Electricity won’t save us from our oil problems

Almost everyone seems to believe that our energy problems are primarily oil-related. Electricity will save us.

I recently gave a talk to a group of IEEE electricity researchers (primarily engineers) about the current energy situation and how welcoming it is for new technologies. Needless to say, this group did not come with the standard mindset. They wanted to understand what the electricity situation really is. They are very aware that intermittent renewables, including wind and solar, present many challenges. They didn’t come with the preconceived notion that oil is the problem and electricity will save us.

It wasn’t until I sat down and looked at the electricity situation that I realized how worrying it really is. Intermittent wind and solar cannot stand on their own. They also cannot scale up to the necessary level in the required time period. Instead, the way they are added to the grid artificially depresses wholesale electricity prices, driving other forms of generation out of business. While intermittent wind and solar may sound sustainable, the way that they are added to the electric grid tends to push the overall electrical system toward collapse. They act like parasites on the system.

We end up with an electricity situation parallel to the chronic low-price problem we have for oil. Prices for producers, all along the electricity supply chain, fall too low. Of course, consumers don’t complain about this problem. The electricity system also becomes more fragile, as we depend to an ever greater extent on electricity supplies that may or may not be available at a reasonable price at a given point in time. The full extent of the problem doesn’t become apparent immediately, either. We end up with both the electrical and oil systems speeding in the direction of collapse, while most observers are saying, “But prices aren’t high. How can there possibly be a problem?”

Simply removing the subsidies that come from Production Tax Credits doesn’t fix the situation either. In one sense, the problem reflects a combination of many types of direct and indirect subsidies, including state mandates and the requirement that intermittent renewables be allowed to go first. In another sense, the problem is that, in a self-organizing economy, energy prices (including electricity prices) can only rise temporarily. The increase in energy prices is made possible by a growing debt bubble. At some point, this debt bubble collapses. Raising interest rates, as the US is doing now, is a good way of collapsing the debt bubble.

Furthermore, the subsidies for intermittent wind and solar discourage other innovation because they lead to terribly low wholesale prices for innovators to compete against, particularly in areas where hour by hour competitive rating is done. The ultimate problem is that if one type of electricity production is subsidized (even if in subtle ways), all electricity producers must be subsidized. Governments cannot possibly afford such widespread subsidies.

A PDF of my presentation can be found at this link: An Electricity Perspective on the Fragile State of the Economy. In this article, I offer some comments on these slides.

Slide 2.

Slide 3.

Slide 4.

We have all heard the story on Slide 4 so many times that few people stop to question whether the story is really true. My analysis suggests that it may be mostly wrong.

Slide 5.

The big take-away from this slide is that electricity companies planning for new generation should expect much higher electricity prices in the future. I discuss some of these items separately, on Slide 6.

By way of background, the US Energy Information Administration publishes “levelized cost of electricity” estimates that companies producing electricity are expected to use for planning purposes. When new generating capacity is added, planning needs to be started several years in advance. This is why what is being published now is the EIA’s calculation of expected wholesale costs (at a 2017 price level) for 2022.

Current wholesale prices for “dispatchable” electricity (the opposite of intermittent electricity) seem to be in the 3 to 4 cents per kWh range in the continental US, so all of the amounts shown assume that electricity prices will be much higher in the future. This thinking is in parallel with the “high oil prices will save the oil industry in the future” view that is prevalent in the oil industry. This thinking has helped keep the prices of shares of energy stocks up: “Even if there are problems now,” the thinking goes, “certainly higher prices in the future will fix the situation.”

CCS = Carbon Capture and Storage. CCS techniques are designed to remove a specified percentage of the CO2 generated when coal or natural gas is burned to provide electricity. The unwanted CO2 is stored underground. If the CO2 escapes, it can suffocate the population in the surrounding area. I would not make bets on the technique’s widespread adoption.

Slide 6.

Slide 6 shows a wholesale cost comparison for some particular pieces from Slide 5. All of the costs shown are very high compared to current prices. Wholesale prices tend to be in the 3 to 4 cents per kWh range because of the low cost of fuel (2 to 3 cents per kWh) and the low cost of already built generation. With recent changes in regulations, new generation is expected to be very expensive.

With respect to wind, there are two reasons why variable wind can be sold in Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) for 2 to 3 cents per kWh. The first is the substantial subsidies that have been available, making this pricing arrangement profitable to wind producers. The second is the low value that intermittent electricity provides to the grid. In fact, prices locked into these PPAs are slightly below the bottom of the range of expected future natural gas prices (Figure 1, below). This suggests that the primary value of wind generation is to replace natural gas as a future fuel.

Figure 1. Median PPA prices compared to forecast future natural gas prices. Chart by Department of Energy (Chart 54) in its 2017 Wind Technologies Market Report.

Somehow, miraculously, the EIA forecasts that the value of this intermittent wind will rise to 4.1 – 7.8 cents per kWh. In Figure 1, above, this would compare to 41 to 78 $/MWh, which is above the forecast gas price range.

Slide 7.

Notice how low and stable the green coal line is, compared to natural gas prices.

Natural gas comes from two types of producers: (1) those drilling specifically for natural gas, and (2) those drilling primarily for oil, and producing natural gas as a (mostly unwanted) low-value byproduct from drilling for oil. The second type of producer is willing to almost give away natural gas. If it becomes necessary to rely on production from companies whose primary focus is on natural gas production, prices will need to be higher.

Slide 8.

These are all very important assumptions that are not really true.

There is one reason why it might make sense to somewhat believe the first item, “Rising cost of electricity production will be no problem.” This has to do with the cost-plus type of electricity pricing (“regulated pricing”) that is used in some states of the United States. When cost-plus pricing is used, higher costs can, in theory, be passed on to consumers. The catch is that higher electricity prices tend to raise the price of finished goods and services. If wages are not rising rapidly enough, this can lead to an affordability problem. Industrial users of electricity are especially likely to cut back their electricity demand because higher prices make their products less competitive in the world economy.

After the talk, I decided to look at this situation a bit more closely. This analysis strongly suggests that since 2000, increased globalization has been playing a major role in holding down US demand for electricity. If there is an opportunity, industrial production will move to jurisdictions where the total cost of production (including wages, benefits, electricity costs, and other costs) is lower, even if there has not been a big increase in industrial electricity prices.

If we analyze US electricity consumption by type of user (Figure 2), we see that industrial electricity consumption rose rapidly until the late 1970s, plateaued between 1980 and 1999, and began falling in 2000. This pattern suggests that globalization is an issue. Early globalization sent US manufacturing to Western Europe and Japan. Later globalization sent manufacturing to lower-wage countries, predominantly coal-consuming countries of Asia.

Figure 2. US Electricity Consumption Per Capita, by Type of User, based on EIA data.

US labor force participation rates started dropping about 2000, similar to the drop in industrial demand for electricity. Thus, in recent years, globalization seems to be affecting residential consumers as well as industrial consumers. The impact on residential consumers is indirect, through job competition with global markets.

If analysts who estimate the required quantity of new generating capacity ignore the impact of globalization, their models are likely to give high estimates of the amount of new capacity to be added. If more generating capacity is added than is needed, it can be expected to push electricity prices downward, especially in competitive rating jurisdictions.

Slide 9.

As I will discuss later in this presentation, the economy operates based on the laws of physics. Because of this, it is impossible for the economy to change in ways that politicians would like.

Slide 10.

Slide 11.

Most of us have seen stories in the news about Macron and the Yellow Jackets. Can we really assume that citizens will accept higher carbon taxes, without protest?

Slide 12.

Industries get very unhappy when their electricity rates rise, making them uncompetitive with producers in other countries. The rates we are discussing are UK industrial electricity rates, so are a little higher (perhaps 1.5 times higher) than the wholesale prices discussed on Slides 5 and 6. If the price of 8.3 cents per kWh for industrial electricity is a big problem today, how can countries possibly withstand much higher rates, based on higher carbon prices or based on required technology that is much more expensive?

Slide 13.

Suppose a worker gathers reeds and uses them to make baskets. If his production per hour falls, he will have fewer baskets to sell in the marketplace. He cannot expect the price of each basket to rise to make up for his lower production.

For some reason, economists seem to have overlooked this obvious problem. There is no reason to expect that the buyer will be penalized for the higher costs of the energy industry. These higher costs look much like growing inefficiency. In the real world, the seller is generally penalized for falling efficiency. Why do we have so much confidence that the price per barrel of oil can rise, or the price per kWh of electricity can rise, if the price of baskets that a less-efficient worker makes doesn’t rise?

Slide 14. Chart by EIA. More detail on Renewable Energy available on Slide 18.

Slide 14 (made by the EIA) disturbs me. Coal production is dropping off rapidly, but the replacements we have are far from ideal.

Slide 15.

Coal (and nuclear) are the products that have historically kept US electricity prices low. Replacing coal with fuels that are much higher in cost and more variable in availability seems likely to be problematic. Industrial users are likely to be especially distressed.

Slide 16.

The United States has been fortunate enough to have very low natural gas prices recently. A major problem is that these prices are not really high enough for companies extracting natural gas as their primary business. If we really need to depend on natural gas, we will likely need much higher prices. In particular, natural gas prices will need to be high enough for natural gas companies to have bond ratings that are above junk ratings.

The question comes back to, “Can electricity prices really rise very much, without causing major problems?”

Slide 17.

Nuclear power represents a surprisingly large share of electricity generation. Slide 14 shows that in the US, its generation is higher than the sum of all types of renewables combined and almost as high as that produced by natural gas.

Yet nuclear has a lot of problems. It is perceived as dangerous (probably correctly so). Trying to correct the problems with being dangerous leads to a huge increase in the cost of new generation. Businesses in this field, such as Westinghouse, have gone bankrupt. The question of how to dispose of all the spent fuel is still a problem. Also, the many aging reactors will be difficult to replace.

There is also a problem with wholesale rates being too low for nuclear, when electricity rates are competitively set. To work around this problem, some areas use capacity auctions, which are intended to offset the inadequate funding for electricity providers providing backup electricity capacity. One catch is that a capacity auction is, in some sense, needed for every member of the supply chain. Just asking electricity generating companies to bid on providing capacity doesn’t guarantee that the full supply chain will be available.

For example, for natural gas, the capacity auction bid would typically reflect the cost of adding new units for creating electricity from natural gas; such capacity is inexpensive. A more expensive part of the supply chain would be the cost of adding extra natural gas pipeline capacity that is used only a few days a year, when it is very cold or hot. Furthermore, natural gas providers need to be profitable enough to continue to obtain loans at reasonable interest rates. So, even if capacity auctions are provided, they aren’t designed to fix the problems of the whole supply chain.

Furthermore, there has been a recent court ruling that these capacity payments are illegal. I mention in Slide 17 that the UK is affected. In fact, it is the entire European Union that is affected by this ruling. So, even with the best of intentions, member countries of the European Union cannot collect capacity charges to try to offset the underfunding problems caused by giving intermittent renewables grid priority and other subsidies.

Slide 18.

Slide 18 shows that in the US, the only types of renewable generation growing to any significant extent are intermittent wind and solar. Very high subsidies have helped push these types of generation along.

Parts of these subsidies are being phased out, but other, less visible subsidies remain. The fact that intermittent wind and solar are given priority on the grid, when they happen to be available, is a huge subsidy. Also, renewable mandates mean that generation is being added that is not really needed, lowering prices that the self-organizing competitive pricing system creates for backup electricity providers. This is part of the reason for the unprofitability of many natural gas, coal, and nuclear companies.

Slide 19.

In order for intermittent wind and solar to truly be dispatchable, the way other electricity providers are, there needs to be long-term storage for intermittent providers. A big part of the problem is seasonal matching of generation. For example, in a northern area, the main need may be for heat in winter, while intermittent generation may occur primarily in summer. Somehow, the variable wind/solar will need to be stored from summer to winter.

A post by Roger Andrews gives an idea of what the cost of the battery backup needed to solve this seasonal matching problem would be. His calculations indicate that adding sufficient batteries for seasonal matching can be expected to raise generation costs by more than an order of magnitude.

Slide 20.

Slide 21.

Most of the things we associate with rising energy consumption per capita are things we associate with a growing economy. Most people want these things.

Slide 22.

Slide 22 shows amounts I calculated from information from various published sources. These include energy consumption estimates by Vaclav Smil in Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects for older years and BP Statistical Review of World Energy amounts for more recent years. Population estimates are by Angus Maddison.

Based on this slide, most of the growth in world energy consumption ends up being reflected as population growth. It is only when energy consumption growth is very high that the living standards portion (in other words, the energy consumption per capita portion) grows very much.

Slide 23.

The big economic growth bulges that the world economy has experienced are easy to see on Slide 23. One of these is centered around 1910; another is centered around 1970. A third, smaller bulge is centered around 2010; it already seems to be disappearing. This growth bulge was made possible by China and other Asian countries as they ramped up coal production. Now this growth in Asian coal supplies is fading.

Slide 24.

The troughs, where the growth in per capita energy consumption falls to zero or slightly below, represent major problem times for the world economy.

Slide 25.

When a person looks back, the times when oil prices were high (1974-1980, 2008 and 2011) were near energy consumption per capita growth peaks. They were in times of high energy supply, not low. Many favorable outcomes occurred at peak times, including increased cooperation and higher returns on investments.

Slide 26.

Collapses of all kinds occur near troughs in energy prices. Often, these collapses are followed by wars that might be interpreted as resource wars.

Slide 27.

Many of these signs are ones we have been seeing lately. There were calls for tariffs before the US Civil War. Tariffs were increased in the 1920s, to try to reduce competition from abroad. Limits were also placed on immigration during the 1920s.

Slide 28.

When I talk about a vector, I am talking about a combination (really, a weighted average) of many different kinds of somewhat similar inputs. Thus, the energy vector reflects the combination of energy of many types, including human labor sold as labor, in a particular economy. The complexity vector represents the many types of specialization and growing complexity that allows resources (including energy resources) to be used by the economy. The debt vector indirectly represents promises of future goods and services made with energy products. Much of the debt vector needs to be repaid with interest. If the economy is growing rapidly, this is not difficult. If the economy is stagnant, this becomes a problem.

Many people think that oil or crude oil has particular significance. I see the economy operating as an overall whole. Each machine needs to have the particular fuel it uses. Companies decide to build factories in a particular part of the world based on an area’s overall cost level and the stability of its supplies, not based on the price of a single fuel.

Slide 29.

Slide 29 shows my view of how the economy works. As long as the debt level is growing rapidly enough, commodity price levels can be bid up to a high level, allowing increasingly complex goods and services to be produced, using an increasingly complex delivery system. At some point, the increasingly complex system for producing goods and services produces an excessive amount of wage disparity. About the same time, the cost of production tends to rise, as diminishing returns becomes an increasing problem.

