Eight insights based on December 2017 energy data

BP recently published energy data through December 31, 2017, in its Statistical Review of World Energy 2018. The following are a few points we observe, looking at the data:

[1] The world is making limited progress toward moving away from fossil fuels.

The two bands that top fossil fuels that are relatively easy to see are nuclear electric power and hydroelectricity. Solar, wind, and “geothermal, biomass, and other” are small quantities at the top that are hard to distinguish.

Figure 1. World energy consumption divided between fossil fuels and non-fossil fuel energy sources, based on data from BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy 2018.

Wind provided 1.9% of total energy supplies in 2017; solar provided 0.7% of total energy supplies. Fossil fuels provided 85% of energy supplies in 2017. We are moving away from fossil fuels, but not quickly.

Of the 252 million tons of oil equivalent (MTOE) energy consumption added in 2017, wind added 37 MTOE and solar added 26 MTOE. Thus, wind and solar amounted to about 25% of total energy consumption added in 2017. Fossil fuels added 67% of total energy consumption added in 2017, and other categories added the remaining 8%.

[2] World per capita energy consumption is still on a plateau.

In recent posts, we have remarked that per capita energy consumption seems to be on a plateau. With the addition of data through 2017, this still seems to be the case. The reason why flat energy consumption per capita is concerning is because energy consumption per capita normally rises, based on data since 1820.1 This is explained further in Note 1 at the end of this article. Another reference is my article, The Depression of the 1930s Was an Energy Crisis.

Figure 2. World energy consumption per capita, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 data.

While total energy consumption is up by 2.2%, world population is up by about 1.1%, leading to a situation where energy consumption per capita is rising by about 1.1% per year. This is within the range of normal variation.

One thing that helped energy consumption per capita to rise a bit in 2017 relates to the fact that oil prices were down below the $100+ per barrel range seen in the 2011-2014 period. In addition, the US dollar was relatively low compared to other currencies, making prices more attractive to non-US buyers. Thus, 2017 represented a period of relative affordability of oil to buyers, especially outside the US.

[3] If we view the path of consumption of major fuels, we see that coal follows a much more variable path than oil and natural gas. One reason for the slight upturn in per capita energy consumption noted in [2] is a slight upturn in coal consumption in 2017.

Figure 3. World oil, coal, and natural gas consumption through 2017, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018.

Coal is different from oil and gas, in that it is more of a “dig it as you need it” fuel. In many parts of the world, coal mines have a high ratio of human labor to capital investment. If prices are high enough, coal will be extracted and consumed. If prices are not sufficiently high, coal will be left in the ground and the workers laid off. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018, coal prices in 2017 were higher than prices in both 2015 and 2016 in all seven markets for which they provide indications. Typically, prices in 2017 were more than 25% higher than those for 2015 and 2016.

The production of oil and natural gas seems to be less responsive to price fluctuations than coal.2 In part, this has to do with the very substantial upfront investment that needs to be made. It also has to do with the dependence of governments on the high level of tax revenue that they can obtain if oil and gas prices are high. Oil exporters are especially concerned about this issue. All players want to maintain their “share” of the world market. They are reluctant to reduce production, regardless of what prices do in the short term.

[4] China is one country whose coal production has recently ticked upward in response to higher coal prices. 

Figure 4. China’s energy production by fuel, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 data.

China has been able to bridge the gap by using an increasing amount of imported fuels. In fact, according to BP, China was the world’s largest importer of oil and coal in 2017. It was second only to Japan in the quantity of imported natural gas.

[5] China’s overall energy pattern appears worrying, despite the uptick in coal production.

Figure 5. China’s energy production by fuel plus its total energy consumption, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 data.

If China expects to maintain its high GDP growth ratio as a manufacturing country, it will need to keep its energy consumption growth up. Doing this will require an increasing share of world exports of fossil fuels of all kinds. It is not clear that this is even possible unless other areas can ramp up their production and also add necessary transportation infrastructure.

Oil consumption, in particular, is rising quickly, thanks to rising imports. (Compare Figure 6, below, with Figure 4.)

Figure 6. China’s energy consumption by fuel, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018.

[6] India, like China, seems to be a country whose energy production is falling far behind what is needed to support planned economic growth. In fact, as a percentage, its energy imports are greater than China’s, and the gap is widening each year.

The big gap between energy production and consumption would not be a problem if India could afford to buy these imported fuels, and if it could use these imported fuels to make exports that it could profitably sell to the export market. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Figure 7. India’s energy production by fuel, together with its total energy consumption, based upon BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 data.

India’s electricity sector seems to be having major problems recently. The Financial Times reports, “The power sector is at the heart of a wave of corporate defaults that threatens to cripple the financial sector.” While higher coal prices were good for coal producers and helped enable coal imports, the resulting electricity is more expensive than many customers can afford.

[7] It is becoming increasingly clear that proved reserves reported by BP and others provide little useful information. 

