012$. Average wages are total wages based on BEA data adjusted by the CPI-Urban, divided by total population. Thus, they reflect changes in the proportion of population employed as well as wage levels.

Logic would suggest that the economy cannot really operate on high-priced oil. Lower wages and higher prices do not peacefully coexist! We should expect high oil prices to be very unstable. Even if prices can reach a high level in response to a specific shortage or stimulus, we cannot expect these high prices to be maintained for a sustained period, without added stimulus. Unstable high prices are not likely to give rise to more oil production; they cannot be depended upon.

Economists have never understood this situation. Instead, they have made pronouncements that at some point in the future, they expect that oil would become scarce. Because of this scarcity, oil prices would rise. In their view, when oil prices rise, high-priced substitutes would suddenly become the best option available; somehow, the economy would become able to operate using these high-priced substitutes. (If energy products were not needed for labor productivity, this view might make some sense. In the real world, it does not.)

It never occurred to organizations such as the International Energy Association (IEA) that high oil prices might be a problem for the economy. The IEA has shown exhibits suggesting that oil prices could theoretically rise to $300 per barrel. Of course, at such an elevated price, there would be an almost unlimited amount of oil available to extract (Exhibit 9).

Figure 9. IEA Figure 1.4 from its World Energy Outlook 2015, showing how much oil can be produced at various price levels.

[5] The real enemies of continued economic growth are (a) diminishing returns with respect to oil and other energy production, (b) continued population growth, and (c) increasing wage and wealth disparity. 

We seem to be playing a video game where the players don’t understand who the real enemies are.

Diminishing returns with respect to oil and other energy production have to do with the cost of energy extraction rising ever-higher, as more resources are extracted. There are a lot of resources that we can “see,” but that we cannot economically extract, unless prices rise to very high levels.

Figure 9. My version of the resource triangle for oil. Note that oil shale is not the same as tight oil, found in shale formations. Oil shale is kerogen that must be processed at very high temperatures in order to produce oil. This is rarely done, because of the high processing cost. Tight oil is not on this chart. Tight oil probably would be above “onshore heavy oil; oil sands.” It still would disappear, if oil prices permanently fell to $20 per barrel or less.

Continued population growth is a problem because it is really “energy per capita” that matters. Each individual needs food, transportation, and housing. All of these things take energy. Many years ago, when most of the workers were farmers, it was necessary to create ever-smaller farms, as population rose. This clearly would lead to lower food production per farmer, unless some sort of technological breakthrough was taking place at the same time. Today, we have a parallel issue.

Increasing wage disparity tends to be associated with the rising use of technology. When most labor is hand labor, workers truly do “pay each other’s wages.” All wages can be fairly equal. With increased technology, some workers have specialized training; others do not. Some workers are supervisors; others are laborers. Unless the overall output of the economy is rising very rapidly, non-elite workers find themselves increasingly unable to afford the output of the economy. It is this falling “demand” (really affordability) that tends to pull an economy downward.

[6] High oil prices can be temporarily tolerated by an economy, if interest rates are lowered to make this arrangement work.

Clearly, lower interest rates make capital goods of all kinds more affordable to both businesses and individual workers. If we look back at the period since 1981, we see a long period of falling interest rates, acting to stimulate the economy.

When oil prices exceeded $20 per barrel, the economy did not collapse immediately. In “normal” times, lowering interest rates was sufficient stimulus to keep the economy growing (Figure 4).

Figure 10. Ten-year treasuries through Nov. 17, 2017. Chart produced by FRED.

When there is a very big drop in oil prices (as in 2008, related to falling debt levels), then Quantitative Easing (QE) has been helpful (Figure 11). The US began its program of QE in late 2008, when oil prices were near their low point. There were three phases of the US’s QE. The US discontinued the third phase in late 2014, just as oil prices started to slide again.

Figure 11. Monthly Brent oil prices with dates of US beginning and ending QE.

[7] It is quite possible for a disconnect to occur between (a) the cost of oil extraction, and (b) the selling price of oil.