The combination of rising production costs and an increasing share of the population with low wages soon creates a variety of problems. The economy tends to grow too slowly, so that debt cannot be repaid with interest. At the same time, the increasingly impoverished non-elite workers cut back on the goods and services they purchase. This might happen if young people find that they need to live with their parents longer, for example.

If interest rates are raised, this speeds up the failure of the system. Eventually, the economy, or a major portion of the economy, tends to collapse.

The big issue that tends to bring an end to economies is the increasing wage and wealth disparity that comes with growing complexity. As long as everyone is fairly equal, no one is squeezed out of buying goods such as homes, vehicles, and other expensive purchases. As businesses and governments get larger and more hierarchical, an increasing share of workers find themselves with low wages. These low wages adversely affect the economy in many ways:

  • It becomes difficult for governments to collect enough taxes.
  • Demand for commodities (such as those used to make homes and vehicles) tends to fall too low, leading to low prices for commodities.
  • Overthrown governments become more common.
  • Low-wage individuals become susceptible to epidemics because they do not eat well.

Slide 31.

The orange Energy Services line in the chart at the right shows the UK’s trend in the price of energy services since 1700, on an inflation-adjusted, efficiency-adjusted basis. The trend in these prices has been almost continuously downward. As long as the cost of energy services is downward, it is possible to add increasing amounts of these energy services, because they become ever more affordable. These energy services allow more goods and services to be produced. This seems to be a major factor underlying economic growth.

Diminishing returns, with a resulting increase in the cost of energy services, tends to be the “spoiler” in this system. In theory, rising complexity can be used to work around these higher costs. In fact, increasing complexity is helpful for a time. Eventually, however, the growing wage and wealth disparity that comes with increasing complexity tends to bring the system down. With the growing complexity, the system no longer has enough high-wage workers who can afford the finished products that the system creates. The many low-wage workers cannot make up for this lack of affordability. The number of new homes and new vehicles sold begins to fall, as a result.

Slide 32.

Interest rates, as well as the debt that is available because of low interest rates, play a surprisingly large role in commodity prices. The issue seems to be that debt is used to finance most large purchases, such as factories, schools, homes, and vehicles. If interest rates are low, it is possible for consumers to afford many more of these large purchases than they could otherwise. Once interest rates rise, the entire economy tends to shrink back. Debt bubbles tend to collapse.

Slide 33.

Slide 34.

Research into complex systems that seem to grow without outside help is a fairly new field. Clearly the economy is such a system. New businesses are added, as individuals see the need for a new product and a way of producing that product in a way that consumers can afford it. New consumers are added over time, as young people grow older and set up their own homes. Governments gradually add laws to regulate the system. Taxes are an important part of the system as well, and tax laws also change over time.

The thing that people don’t stop to think about is the fact that the system cannot really go backward. If a product is no longer needed (buggy whips, for example, for horse drawn carriages), it will no longer be produced. So, the situation is a little like removing the lower rungs of a ladder, as a person climbs up the ladder. This inability to go backward makes it difficult to adapt to falling supplies of any kind of commodity, including energy commodities.

Slide 35.

The vast majority of researchers do not understand the important role that energy plays in operating the economy and making it grow. These self-organizing systems (dissipative structures) absolutely depend on energy consumption. In fact, economies seem to depend upon increasing energy consumption per capita.

At some point, all dissipative structures (including hurricanes, plants and animals, economies and many others) come to an end. This is the way that a finite world can keep adapting and changing. New dissipative structures form and indirectly take the place of the previous dissipative structures. These new structures vary in structure from the previous dissipative structures. If the new structures are not well adapted, they quickly collapse, allowing room for yet other dissipative structures to form. The replacement of economies in this manner acts as a form of evolution, just as plants and animals evolve.

Slide 36.

Researchers tend to create models that fit their own preconceived notions of how the economy should work. This approach, plus the peer review process, tends to produce a lot of papers with the same (often wrong) assumptions.

Slide 37.

These should be fairly self-explanatory.

Slide 38.

This is probably the most important reason that economies tend to collapse. Most people miss the affordability connection because they interpret “Demand” to be something that anyone can do, without thinking about the affordability aspect. Without sufficient income, a person cannot demand a new home or new car, or gasoline from a fuel station.

Slide 39.

There have been many articles written in recent years about growing wage and wealth disparity. In fact, in the US, wage disparity seems to be back at the level it was before the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Slide 40.

Slide 40 tries to explain a paradox. Energy prices don’t really rise, as production falls too low. Instead, the complex system behaves in a strange way, causing commodity prices to fall because of growing wage disparity and debt bubble collapses.

One way of understanding the situation is by understanding that energy consumption is required for jobs that pay well. If insufficient energy supplies are available at a low price, the vast majority of jobs available will be low-paid service jobs. There will, of course, be a few managers and business owners. But these few managers and owners cannot, by themselves, generate enough Demand for goods and services made with energy products to keep commodity prices up. This is why the system tends to fail.

Slide 41.

I have been following oil since 2005, so I have had a chance to hear the discussion evolve. Oil prices were clearly too high for some consumers back in July 2008, when the sub-prime housing debt bubble popped in the United States. By early 2014, I started hearing that oil companies were very unhappy about the low price level available in 2013. In fact, some companies were sufficiently unhappy that they began cutting back on investment in new fields. It was not much later that oil prices dropped further, making the low-price problem even worse for producers.

Slide 42.

It is surprising how large and long-lasting an impact the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union in 1991 had on its long term energy consumption. The collapse wiped out a large share of the industry of the Soviet Union and its close affiliates. The Soviet Union was an oil exporter, so the low oil prices of the 1980s were one reason for its collapse. Prices were not high enough for adequate reinvestment in new fields.

Slide 43.

One common inaccurate assumption is that oil prices rise primarily in response to the rising cost of oil production. If a person looks at the data, it becomes clear that interest rates have a huge impact on prices. This seems to happen because the purchase of high-value goods with debt (such as factories, homes, cars, and buildings of all kinds) seems to have a very significant impact on total Demand. Lower interest rates make these high-value goods more affordable. (Quantitative Easing (QE) is a way of reducing long-term interest rates; it also seems to affect oil prices.)

Slide 44.

Since I made up this list, I can add another model to the list that seems to be wrong. The Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY) model of Safa Motesharrei gives an inaccurate assessment of the likely future path of the economy because it leaves out both diminishing returns and long-term population growth.

In every case, the researchers put together models that represent only a part of the way the world’s self-organizing economy actually works. They pick out a few aspects that they think are important, but they miss other important aspects. This selection significantly affects the outcomes predicted by their models.

Slide 45.

Some readers may be familiar with the Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) model. This is a model that is sometimes used to justify the reasonableness of selecting certain substitutes for oil, such as the use of intermittent wind and solar. As with all of the other models, the model gets some things right, but it also gets a lot of things wrong. Without understanding how the economic system really works, it is hard to see what goes wrong with the model.

Slide 46.

Slide 47.

These are all disturbing signs.

Slide 48.

World leaders act in ways that they feel that those who vote for them would like. In some sense, they are trying to save their own part of the world, even if they create increasing problems elsewhere.

Slide 49.

It is difficult for any new technology to get a foothold in a situation where energy prices of all kinds tend to be low. In addition, the pressure seems to be in the direction of reducing energy prices further, even if this means less energy production of all kinds.

Slide 50.

The world has become increasingly globalized in the last thirty years. Because of the greater interconnectedness, if a collapse occurs in the near future, it could be much worse and more widespread than prior collapses. The adverse results could exceed those of the Depression of the 1930s or the Great Recession of 2008-2009. We have no guarantee of being able to preserve either the oil system or the electricity system. The population of the world could fall dramatically; the economy may need to organize again in a new way without either oil or electricity. We live in interesting times.

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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2,042 Responses to Electricity won’t save us from our oil problems

  1. Uncle Bill says:

    Hey, kiddies, collapes is built in with an expiration date!?
    In general, we are looking at a 6 year expiration date and that’s from a manufacture date, not the date you purchased it or the date you started using it,” said Urso.
    You can find the expiration date on the bottom of your car seat. Look for the sticker that has the manufactured date and the ‘do not use after’ date.
    Manufacturers put expiration dates on car seats because the plastic they’re made of can break down over time.
    Neil Young was right, “Rust Never Sleeps”

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=u0itKLcLVFc&index=5&list=PL4CE3E1AB22F55552&t=0s

    Mother Nature on the Run….

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      Have we grown too lazy and silly and poorly educated to sustain a working democracy?

    • Tim Groves says:

      The German for “Sugar Mountain” is “Zuckerberg”.

      And Neil sings:
      It’s so noisy at the fair
      But all your friends are there
      And the candy floss you had
      And your mother and your dad.

      Could this be an example of future programming. Just askin’.

      • Uncle Bill says:

        In our long long ago dreams from a far far BAU past….actually this video plays his whole live concert….the song I had in mind was “After the Gold Rush”
        ….”Its three verses set out contrasting scenes. The first is a medieval panorama of knights and peasants. In the deeply evocative second, Young is ‘lying in a burned-out basement’ when the sun suddenly rips through the night. ‘There was a band playing in my head,’ Young responds wearily, ‘and I felt like getting high.’ In the final verse those chosen take humanity’s ‘silver seed’ into space while others are left behind, as the world dies.”
        “After The Goldrush”

        Well, I dreamed I saw the knights in armor coming,
        Saying something about a queen.
        There were peasants singing and drummers drumming,
        And the archer split the tree.

        There was a fanfare blowing to the sun
        That was floating on the breeze.

        Look at Mother Nature on the run
        In the nineteen seventies.
        Look at Mother Nature on the run
        In the nineteen seventies.

        I was lying in a burned out basement
        With the full moon in my eyes.
        I was hoping for replacement
        When the sun burst through the sky.

        There was a band playing in my head,
        And I felt like getting high.

        I was thinking about what a friend had said.
        I was hoping it was a lie.
        Thinking about what a friend had said.
        I was hoping it was a lie.

        Well, I dreamed I saw the silver space ships flying
        In the yellow haze of the sun.
        There were children crying and colors flying
        All around the chosen ones.

        All in a dream, all in a dream
        The loading had begun.

        Flying Mother Nature’s silver seed to a new home in the sun.
        Flying Mother Nature’s silver seed to a new home

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=moKeXu7wKlc

        Penetrating and chilling tune of his….enjoy my fellow Doomers!

  2. Duncan Idaho says:

    Special San Francisco trash is headed to the White House
    https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/jackie-Speier-jared-huffman-trump-trash-beaches-13512308.php
    I wonder if anyone will notice?

  3. kulmthestatusquo says:

    The worst crisis on S&P is over. The trendline has held, as noted by Yoshua.

    It is just that US will be throwing everyone else under the bus.

    I think the US and its close allies (if there are any remaining) will muddle along for a few more years. How many, no one knows, but I intend to enjoy that period to the maximum. Having no children means being able to spend everything on myself alone.

    • The way the system seems to work is that weak pieces seem to break off first. But it is not clear how long the overall system can hold, if big pieces break off. Raw materials come from all over the world. Manufacturing tends to be concentrated in China and a few other places. And the financial system is very fragile.

    • Rodster says:

      Everyone loves to blame the Federal Reserve for printing money to keep the eCONomy moving but the sad truth is, everyone is doing it, even the Chinese. They have learned from the best.

      Every major eCONomy operates with the credo: “infinite growth on a finite planet”.

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        Well, Morgan got tired of going to England, or France, hat in hand, asking for a big loan to bail out the “market” in the US.

      • After a certain time, printing money will be like using heroin and will not solve deep problems.

        • Yes, probably in 5-10-15-25yrs or perhaps during even much farther away period..
          View can look at various ‘delay factors’ – for one thing, now it’s the Chinese turn and boy they hate to loose face in public, hence at least a decade leading the print fest (with help of legacy old money guys) and providing that liftathlon action for such extension..
          Self destructive yes, but ‘only’ in the long run.

          • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

            yes…

            the “reserves” of digital money are essentially infinite, so the “print fest” has no natural limits to bump up against…

            too bad the real primary economy uses natural resources which all have limits and therefore diminishing returns…

            yes, they will try to print for 5-10-15-25yrs…

            so the money supply will continue to grow faster (and probably accelerate) than the supply of real goods and services…

            which eventually leads to hyperinflation…

            let’s see if “they” can prevent THAT…

      • There are only two directions, upward or collapse. Upward can to an extent be created by printing money, so that is what we get.

    • Thanks! More and more signs of recession around the world.

    • Chrome Mags says:

      Keep stoking that economic engine for growth. If things slow down, sling a bunch mo money at it. Go baby, go! Keep going until the printing presses seize up (from hyper-inflation or whatever else comes first).

  4. MG says:

    The age of intermittency?

    What about calling our era the Age of Intermittency? Once continuous forests are disrupted by agricultural areas, once thick coal seams are depleted and we have numerous, interrupted seams, once big undeground oil reservoirs are depleted and we have shale oil in isolated pores and cracks. And the wind and solar energy, once abandoned due to the huge amounts of quality fossil fuels, are again here as the kings of the intermittency. But the fossil fuels are still in the category of the predictable intermittency. The sun and the wind fall in the category of the unpredictable intermittency.

    We are surely heading deeper and deeper into such era, where more and more energy is consumed for backing up the civilization.

    • Yes, it is the age of intermittency. The problem is that today’s industrial economy cannot work with intermittency. There are too many continuous processes that need to be carried on at high temperatures for specified periods of time. Some devices (elevators and fans, for example) need to be available at certain times, not just when needed. Transportation cannot be totally intermittent, or there is too little time for workers to work.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        I was going to agree with you but to my surprise, I found this:

        ” Electric arc steelmaking is only economical where there is plentiful electricity, with a well-developed electrical grid. In many locations, mills operate during off-peak hours when utilities have surplus power generating capacity and the price of electricity is less. ”

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

        Having seen a minimill recently, I don’t understand how they are doing this.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “high temperatures for specified periods of time”

        It’s a problem. I was at a Nucor plant in Seattle a few months ago. I don’t know how long they try to operate the plant in a given run, but it is substantial

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          And Seattle has some of the cheapest electrical energy on the planet.
          We destroyed mass salmon runs, and mass ecological destruction for this privilege.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            I was looking for something else and found this fun article from ten years ago. it’s up on https://independent.academia.edu/ttothfejel I suspect that the article I posted a pointer to about improving photosynthesis efficiency is the start down the slope to there being too little CO2 in the air.

            A few lesser implications of nanofactories:
            global warming is the least of our problems

            Tihamer T. Toth-Fejel*

            The parable of the time traveler. Science fiction stories often ask very important
            questions about our future. In one simple story, a time traveler sits in a bar drinking,
            and he tells the narrator about a future in which advanced technology cures all
            diseases, reverses aging, feeds the hungry, saves the environment, provides ample
            energy for everyone, and brings about world peace. The narrator then asks the time
            traveler, “If everything turned out so well, then how come you look so depressed and
            worried? Why are you getting drunk in this two-bit bar?” With deep pain behind his
            eyes, the time traveler sighs and responds, “Well, now we’ve got real problems.”1

            The author leaves the haunting question unanswered, but due to recent advances in
            nanotechnology we can now dimly see the time traveler’s point of view.