BP provides reserve data for oil, natural gas, and coal. It also calculates R/P ratios (Reserves/Production ratios), using reported “proved reserves” and production in the latest year. The purpose of these ratios seems to be to assure readers that there are plenty of years of future production available. Current worldwide average R/P ratios are

  • Oil: 50 years
  • Natural Gas: 53 years
  • Coal: 134 years

The reason for using the R/P ratios is the fact that geologists, including the famous M. King Hubbert, have looked at future energy production based on reserves in a particular area. Thus, geologists seem to depend upon reserve data for their calculations. Why shouldn’t a similar technique work in the aggregate?

For one thing, geologists are looking at particular fields where conditions seem to be favorable for extraction. They can safely assume that (a) prices will be high enough, (b) there will be adequate investment capital available and (c) other conditions will be right, including political stability and pollution issues. If we are looking at the situation more generally, the reasons why fossil fuels are not extracted from the ground seem to revolve around (a), (b) and (c), rather than not having enough fossil fuels in the ground.

Let’s look at a couple of examples. China’s coal production dropped in Figure 4 because low prices made coal extraction unprofitable in some fields. There is no hint of that issue in China’s reported R/P ratio for coal of 39.

Although not as dramatic, Figure 4 also shows that China’s oil production has dropped in recent years, during a period when prices have been relatively low. China’s R/P ratio for oil is 18, so theoretically it should have plenty of oil available. The Chinese figured out that in some cases, it could import oil more cheaply than it could produce it themselves. As a result, China’s production has dropped.

In Figure 7, India’s coal production is not rising as rapidly as needed to keep production up. Its R/P ratio for coal is 137. Its oil production has been declining since 2012. Its R/P for oil is shown to be 14.4 years.

Another example is Venezuela. As many people are aware, Venezuela has been having severe economic problems recently. We can see this in its falling oil production and its related falling oil exports and consumption.

Figure 8. Venezuela’s oil production, consumption and exports, based on data of BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018.

Yet Venezuela reports the highest “Proved oil reserves” in the world. Its reported R/P ratio is 394. In fact, its proved reserves increased during 2017, despite its very poor production results. Part of the problem is that proved oil reserves are often not audited amounts, so proved reserves can be as high as an exporting country wants to make them. Another part of the problem is that price is extremely important in determining which reserves can be extracted and which cannot. Clearly, Venezuela needs much higher prices than have been available recently to make it possible to extract its reserves. Venezuela also seems to have had low production in the 1980s when oil prices were low.

I was one of the co-authors of an academic paper pointing out that oil prices may not rise high enough to extract the resources that seem to be available. It can be found at this link: An Oil Production Forecast for China Considering Economic Limits. The problem is an affordability problem. The wages of manual laborers and other non-elite workers need to be high enough that they can afford to buy the goods and services made by the economy. If there is too much wage disparity, demand tends to fall too low. As a result, prices do not rise to the level that fossil fuel producers need. The limit on fossil fuel extraction may very well be how high prices can rise, rather than the amount of fossil fuels in the ground.

[8] Nuclear power seems to be gradually headed for closure without replacement in many parts of the world. This makes it more difficult to create a low carbon electricity supply.

A chart of nuclear electricity production by part of the world shows the following information:

Figure 9. Nuclear electric power production by part of the world, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018. FSU is “Former Soviet Union” countries.

The peak in nuclear power production took place in 2006. A big step-down in nuclear power generation took place after the Fukushima nuclear power accident in Japan in 2011. Europe now seems to be taking steps toward phasing out its nuclear power plants. If nothing else, new safety standards tend to make nuclear power plants very expensive. The high price makes it too expensive to replace aging nuclear power plants with new plants, at least in the parts of the world where safety standards are considered very important.

In 2017, wind and solar together produced about 59% as much electricity as nuclear power, on a worldwide basis. It would take a major effort simply to replace nuclear with wind and solar, and the results would not provide as stable an output level as is currently available.

Of course, some countries will go forward with nuclear, in spite of safety concerns. Much of the recent growth in nuclear power has been in China. Countries belonging to the former Soviet Union (FSU) have been adding new nuclear production. Also, Iran is known for its nuclear power program.

Conclusion

We live in challenging times!

 

Notes:

(1) There is more than one way of seeing that energy consumption per capita needs to rise, despite rising efficiency.

One basic issue is that enough energy consumption needs to get back to individual citizens, particularly citizens with few skills, so that they can continue to have the basic level of goods and services that they need. This includes food, clothing, housing, transportation, education and other services, such as medical services. Unfortunately, history shows that efficiency gains don’t do enough to offset several other countervailing forces that tend to offset the benefits of efficiency gains. The forces working against unskilled workers getting enough goods and services include the following:

(a) Diminishing returns ensures that an increasing share of energy supplies must be used to dig deeper wells or provide water desalination, to operate mines for all kinds of minerals, and to extract fossil fuels. This means that less of the energy that is available can get back to workers.