Oil that costs more than $20 per barrel is never very affordable by the economy. It really needs continual stimulus to keep prices at an elevated level. Once debt growth falls too low, the balance between the supply and demand for oil is settled in the direction of the amount of goods and services made with oil that non-elite workers can afford. Prices fall below the cost of production. This seems to be what has happened since 2014.

[8] In fact, since 2014, the selling prices of oil, natural gas, and coal have all fallen below the cost of extraction.

Figure 12. Price per ton of oil equivalent, based on comparative prices for oil, natural gas, and coal given in BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Not inflation adjusted.

It is popular to think that the reason why oil prices are too low is because of overproduction by the United States or Saudi Arabia. When a person stops to realize that essentially the same situation arises for all three fossil fuels, a person begins to understand that there likely is an affordability issue underlying the low prices for all three fuels. The affordability issue, of course, arises because energy supply is not rising quickly enough because (at over $20 per barrel), it is too expensive to be truly affordable. The “atmosphere is too thin” at today’s high cost of energy extraction.

9. Coal production seems to have “peaked” because at today’s low prices, few mines find the extraction of coal profitable.

It is popular in “Peak Oil” circles to believe as the economists do: oil and other energy prices can rise endlessly, because of growing “demand.” Economists have never stopped to think that at any given price, there is an affordability issue for customers. If prices drop too low, there is a profitability issue for those operating extraction facilities.

If we look at the situation with coal, we see a situation where peak production seems to have been reached because of low prices. China has closed down mines because falling prices have made mines that were previously profitable, unprofitable (Figure 13). Coal is the lowest-cost fuel; if it cannot be mined profitably, the world economy has a problem.

Figure 13. China’s energy production, based on data from BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017.

In fact, it appears as though we have reached peak coal on a worldwide basis, as a result of low prices (Figure 14). It is hard to see any major production area that can grow substantially in the future, without much higher prices.

Figure 14. World coal production, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy Data. (For 1965-1980, consumption is substituted for production, because only consumption is given, and imports/exports are likely small.

[10] The world economy needs to be able to keep repaying debt with interest. If world economic growth slows too much, this will not be possible. 

We may already be reaching a “too slow growth limit.” Below this growth limit, it becomes impossible to repay debt with interest, especially if interest rates rise. We may already be reaching this point, based on the lack of growth in energy consumption per capita shown in Figure 15. (Also, as noted in Item [3], it seems quite possible that recent GDP growth indications are overstated.)

Figure 15. Average energy prices (averaging oil, coal, and natural gas) versus the total quantity of energy products consumed per capita, based on BP energy consumption data and UN population data. (Prices have not been inflation adjusted.)

Figure 15 suggests that affordability and price go together. When the world economy is growing rapidly, energy prices tend to rise (as does energy consumption). When energy consumption per capita falls, it is a sign that the world economy is not doing well.

One of the things that confuses matters is the very different economic growth results for different parts of the world. If oil prices are low, this improves economic growth prospects from the point of oil importers, such as the United States and China. This is what our video game players are looking at, not the results for the world as a whole. It is oil exporters, such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, who are having problems.

If we look at world news, Venezuela may collapse because of low oil prices. Saudi Arabia has found it necessary to take on debt, and has undergone regime change, at least partly related to low oil prices. Norway is proposing that its oil and gas fund no longer invest in oil and gas companies, because it expects that there is a significant chance the oil price will not rise high enough to bring companies back to adequate profitability.

[11] The whole “game” has been confused by a lot of not-quite-correct pronouncements from academic circles.

A lot of well-meaning people have tried to solve our energy problems, but haven’t gotten the story right.

Economists have gotten the story pretty much 100% wrong. Energy is very important for the economy. Furthermore, energy prices don’t rise endlessly.

Peak Oilers have confused matters by talking about oil, coal and natural gas being determined by the amount of technically recoverable resources in the ground. This might be true if energy prices could rise endlessly, but clearly they cannot. By following the wrong views of economists, Peak Oilers have led world leaders to believe that far more resources are available to be extracted than really is the case.