            Footnote David Brin also summarized this time traveler tale in his short story “Stones of Significance”.Analog, January 2000. Unfortunately, neither of us can remember who wrote it originally.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        Some devices (elevators and fans, for example) need to be available at certain times, not just when needed.

        The biggest non-intermittent need may be refrigeration.

        In our latest power out(r)age, many households lost thousands of dollars worth of frozen and refrigerated food. We ran a generator for two hours out of every eight to keep things cold, but many others were not so lucky.

        Imagine an intermittent world where refrigeration is simply no longer tenable, anywhere. Much of our industrial food system absolutely relies on it.

        I had a student from India in one of my cheese-making classes once. She and her husband wanted to start a restaurant in a smaller Indian city. They were fairly well-off, even by our standards.

        She was very interested in making feta cheese. She asked how long it would last. “Oh, for a year or more, if refrigerated.” “Oh no, no, no,” she replied, “We don’t have refrigeration there. I want to know how long it will keep at room temperature!” I couldn’t really tell her, at least not from first-hand experience.

        Later, I was showing them how to use a water-bath to culture raw cheese, using hot tap water. “But we have no hot water there, how will we do this?” So we talked a bit about doing water-bath culturing on a stove, but I left that class astounded: How could anyone seriously think about starting a restaurant without either refrigeration or hot water on demand?

        But 2/3rds of humanity currently lives like this! It may be true that the “meek shall inherit the Earth.” That is, whatever western industrial nations leave of the Earth…

        • I think you are right. I visited India a few years ago, and electricity was definitely intermittent. Not everyone had it all of the time; even when it was supposed to be available, it would often go out. People didn’t have refrigerators. They had televisions and cell phones.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “The biggest non-intermittent need may be refrigeration.”

          I am not so sure about that. You mentioned only needing power 1/4 of the time to keep stuff cold. It would take careful design, but I think you could probably run a refrigerator on solar PV. At least some places

          • Jan Steinman says:

            you could probably run a refrigerator on solar PV. At least some places

            You’re probably right.

            But most refrigeration is not very efficient. Otherwise, why do the solar catalogs have $1,200 refrigerators designed specifically for solar?

            Replacing our entire installed base of refrigerators in order to work with intermittent-solar is akin to replacing our entire transportation fleet to go electric. I’ve had fridges (and vehicles!) last over 30 years. They won’t be replaced overnight.

            • I am sure that the cost be cubic foot of the solar PV refrigerator would be a whole lot higher than the cost of today’s refrigeration, especially when the cost of the solar panels was added in. And I doubt it would really operate during monsoon seasons and during long winters (when food could perhaps be set outside, if it weren’t stolen). Very cloudy areas would likely also present a challenge (UK, Seattle area of US).

              I don’t see solar PV as a refrigeration solution, when we have so many simultaneously problems elsewhere in the system. Wages will not stretch far enough to buy these devices, especially where people cannot afford refrigeration today.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              The high price is most likely the result of small markets. Though $1200 isn’t much higher than some conventional refrigerators. The long life of installed refrigerators will make them slow to replace. This will not be a problem for places that don’t have refrigerators now.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      “What about calling our era the Age of Intermittency?”

      and that’s an interesting idea…

      though the one thing I would ask is doesn’t an “age” suggest that it will last a long time?

      this “era” may not last more than a decade or so…

      • MG says:

        Who knows how long the things can go on with the reorganization of the system on the way downwards?

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          nobody knows…

          I often guess things will go on until the 2030s…

          by that decade, your Age of Intermittency may be well known…

  5. Duncan Idaho says:

    “Here’s how I would put it: forget Brace for Impact, it’s way too late for that. What we need to do now, collectively, is bend over, take a firm grip on our knees, and …. well, you know the rest.”

    http://www.dailyimpact.net/2018/12/10/its-too-late-to-brace-for-impact/

    • Chrome Mags says:

      It is interesting how the more it gets talked about, as the certainty firms, as efforts to collectively do something, it just gets worse. Maybe its the same for yeast. For all we know they start debating the fact that there is only so much more material to consume, then their fate will be sealed. But for whatever reason they can’t stop or even slow themselves anymore than the collective efforts of people cannot slow or stop.

      You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, anymore than you can lead people to understand something but you can’t make them change course. The train is firmly on the tracks laid down by trillions in infrastructure and economic trajectory and cannot be derailed until it crashes head on, is apparently our situation. I suppose we all just tighten our seat belts and brace for impact.

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        Yeast and humans seem to have much in common.
        I betting on yeast far outliving humans.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      “Here’s how I would put it: forget Brace for Impact, it’s way too late for that.”

      ooh, that is so scary… even SCARY…

      what changes are we going to make?

      oh, yeah, nothing… literally NOTHING…

      and why should we make any changes?

      it’s been repeated plenty of times, that FF keeps BAU going in IC, and backing off on the use of FF will mean increasing poverty…

      besides…

      if the use of FF is delaying the next iyce aege, then that’s a good thing…

  6. richarda says:

    Thanks for the writeup. I’d maybe have dealt only with the interaction of forecast energy prices and afforability – this balance – market clearance – is one thing that economists have good insights for. But that misses the big picture.
    On slavery, you might want to read up on the collapse of the Roman Empire circa 350AD. Short version: small farmers get taxed out of existence, wealthy landowners have private armies and can bribe of threaten the State’s agents. For some the choice is to become a slave or starve.
    We have different understandings of the meaning of the word ‘complexity’.

  7. 2019 Collapse Energy & Technology Overview now UP on the Doomstead Diner.

    OFW weighing in with 13 submissions to date.

    Astounding results overall.

    http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2019/01/06/2019-collapse-survey-results-the-500-energy-technology/

    RE

    • I had never considered including “Human slave labor” as a kind of bioenergy power that we should be working on now, to work around the energy shortages we will be encountering.

      In fact, humans will be the thing that we have the biggest surplus of–not draft animals or trees–so human slave labor may be used more, (a) because adequate energy supplies elsewhere will not be available, (b) because a large supply of humans needed work and food will be available, and (c) because some humans will consider obtaining food, clothing and lodging for their services the best that they can hope for, so will find this an acceptable solution.

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        “I had never considered including “Human slave labor” as a kind of bioenergy power that we should be working on now, to work around the energy shortages we will be encountering.”

        No problem- the difference between user and exchange value does that for you.
        And someone gets that profit (not the people doing the work).
        I’m sure you can figure it out—

        • Ed says:

          A slave system where the slaver does not have to provide for the slave. Everything is vendored out except the taking of the profit.

        • The problem is that there is too little profit to be allocated among the parties. No one gets enough.

          Both parents are both forced to work away from home in today’s economy. Children get less of the parents’ time. This shortchanges the children. They get sent to structured environments more. This further shortchanges the children.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        I had never considered including “Human slave labor” as a kind of bioenergy power that we should be working on now, to work around the energy shortages we will be encountering.

        “Slavery” has such horrible historical connotations that I am doubtful that the word could actually be used seriously for at least 3-4 generations.

        However, I think it currently exists in various forms that we don’t even think of.

        For example, student debt is a form of indentured servitude, which is a form of slavery. We have had several promising volunteers to which we have offered “sweat equity,” with the right of permanent habitation; in other words, as much a guarantee of a permanent food supply and lodging as anyone can make, these days.

        The most often reason for declines: “I have to get a real job to pay off my student loans.” For most of these people, what they really meant, was “to pay the interest on my student loans,” since the loans are set up so that you don’t get in trouble, as long as you’re paying the interest.

        So, they are forced to give up a simple, but fairly sustainable life-style, so they can service debt, generally working near-minimum wage, for little more than housing and food costs them. And these so-called “employers” don’t even have to pay them enough to feed and house them!

        If actual slavery does return, I hope it comes with at least the restraints that animal ownership carries. You cannot legally abuse a dog. You cannot legally have livestock in a field that does not have a man-made shelter (even if there are trees) and a man-made water source (even if there is a pond). If slaves are treated as well as we must treat non-human animals, it could be a fairly cushy life, compared to being off on your own somewhere.

        • Country Joe says:

          Maybe they will start bundling those student loans like the sub-prime real estate Mortgage-Backed Securities scam. They could sell them to corporations and the corporations get the workers. If you don’t have the money then you’ve got the time.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            Maybe they will start bundling those student loans like the sub-prime real estate Mortgage-Backed Securities scam.

            They already do!

            A friend with extensive student loans has had his “flipped” several times already.

            The government-backed student loans are considered A+++ security, and track T-bills on the secondary market.

        • Uncle Bill says:

          And we are worried …..wait till times get ruff…hard times…

          In the interview, Ms. Alqunun described a life of unrelenting abuse at the hands of her family, who live in the city of Hail, in northern Saudi Arabia. She said she was once locked in a room for six months because she had cut her hair in a way that her family did not approve of. And she said her family used to beat her, mostly her brother.

          Saudi Arabia, Ms. Alqunun said, is “like a prison.”

          “I can’t make my own decisions,” she said. “Even about my own hair I can’t make decisions.”

          Ms. Alqunun said that when she was 16, she tried to kill herself. When her family did not seek help for her, she said, she started planning her escape.

          Even at age 18, though, Ms. Alqunun could not simply leave Saudi Arabia on her own. Women in the kingdom need the approval of a “male guardian” to travel, usually a father, husband or even a son.

          Her chance for freedom came on Wednesday, when her family took a trip to Kuwait, which does not have the same restrictions on women. On Saturday, she caught the plane to Thailand, where she had reserved a hotel and an outbound flight

          Her plan was to stay there until she could leave for Australia, where she was supposed to meet a woman she described as “a Saudi refugee” who would help her.

          Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, the head of Thailand’s immigration agency, said Ms. Alqunun had been denied a visa to enter Thailand because she did not have sufficient money. She also lacked the necessary documents to gain entry to the country or continue on to Australia, he said.

          “She left her original country due to a family issue and came to Thailand,” General Hakparn said in an interview. “She’s safe. Her passport wasn’t confiscated.”

          He said Ms. Alqunun would be put on the flight back to Kuwait accompanied by Thai immigration officers.

          Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Bangkok, Abdul-Ilah al-Shuaibi, issued a statement asserting that Ms. Alqunun had been arrested at the airport for violating Thai laws, which was not the case. He said the embassy did not have the authority to stop her at the airport.

          In a similar case in 2017, a Saudi woman, Dina Ali Lasloom, was forced to return to her family in Saudi Arabia while in transit in the Philippines on her way to Australia.

          Ms. Alqunun said it appeared that the Saudis and Thai officials were working together. At one point, she said, she was required to sign documents written in Thai that she did not understand. She said her passport had been returned to her but was later taken again and handed over to Kuwait Airways to help ensure that she boarded her return flight

          If she is returned to Saudi Arabia, Ms. Alqunun could face criminal charges of parental disobedience or harming the reputation of the kingdom, Human Rights Watch said.

          Saudi Arabian men consider themselves guardians of their families’ honor and often punish family members, especially girls and women, who are said to have brought dishonor on the family. In extreme cases, the family members are killed.

          Ms. Alqunun said she was particularly concerned about what her family might do to her because in describing her plight on Twitter, she renounced religion.

          “They will kill me because I fled and because I announced my atheism,” she said. “They wanted me to pray and to wear a veil, and I didn’t want to.”

          Ms. Alqunun posted reports and videos on Twitter in a bid to build support.

          “I’m the girl who run away from Kuwait to Thailand,” she wrote in one post in English. “I’m in real danger because the Saudi embassy trying to forcing me to go back to Saudi Arabia, while I’m at the airport waiting for my second flight.”

          On Sunday, she was still hoping to make it to Australia.

          “I want to be protected in a country that will give me my rights,” she said, “and allow me to live a normal life..”
          https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/06/world/middleeast/saudi-thailand-rahaf-alqunun.html

          The new normal is right around the bend….it ain’t gonna be pretty.

        • xabier says:

          When the Turks acquired slaves in the Balkans, during their annual ‘tax’ tours, the kids actually got a proper meal and decent clothes for the first time in their miserable peasant lives, because they had acquired monetary value in the eyes of their owners. Vikings are also on record as having treated slaves decently.

          On the other hand, the history of daily brutality towards slaves, and cruel punishments, is too horrendous to contemplate: the powerless will always be abused in some form, whether technically enslaved or free.

          Hence the value that has been set on liberty and meaningful free status throughout history.

          Undoubtedly, as viable mass energy goes away, slavery will return, in many forms.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      Thanks for doing this! Interesting results, although a bit predictable.

      It might have been interesting to see some of the “Other” data. I found I picked “Other” about as often as I picked one of the decreed choices. But, I’m pretty much an outlier among outliers…

  8. Sven Røgeberg says:

    Worth reading about what has been going on in the field of economics the last decade. From the article:
    «Empirical macroeconomics has made a number of genuinely interesting departures. Several areas have been particularly fertile: the importance of financial conditions and credit constraints; government budgets as a tool to stabilize demand and employment; the links between macroeconomic outcomes and the distribution of income; and the importance of aggregate demand even in the long run.

    Not surprisingly, the financial crisis spawned a new body of work trying to assess the importance of credit, and financial conditions more broadly, for macroeconomic outcomes. A large number of empirical papers tried to assess how important access to credit was for household spending and business investment, and how much of the swing from boom to bust could be explained by the tighter limits on credit.»
    http://evonomics.com/economics-decade-crisis-jw-mason/?utm_source=newsletter_campaign=organic

  9. Chrome Mags says:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-46772508

    “About 300 troops have been sent to the north-eastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza to tackle a surge in criminal violence, authorities said. Soldiers will patrol there and across the state of Ceará in a bid to halt attacks on shops, banks and buses. The justice ministry ordered the special deployment after dozens of attacks this week. The attacks are a protest against new, tougher measures in local prisons, largely controlled by criminal gangs. Prison authorities in the state have blocked mobile phone signals inside jails and ended a policy of separating inmates by gang affiliation.”

    Guess they don’t like prison rules changing. Problems keep cropping up all over the place.

    • I realise it sounds brutal—but in times past most crimes carried the death penalty.

      why?

      because keeping thousands of prisoners locked up over long periods was unaffordable.

      Transportation was tried, but the penal colonies filled up, or became new nations (Australia etc) and they didn’t want any more convicts.

      Now we have jails filling up, with prisoners demanding ”rights” and so on—which is fair enough

      but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that in a declining economic system, all facilities, health, prisons, schools etc are derived from the same tax source, all ultimately unaffordable, because the tax source is in effect surplus energy

  10. CTG says:

    Hi, I would like to share with you all something that happened some time ago and perhaps SomeoneInAsia or the missing FE can chip in because this is something that happened in his place as well.