(b) Governments need to grow because of promises that they have made to citizens. Retirement benefits in particular are an issue, as populations age. This takes another “cut” out of what is available.

(c) Increased use of technology tends to produce a much more hierarchical workforce structure. People at the top of the organization are paid significantly more than those near the bottom. Globalization tends to add to this effect. It is the low wages of those at the bottom of the hierarchy that becomes a problem because those workers cannot afford to buy the goods and services that they need to provide for themselves and their families.

(d) Increasing use of technology can often produce replacements for manual labor. For example, robots and computers can replace some jobs, leaving many would-be workers unemployed. The companies that produce the replacements for manual labor are often international companies that are difficult to tax. Governments can try to raise taxes to provide benefits to those excluded from the economy as a consequence of the growing use of technology, but this simply exacerbates the problem described as (b) above.

(e) The world economy always has some countries that are doing better than others in terms of GDP growth. These countries are nearly always countries whose energy use per capita is growing. Current examples include China and India. If world resources per capita are flat, there must be others whose energy consumption per capita is falling. Examples today would include Venezuela, Greece and the UK. It is the countries with falling energy consumption per capita that have the more severe difficulties. Our networked world economy cannot get along without these failing economies.

Besides the issue of enough goods and services getting back to those with limited skills, a second basic issue is having enough energy-based goods and services to actually fulfill promises that have been made. One type of promise is debt and related interest payments. Another type of promise is that made by pension plans, whether government sponsored or available from private industry. A third type of promise is represented by asset prices available in the marketplace, such as prices of shares of stock and real estate prices.

The problem is that promises of all types can, in theory, be exchanged for goods and services. The stock of goods and services cannot rise very quickly, if energy consumption is only rising at the per-capita rate. Even if more money is issued, the problem becomes dividing up a not-very-rapidly growing pie into ever-smaller pieces, to try to fulfill all of the promises.

(2) With respect to oil, the one major deviation from its flat pattern occurred in the early 1980s, when world oil consumption fell by 11% between 1979 and 1983. This happened as the result of a concerted effort to change home heating and electricity production to other fuels. It also involved a change from large inefficient cars to smaller, more fuel efficient cars. After the 2007-2009 recession, there was another small step downward. This downward step may reflect less building of new homes and commercial spaces in some parts of the world, including the US.

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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2,505 Responses to Eight insights based on December 2017 energy data

  1. Baby Doomer says:

  2. Harry Gibbs says:

    OECD noticing the wage-stagnation/disparity issue Gail writes about but not connecting the dots:

    “”This trend of wageless growth in the face of a rise in employment highlights the structural changes in our economies that the global crisis has deepened, and it underlines the urgent need for countries to help workers, especially the low-skilled,” OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría said in a statement accompanying the wage report…

    “”Inclusive growth” seems to be one thing the global economy isn’t seeing these days. An analysis of the OECD’s data, carried out by The Guardian, found income among the top one per cent of earners grew about four times as fast as the median income. The OECD calls this a “long-standing trend.””

    https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/07/09/oecd-report-unprecedented-wage-stagnation-canada-jobs-developed-countries_a_23477970/

  3. Harry Gibbs says:

    “Eurodollars, which are hyper-sensitive to the expected path of Federal Reserve rate increases, now signal that central bankers will have to stop raising interest rates in late 2019 or early 2020, with the benchmark well short of 3.375 percent, which officials have projected by the end of 2020.

    “That’s in stark contrast to what eurodollars indicated in mid-May, at the peak of the bond market sell-off. At that point, the slope of the curve was firmly positive through 2021, and even then, further gradual Fed tightening was priced in for the years to come. Fed funds futures contracts themselves tell a similar story.

    “All this confirms the sobering reality that the U.S. is fast approaching the end of its drawn-out economic expansion. Intuitively, investors know this.”

    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-07-09/bond-market-signals-the-end-of-boom-times

  4. Harry Gibbs says:

    “Since 2014, hundreds of thousands of Central American men, women, and children, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, have fled their homes. Driven by violence, extortion, poverty, and a drought that has decimated subsistence farming, and pulled by family connections and the hope of safe haven, they mostly head north…

    “On the campaign trail, Lopez Obrador promised to loosen Peña Nieto’s southern border defense, refusing to “continue the dirty work” of the United States by detaining Central American migrants who are fleeing violence…”

    “Mexican society isn’t ready for the influx. Not unlike the United States, some Mexicans worry immigrants will take their jobs, depress wages, or commit crimes. Violence against these newcomers has been on the rise: In 2016 alone, the Mexican government found more than 5,000 cases of crimes against migrants, nearly 20 percent at the hands of government officials.