People who call themselves Biophysical Economists haven’t really gotten the story correct either. The Biophysical Economists realized that there was a need for a measure for diminishing returns. They put together a measure which they called Energy Returned on Energy Invested. The measure, unfortunately, only “sort of” works. It gives a lot of wrong answers. It does not suggest that oil prices above $20 per barrel are a problem. It also does not suggest that substitutes for oil that are priced above $20 per barrel are a problem. It tends to give a lot of “false positives” when it comes to the question of whether renewables can be substituted for fossil fuels. It seems to suggest that a particular ratio is important, when it is really the total quantity of an energy product available at a very low price that is important.

I should not pick on the Biophysical Economists. There are many others with academic credentials who produce metrics that really aren’t very helpful. Energy payback time is not a very helpful metric, especially from the point of view of deciding whether or not to use a particular device. It is not the energy that the economy must pay back; it is the full cost of manufacturing the device that needs to be recovered, including human labor costs and taxes. In some applications, the cost of mitigating intermittency may also need to be considered.

Even the standard Levelized Cost of Energy calculations can give misleading indications, if they are used on intermittent renewables without taking into account the cost of mitigating the intermittency.


Conclusion

With all of these issues, it is not surprising that world leaders have difficulty playing the energy and economy game. In fact, it is hard to see any winning strategy.

One of the issues that makes the game impossible to win is the fact that all sides must win. A solution that cuts out the oil exporters is a problem for an economy dependent on oil. Any solution that cuts out the workers is a problem, partly because businesses need workers as consumers, and partly because governments need workers as taxpayers.

The reason I have not included any discussion of renewables is because at this point in time, we do not have any renewables that are sufficiently inexpensive and sufficiently scalable to represent a solution.

 

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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2,300 Responses to A Video Game Analogy to Our Energy Predicament

  1. psile says:

    Chinese capital controls send tremor through Australian property

    “Getting money out of China is very hard now. That’s a big factor for these discounts,” said Property Direct founder David Beard, who sold some two-bedroom units on the bus tour at 15-20 percent lower than list prices.

    “Property sales have fallen because of that, and it has got progressively harder to get bank loans in Australia.”

    The cut-price sales have sent a tremor through the once-booming Australian property market, where Chinese are the top international real estate investors and which is the most exposed globally to a slowdown in Chinese buying.

    Regulations only allow Chinese nationals a foreign exchange quota of $50,000 a year and since July, the nation’s banks have been required to report any overseas transfers by individuals of $10,000 or more.

    While the rules were often flouted in the past, doing so now has become increasingly difficult, some money transfer agents told Reuters.

    “It is almost impossible to send the full (settlement) amount from mainland China,” said Felix Su, financial adviser at foreign exchange firm KVB Kunlun.

    At the same time, under pressure from regulators to douse risky lending in the real estate sector, Australia’s biggest banks stopped loaning money to foreigners.

    The nutcracker’s got its jaws wide open now…

    • Artleads says:

      Unacceptable. Chinese bullshit must be opposed by any means necessary. It could just be time to talk with the British royal family about a concerted effort to protect its colonial heritage throughout the commonwealth. Concerted effort, not a little here and a little there. And the American military should be entreated to back up the effort as needed. a hundred million F… Y.,’s to Chinese empire!

    • This ais worrisome. Our economies depend on building more and more homes. Chinese buyers have been pulling the markets along in quite a number of cities. Without them, the industry is headed for recession in these cities.

      • Artleads says:

        Well then the gig is up. I don’t want to live in a world with only cockroaches for animals. And a world with no heritage structures is a cockroach world.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      2018…. the year of living dangerously?

  2. Baby Doomer says:

    Dennis Meadows: “If this isn’t collapse, what do you call it?”

  3. i1 says:

    I’m thinking that Satoshi Nakamoto is in fact Shigeru Myamoto thirty years on, and the winklevoss twins are modern day mario bros.


  4. adonis says:

    the elites have a plan B so there is nothing to worry about it will be a de-growth economy i have studied the meetings and some of the literature and reference has been made that growth will contract as we wean ourselves off our non-renewable fossil fuel addiction the plan is simple convince the human race man-made climate-change is real and demands energy contraction that is why the great global warming story was produced the public would rather swallow that then the peak oil story. so do not fret finite worlders the end is not nigh.