    The incident is the 2002 SARS epidemic in Asia/South East Asia. Korowicz has covered this before at http://www.feasta.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Catastrophic-shock-pandemic2.pdf

    Background for those who cannot remember the early 2000s and I am sure many of you have forgotten about it even though it is less than 20 years ago. 20 years is just a very very short blip in the history of mankind but what happened from then till now is so big

    1. Windows XP was launched in 2001. For 99% of the people, how you work then and how you work now is probably the same (spreadsheet, word processor, etc) but the complexity from the chips, storage and software is probably many orders of magnitude higher. Talk about Jevon’s paradox. It takes a very significant increase in resources just to do the same thing. Resources include giving people jobs from making chips, writing software and the entire distribution channel. A huge increase in energy usage with no benefit overall.

    2. Google started in 1998 but only gained traction in early 2000s

    3.Internet for the masses is still not widespread. Dial ups are common in developing countries. Broadband are getting more popular. Dedicated lines are for companies. Only large ones can afford fibre optics

    4. Globalization just started. China just joined WTO. Many of the industries in developing and developed countries are still very localized.

    5. Internet services is still very primitive. Bank of America just started internet banking in 2001. FedEx tracking is still done using telephone

    6. Cell phones are phones with no internet access. It is used for calling people. Smart Phones? huh? News spread slower. no HFT and market manipulation is more difficult then.

    7. Apple is still have an existential crisis.

    8. Budget airlines in Asia has not started and middle class is still middle class. Air travel is still expensive and only richer people travel by air. in 2018, due to cheap flights, the number of air travel passengers has jumped dramatically. (i.e. more interconnected)

    9. Electronics are not complex. The machines used to make them are not complex and they are not pushing physics to the limits. Demand for things are not high because Chinese have not started buying them yet.

    In short
    Population is lower, complexity lower, happiness more prevalent. Rat race is less stressed. Politcal correctness is not in vogue and people seems to be smarter during that era.

    **** That was just 17 years ago….. *****

    Then came the SARs epdiemic. HK and Singapore was hit badly as they have high population density (now is probably very much higher) and the virus spread quickly. People were scared. The shopping malls were empty, hospitals were empty because people are not going there unless there is a great need. Schools are closed when cases were detected among the students. Airports were deserted.

    People use ATM and cash to pay for stuff. Many companies still use cash to pay salaries. The needs and demands of population is not high (CRT TV is only 34″ max and no smartphones to upgrade). Many have money (mortgage lower, less property speculation, etc) and with lower demand on food, resources are used rather well. There were no panic even commerce almost come to a complete standstill for some areas.

    Fast forward to today. If this happens, what do you think?

    I like Xabier’s saying – when we climbed the ladder of technology, we kicked out all the lower rungs and there are no fall back. Where would the extra manpower at Microsoft, Intel, FoxConn go if our complexity goes lower? (if it can go lower)? 2G phone networks are already taken out in many countries. Everything is online – banking, groceries, etc – to save cost. No back ups.

    The only people who can survive is probably the Andaman people who made headlines sometime back by shooting and killing people who come near to them. For everyone else, good luck.

    I am just stressing a few things

    1. Humans is incapable for going lower in complexity once they get used to higher complexity. those who are having simple life better make sure they stay hidden.

    2. In just the last 17 year, man things have changed and it is not even remote possible to use history as a guide to everything. The speed of things happening now is crazy (instant communication). Those who said that Rome tool 100s of years to fall is probably too slow themselves to understand what is happening.

    3. We may have reached peak complexity with peak cheap energy (not just oil).

    4. Recalling back what happened in 2002 or 2001, think and imagine, if it happens today, how things will unravel.

    There were many wars in the 1950s-1970s. Do you think if Russia and China fights in 019, it will not impact other parts of the world? Think again

    • piers says:

      I think 2019 will be like this:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZQIkkOgOnw

      but I want it to be more like this:

    • Slow Paul says:

      If we lose electricity we lose everything. Even traditionally simple work like farming is now very modern, large scale and dependant on inputs and equipment and electricity. You can’t buy anything because cash registers won’t work without power. After a few days even decent people will go and loot the supermarkets.

      We can’t go backwards, we can only shrink our consumption in line with sinking energy production. This means less pie for everyone and slow decline in population (except parts of Africa where you don’t need much energy to survive).

      So to conclude: Burn more coal, uranium, oil and natural gas baby!

  11. Uncle Bill says:

    Yes, the end times…. Imaginary wealth….gone nutso…
    The tuna looks so tasty and very fresh, but I think I did too much,” Kimura told reporters outside the market later.

    “I expected it would be between 30 million and 50 million yen, or 60 million yen at the highest, but it ended up five times more.
    Japanese restaurateur set a record on Saturday by paying nearly $3.1 million (333.6 million yen) for a massive, 613-pound Pacific bluefin tuna at the first auction of the year of Tokyo’s Toyosu fish market, and almost immediately conceded that perhaps he should not have paid
    Sushizanmai chain owner Kiyoshi Kimura—who held the same record for six straight years until he was outbid last year—apparently paid over $5,000 a pound for the fish
    Preppers….stock up on Tuna cans…..

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish…

      Preppers… give up…

  12. “Apple Cuts Revenue Forecast Because of Slow iPhone Sales in China
    “… ‘If people aren’t buying iPhones, they’re probably not buying everything else,” Mr. Zandi said. “It symbolizes how deep China’s economic problems are, and we can connect the dots right back to the trade war.'”
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/02/technology/apple-revenue-decline-china.html?utm_campaign=the_download.unpaid.engagement&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=68743473&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8byw3vyWjzdusJaVcCNH9MAGoJDk1UL5l7sFQM5ozr0j5CDL7RVLsqVhwhuHVpU9Rn61L8pRDmXdGDHKb2PfV-z9phhg&_hsmi=68743473

    “China’s Economy Slows Sharply, in Challenge for Xi Jinping
    “DONGGUAN, China — China’s consumers and businesses are losing confidence. Car sales have plunged. The housing market is stumbling. Some factories are letting workers off for the big Lunar New Year holiday two months early.”
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/14/business/china-economy-xi-jinping.html?module=inline

    • Rodster says:

      As someone who follows Apple. They are using China as an excuse. I agree with the plethora of tech analyst who blame Apple’s slowdown on a “smartphone maturing market”, lack of invention to warrant an upgrade and finally the average selling price of iPhone’s has gone through the roof where it’s out of the purchasing range of the average consumer. $1,500 for a top of the line iPhone or $750 for their latest and greatest budget entry iPhone Xr?….please !

      Last year I purchased a Huawei smartphone that looks and feels just like a premium iPhone with dual sim cards, unlocked, 64GB, expandable storage, 5.93″ FHD+ screen and FM Radio all for $229, brand new. That’s what Apple has to go up against. And if you listen to the average consumer, they are holding on to their phones even longer because of the higher asking prices for the new iPhones.

      Apple is getting clobbered in India another emerging market for the same reasons and even more so because India has an even poorer demographic versus China.

      • JeremyT says:

        Hey Siri, what can Apple do beyond connect you to F*c*book, WhatsApp, Instagram and Google?

        Er, sorry, what did you say?

        sent from my Smugsan….

      • Tim Groves says:

        I’ve just bought my first smartphone—something to play with until the balloon goes up and the power goes own—and it’s made by Sharp, a Japanese multinational now under the umbrella of the Taiwan-based Foxconn Group. It cost $300 and the phone company provided a discount on that. An iPhone would have set me back over 3 times the price.

        Also, I just bought a 15-inch MacBook Pro, a refurbished 2011 model with a new SSD and several other improvements. It cost about a third of the price of a new MacBook and I also like it because it has a DVD drive.

        I think we’ve passed peak Apple, but that may not be a bad thing. As a company they’ve grown fat and top-heavy, and they need to loose weight and rekindle their spirit of innovation. Maybe they could bring back Steve Jobs—or, since he’s been embalmed by now, an android replicant? They’ve never had to compete on price and, while that’s nice work if you can get it, they may have to start doing that at last.

        • Rodster says:

          Just wait till all those Apple Retail stores become a noose around Apple’s neck. That should be fun to watch. It’ll be like watching the Titanic take on water. And I also own Apple products but they have priced their gadgets and computers out of the reach of the average consumer.

          I wanted to replace my 2012 Mac Mini with the new 2018 Mini and not only is the new entry price $799 which is higher by $200 but you get less now for your money. Apple decided to solder the SSD storage to the motherboard and it’s a paltry 128GB and paired with a T2 security controller chip which has been causing it’s fair share of problems for those who buy the new Mac Mini.

        • JesseJames says:

          But you forget….the CEO of Apple is gay….that is the most important thing.
          Maybe The present Apple leadership will give us some super duper “LGBTQ” innovation.
          Doubt it though. They are probably reinforcing their SJW division…”Human Resources” with more personnel. I predict that as Apple’s fortunes wane, even more SJW edicts will permeate the Apple corporate culture.

    • It is not the trade war that is the problem, it is the fact that cheap-to-extract energy resources are becoming less available. China, in particular, is having difficulty. China would be having economic difficulties, with or without the trade war. The world has been leaning on China, to provide the rest of the world growth, but that increasingly cannot happen. Trump somehow realizes China is vulnerable, and the US is in a better position. Continuing to depend on China as they go downhill can only bring us down as well.

      https://gailtheactuary.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/china-energy-production-by-fuel-plus-consumption-to-2017.png

      • Volvo740 says:

        Love OFW! Here common sense still reigns. Thanks Gail! In other areas Volvo is just a tin foil hat without any optimism.

        I find that optimism interesting. My usual response is that we can’t solve problems unless we acknowledge them first. That works about 10% of the time.

        The hopium out there is toxic.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          “The hopium out there is toxic.”

          perhaps it is like kryptonite to you…

          but without it, “consumer spending” would crash…

          and without hopium, many persons turn to opioids…

          I’m not optimistic beyond 2029, but I would be even more worried if the people I meet on a daily basis started to become highly verbal pessimists… I’m usually just inwardly amused by outspoken optimists… confrontation seems fruitless…

          anyway…

          BAU kryptonite, baby!

    • Yoshua says:

      A war would keep people busy and United.

      Xi just declared that Taiwan must reunite with the mother land peacefully…or by military force. Xi also told the military get battle ready.

      No one seems to know how bad the situation really is in China.

      • Chrome Mags says:

        From messages I’ve read below YouTube videos on the situation, most Americans seem to think China is just blustering and could never be a threat militarily, but I think the warnings of China should be taken seriously. They are really sensitive about Taiwan and the US is getting China all worked up in part because the US recently sold Taiwan military equipment and have sailed US naval ships between China and Taiwan. Historically China asserts Taiwan use to be part of China and they fully expect them to reunite (as you mentioned in your post). Also the US has sailed near China’s freshly printed islands and the trade war are all situations making China feel like they are not being taken seriously. Yet they are a world power, so I think it’s within the realm of distinct possibility that some naval confrontation could take place. China has warned they may ram US naval ships. What happens from there is anyone’s guess but if one side or the other doesn’t back down it can only escalate.

        • Dan says:

          They are being taken seriously, that’s why were f’ing with them.

        • Curt Kurschus says:

          “Historically China asserts Taiwan use to be part of China”

          Based on conversations I have had with Chinese people, China regards Taiwan as being part of China. They are merely a renegade province that needs to be brought back under the control of the central government. A Chinese colleague of mine refers to Asus as being a Chinese company, when they are actually Taiwanese. From the Chinese perspective, there is no distinction.

          This is why foreign nations are expected to choose between having diplomatic relations with Taiwan or China. It is not a question of one or the other nation, it is a question of the Communist government in Beijing or the Nationalist government in Taipei. From the Chinese perspective, one is the true government of China, the other is a rebel, renegade, one could even say enemy, government of China.

          • xabier says:

            Just as Madrid refuses to regard the Basque Country, or Catalonia, as anything other than Spanish, for eternity. No negotiation over sovereign status is possible.

          • Tim Groves says:

            The Communists are the rebels, surely, and their rebellion just happened to be successful on the mainland.

            Based on conversations I have had with Taiwanese people, Taiwan regards China as an alien colonialist power with a long history of paternalistic authoritarian rule over their country. And the totalitarian characteristics of the current Chinese political system and national culture are greatly feared by both the indigenous aboriginal Taiwanese, who had the island to themselves for thousands of years before the Dutch and Spanish arrived in the 1620s.

            The Chinese took over in the 1660s, after the stoopid Dutch had encouraged immigration from the mainland. According to Wikipedia:

            perhaps the most lasting result of Dutch rule is the immigration of Chinese to the island. At the start of the Dutch era, there were estimated to be between 1,000–1,500 Chinese in Taiwan, mostly traders living in aboriginal villages. During Dutch Formosa rule, Dutch colonial policies encouraged the active immigration of Han Chinese in order to solidify the ecological and agricultural trade establishments, and help maintain control over the area. Because of these reasons, by the end of the colonial period, Taiwan had many Chinese villages holding tens of thousands of people in total, and the ethnic balance of the island was already well on the way to favouring the newly arrived Chinese over the aboriginal tribes. Furthermore, Dutch settlers opened up communication between both peoples, and set about maintaining relationships with both Han Chinese and native Taiwanese – which were non-existent beforehand.

      • Rodster says:

        “A war would keep people busy and United.”
        ——————————————————————————————————–
        Funny you should say that !

        “President Xi Orders Chinese Army To “Prepare For War”
        https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-01-04/president-xi-directs-chinese-military-prepare-war

        • a war would give the don an excuse to take over as el supremo

          then what?

          • Duncan Idaho says:

            We would be like Brazil, only with someone who has trouble reading, and is a ex TV host and failed real estate guy, who no one will do business with except the Russians.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Point taken. Princess Diana bought an apartment in Trump Tower, and look what happened to her!?

              But functional illiteracy has something of a pedigree with Republicans. I’m thinking of Reagan, Quayle and Dubya. It’s never stopped them doing really really well politically.
              And I am informed that Don uses Grammarly before Tweeting.

              As for the Russians, they’ll do business with anyone. Rumor has it that the Clintons made millions out of the Uranium One deal with the Russians, which Obama signed off on, and that Bob Mueller was personally involved in brokering that deal and covering it up. Also, President Bill Clinton received $500,000 for a single Moscow speech? Mind you, as everybody knows, Bill gives good a really speech.

          • Volvo740 says:

            Buy defense stocks!!!

          • Chrome Mags says:

            Good point, NP. My wife and I have talked about that, because in a time of war all other things get pushed aside, and in this case that means the Mueller investigation probably gets shelved and sealed for 50 years. The ultimate distraction from other considerations, war. What’s it good for, it might be good for the Don. He may be thinking, either they back down in the South China sea or I get the ultimate distraction and an end to impeachment votes.

            • Tim Groves says:

              More likely the Mueller investigation continues for the next 50 years, as Bob seeks out new witnesses and new lines of enquiry, checks into every laundry basket and U-bend in every Trump Hotel for evidence of foul play, and boldly goes where no special investigator has gone before.