    “In short, Lopez Obrador may well be caught between his promises to be more open and humane to those fleeing and the desire to no longer do president Trump’s bidding, and the huge potential costs this shift could entail for his larger domestic agenda.”

    https://www.cfr.org/blog/mexicos-next-crisis-will-arrive-south

  5. Harry Gibbs says:

    “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman… is struggling to turn the country’s financial fortunes around, with the economy suffering a crisis of confidence. Hit hard by the oil-price collapse, the kingdom is now experiencing a plunge in foreign investment and high levels of capital outflow… As of April, more than 800,000 [foreign workers] had left the country since late 2016, alarming domestic companies concerned that the foreigners cannot be easily replaced.”

    http://uk.businessinsider.com/saudi-arabia-foreign-capital-flight-expat-exodus-and-business-unrest-2018-7?r=US&IR=T

  6. Artleads says:

    https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/05/addis-ababa-reppie-trash-into-energy?utm_source=Facebook%20Videos&utm_medium=Facebook%20Videos&utm_campaign=Facebook%20Video%20Blogs

    As with large wind and solar, it will take lots of dirty energy, plus unpayable debt, to set up such systems over broad areas. This is also a model for continuing top down centralized industrial economies that are deforesting the planet, poisoning the sea and removing top soil. Decentralized economic systems run at human scale, using waste for construction, strikes me as somewhat more sustainable. IF it were even possible to do within our inscrutable global economic system.

    • We used to have decentralized economic systems at human scale. The family and village drawing from perennial agriculture per given local was basic layer of subsistence. On top they (optionally) stacked smaller various “cottage industries” usually performed at home be it textiles or special crafts, products sold at regional markets.

      The issue being such *idyllic times lasted only very briefly just between wars, tax hikes, natural or man made disasters, especially when the “perennial agri” component was not that evolved causing widespread damage at some aggregate threshold, ..

      *meaning periods when everything clocked in sync:
      good enough harvest, predictable security/taxes, healthy people and animals, no natural disasters, ecosystem stabilized at some level (not drained excessively)..

      • Artleads says:

        worldofhanumanotg, this is a helpful primer to get me started. These special in-between periods you mention might refer to the industrial ((“developed”) world)? But there are all sorts of “in-between” places–have been more or less been connected to the industrial system but left behind as old empires shrank. Lots of third world places qualify. They have huge un- and under-employment. But higglering never went away and struggles to deal with the increased population and the cars. Inequality is massive, with an unhealthy disconnect between high and low. Central government is corrupt and hobbled. Debt and skimming keeps it going somehow. Such communities are already set up for SOME decentralization it seems. It might not work where there are jobs, and industrial systems that work acceptably.

      • other than when the plague knocked off a third of europe’s population

    • Tsubion says:

      Don’t worry about the energy issue.

      It’s a red herring.

  7. Baby Doomer says:

    U.S. Customs’ ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Moment: Mother Says She Was Hounded About Why She Didn’t Take Her Husband’s Last Name

    https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/us-customs-handmaids-tale-moment-mother-says-she-was-hounded-about-why-she-didnt?src=newsletter1094159

  8. wratfink says:

    Pretty good wrap-up of per capita energy and the physics of energy conversion by this French engineer. He was giving a presentation to some French officials. The presentation is several years old, so the government has been warned of the no growth future ahead. Seems to be a few hecklers that still believe in skittle sh–ing unicorns.:

    https://damnthematrix.com/2018/07/10/the-physics-of-energy-and-resulting-incidences-on-economics/

    click the “tools” icon in the video for subtitles.

    • wratfink says:

      sorry…link seems dead

    • Retrieved from the failed page, it’s that Jancovici vid on YT shown before..


      The physics of energy and resulting incidences on economics
      10 07 2018
      Hat tip to one of the many commenters on DTM for pointing me to this excellent video…. I have featured Jean-Marc Jancovici’s work here before, but this one’s shorter, and even though it’s in French, English subtitles are available from the settings section on the toutube screen. Speaking of screens, one of the outstanding statements made in this video is that all electronics in the world that use screens in one way or another consume one third of the world’s electricity…….. Remember how the growth in renewables could not even keep up with the Internet’s growth?

      If this doesn’t convince viewers that we have to change the way we do EVERYTHING, then nothing will….. and seeing as he’s presenting to politicians, let’s hope at least some of them will come out of this better informed……

      Jean-Marc Jancovici, a French engineer schools politicians with a sobering lecture on the physics of energy and the effects on economics and climate change

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Change everything?

        Why would we change? What we are doing is what needs to be done – we need to keep burning more fossil fuels every year

    • It’s the ~2013 Jancovici presentation/briefing..

      • Greg Machala says:

        Is there a transcript of this? The video is tiresome.

        • ?

          Have not seen it in a while myself, worth repeating though.
          It’s action packed, perhaps frequently pause/stopping it and reading, let the translation sink in, procedure might help. It’s one of the best *future policy revealing videos out there, so worth the extra time, and I don’t mean the heavily **edited Q&A part, the core message is rather confined/hidden in the prior presentation.

          *presentation deliberately structured to underline several major “shocking” priority areas which need to be communicated out, as well as spilling the beans of what and in which sectors to push, at least attempting to counter this zero-negative growth predicament..