    • “Do not fret finite worlders, the end is not nigh.” That is the message we seem to be given everywhere.

    • Van Kent says:

      Even with the capability of doing more with less, we can not prevent a collapse of our global society.

      Our banks will collapse. Our governments will collapse. And our private corp. will collapse. All of them have too much debt, that can only be serviced with robust growth (and therefore more energy) ad infinitum.

      We simply don’t have a way of keeping a global economy going without freight ships and fleets of trucks with diesel.

      Fret not doomsters. What is coming, is already written.

    • DJ says:

      What difference does it make if we contract the economy because of climate change or because of peak energy?

      • We are equally dead either way. We may die a bit sooner, with the climate change approach. It is more like suicide, because problems may be ahead. The economy doesn’t contract without “breaking” no matter what we do.

        • Sven Røgeberg says:

          Yes Gail, but you know what the answer will be, not just from politicians, but also from intellectuals and academics: inovations will find substitutes not just for fossil fuel but also for other inputs which are depleting. I encourage all readers of this site to continue to share links to studies and academic papers that debunk the assertion that innovations and education are gamechangers to be trusted.

      • JesseJames says:

        Try eating food you cannot grow without FF inputs.

    • psile says:

      Except that world population is still growing by 80 million a year, which blows that idea right out of the water. Making do with less of everything we need to survive, with more people arriving everyday is a surefire ticket to the great beyond. Unless the elites have a plan for massive depopulation to go in tandem with de-growth, via the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse? Hmm…

      Man-made or nature induced, die-off is baked into the cake.

  5. Bitcoin will continue because the craze is very heavy in Korea. About 20% of all bitcoins are traded in Korea, and lots of people, those without opportunities, are putting their savings to there. Whether they will succeed or not is none of my concern . suffice to say is that the price level will be sustained for quite a while.

    No need to worry about the rich folks at Bel Air affected by the fire. They will be compensated by insurance and that’s not their only homes. The homeless who created such fire will be punished very heavily since if you screw a rich person you do pay the price.

  6. The Second Coming says:

    Gringo beware….
    The department keeps sparse data on deaths of Americans, and relies on Mexican authorities for the information. And it has not been tracking injuries, the Journal Sentinel found, so it is impossible for travelers to spot potential problems.

    Indeed, when it issued a tally this summer disclosing that 16 Americans had drowned in Mexico in the first half of 2017, the department did not include Conner’s death in the count. She was pulled lifeless from the pool, but later removed from life support in Florida
    The U.S. Office of Inspector General has opened an inquiry into how the State Department has been handling injuries and deaths related to potentially tainted alcohol in Mexico
    Some reported having just one or two drinks before blacking out and being victimized. Numerous people reported blacking out simultaneously with a friend or spouse.
    Family members also told of how loved ones drowned in resort pools
    Johnson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, called on the Inspector General to investigate in October, after dozens of people told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they had been robbed, sexually assaulted and otherwise injured after consuming alcohol while vacationing at all-inclusive resorts around Mexico.
    The Journal Sentinel launched its investigation into alcohol-related blackouts in Mexico in the wake of Conner’s death. Since the initial report, more than 100 people have reported serious problems while vacationing in Mexico. And dozens have said when they tried to caution others on one of the world’s most popular websites, TripAdvisor, their warnings were deleted
    https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/2017/12/13/mexico-blackout-deathstate-department-under-investigation-handling-injuries-and-deaths-mexico-resort/946902001/
    TripAdvisor deleted….

    • can’t understand why anyone would need to consult tripadvisor before holidaying in mexico

      • The Second Coming says:

        Can’t understand why these comment warning are deleted and these incidences are indicative of the hazards holidaying in these places. Usually, staying at enclosed, all inclusive “resorts” in 3rd world countries are considered safe. One would expect NOT to have consult, all this has changed. A co-worker has family in a Caribbean island nation and stated it is in a economic recession. Times are hard.
        Saw this report
        The family of Desiree Gibbon was in their home Friday without closure. The 26-year-old’s body is 1,500 miles away in Jamaica, where she was found slain Saturday in a small town outside the resort her grandmother owns in Montego Bay.
        “Why did they beat her? Why did they slit her throat?” the victim’s aunt, Peggy Brunner, told CBS2’s Magdalena Doris.
        http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/12/01/queens-model-murdered-jamaica/
        As the investigation into her killing continues, the family is now working to expedite the process to get a death certificate and bring her back to New York.