  13. which just about mirrors Germany in the 30s

    the only difference being that hit ler didn’t seek to enrich himself personally

    • piers says:

      No, he just looted other countries’ artworks.

    • xabier says:

      I might well be wrong, but I believe he did get private income to augment his very modest salary from all German Reich postage stamps – copyright on his image as Fuhrer.

      If it’s not true, it should be….

      • well don’t tell the don

        he’ll want a cut of that too—the postal service is one thing he hasn’t closed down yet

        • Tim Groves says:

          You really hate the don, don’t you?

          What’s not to like? Working at the thankless task of being Potus for a dollar a year, not taking a day off all through the Christmas and New Year Holidays, brokering peace between North and South Korea, bringing home troops from three third world war zones (Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan), significantly boosting employment and income for working class Americans, trying to protect the country from being overrun by the hordes, and driving the demented and deranged left to distraction.

          I used to compare Trump with JFK and Ronald Reagan. But these days I see him as a Marcus Aurelius type figure, out in all weathers manning the frontier, shoring up the defenses, trying desperately to keep the empire from breaking up, while the chattering classes complain about the price of Nubian slaves, the Christians look forward to the day of the judgement, and the plebs enjoy their bread and circuses.

          Americans should be building statues to this great man.

          https://assets.dnainfo.com/photo/2016/8/1471539921-269950/larger.jpg

          • Dan says:

            I think I just threw up in my mouth.

          • Slow Paul says:

            ++++++

            I think he is great. He runs his office like a reality tv show which makes for great entertainment. He seems to understand the economic situation and he cuts right through all the typical PC demeanor and doesn’t let the media/trends define or sway his politics.

      • Uncle Bill says:

        Yes, it’s true Adolf did receive a royalty from his portrait on stamps…along with that he pretended not to be aware of the corrupt underlings that skimmed off the top to enrich themselves….one of the benefits of persecuting the poor Jewish citizens of the Reich…take away from one group to give to another….

    • Tim Groves says:

      Yes, I can see how some people could see the situation in today’s brave new America is the tragedy of Germany in the 30s repeated as farce.

      Within a year of coming to power, Trump has turned the US into a totalitarian state that controls nearly all aspects of life of US citizens. He quickly began to eliminate all political opposition and consolidate his power—sending the Obamas and Hillary to Gitmo and having them replaced by doubles, and Tweeting crude, rude and dehumanizing nicknames for all his other opponents.

      All power was centralised in Trump’s person and his word became the highest law. The government was not a coordinated, co-operating body, but a collection of factions struggling for power and Trump’s favour. In the midst of the Even Greater Depression, the Trumpers restored economic stability and ended mass unemployment using heavy military spending and a mixed economy. Extensive public works were undertaken, including the construction of The Wall. The return to economic stability boosted the regime’s popularity.
      Racism, especially antipeopleofcolorism, was a central feature of the regime. The Orange-haired peoples were considered by the Trumpers to be the master race, the purest branch of the Aryan race. Discrimination and persecution against Brunettes and Blondes or “Bimbo” people and anyone without freckles began in earnest after the seizure of power.

      The first FEMA camps were opened in March 2017. SJWs, uppity Hollywood types and others deemed undesirable were imprisoned, and liberals, socialists, and communists were killed, imprisoned, or exiled. Christian churches and citizens that opposed Trump’s rule were oppressed, and many leaders imprisoned. Education focused on racial biology, population policy, and fitness for military service. Career and educational opportunities for women were curtailed. Recreation and tourism were organised via the Strength Trumps Joy program, and the 2020 Summer Olympics showcased Trumzi Amerika on the international stage. Propaganda Minister Steve Bannon made effective use of film, mass rallies, and Trump’s hypnotic oratory to influence public opinion. The government controlled artistic expression, promoting specific art forms and banning or discouraging others……

      /sarc

      • Thomas Fink says:

        Love it how they are ignoring your comments regarding the don and just go on pushing the orangemanbad hysteria. Seems that even otherwise bright people have their bias compartments. Trump is just a very funny and light version of the real strongmen that will lighten up our way into a future where human and animal labor will be again the main source of energy on this planet. When we will care about the next meal and not 634 genders. We wanted to be like gods and brought our punishment on ourselves by ourselves. You can stray from the way. But the more you stray the harder you get pushed back.

        • i think you miss the point

          when muscle was the prime source of energy, the government of states was totalitarian.

          Human muscle supported a tiny minority of aristos/religious houses, who owned the land under the rule of an absolute monarch

          kings were often nutcases, but that didn’t alter the unpleasant existence of we peasants.

          Their purpose was the maintain the status quo at all costs, however unpleasant

          • xabier says:

            Moreover, that kind of royal rule gave an advantage in war, and war at every level was pretty much constant. A strong and clever king could protect the poor sweating peasants against invasion an exploitation by even worse rulers, which was no doubt appreciated.

            Still, there are kings and there are kings: Dark Age Scandinavia offered an example of decentralised kingship, in which tribal custom rather than the will of the ruler dominated, and the fact that every man was skilled at arms to some level meant that mad kings could be dealt with by everyone turning against them.

            I believe that at one point Norway had some 60 ‘kings’, as Anglo-Saxon England had 7, until the great Alfred.

            Most of our ancestors were ruled by tribal custom, far stronger than the will of one man.

            • if you think about it

              regional kings were usually determined by geography—UK had 7—determined by regions of land–Mercia–Anglia, Wessex etc

              Norway had maybe 60, because it was so difficult to traverse from one region to the next

              Rulership required energy/manpower. A king could only rule the region he could get fighting men into

            • The 60 or kings in Norway because of difficult travel is related to the many languages (or dialects) that were spoken there in earlier years.

            • but surely the different dialects themselves were due to the difficult terrain of the country itself?

            • Right. Each group was very separate. Even now transportation is terribly difficult. Tunnels are needed to travel almost anywhere by land.

            • Neil says:

              Old Ireland was just like that.

            • Slow Paul says:

              Norway has by far the most tunnels per capita. Probably the most ferries as well. Recently a billion dollar tunnel project was approved, to some small islands with 2000 inhabitants, crazy.

            • The billion dollar tunnel to serve a small population sort of reminds a person of the US’s programs to encourage high cost drugs that will benefit at most a few thousand people. Back when nations were rich, these ideas made sense. But now that nations are poorer, these extravagant projects really need to disappear. Citizens cannot afford the high taxes to pay for them. If there are not enough fossil fuels to go around, this is the kind of project needs to end.

            • but the average person can’t make the link between these activities and fossil fuel surpluses

          • Thomas Fink says:

            You have a very narrow view of history. It is the view of the enlightenment age, which had to paint everything before it as dark and cruel to hide its own darkness and cruelty. A totalitarien state needs people cut off from their roots, their families, their customs and traditions. Totalitarien societies are thus an invention of the modern age. The first age that officially hates tradition and thinks it is better which in fact makes everything more worse. When muscle is the prime source of energy life is harsh of course. So it was for thousands of years and so it will be again. Even you, on the dole, are living in luxury, compared to the (often short) life of most aristos and kings of old. That’s how your rootlessness and vanity gets sweatened. And now we are going back and all the flickering gadgets and inventions of the modern age will turn into dust. Including scientism and atheism. Recoice, the guiding hand is near.

            • I think you are right about always the new rulers always needing to paint the prior situation as much worse. Without living it, we don’t understand the tradeoffs of each generation. The amount of energy available per capita made a big influence on how people were able to live. Also, transportation issues, weather, and many other issues.

            • if you have a monarch with the power to execute/imprison citizens on a whim, then surely that is a totalitarian state?

        • xabier says:

          The meme that Trump is an illegitimate wanna-be ‘dictator’ started before he even assumed office: it is just a fiction promoted by his opponents, unable to accept the election result, who even then had some kind of impeachment in mind – for whatever reason.

          Rather sad to see the Republic sink so very low (both Trump and his enemies).

        • JesseJames says:

          Excellent post Thomas…”We wanted to be like gods and brought our punishment on ourselves by ourselves.”

          Many think we are gods…and are even now striving for immortality. Our rapid gthe planet for our own comfort is something like those who think they are gods would do.
          We are destined to be humbled I think.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “Many think we are gods”

            We are, of course, animals. Further, I think it is obvious that in a constant environment our populations can’t go higher than the numbers who the environment can feed. When a population rises to more than those that can be fed or the productivity of the environment falls, then the human population will fall as well. The reduction in population may have to be done by other humans since humans don’t have significant predators.

            You can actually predict wars nearly a generation ahead, at least in a constant environment where the population is up against the ecological limits. Those children born in excess of replacement have to die someway. If disease and frank starvation doesn’t do it, then the excess has to be killed off in wars.

            . . . at a psychology workshop this last weekend . . .

            They are the kind of people who understand the “Mamma bear” problem that
            William Calvin discusses in the first chapter of The Ascent of Mind: Ice
            Age Climates and the Evolution of Intelligence.

            “Unfortunately, a little arithmetic shows that this story doesn’t have a
            happy ending. How many bears can the environment feed? Obviously, that’s
            the average bear population. And that means, on average, only two babies
            per mother get to grow up and become a parent, out of the dozen or two that
            she produces. The maximum population level is not set by the birth rate but
            by the number of job slots afforded by the environmental niche occupied by
            bears. . . .”

            “That means the average Mama Bear is raising five-to-ten times more baby
            bears than can possibly survive, absent, of course, miracles — . . . .”

            The opposition I got to asking how far back it was that humans became their
            own major predator was really interesting (at a meta-level). It is obvious
            that hominid lines were able to fill the environment to capacity and then
            some. The simple fact that our line spread so far into Asia so long ago
            indicates population pressure on groups at the population edges. Behind
            that edge *something* (or things) held the population to the numbers the
            environment can feed. Obviously, diseases were a factor, but probably not
            enough.

            But the idea that human line groups killed off neighbors as a regular
            feature of life long enough to select for a survival response genes when
            things start to get tight . . . . . I wonder if humans generally have
            emotional censors to reject such an idea. Perhaps such thoughts conflict in
            with our view of ourselves–at least as that view has been shaped by times
            of relative plenty.

            [Editorial note, I now am wondering if rejecting thinking about this
            subject might be due to _wired in_ censors, the kind that keeps people from
            thinking any more than they absolutely have to about their own mortality.]

            “Global maturing” may be a lot harder if censor biases keep us from
            thinking about this class of knowledge.

            Then again, perhaps humans differ in some way from bears and they didn’t
            overfill the environment during the stone age or they had some other way to
            control populations that didn’t involve groups killing each other.

            Human’s generally don’t have twins like bears, but in a primitive
            environment the typical woman is pregnant or nursing from late teens to
            early 40s. Five to six kids is typical. Just like bears, on average only
            two of them will survive to reproduce (given a constant environment, which
            includes technology). And typically 40% of the adults in present-day
            hunter-gatherer groups die from violence.

            I know bringing in bad news about our evolved psychological traits is not a
            popular role, heck, I find the subject really depressing, but someone has
            to do it because we really need to understand ourselves better if we are
            going to survive.

          • spare a thought for the cartoonists who will starve when Trump has been deposed

  14. milan says:

    Here’s an important piece from Matt Taibbi which may spell thebeggining of the end for Goldman?
    wow, just wow?

    The Malaysia Scandal Is Starting to Look Dire for Goldman Sachs
    A pioneering twist on third-world corruption might be the biggest scandal the Vampire Squid has ever faced
    Goldman Sachs, which has survived and thrived despite countless scandals over the years, may have finally stepped in a pile of trouble too deep to escape.
    There’s even a Donald Trump angle to this latest great financial mess, but the outlines of that subplot – in a case that has countless – remains vague. The bank itself is in the most immediate danger.
    The company’s stock rallied Thursday to close at 165, stopping a five-day slide in which the firm lost almost 12 percent of its market value. The company is down 35 percent for the year, most of that coming in the past three months as Goldman has been battered by headlines about the infamous 1MDB scandal.

    Just before Christmas, Malaysian authorities filed criminal charges against Goldman, seeking a stunning $7.5 billion in reparations for the bank’s role in the scandal. Singapore authorities also announced they were expanding their own 1MDB probe to include Goldman.
    In the 1MDB scheme, actors tied to former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak allegedly siphoned mountains of cash out of a state investment fund. The misrouted money went to lavish parties with celebrity guests like Alicia Keys, a $35 million jet, works by Monet and Van Gogh, property in New York, Los Angeles and London, and (ironically) the funding of the movie The Wolf of Wall Street.
    The cash for this mother of all bacchanals originally came from bonds issued by Goldman, which earned a whopping $600 million from the Malaysians. The bank charged prices for its bond issuance that analysts believe were suspiciously high – like a massage price that suggests you’re probably getting more than a massage.

    https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/1mdb_malaysia-goldman-sachs-criminal-charges-772795/

    • A different bank with problems. Looking around the world, I expect we can find quite a few banks with difficulties right now. If the high amount of market volatility continues, we can add banks that have derivative exposures and fail, as well.

      • Yoshua says:

        DB announced that they can survive an economic down turn, that they don’t need any government aid and that they have ample liquidity.

        DB Coco bonds have a 18 percent yield!

        DB is obviously lying. 🙂

        • Dan says:

          So is there going to be a “happy ending” when its all over for Godlman?
          They just seem to rub everyone the wrong way.

    • According to the article:

      For years critics of central bank policy have been dismissed as negative nellies, but the ugly truth is staring us all in the face: Market advances remain a game of artificial liquidity and central bank jawboning and not organic growth and now the jig is up. As I’ve been saying for a long time: There is zero evidence that markets can make or sustain new highs without some sort of intervention on the side of central banks. None. Zero. Zilch.

      Also,

      All this intervention has not produced sustained accelerating growth, certainly not compared to previous cycles.

      Tax cut sugar high aside all growth projections for 2019 are pointing to marked slowing with recession risk rising.

      The only thing that has really grown as a result of all this cheap money and intervention is debt.

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        “We’re now at the half-way mark of Donald Trump’s term in the White House, and the relentless hum of his casual imbecilities, obscenities, banalities and outright fabrications has become so routine to the world’s daily dread that it is now just background noise in the ever-louder bedlam of America’s dystopian, freak-show political culture.”

        • Rodster says:

          I have never voted and never will as I have an outright distaste for politicians. That said i’m glad Trump is in office and I hope he gets a second term. Why?

          Because he exposes what a freak show Washington D.C. really is. I love hearing the POTUS calling other politicians names which can be construed as demeaning and offensive. Why? Because that’s exactly how I feel and everyone who gets elected to either POTUS or Congress plays the politically correct word game. I would say 95% of the elected officials would have trouble holding a job or running a business, that’s if they ever had a job in the private sector.

          Chuckie Schumer is an outright A-Hole and more-on but he’s looked up to because he does what he does best, being a politician.