          **one gem to be found there though, acknowledging the necessity how to sell the transformation mandate to the public, basically not revealing to them push for desired gargantuan endpoint, i.e. dispersing (sub)urbanites to largely manual work in rural areas again with token modern world amenities

          note: and yes somewhat instant doom scenario is also acknowledged, not discussed further

          • T.Y. says:

            So , just to check that i understood this correctly;

            1. manual labor will need to increase again (since there isn’t enough fossil fuel or other energy) -> reduce taxes on labor.
            2. “Add-on” service sector jobs – say particularly ‘managers & information workers – will decrease (since running the machines freed them up for other tasks in the first placed causes EXTRA not less resource consumption) -> over-availability of higher educated people ?
            3. Increase tax on carbon / fossil fuels to ensure investments are made to wean critical infrastructure & machinery off the imported energy -> ? seems a bit contradictory with his first statements that green energy does not exist ? i

            Thanks for feedback

            • Artleads says:

              Green energy does not exist. There is no green energy other than leaving things as they are. Manual work (including fairly simple hand-made machinery) and no green energy doesn’t seem contradictory. The planet can probably put up with the implied reduced use of “dirty” energy.

          • Slow Paul says:

            Very interesting video, thanks for this.

            The “solution” is what we see today. Don’t tell the truth to the public, promote technology X and call it progress to give people hope. When things get bad you get Trump, Brexit etc, when things get worse you get riots and martial law.

      • Artleads says:

        Right on! Nice to have some expert confirmation!

  9. Baby Doomer says:

    Oil shocks will hit region hard

    This year Exxon Mobil has warned us to prepare for demand-driven oil shocks. Last year, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid A. Al-Falih warned us to expect an oil supply shortage by 2020.

    http://gisborneherald.co.nz/opinion/3454048-135/oil-shocks-will-hit-region-hard

  10. Artleads says:

    I was looking in the archive list top right for articles on why solar can’t work. But didn’t see any at a quick scan. The belief in solar as the solution is so widespread and so entrenched that we who wish to counter it could do with having the subject always visible on OFW archive list.

    • Greg Machala says:

      I say let the people believe that solar can work. Or, wind power and electric cars will drive the industrial revolution perpetually forever. Don’t want to induce a panic. Being educated takes work. Most people want to be spoon-fed lies rather than seek out disappointing truths.

      • Chris Harries says:

        Denial is fed by optimism, ironically. The most optimistic people are those who say to themselves that it’s not happening. We can get frustrated and annoyed by this kind of response, but it’s just a psychological defence mechanism. Most usually this auto-defence withers way over time as the person eventually confronts what they can’t face.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          There is no upside in convincing someone that solar is a joke.

          The last time I did that – explaining how many panels it would take to power a refinery and factory so that solar panels could beget more solar panels … was about 5 years ago…

          The person got very angry and walked out of the room….

          • Artleads says:

            Agreed, but in relation to the trustafarian class. “Educated,” “liberal” first world people. I now see that they are dangerous and to be avoided. “Ordinary,” less deluded people are easier to talk to.

      • Artleads says:

        I just fake it. I don’t know much. They don’t know anything. All I can say–and it’s true–is that the issue is controversial (even if not to me) for such and such reasons. I don’t claim to know enough to provide proof. Just knowing what issues are questionable is a big step: “This is critics say are issues in contention.” They will never have heard that the issue might be controversial. It’s just bad FFs vs good renewables fror them. Pure ignorance. So they can’t counter my small commonsense points. It actually helps that I know so little. I can talk on their level.

      • Artleads says:

        Thanks!

        • Chris Harries says:

          If you are talking to the uninitiated, there’s no point saying ‘solar doesn’t work’. Many people have solar panels on their roofs and electricity comes out of them. That’s all the proof they need to say that it does work. From personal experience, getting into net energy return (or loss) is a waste on time for the majority the population They don’t have a an educational background that allows them to understand. Since such concepts go over their heads they think that they are just being dealt a crazy conspiracy theory.

          • Net energy has to be translated to “pay high taxes” to have any real meaning. Solar doesn’t pay high taxes. Any replacement for fossil fuels has to be able to pay high taxes.

          • artleads says:

            I never tell them that solar doesn’t work. I’m not qualified to say that. I just try to get solar not to block the way in discussions where I do have something to say. Because the utility company stupidly cuts down mature trees touching a power line, it doesn’t mean that the utility company should switch to solar. It means that better community planning (that is able to reconcile conflicting needs) is needed. Because I spend time on FW and they don’t, because I can modestly mention (without having to explain) issues like intermittency, subsidies, dependence on FFs, etc., I merely come off as a reasonable guy who knows more than they do, and who it’s not worth their while to argue with.

          • Greg Machala says:

            I agree Chris. They see the panel on the roof making electricity. Sure, it does do that. But, they don’t work at night or on cloudy days. They are not cheap. They cannot work off grid without large batteries. They work; that doesn’t mean they can scale up to power all homes, businesses and industry. Nor does it mean it can replace what fossil fuels do. They are not a source of energy like fossil fuels are. The capture energy and convert it to electricity. Fossil fuels literally burn to produce heat. Two totally different things. Oil is also a very dynamic hydro-carbon. You can make plastics with it and pave roads with ist derivatives. Fossil fuels are also incredibly energy dense.