      • zenny says:

        Any Person traveling IN Mexico is not the sharpest knife in the cupboard.

        • Tim Groves says:

          To be on the safe side, Nobody should set foot in Central or South America or the Caribbean (with the exception of Chile, Cuba and a few minor coconut palm and banana islands) without a first imbibing a government health warning.

          El Salvador tops the list with 108.64 homicide per 100,000 inhabitants. That’s over one killing per 1,000 inhabitants per year.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

          • Fast Eddy says:

            I was hoping to get to Argentina at some point…

            I don’t get to hung up on these stats…. in fact I like to go to places in strife… the hotels are cheap…

            And….. I have just been crowned the world champion of everything – having destroyed Pintada earlier today …. so these villains will take one look at me and beg for mercy….. as they should

            • Tim Groves says:

              And the room service is almost free ….

            • Fast Eddy says:

              During the Cairo crazy … I played off a couple of the top properties next to Tahrir…. I ended up getting a suite in the Sofitel — airport delivery – breakfast — and one choice from the hotel harem each day … and a machine gun with unlimited ammo …. for USD140 per night.

              And in the 5 days I was there – I only saw one other person at the breakfast.

              It was great! I didn’t want to leave.

              In fact I am hoping for another revolution so I can enjoy another trip the Cairo on the cheap.

              Rise up rise up!

            • Fast Eddy says:

              140 bucks… for this!

  7. adonis says:

    even the catholics know that times are gonna get tough but not end thanks to the measures being put in place by ‘team climate change’ which we will shortly abide by https://catholicclimatemovement.global/what-will-it-take-to-limit-climate-change-to-1-5-degrees-c/

  8. Third World person says:

    Switzerland is Prepared for Civilizational Collapse
    ore than any other country, Switzerland’s ethos is centered around preparing for civilizational collapse.

    All around Switzerland, for example, one can find thousands of water fountains fed by natural springs. Zurich is famous for its 1200 fountains, some of them quite beautiful and ornate, but it’s the multiple small, simple fountains in every Swiss village that really tell the story. Elegant, yes, but if and when central water systems are destroyed these fountains are a decentralized and robust system for providing everyone with drinkable water.

    The Swiss political system is also decentralized. If the central government fails, the Swiss might not even notice. The mountains and valleys also mean that Swiss towns and villages are geographically independent yet linked in a spider-web of robust connections.

    http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/switzerland-prepared-civilizational-collapse.html
    what bullshit the reality is Most of their supermarkets import +95% of all products from the EU. So, in the case of any crisis Switzerland will starve in no tine cause they gave up on local agriculture. It is cheaper to buy subsidized food from France or the Netherlands.

    • I will have to admit, having water is useful. Presumably, this water will stay uncontaminated, even if sewage systems stop working. It would be useful to know for certain–are all water fountains OK, or just some of them.

    • Van Kent says:

      Last week I was visiting our cabins in the North. They both have their own wells. A natural spring nearby. A clean small river with fish in the backyard. And one of the most fish rich larger rivers a walking (skiing) distance away. Reindeer (caribou) were hard to avoid driving around. More reindeer as neighbours than people, actually. Enough saunas to produce air dryed reindeer meat for snacks. Incredibly low population density. Both cabins can be fully operared with just wood for heat and cooking fuel. Which is plentyful all around. And most of the time its too cold for most pathogens to survive.

      Sounds good, right

      But, but.
      No place will be exempt from the problem, that too many people will be coming there from the large cities.
      No place will be exempt from the pollution clouds that our collapsing civilization will erupt.
      No place will have have much of anything to hunt or fish, when the trucks stop delivering food to the big cities.

      Though, the thought crossed my mind, that with one of FEs containers, one could have a very relaxing time listening to the radio, drinking large amounts of whiskey. Untill the inevitable.

      • xabier says:

        By the way, you wouldn’t happen to know when the last slave raids on Finland were, by Scandinavians (nice neighbours!) and Tartars, etc?