          • Dan says:

            The biggest politicians I have ever met personally and interacted with were the late Ted Stevens of Alaska and Louis Goemert of Texas – both seemed to have the IQ of a slug and the attention span of a gnat. I wouldn’t say they were aholes because to be an ahole requires some personal effort which neither seemed capable of.
            Based on these 2 individuals I surmise they all are idiots.

          • Duncan Idaho says:

            Yea, I see your point.
            I’ve never voted for a Dim or Repug–
            Pepsi and Pepsi Lite.

  15. Yoshua says:

    The S&P 500 didn’t break its trend line in 2018.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dv7HXKGWkAAU4U0?format=jpg&name=large

  16. Volvo740... says:

    Further to that comment…

    Man U won… see:

    KKKLIMATE DATA FAKED

    by John Bates (leading kkklimate scientist)

    In the following sections, I provide the details of how Mr. Karl failed to disclose critical information to NOAA, Science Magazine, and Chairman Smith regarding the datasets used in K15. I have extensive documentation that provides independent verification of the story below. I also provide my suggestions for how we might keep such a flagrant manipulation of scientific integrity guidelines and scientific publication standards from happening in the future. Finally, I provide some links to examples of what well documented CDRs look like that readers might contrast and compare with what Mr. Karl has provided.

    https://judithcurry.com/2017/02/04/c limate-scientists-versus-c limate-data/

    • Uncle Bill says:

      Really? Suppose the we should put this externsive documentation before the scientific community for review and consideration before asseting accusations.
      Seems this is a habit that has publicize to make headlines to sway public opinion, which in the end didn’t amount to much.

    • JeremyT says:

      I smell FE here, are you sure you’re Volvo? Not the best for driving smack into the uprights at speed… too much protection!
      Bates is a process man, upset at some guideline being breached; turns out there was nothing wrong with the data, or so HE says.. .
      Fake news about about fake news, an endless spiral down, down, down.
      Turns out truth has too much complexity, entropy rules….

      • Uncle Bill says:

        A Fast Eddy posted this on WND…
        C C agenda will be part of the Mark of the Beast. The mark is about controlling the world’s economy. So is c c. That is why they are fighting so hard.
        Looks like FE has taken a new crusade to a different audience…Thank God!

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        Probably a Cracker–
        “The lower picture reminds me of Saltines: A bunch of stale, salty crackers.”

        • Tim Groves says:

          What you guys don’t seem to get—because of your ideological blinkers—is that “global average temperature” is a crude and imprecise statistical abstraction and not a real phenomenon or attribute, unlike the temperature of a cup of coffee, or of a room, or of the air passing in front of the thermometer in a weather observation station, which can be ascertained with precision. And when said global average is extended to global average over the course of a year, the abstraction is taken to ridiculous lengths. It may be interesting to compare one year against another and obtain a difference in grand total of the two sets of statistics, or in the “anomalies” from year to year at different locations, but putting them together to come up with global figures and then insisting the global figures represent something real is anally retentive and deceptive nonsense.

          • Uncle Bill says:

            Suppose us guys just don’t get it …. Whatever…thanks for the definite all encompassing explanation….it’s all very clear now…..sarcasm

  17. Chrome Mags says:

    Have to start a new post because there is no reply button on that thread any longer.

    “You’re starting to sound like Guy! Chill out and buy some AAPL.”

    Volvo, at 148+ a share how many shares can a person buy unless they are super rich? Even for $10,000 dollars that only guys 67 shares with change left over. If the stock went up like it did today, that 67 x 6+ = $402 increase on $10,000 investment? That is if you happen to hit today without having been hit by yesterday’s big drop from grace that Apple took, which means you would have had to buy on the opening bell and chances are you wouldn’t get the whole 6 buck + increase because of computer initiated trades that occur in the first few nano seconds of trading.

    I’m not a Guy McPherson fan, in spite of my rant post above, which I thought was quite good. Guy thinks extinction will occur by something like 2026. For one, I think that’s an absurd timeline and secondly I also don’t think people will become extinct (although life will get much harder for many).

    Try to have a nice day.

    • Volvo740... says:

      Your post was good! I agree that we’re living through an extinction. As far as timeline goes. I dunno. It feels unstoppable, just like the economic collapse does. The economic collapse probably rolls in first, but that doesn’t save the environment. It’s too far gone.

      The arctic goes ice free in < 5 years in the summer. Paul Beckwidth has great videos on what that means. (I.e. shit hits the fan.)

      • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

        “The arctic goes ice free in < 5 years in the summer."

        didn't someone say that about 10 years ago?

        anyway, we can't do anything about it…

        yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        bring it on!

        and…

        if "we" have delayed the next ice age, that's awesome!

        • Slow Paul says:

          Guy McPherson went all in predicting ice free arctic in 2017… and now has egg on his face.
          Bottom line, the climate models are just as stupid as conventional economic models. Just extrapolation based on hindsight. If the results deviate from the model, then we will make a new explaination for this anomaly e.g. el nino/nina, jet streams, slower winds, faster winds, cold air from the continent, warm air from the sea and so on. In the same manner economic news is explained e.g. stock buybacks, online shopping, job numbers, consumer confidence, political tensions, weather, social trends.
          The human mind must try to make sense and apply causality, we need to be in control,
          but we have got no clue how the climate really works and how it will turn out in 5-10-50 years from now.

    • Volvo740... says:

      Your post was good! I agree that we’re living through an extinction.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Aye, it was a good rant. One of the best seen here in ages.

        Now, if we could only work out how to live through our own extinction, we’d be immortal.

        • Kurt says:

          I would give it a 4 out of 10 on the rant scale. He just didn’t really bring it in a big way. Also, no Elon or bezos references. It just wasn’t long enough either. A good rant just goes on and on. No Amber Heard either, so that hurt him as well on the score.

        • Chrome Mags says:

          “Your post was good! I agree that we’re living through an extinction.”

          “Aye, it was a good rant. One of the best seen here in ages.”

          Thanks guys.

          “Now, if we could only work out how to live through our own extinction, we’d be immortal.”

          That would be a good trick.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          “When we can’t dream any longer we die.”

          — Emma Goldman

    • Rodster says:

      “Guy thinks extinction will occur by something like 2026.”

      Actually Guy moved up his prediction as of last year. In his words we wouldn’t see the end of 2018…..oops !

  18. Duncan Idaho says:

    “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

    — Albert Camus
    Existentialists are a interesting group—–

      • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

        Dear Human,
        you can do stuff for a blip of time before you are no more in the nothingness of eternal death.
        So do whatever.

        All humans:
        okay, we will.

      • Ed says:

        Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
        You been out ridin’ fences for so long now
        Oh, you’re a hard one
        But I know that you got your reasons
        These things that are pleasin’ you
        Can hurt you somehow
        Don’t you draw the Queen of Diamonds, boy
        She’ll beat you if she’s able
        You know the Queen of Hearts is always your best bet
        Now, it seems to me some fine things
        Have been laid upon your table
        But you only want the ones that you can’t get
        Desperado, oh, you ain’t gettin’ no younger
        Your pain and your hunger, they’re drivin’ you home
        And freedom, oh freedom, well that’s just some people talkin’
        Your prison is walking through this world all alone
        Don’t your feet get cold in the winter time?
        The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine
        It’s hard to tell the night time from the day
        You’re losin’ all your highs and lows
        Ain’t it funny how the feeling goes away?
        Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
        Come down from your fences, open the gate
        It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you
        You better let somebody love you (let somebody love you)
        You better let somebody love you
        Before it’s too late

    • Slow Paul says:

      A good quote I heard over at corporeal fantasy:
      “You will never be happy unless you realize you will never be happy”

      Happiness is just a state where your dopamine levels are such and such due to some stimulating activity. Food, sex, games, alcohol. It’s a never ending hunt for dopamine. To understand this, and feel some sort of contentment in between, is maybe as good as it gets??

      • How about eating more fiber? That may fix your problems.

        http://darwinian-medicine.com/can-fiber-make-you-happy/

      • Jan Steinman says:

        To understand this, and feel some sort of contentment in between, is maybe as good as it gets?

        No, it can get much better!

        Dan Gilbert is a genius. He’s an actual scientist, not some “woo woo” type, but he shows how we can “synthesize” happiness.

        A big part of it is limiting choice. I work on that every day.

        People assume more choice is better. But in double-blind experiments, Gilbert shows that those with reduced choices are generally happier with their situation than those with more choices.

        So, when faced with a choice, I choose the one that limits my future ability to make choices. Perverse, but it works!

        • Tim Groves says:

          Very interesting; thanks Jan.

          The older I get, the happier I am with a restricted range of choices. Perhaps Milton Friedman of “Free to Choose” fame wasn’t as smart as he was made out to be.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            The key take-away: “The reversible condition is not conducive to the synthesis of happiness.

            I printed that out on a little placard that sits above my monitor. It’s very useful when agonizing over two similar Amazon products. (Amazon has a great return policy; a “reversible condition.”)

            Then I simply step away from the keyboard, and purchase neither, happier with what I have than what I could have had.

            This may be an increasingly useful skill in an uncertain future.

  19. xabier says:

    My candidate for a TED talk title that sums up the awful genre:

    ‘How To Hack Your Brain For Happiness’.

    • Mark says:

      But that’s Tony Seba or Musk

      • Greg Machala says:

        Ahhh another feel good talk in a auditorium. It is so amazing how we are so in touch with nature and so green, wonderful and we have all this untapped potential. But we build these auditoriums to profess our super-natural prowess using fossil fuels and numerous other resources we get from nature. Just so we can build walls against nature. To block out nature. Subvert nature – and do it forever.

        • send the don to china

          they’re big on walls there

          • Greg Machala says:

            I guess my point is we expend a lot of energy fighting against nature. Then, try to make it appear that we are working in harmony with it.

            • Chrome Mags says:

              That’s a good point, Greg. As the Bugaclypse and the dramatic loss of phytoplankton, (both important base food sources) along with the quickening advancement of the 6th extinction event broadens, people exalt at our greatness inside a controlled atmosphere and lighting sitting on our cans except for the one explaining how we can be even happier. It’s a reflection of the self involvement of our species until shtf and we are all panicking to try and make it through a very small bottleneck, while all the other species are just trying to get out of our way. We’ll go from top dog sitting in an auditorium removed from nature with artificial light to full panic mode charging around cities and the countryside seeking out a morsel of anything to last a bit longer. From self involved ignoring the plight of the biosphere to feeling sorry for ourselves in a brief period of time. Should be fascinating to watch if one is not caught up in it.

            • Volvo740... says:

              You’re starting to sound like Guy! Chill out and buy some AAPL.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Is the Universe unfolding as it should?

              And would that mean it’s OK to chill out about mass extinction or the end of more?

              https://www.yogajournal.com/.image/t_share/MTQ2MTgwODEyNjAyNTQ5Njkz/story-image-16845.jpg

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              yes…

              if a star can beam energy here and a tree can collect that energy…

              then I can release the energy in the tree by burning it…

              and I have the right to burn as much FF as I can afford…

              thank you, Universe!

  20. Third World person says:

    here is old documentary in 1979 which
    obligatory amusing predictions of fusion power plants by the 90s.

    https://youtu.be/InXhf2YOWSI

  21. Duncan Idaho says:

    23,296.40 +610.18 (2.69%)

    The market likes that the Dims have taken over The House?

  22. CTG says:

    US stock market is just a small slice of the total financial markets (bonds + stocks) world wide. By saving the stock market (which is the most visible), it risks accelerating the erosion of confidences in the total US markets. Do they have a choice? I think not. Between a rock and a hard place.

    Saving the stock market alone does not mean that others can be saved. If you add in shadow banking and derivatives, the US stock market may be just a rounding error. Nobody knows how the whole thing unravel. Someone may say that it happened in 2008 and we are saved. So, we can be saved. Maybe yes maybe no but the law of diminished returns is always true.

    Too many spinning plates are wobbling now and some of them are actually falling off. The end result is known (it will collapse, that is a mathematical certainty) but how we get there is up in the air. I am just curious what will be the trigger. The last few days of trading of US stocks is not confidence-inspiring through….

    • You make some good points. Stock markets are much smaller than bond markets. And some debt is not in bond markets, it is with banks. Derivatives add a whole pile of additional complexity to the situation.

  23. Yoshua says:

    The 2y 3y 5y 7y treasury yields have now inverted and fallen below the Fed’s funds rate.

    • I will believe it when I see it.

    • Greg Machala says:

      I think oil prices could rise. $3.00/gallon – maybe. However, I think we are entering a period of extreme volatility where oil (and commodity prices in general) will be low longer than they are high. The prices will eventually stay low longer and longer until something breaks. That is assuming there are no other catastrophic events to bring down the economic system first.

  24. Dan says:

    Looks like getting a set of whiskey glasses for Christmas was perfect timing.
    🍻

  25. Yoshua says:

    Dark poet Trump

    Syria was lost long ago. We are talking about sand and death.

    • piers says:

      How long does Trump have left – to live ? He is taking away the toys of the military-industrial complex. (Remember what happened to JFK when he wouldn’t play ball). He has executed his close-down over the budget. He looks like a prime candidate for assassination now.

  26. hkeithhenson says:

    Speaking of black swans

    Scientists engineer shortcut for photosynthetic glitch, boost crop growth by 40 percent

    https://phys.org/news/2019-01-scientists-shortcut-photosynthetic-glitch-boost.html

    It will take perhaps a decade for this to work into farming.

    • I am sure that there are a whole lot of negative feedbacks from this. It seems like the plants will need more water, plus more nutrients from the soil. They likely will need a whole range of inputs. If the new technique really does make fields more productive, they we can have more people, so we will need resources of other kinds (resources to make roads, homes and cars, for example) in addition.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “negative feedbacks”

        I read the article carefully. The effect does not look like it will use any more input of elements from the soil per unit of output than the existing crops. So you could get by with a smaller area of farms.

        The really interesting point is if this set of genes makes the jump to wild plants. 40% is a big advantage.

        • Regardless of what the article says, if the crop produces more edible output, it will need some nutrients and probably some water to produce the additional output. If the crop is green peppers, then whatever nutrients green peppers provide to humans will need to somehow be available in greater abundance in the soil, for example.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            if the crop produces more edible output, it will need some nutrients and probably some water to produce the additional output

            My thoughts exactly!

            The article only said the technique increased the production of sugars, which are used to make cellulose and lignin, the structural components of plants.

            So it seems somewhat analogous to Mall•Wart making shoppers “more efficient” by increasing the size of their shopping bags — you still have to put stuff in them!

            In particular, I don’t see where additional amounts of protein, fat, and micronutrients will come from. Perhaps they’ll just be watered-down by the plant’s greater mass.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            Conservation of mass says that you have to return elements you take out in crops. Eventually, humans will have to return all the elements they take from the soil. The primary element of concern is phosphorous.