            • Chris Harries says:

              Even suggesting that manufacturing renewable technologies can’t be done in the absence of fossil fuels does not rub. Advocates immediately argue up breeder solar, even though with the best will in the world delivering the product from cradle to grave – mining, mineral processing, manufacturing, transport and maintenance – would require significant use of fossil fuels for components and energy supply.

              Where I differ from most on this thread is a priority need to dramatically reduce our demands. Not saying that energy & resource conservation can bring about sustainability or stave off a crunch, but nor does focussing on increasing supply. We are cornered and nobody has an out.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              If we use less energy we fall into recession … if we continue to use less energy then spending continues to fall… we get massive layoffs … further drops in consumption … more layoffs… companies big and small are unable to service debt so they collapse… leading the a financial calamity… causing the global economy to collapse….

              What you are suggesting is suicide.

            • Artleads says:

              “…Not saying that energy & resource conservation can bring about sustainability or stave off a crunch, but nor does focussing on increasing supply.”

              I have a very deep third world roots, where the peasantry never completely died out despite intense urbanization. It isn’t a matter of choice. Sheer poverty has reduces a huge swathe of new urban poor to shanty town status. If there is any electricity use, it is stolen from the system. Water is usually one stand pipe to a tenement. By western standards, this obligatory conservation doesn’t even get on the scale. With such a vast proportion of the population already in the “conservation” camp, I can as yet see no reason why unthinkable energy and resource conservation couldn’t work.

            • Chris Harries says:

              And by the time you get to explain all that you’ve lost them, Greg. That’s the very point I was making.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              It is difficult to get a man to understand something when he allows the MSM to tell him what to think.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            If you are talking to the uninitiated, there’s no point saying ‘solar doesn’t work’. Many people have solar panels on their roofs and electricity comes out of them.

            “Solar doesn’t work for civilization,” is very different from “Solar doesn’t work for me.

            Having your own source of solar electricity may be a key factor in making it through the bottleneck event. In that sense, solar may “work” for individuals and small groups, even while we all know the numbers aren’t sustainable for civilization as a whole.

            • If, in fact, a small group of individuals can make it through the bottleneck, I would agree that those with solar panels, batteries, and other preparations may stand a better chance than others.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              As has been pointed out … solar panels will only attract flies…

              But then no doubt most people who live near DPs know that DPs grow food…. you never knew you had so many friends… until the grocery store shelves went empty…

              Everyone will be headed your way….

              How much is a solar set up? 25k? More? May as well burn that cash in a pyre… total waste… an expensive Delusion.

            • Jan, that’s exactly the point the other side simply refuses to acknowledge.

              Although historical “parallels” are always limping, it’s like arguing early dark age monk sanctuaries did not work and could not have worked, because 99.9% of pop was completely uneducated, including the savage rulers of the time period, so why bother at all !?!.. And mind you the limited resources the monks had to preserve and redeploy were not only about the writing and religion, but quite importantly about preserving some core “know how” like related to agricultural calendar, farming/harvesting/crafts technologies etc., (post WRoman Empire fall out situation)..

              Again, I don’t have the same commitment and goals on my list, but it’s trivial to envision the multitude of near-mid term civ scenarios where ~20yrs lasting gear is of crucial or at least comforting importance, what to do next..

            • large buildings, aqueduct knowledge etc was lost after the roman empire, but agriculture wasnt, because the majority of the people lived close to the food production systems

              city dwelling elites probably suffered a bit—but they were in the minority

              our situation now is that the majority live in cities

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Even those living rural have no idea how to produce food… and most DPs would produce next to nothing without BAU help… theyll thrown their arms up in dismay when the drudgery starts… (and the neighbours raid their gardens)

              And then there is the issue of dead soil

            • Uhm sorry, not quite, my point is as follows:

              the last decades before and after the official date of downfall where utmost chaos not in the sense of civil war and insurrection only, but the several ongoing waves of “refugees” and migrant bands moving through the space like locust, most of the countryside was completely wasted, meaning NO permanent settling of folk on the specific acreage ANYMORE. Which is kind of a big problem, because any “new” resettling of such “wasteland” means much bigger risk ratio to crops failure etc..

              The situation was a bit easier going in the faraway provinces though.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              migrant bands moving through the space like locust, most of the countryside was completely wasted, meaning NO permanent settling of folk on the specific acreage ANYMORE.

              Thank goodness none of us have perfect crystal balls!

              Yea, if you’re within a hundred kilometres of a major metropolitan area, you may be right.

              But starving people don’t get very far. When was the last time you fasted for a day? For three days? For a week? How did you feel? Did you have enough energy to jump in a car ox-cart, travel a hundred kilometres, and take over a well-fed, and conceivably well-armed, farmer?