        Finnish boys and girls used to fetch among the highest prices in the markets of Istanbul, Mecca and Damascus.

        • DJ says:

          Slavery abolished in Sweden 1335, according to Wikipedia, I have no reason to doubt it.

          Up until 1945 there were statare https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statare

          After that only debt slaves.

          • xabier says:

            Interesting: there appears to have been a boom in slave imports in the 14th-15th century, to Italy at least, to make up for losses of servants and peasants in the Black Death.

        • Van Kent says:

          The Swedes visited Finland when they needed people on their viking raids. I don’t think they asked nicely, to come with.. it was common practice from the swedes

          Russians calmed down a bit, when their nobility had summer datschas in the finnish karelia. And visited the archipelago in the summer. But before that.. hmm.. the wars are too numerous to count, I think. Slaves.. no I don’t think Russians took many finnish slaves, because all the farmers in Russia already were “land slaves”

          But actual slave trade from slavs and other scands.. that goes before church records were kept, so no verifiable data on that. Though the “amber trade route” or Amber Road to the Baltic Sea has been operational as long as there is any history available.. Probably grabbed something more with.. than just amber

          Blondes still today have an above ‘average market price’, I think.. Some amber and a few gullible finns, probably fetched a nice market price in Marrakesh for the Dark Age merchants

          • xabier says:

            Thank you, Van Kent. Europeans were, of course, still being taken for slaves by North African Arabs in the early 19th century, until the British navy put a stop to it. The prize goes to the Ottoman Turks, though, merrily enslaving until WW1.

            • Van Kent says:

              Had to look through slavery after those comments.

              In 2014 a historian published a paper about slavery, with some new stuff in it. He found out that after the vikings had set up most of the trade routes. And were the new nobility of those russian areas. Specially from the Novgorod area, the war chiefs made a slave aquisition journey once in a decade, between the years 1300 – 1500.

              They took young boys and girls, mainly from the finnish karelia area. But also elsewhere in finland.

              Young men were put to forced labour. With their privates cut off. But some made it to military schools in Persia, for the Persian professional army, which at the time was made from slaves. Young girls were sold, like they usually do.

              But if the item was an ‘luxury item’ (aka boy or a girl with bright blond hair and blue eyes) then the trade routes could be really long. The final destination for a bright blond haired blue eyed pretty young girl, could be anywhere around the mediterranean, middle eastern sultan palaces, central asian even up to Chechenia, or even Goa India or all the way to the Maldives.

              The asking price for a pretty bright blond haired blue eyed young girl, would be about 5 ‘altyn’. When the slaver aquisition party was near the finnish karelia area. But the same girl could fetch up to 6.700 ‘altyn’ in an busy slave market in the above mentioned places.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I volunteer to be a sex slave post BAU!

            • the bottom has fallen out of that market Eddy

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Bids starting at 0.1 cents….

            • i heard the only bids were in zimbabwe dollars

      • DJ says:

        And don’t forget the mosquitos will kill you. Eddy said so!

        • Van Kent says:

          One August a few years back.. I stepped out of the car.. and in a few seconds so many mosquitoes, that it was hard to see a few feet in front

          In a way Eddy was right. A few billion mosquitoes in August will drive you completely bonkers

  9. Baby Doomer says:

    Share buybacks spike — dropping a strong hint at what CEOs plan to do with tax savings

    Those who thought the tax plan would lead to announcements of more hiring and investment have already been proven wrong…

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/share-buybacks-spike-dropping-a-strong-hint-at-what-ceos-plan-to-do-with-tax-savings-2017-12-08

    • The share buybacks are one way of helping BAU continue a bit longer. The inadequate earnings are spread over fewer shares, so earnings per share look better. There is less need to borrow to pay dividends. The Federal Government can borrow instead. Helps BAU a little, but not in terms of helping the wage earner.

  10. Baby Doomer says:

    Americans have no savings, with good reason: housing, education and health care costs are out of control, wages are stagnant, and the Fed has suppressed interest rates
    https://boingboing.net/2017/12/09/avocado-toast-poverty.html

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