            If we have plenty of energy, water is not a problem. If we don’t, it’s likely the population will shrink.

            • Chrome Mags says:

              What nutrients do most people get these days anyway? Most people are waiting in line at one fast food pit stop or another, and that stuff is mostly void of nutrients found in plant food. Watch a football game and all they advertise is pizza. It’s no wonder people move on at an early age from cancer or heart (abuse) disease. I can’t claim to be a non-junk food eater, but I make sure to eat a salad at least 6 times a week and I notice the difference right away. The body loves a good salad made of organic produce. I highly advise against the stuff that isn’t organic.

            • DJ says:

              NPK fertilizer, sometimes +S, seems to be necessary to grow even empty calories.

              Everything else seems we are pissing into the sea.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Everything else seems we are pissing into the sea.

              Not all of us. Some of us piss back onto our plants, closing the nutrient cycle that has been broken!

            • hey

              i do that

              maybe not such a farming ignoramus after all

            • Jan Steinman says:

              maybe not such a farming ignoramus after all

              Look at dat, fokes!

              Before long, he be crappin’ in a five-gallon bucket with a scoop of sawdust!

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGsmKY_RrmI

              Good an ya, Norman.

            • doomphd says:

              if caught doing that in town, you’ll be arrested for indecent exposure, you bums.

    • JesseJames says:

      Man cannot improve on what nature (or God) has created. There will be unknown side effects. The process is there for a reason. And….man will screw it up or screw something else up as a byproduct.
      Besides, without FF, there is a limit to how much nitrogen can be “fixed” through natural means.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “limit to how much nitrogen”

        Between this development and another one where a variety of maize fixes nitrogen, the amount might be considerably larger than you would think.

        https://news.wisc.edu/corn-that-acquires-its-own-nitrogen-identified-reducing-need-for-fertilizer/

      • Jeese, I agree with you. Evolution has worked in a particular way for a reason. If it did not favor this particular path, it must have some shortcomings.

        • Greg Machala says:

          I agree as well Jesse. It took 5 billion years to grow the ecosystem into what it is today. We have nothing on that time-scale to reference to improve upon the natural order. Our level of knowledge is a geological blip in comparison.

          • we’ve been around for 500k years

            the little critters who live on us and inside us have been around for 2 bn years

            easy to figure out who’s running things

            • doomphd says:

              yes, that’s correct. add to this the fact that most energy expended within us is just to maintain (and repair) the operating systems. so, any creative thoughts or actions (that we value) are working upon a base that is “just” keeping us alive and functioning, an actually mighty job that our conscious mind usually ignores or downplays. it’s a wonder that we get anything done worthwhile.

            • i lie down a lot

              so’s not to piss off my personal critter residents

  27. Chrome Mags says:

    I’m not going to paste in the Dow link because that seems to put my posts on hold, but the Dow is down over 600 pts. with about 1/2 hour to go. Yesterday I suggested the downturn in the stock market may have been because of people selling for tax purposes year end, but with it going down so much today, it appears to be solidly in a bear market. How far down we go nobody knows.

    Meanwhile oil price is stabilizing, however if the stock market keeps heading down oil probably will too in spite of the Saudi’s reducing exports. Stay tuned to this ongoing saga…

    • The latest (presumably final) amount shows Dow at -660.

      • Chrome Mags says:

        https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/01/03/dow-jones-industrial-average-falls-apple-revenue-warning/2470660002/

        Here’s an article on why stock market tanked today;

        “The Dow took another big hit Thursday, closing down more than 600 points after Apple warned about slowing revenue and iPhone sales in China, and a key gauge of U.S. manufacturing in December came in weak, heightening investor concerns about slowing global growth.”

        That last line, “slowing global growth”, is probably the big one to look at regarding a bear market. We know all too well the importance of growth. As much as some talk about it like we’re all going to find a different metric to gauge the world economy by, that seems to the one that is always looked at with the most focus.

    • Yoshua says:

      According to just technicals this bear market is worse than the 2008 bear market.

  28. Sven Røgeberg says:

    Some time ago i read this blogpost by Ugo Bardi https://cassandralegacy.blogspot.com/2018/12/the-6-most-stubborn-fake-news-in-history.html
    I made this comment:
    You write: «In any case, the common element is always the search for a scapegoat, a culprit to blame for some problem that doesn’t have easy solutions. It seems to be a well-ingrained mechanism working in human minds: once it kicks in, paranoia reigns and anyone, individuals, groups, entire societies, can become the target of a violent social revenge mechanism.» How did this mechanism play out during the decline of the Western Roman Empire? Perhaps you have written about this, bu i am pretty new hier.
    I got this interesting answer from Bardi: «It would be a long story, but it seems that, yes, the same mechanism was at play in the Western Roman Empire. One example that comes to my mind is how the Goths living inside the Empire were attacked and killed by Roman mobs after the battle of Teutoburg, in 9 A.D. I am citing from memory, I have to find the reference, but it was a classic case of social paranoia.»
    I followed up by this comment, which i also send him on his personal mail at the university, but didnt receive an answer. Perhaps someone hier like to comment, given that many of you have shown deep historical knowledge. I asked Bardi this question:
    Thank you for the answer! It would also be interesting to look at the time later Joseph Tainter writes about in his book from 1988 «The Colllaps of Complex Societies»: When the conquests came to a halt, the state had to use draconian measures and a more complex organization to mobilize the surplus energy from within its borders. It this circumstances, when peasants and the working population felt the full weight of the surveillance state, did they find some groups to take their anger and frustration out on?

    • Interesting! I don’t have the historical knowledge to fill in more details.

      The problem is always an energy per capita problem. Somehow, the “capita” part has to be reduced, and the answer seems to be to find some scapegoats whose population can easily be reduced. Nowadays, immigrants are an easy answer.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “immigrants are an easy answer”

        Any group that can be distinguished will do. In Rwanda, it was a social group. In Cambodia, the educated. Among other things, they killed the people with glasses. The Jews have been a target several times. I see this behavior as practically mechanistic and part of the psychological traits for wars.

      • louploup2 says:

        And the homeless. The vituperation toward them in our cities is incredibly intense and disheartening.

        • expectations versus reality says:

          No one verbally abuses homeless people in my neck of the woods because many of them have psychological issues and nothing to lose…You’re only sympathetic to them because you only see them from a great distance. You don’t have ride public transportation with them and smell their incredible b.o. If you had to deal with them everyday, you’d try to get the local government to have them go be homeless in someone else’s back yard.

    • xabier says:

      I believe there was a rise in persecution of Jews associated with the trauma of the Black Death – certainly the people in our home town in Spain massacred them and stole their houses.

      But massacres were so common then, above all of Jews, it’s not a very compelling example.

      Scapegoating occurs even when there is no state to speak of, let alone a surveillance state.

      I believe Tim Morgan, who always strives to be impartial, would argue that the perception that immigrants are now driving down prosperity in the stagnating advanced economies is in fact economically correct, adding to the economic burden.

      This is not the case, of course, in times of expansion and growth when they have often been vital, both for labour and innovation.

  29. yesterday, the wall street journal:

    Fracking’s Secret Problem—Oil Wells Aren’t Producing as Much as Forecast

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/frackings-secret-problemoil-wells-arent-producing-as-much-as-forecast-11546450162

    • I think that this is an important article. It says that MSM is willing to start talking about the overstated financial results of shale drillers.

    • Greg Machala says:

      I read a similar article recently (can’t remember where) that said the same thing. Essentially shale is not living up to expectations. When do investors pull the plug on shale oil? If they do, that could be a devastating blow to the US economy.

      • I still dont understand why investors still are here. Reading for many years that it obviously doesnt work, how to explain such a behavior ?

        • There is a firm belief by many people that oil prices will rise because of scarcity. If oil prices rise, it will be possible to drill wells which are not now economic. These companies, in theory, will do very well, because of the high oil prices. It is persistent faith in this myth that keeps the system going. This is part of the religion being promulgated by MSM and by peak oilers.

          • xabier says:

            To some extent people seem to believe that they have to be able to invest in something, believe in the possibility of a successful pay-off, else what’s the point……

            I certainly have financially sophisticated (and successful) friends who’ve made truly terrible investment errors.

          • Baby Doomer says:

            The oil price has already risen due to scarcity..The average oil price was 19 dollars a barrel during the entire 20th century..And the average oil price in the 21st century has been 62.25.,

            https://imgur.com/a/hsp4auW

            • I would argue that the reason the oil price has risen is because of a continued debt bubble that allows oil prices to be higher than the 20th century price. With the help of this debt bubble, affordability of goods and services is such that oil prices can be as high as they are. The debt bubble partially collapsed in the second half of 2008, bringing prices back down to the $30 per barrel range. The extent of the debt bubble is the primary determinant of prices, not “scarcity.

            • Baby Doomer says:

              Gail the price is based on supply and demand..This is basic Econ 101..All commodities are the same..And the debt bubble started around 1983..Well before the energy prices soared sky high..And this is why OPEC cuts production..Because cutting off some supply causes the price to increase..The reason the price has increased in the 21st century is because conventional oi peaked in 2006

              https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/has-peak-oil-already-happened/

            • Basic Economics 101 is just plain wrong. It creates models and believes those models. The models don’t have enough dimensions to them. The models produce correct indications in some cases, but they produce totally nonsense in other cases. Faith in economic models will get a person in deep trouble, quickly.

            • Duncan Idaho says:

              OIL (BRENT) PRICE COMMODITY
              58.01 USD +2.46 (4.43%)

            • Greg Machala says:

              “The price (of oil) is based on supply and demand.” – With respect to oil what is demand? How do you define oil demand?

              The problem with demand for oil (in the classic economic sense) is that oil provides the energy that drives the economy. It therefore operates outside of the bounds of economic theory. So, there is really no such thing as oil demand. It is either there (and affordable) or it isn’t and the economy dies.

    • Chrome Mags says:

      People are easily led. Hitler said and I’m paraphrasing; the greater the lie the more likely they’ll believe it. Throwing a bunch of huge numbers at potential investors is all that is apparently needed to get more investment for a risky business.

      • expectations versus reality says:

        You don’t make friends and influence people by being completely honest.

        That’s autistic.

        • Chrome Mags says:

          “That’s autistic.”

          Can you elaborate?

          • expectations versus reality says:

            People who are unable to tell one lie will have a hard time getting on socially because a lot of human social behavior can be boiled down to social conformity. If you don’t like Elvis and you are in an area where Elvis is popular, you go with the flow. You don’t tell everyone how you feel …unless you are a high status person( a successful conformist to norms or ideals) who is allowed to go against the grain a little bit.

        • Perhaps I have a little bit of autistic tendency as well.

          • expectations versus reality says:

            If you went on a Ted Talk and gave everyone one of your presentations, that would be autistic because the audience for those things wants to here positive things that will motivate them to go on and make the world a better place ( more comfortable for humans). You telling them that right now is the pinnacle of human comfort is the last thing they want to hear.

            • I am sure that the Ted Talk people would not touch anything I would have to say with a 10-foot pole.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              I am sure that the Ted Talk people would not touch anything I would have to say with a 10-foot pole.

              You might be surprised.

              I thought they had an official policy of being “positive and up-beat” or some such nonsense, but I couldn’t find such a statement anywhere. Then I put “collapse” into the search field, and found a number of talks, including one by Jared Diamond, who is admittedly mild on present doom-n-gloom.

              But yea, all of them had the undercurrent of “and how we can avoid it” going on.

              Is it okay if we “nominate” you, Gail?

            • You can nominate me, but I predict my nomination will go nowhere.

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              “About our speakers

              At TED, we search year-round for presenters who will inform and inspire, surprise and delight. Our presenters run the world’s most admired companies and design its best-loved products; they invent world-changing devices and create ground-breaking media. They are trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses.”

              “inspire” and “delight”…

              bloody ‘ell… they don’t want the “truth”…

              Jan, they say only one nomination is needed and multiple nominations don’t add any weight…

              okay, so is there a 2019 TED talk coming up in Atlanta?

              just asking…

            • Duncan Idaho says:

              Ted talks, and Elvis, sucks.

            • Greg Machala says:

              By not having honest discussions we get ourselves into a lot of trouble. To limit talks only to those kind that have happy endings is a recipe for disaster.

      • Volvo740 says:

        9-11

        • Volvo740 says:

          A bug hits a windshield at 80 mph. What happens? It makes a hole in the glass and ends up inside the car of course.

          Don’t try to be some kind of genius here!

          • Greg Machala says:

            I think corruption in gov’t is directly proportional to the amount of energy available to a country. If that is true, the U.S. is by far the most corrupt country on Earth – ever!

  30. Uncle Bill says:

    Well, well, “Caught by SURPRISE”…imagine that…..
    ‘Flash-Crash’ Moves Hit Currency Markets

    Apple’s revenue outlook cut may have been a trigger: Jefferies
    Japanese retail investors and algorithms may be cause: NAB

    https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2019-01-02/yen-surge-algos-set-off-flash-crash-moves-in-currency-market

    Traders across Asia are still seeking to piece together what happened in those minutes when orders flooded in to sell Australia’s dollar and Turkey’s lira against the yen. While some pointed to risk aversion triggered by Apple Inc. cutting its sales outlook, others said Japanese retail investors were bailing out of loss-making positions. Whatever the cause, the moves were exacerbated by algorithmic programs and thin liquidity with Japan on holiday.

    “The moves were very violent,” said Stephen Miller, an adviser at Grant Samuel Funds Management Pty in Sydney and former head of fixed income at BlackRock Investment Management (Australia). “It would have caught some by big surprise
    Flash crashes have happened before in early Asian trading when liquidity is thin. The pound plunged 6 percent in two minutes on Oct. 7, 2016 amid concerns over Brexit and speculation of a “fat finger.” Thursday’s wild moves started around an hour after Apple cut its fiscal first-quarter revenue, with Chief Executive Tim Cook saying they were surprised by the magnitude of the slowdown in the Greater China region.

    “The Apple news is driving safe haven flows, which have seemingly triggered a flash crash in FX,” said Brad Bechtel, global head of foreign exchange at Jefferies LLC

    All we need is AI to take over and prevent this flash events….sarcasm

    • Greg Machala says:

      “Tim Cook saying they were surprised by the magnitude of the slowdown in the Greater China region.” – Really? He is the CEO of Apple and said that! Writing was on the wall for years now. China has been using less and less coal for a while now and he is surprised by the slowdown? Are these CEO’s really that dumb?

      • adonis says:

        they are not dumb they have to be politically correct which means every statement they put out has been carefully worded.

      • zenny says:

        I doubt they are dumb…Just taking orders from above. Kinda like CNN news people

  31. Tim Groves says:

    Given that the BAU system is operating in ongoing crisis mode and is much more fragile than it used to be, this should make it much more vulnerable to “black swan” events.

    By their very nature, black swan events are unexpected (to those who witness them) and not predictable ahead of time, and they can have major effects on the economy, society and the subsequent course of events.