              What would you do when you got there? “Gimme all your kale?” Would you (or most city-folk you know) even know what to do with a live chicken? Start gnawing on a leg?

              I don’t see a lot of people who even realize where food comes from. They are going to be busy raiding grocery stores within walking distance.

              An army “travels on its stomach.” Likewise, refugees.

              The situation was a bit easier going in the faraway provinces though.

              Now you’re talking. And “faraway” only means as far as humans can travel on foot in a few days. Otherwise, they’ll be too weak to do anything.

              Just remember, refugees travel linear distances; square that to see the amount of area a subsistence farm has to hide in. Contemporary refugees travel long distances, but they have the support of government and non-govenment agencies. Those will not exist in a general collapse.

              Will some subsistence farms be overrun? Of course. But the odds are better than fighting with other urban refugees over the last loaf of white bread in the supermarket.

              When the Syrian refugees began to hit, we offered housing and food to any family who wanted to take up farming. We offered this through several refugee support organizations. Not a single taker!

              No, I don’t feel threatened by starving city folk at all. But yea, none of us have a perfect crystal ball.

              The biggest problem I have with your argument is that it gives people an excuse not to act. Just sit at your keyboard and whine — that’s much easier than actually doing something!

            • having 12v of electricity coming out of 2 wires , even if you can switch to 110 or 240 or whatever, does NOT allow your environment to function

              having electric light off batteries does not allow you to function properly—in fact showing electric light in a collapsed countryside is one of the worst things you can do

              and if you dont use it for light—then what?
              power tools? what exactly are you going to do with them

              pumping water is about the only useful thing i can think of–there might be others?

            • Fast Eddy says:

              +++++++++++++++ x 5,000,000,000,000,000.98765554431

              Think of The Road…. oh look … a light! I wonder what is over there. I wonder if they have food? I wonder if it is warm? What should we do? Yes, let’s lock and load and go take a look.

              FW MUST be protected from these f789ing more ons. We must poison them with logic…. otherwise they will pour in like the filthy vermin they are … and we will be overrun.

              Surplus energy economics featuring Don (from DelusiSTAN) is welcoming … please exit.

            • Jan, sorry that’s some kind of misunderstanding, the above post of mine was response to Norman about the period of the fall of western Roman empire, where I argue the agriculture at that time was pretty much very efficient and large expertise dependent enterprise already, especially the specialized one be it vineyards, orchards or other produce with trade links, it was NOT some sort of fly by night pastoral anywhere primitive type of operation. So at the time of the final fall-rupture, there were several “armies” of older romanized as well as “new” less romanized barbarians roaming around like locust (incl. their families not only strictly armies), not mentioning the disposed former population. It was a giant mess where at some point even the “older” wave of barbarians tried from desperation some ad hoc coalitions with remnants of the former proper Roman force to repel the new incoming waves of even crazier peoplez..

              And inside this mess the whirlwind destroying regional craft/agriculture knowledge only the monk sanctuaries kept some sort of record of previous know-how and procedures.. -Hence their agri output and technological sophistication leapfrogging in say 8-9th century AD them all as was on far higher level then in comparison to sort of fall back option of dominant primitive style of pastoralism in which the unwashed majority around them was preoccupied daily.. Slowly, this know how was released and reacquired broadly to wider acceptance again..

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Reading the book Against the Grain… endless stories of how crops failed… massive starvation ..

              Also … constant invasions from bad guys… stole all the stored grains…..

              Of course post BAU that won’t happen. That only happened in the olden days

              F789ing i di ots

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Hence their agri output and technological sophistication leapfrogging in say 8-9th century AD them all as was on far higher level then in comparison to sort of fall back option of dominant primitive style of pastoralism

              I don’t necessarily agree that organized horticulture is at a “far higher level” than pastoralism, but time will tell.

              Many think pastoralism was the sustainable “sweet spot” between hunter-gatherer and agriculture. Very few civilizations have been able to sustain agriculture, albeit with significant exceptions, such as King’s “Forty Centuries” of Chinese agriculture.

            • Norman> I hope you understand these systems scale up, lets say from very simple and affordable system allowing just light for reading and data/info/book preservation (time to decide-plan whats next) to even much larger system running e.g. three phase pumps and other equipment, hot water/fridge, charging up communication-recon gear and or small mobility or what have you.. costing xyz_k

              I’m not advocating 1:1 system backup of today’s functionality that’s obviously nuts, even 3ph pumping with batt storage on wind and solar is millionaire’s toy territory, although dropping in price constantly so far, but more importantly it’s over-complex hence failure prone.

              You see there might be a smelly guy with shitty Chinese led lamp system savvy enough to build himself proper cold storage, while on the other hand some rich kid would be out of the game the second their expensive system compound malfunctions on some exclusive part failure..

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I really cannot understand why people are wasting their time and money on this madness….