    I wonder whether a major earthquake disaster in “the right place” could have a catastrophic impact on the world economy. One potential location for such a quake at any time is Tokyo, a major world city that lies close to the Boso Triple Junction, a trench-trench-trench triple junction between the Okhotsk Plate, Pacific Plate and Philippine Sea Plate. The most recent Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 devastated the city and resulted in over 140,000 deaths. A similar sized quake in the same region today could kill a lot more people and cause several years’ worth of Japanese GNP in damage. An “inland” Kanto” earthquake is potentially more powerful than the 1923 quake. However, more than the level of death and destruction, by taking out Tokyo—the center of Japan’s government and economy and a major node in the International system—such a quake might have incalculable consequences for the world economy.

    One other major world city that could be hit by a “big one” at any time is Los Angeles. Southern California could be hit by an 8.2 mega earthquake like the one that shook southern Mexico in 2017, and according to the LA Times the results would be “catastrophic”, let alone enormously expensive.

    Could such a quake be disruptive enough to serve as the straw that breaks the BAU camel’s back?

    • CTG says:

      David Korowicz has said that one critical node, if taken out, will bring down the whole system. If the earthquake causes tsunami, it will be even worse because the entire coastlines of China, Taiwan, HK, Vietnamese, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore will be hit

      • Baby Doomer says:

        Liebig’s Law states that any complex system dependent on several essential inputs can be taken down by that single factor..

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebig%27s_law_of_the_minimum

        • Jan Steinman says:

          Liebig’s Law states that any complex system dependent on several essential inputs can be taken down by that single factor.

          If, by “taken down,” you mean “crash,” that’s not really what Liebig’s Law says.

          Also known as “the law of the minimums,” it says that in a system with multiple, non-fungible needs, the system can only be as big as the least available of those needs allow.

          It was originally proposed for botany and plant science. Plants need (among other things), sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. If, say, not enough nitrogen is available, you cannot substitute potassium for that missing nitrogen, or if there is a bit too little sunlight, you can’t add more water to make up for it. It doesn’t mean the plant will “crash” or die because it has a bit less nitrogen or sunlight than it needs; it simply won’t thrive or grow past a certain point. “Bonsai” gardens are a good example of plants that are purposely dwarfed in such a manner in order to fit on a desk or windowsill.

          The analogy I like is a water barrel made of wooden staves. If they have different lengths, the barrel will only hold as much water as the shortest stave allows. Making other staves longer won’t change that.

    • Any of these events will leave a large, local population more vulnerable. It will add a severe strain on governments to try to provide resources to fix the electrical outages and rebuild homes and roads. If governments are already vulnerable, they could be the straws that break the camel’s back. Or even an unusually hot summer or cold winter could be a trigger. Or widespread forest fires. Or a drought.

    • hkeithhenson says:

      “black swan” events.

      You left out the Pacific Northwest 8+ quake. The tsunami from that one will get Japan as well though they will have ten or twelve hours of warning.

      As far as disrupting BAU, the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami didn’t cause that much of a disruption.

      What might be more serious is an eruption with effects similar to the one that happened in 536. I don’t know how BAU would react to a few years of bad harvests. I suspect humans would be eating lower on the food chain for a while.

      • Tim Groves says:

        The Tohoku quake caused a lot of devastation, but most of the places affected were rural and had seen declining populations for two decades. Two things consequential to that quake were that the recovery effort stimulated economic output—the broken window hypothesis on steroids—and the yen actually appreciated as a result of Japanese insurance companies offloading foreign assets in order to repatriate capital to fund damage claims. Also the unpleasant nuclear business at Fukushima has also cast a long shadow. But had quake of that size struck Tokyo, bang would go central government, the stock market, the headquarters of thousands of major companies. I rather suspect the country would start running around like a chicken that had just been decapitated.

        Another earthquake that might have catastrophic consequences is along the New Madrid Fault Line. It is also expected to strike like a thief in the night, just when everybody’s busy watching the Superbowl.

        https://youtu.be/9G1tjV31SO0

  32. hkeithhenson says:

    I was digging for something else and ran into this. It’s directly related to how many people are needed to keep civilization going. It’s nine years old, but I don’t think the basics have changed much.

    Insufficient data
    By Charlie Stross

    There’s a deceptively simple question that’s been bugging me this week, and it is this:

    What is the minimum number of people you need in order to maintain (not necessarily to extend) our current level of technological civilization?

    There are huge political ramifications hiding behind this question. Let me unpack them for you.

    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/07/insufficient-data.html

    • Slow Paul says:

      Very common among humans to try and maintain the status quo in fear of worsening conditions. But as our good friend Marcus Aurelius puts it:

      Is any man afraid of change? Why, what can take place without change? What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? And canst thou take a bath unless the wood undergoes a change? And canst thou be nourished, unless the food undergoes a change? And can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Dost thou not see then that for thyself also to change is just the same, and equally necessary for the universal nature?

      • Uncle Bill says:

        Good old Marcus Aurelius….and he could attest to that in his own lifetime!!!
        Had his hands full throughout his reign and not for the best of events.

        Marcus Aurelius on How to Live Through Difficult Times
        “Accept everything which happens, even if it seem disagreeable, because it leads to this, the health of the universe.”
        “How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.”
        ~ Marcus Aurelius
        “It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it.”
        ~ L. A. Seneca
        “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”
        ~ L. A. Seneca
        “We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”
        ~ Epictetus
        “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”
        ~ L. A. Seneca

        BAU FULL TROTTLE, BABY….

    • Artleads says:

      Thanks. This is the level of analysis I’ve been hoping for. So I’m wondering if ther’s a way to fix these mechanisms and all their components before they show any very obvious sign of deterioration. That might require accumulation of the multitudes, but that economic order would be based on (MICRO) maintenance and repair forever…

    • Greg Machala says:

      You cannot just stay flat and maintain/sustain what we have now. There has to be growth to pay back debt with interest.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        There has to be growth to pay back debt with interest.

        Or, a “debt jubilee” as they used to have every 50 years or so.

        But those were the days when the only people holding debt could afford to forgive it. These days, almost everyone takes part in the debt economy, so it might not work very well for a senior on a fixed-income pension had to “forgive” the debt portion of that pension.

        • DJ says:

          Or negative interest so debts shrink.
          Or free money to pay the interest.
          There is no reason we reach end of debt this year.

        • Greg Machala says:

          Yeah, I don’t think a debt jubilee will work today or even be allowed. All those promises of returns have already been made on the future interest payments of millions of loans. And all the pension promises. Who takes a bath? The banks? If too many people have to take a bath the system will fail. That is why we are in a predicament.

          • Right! Pensions have assumed even more growth in stock prices than was present before stock prices started heading down. And of course, they assume that debt will be repaid with interest.

      • Artleads says:

        The question for people is whether they want some kind of lifestyle that has sufficient-enough similarity to the one they have now. Then ask what they need to make that happen, whether or not it conforms to a fairly mindless profit system that we have now. A lot of people can feel a sense of luxury living on extremely little money within IC. If this sentiment could be more widely distributed along the entire chain of production and you do something different about debt (whatever works) and still maintain some level of industrial production? The MINDLESS requirement for profit seems to be the hitch. It certainly couldn’t work exactly the way it’s (not) working now. I know, but this is how it works! Always. Let me explain it to you! A broken record forever playing the same phrase.

        • The need for profit isn’t mindless. It is needed to overcome diminishing returns. Also, any kind of shrinkage (even that caused by diminishing returns) leads to overhead becoming a larger and larger share of the total, sending costs up. They system really needs growth to work. This is especially true if population is growing, but it is even true if it is “just” fighting diminishing returns.

          • xabier says:

            Politically, the explosion comes when there is no real growth any more, but the masses who experience obviously decreasing prosperity see a small elite receiving substantial profits. In a growth scenario, it can be tolerated

            • I agree. China has many very poor people. As long as a reasonable story could be told that, in time, they would prosper too, the system could work.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              There are two main models of how humans get into wars. One of them is excess males. That’s a serious Chinese situation but it doesn’t seem to have caused them to go to war. The other is that a bright future keeps humans out of war mode. I have written about this for a long time and it looks like the better model.

            • Volvo740 says:

              Was that today?

            • Greg Machala says:

              I don’t agree that there are two main models of how humans go to war. War is fought when someone has insufficient resources.

        • Slow Paul says:

          I think this happens automatically to some people. They see the unachievability of a big house, nice cars, raising children and keeping up with the Jones’ in general. This leads to people either being content with the little they have OR turning to substance abuse to numb the pain.

          Either way this leads to a declining population and you get a slow, indirect culling of the lower strata of the population. Very rarely do I see families with more than two children, and it seems like more and more people are not having any children at all. The exception to this is immigrants who come from lands of sand and death to the lands of milk and honey. They are naturally more optimistic about the future.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            This leads to people… turning to substance abuse to numb the pain.

            I think Orlov notes that most of the people who have “gone away” in his high school yearbook have done so with the help of alcohol.

          • Artleads says:

            A centralized, networked global economic system can’t work. Neither can it be readily dismantled. The sooner somewhat can digest this the sooner a rational discussion can be held as to what to do next.

            • Even if we understand that a centralized, networked global economic system can’t work or be dismantled, it is hard to understand what to do next. We can’t make as much as a shovel without an international supply chain, it seems. Getting water out of the ground becomes problematic. Localizing anything, including farming, becomes a joke.

            • xabier says:

              I tend to feel that as the system is not a rational creation, it cannot be modified or changed rationally, much as we would like that to be the case…..

              A sensible discussion would also have to bring horrifying facts to the attention of everyone, and that is quite unthinkable.

            • Greg Machala says:

              Yes, accepting horrifying facts would be required. Something humans cannot do on a collective basis. There has to be a happy-ending or some “solution”. Otherwise, ignorance is bliss and catastrophe occurs anyway.

              When the pension system fails do the pensioners just disappear? Do they voluntarily off themselves? What is the solution? Is that palatable? Because that is what has to happen you know. Then what happens after the banking system fails? As food becomes scarce, do the oldest voluntarily off themselves to let the younger have a chance? I mean these are the hard questions that lie ahead. Hopefully beyond my lifetime. But, hoping doesn’t change reality.

        • Artleads says:

          I try to learn new things as I go along. This iaccounts for the years spent with FW. It’s very gratifying to feel that one understands the system better. If I can feel uplifted to learn the limitations of the system (and I have a very steep learning curve indeed), I’m puzzled as to why everyone can’t feel that too. Why is it assumed that the global populations has to always think and feel the way they do under the current circumstances? It is totally mindless to make more money than you need, or to accumulate disproportionate riched to those below you. It’s like installing a mighty fine roof over rotten rafters. You are heading for a collapsing house. If this is skillfully explained to people going bat,,,t crazy to acquire more and more (for no other good reason than acquiring more and more) I would hope they would get that they are able to and might advisedly change from the inside.

          • xabier says:

            On the house theme, I chanced across a description of human follies written in the 16th century, asking why people knocked down good old houses instead of repairing them, why they built palaces costing a fortune, and then neglected to maintain them, and so on.

            And another text from the 19th century pointing out that English farmers always neglected to maintain their farm carts, etc, properly, leading to very expensive repairs and always done in a rush just before the vehicle was needed a harvest, etc.

            Old, old human nature.

            We are, it seems, wired to be a careless, squandering species when any kind of surplus is available.

            • Artleads says:

              But I am not like that. (I have a host of other serious flaws nonetheless.) It might be that people don’t repair things partly because there is no end point to it. For reasons that might be related to my art conservation experience (somewhat like yours in paper, I imagine) I can find joy and meaning in this endless task, which I now have down to a routine of doing very very small repairing tasks every single day. And while it might require special training and orientation, what one human is capable of ought to be doable by other humans?

    • Thanks for the link. This is a good article. I keep talking about resources needed to keep our current civilization going, but it is also people needed to keep our current civilization operating. If you spread these people out too thinly, then the roads, pipelines, and electricity transmission lines per person become extremely high. It is hard to shrink back in any one direction. If you shrink population, you start reaching some of Australia’s problems.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        I have written fiction about an extreme population crash (caused by 99% of the population uploading) http://www.terasemjournals.org/GNJournal/GN0202/henson8.html

        “Greensburg had lost the usual percentage but now had a population just short of 10,000–only a third smaller than it had before the crash. It had been picked as one of the two places for the refugees from the mothballing of Pittsburgh and had absorbed about a third of them. The rest had come from smaller places that were no longer socially viable in a state with only 125,000 people.”

  33. Chrome Mags says:

    https://oilprice.com/Energy/Oil-Prices/Oil-Prices-Rise-As-Saudi-Oil-Exports-Plummet.html

    “Saudi Arabia’s oil exports plummeted in the last month of 2018, reassuring oil markets that OPEC’s de facto leader may have enough fortitude to carry the water of the cartel in lowering global oil inventories. The Kingdom’s oil exports in December fell by 500,000 barrels per day in December, according to tanker tracker data compiled by Bloomberg, with most of the decrease coming off China and the United States, the latter which has the most-watched oil inventories in the world. The United Arab Emirates also showed fewer oil exports in December. Data from S&P Global Platts’ cFlow software estimated that Saudi’s oil exports fell to 7.523 million bpd in December, down from 8.162 million barrels per day in November.”

    The Saudi’s seem to have finally been pushed to the desperation of reducing oil exports in order to help increase price and are hoping it’s other OPEC partners will do likewise. We’ll see how well it works against a backdrop of declining non-elite workers affordability. What wins; reduced supply to increase price or Reduced purchase of energy by consumers due to higher price?

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      perhaps the reduced supply temporarily raises prices…

      but the decline of net (surplus) energy marches on, maybe slowly, maybe very slowly, but downward it goes, month by month, year by year, and oil producers are powerless over this physics related issue…

      “consumers” are also powerless over the process which will continue to make oil products less and less affordable, month by month, year by year…

      until the whole system collapses…

      slowly at first, then all at once…

      • I’ve read that, when asked how he went bankrupt, Mark Twain replied, “At first, very slowly — then, very quickly”.
        We’ll lose this “struggle against reality”.

      • Consumers want to consume.. now link it with Jevon’s paradox and social behavior patterns and you suddenly end up in situation where drop in price of fuel immediately drives excess consumerism as people trade up into bigger carz etc.. Not saying this ‘segment of growth’ must be always the biggest factor, but it is surely always present.

      • Neil says:

        Hemingway. The sun also rises.

    • Hubbs says:

      Is there any truth to the argument that. SA can’t pump more oil even if it wanted to because the main oil field is actually starting to decline? More water needed to pump harder to get oil, etc. Was this a reason the IPO fell by the wayside- because due diligence appraisal might hve exposed the possibility that there is only half the reserves SA claims it has?

      • Hubbs says:

        And furthermore SA needs to divert more for its own domestic use? ( I assume that SA has some refining capability, especially when its crude is the easiest to refine?)