              It is not different than the person who was discussing a long commute the other day…. at least the person commuting gets paid to work and can support himself…

              Buying solar panels and growing a farm – in the belief that this is a hedge against the end of days — that is just pure f789ing stuuuuuupidity… it is so stuuuupid that we should make up another word for it… stuuuupid does not do it justice.

            • Chris Harries says:

              Yes, Jan, this points to the issue of providing small-scale renewables for villages – a quantum leap from the concept of large industrial-scale solar solar and wind farms. I think in addressing poverty a few solar panels can provide quite a lot of very basic utility. This relies on there being a viable solar manufacturing business, of course, but it can be argued that a solar panel that provides radio communication where there is currently none has far more utility than one sitting on top of a western home that’s filled with appliances.

              But there is the problem of introducing ‘rising expectations’.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Unfortunately the parts wear out/break… the batteries won’t hold a charge… did I mention my solar pump blew a mother board a month after installation?

              Did I mention that rule one in my manual How to Take a Doom Hobby Farm and Enslave the Farmer:

              Look for lights at night when deciding which DHF you want to take. That is an indication that there is a Delusional OLD Goat inside who has wasted years getting the farm ready for you.

              Then position you and your gang of really nasty cruel bas tards so that you can carry out an ambush on the OLD Goat when he wanders down to the garden whistling koombaya the next morning.

              When the OLD Goat does arrive… you have two options…. jump him and yoke him… and put him to work…. or … if he gets ornery …. plug him with a few rounds…. pull up all the food in the garden and kill all the animals and have a feast…. if there are wimmin … have your way with them….

              Rule Two: move on to the next DHF. Repeat the above … while you wait for the radiation to end the party

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Unfortunately the parts wear out/break… the batteries won’t hold a charge… did I mention my solar pump blew a mother board a month after installation?

              Did I mention that rule one in my manual How to Take a Doom Hobby Farm and En..slave the Farmer:

              Look for lights at night when deciding which DHF you want to take. That is an indication that there is a De.lusio..nal OLD Go.at inside who has wasted years getting the farm ready for you.

              Then position you and your gang of really nasty cruel bas tar…..ds so that you can carry out an am.bush on the OLD Goa.t when he wanders down to the garden whistling koo……mbaya the next morning.

              When the OLD Goat does arrive… you have two options…. jump him and yoke him… and put him to work…. or … if he gets ornery …. p.lug him with a few rounds…. pull up all the food in the garden and ki…ll all the animals and have a feast…. if there are wi….mmin … have your way with them….

              Rule Two: move on to the next DHF. Repeat the above … while you wait for the radi….ation to end the party

            • Jan Steinman says:

              This relies on there being a viable solar manufacturing business, of course

              I don’t have any illusions of “solar manufacturing” being around after the bottleneck.

              But those who have them could use them as a bridge to stair-step down their energy usage. They might start out being heavily reliant, then reducing (perhaps involuntarily) as thing degrade.

              In a low-energy future, the best, most reliable solar panels will be green, and will grow on trees. 🙂

            • Artleads says:

              The industrial system can’t even manage one Fukushima. And given the insane incentives to mismanage that Fukushima demonstrates, an unprecedented crisis of any sort would surely lead to quite a few more Fukushimas. I know it could be something other than radiation. Every subordinate part of the bigger system is linked to all the others. I’ve called it a system of systems. So no, starving hordes won’t be the problem; just total cluster…k breakdown of everything. Survival would be very hard to imagine with so many things systematically going so wrong.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              You don’t need hordes to have a problem …

              All you need is a couple dozen neighbours friends and family… showing up that farm gate… and begging to be fed….. that would be enough to overwhelm any DP.

              DPs believe they have magic koombaya bubbles that protect them from radiation …

              Silly DPs…. even if they lived 2km from the nearest fuel pond they’d whistle past on their way to Walmart to buy more BAU.

            • Artleads says:

              “In a low-energy future, the best, most reliable solar panels will be green, and will grow on trees. ”

              Great point. Although anything that relies on individualism (which helped get us into this pickle) is unlikely to help, no matter its degree of green.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              ‘making it through the bottleneck event’

              Yes… and if anyone (other than hunter gatherer tribes) could survive this … (they won’t) what then?

              Ah right … it will be a life of Little House on the Prairie…

              Norman and Xabier have laid out what peasant life was like pre BAU….

              And then there is the FE Challenge — which not a single DP will take…

              It really does get old listening to the DP Crowd of Clowns tell us how wonderful things will be post BAU …. and yet they will NOT even try a week unplugged from BAU

              Isn’t that kinda like saying that one is going to go on a strict diet and lifestyle change…. to improve one’s health… yet one is not even willing to try first not eating a large size sack of potato chips and a litre of soda…. just to see if it is possible?

              DPs are a f789ing joke!!!!

              Shall we discuss scott nearing …. and he also pretended to live without BAU?

              He was f789ing joke too.

              Any of you DPs up for trying to transition to Hunter Gatherers? If you did … I would not mock you.

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