The true feasibility of moving away from fossil fuels

One of the great misconceptions of our time is the belief that we can move away from fossil fuels if we make suitable choices on fuels. In one view, we can make the transition to a low-energy economy powered by wind, water, and solar. In other versions, we might include some other energy sources, such as biofuels or nuclear, but the story is not very different.

The problem is the same regardless of what lower bound a person chooses: our economy is way too dependent on consuming an amount of energy that grows with each added human participant in the economy. This added energy is necessary because each person needs food, transportation, housing, and clothing, all of which are dependent upon energy consumption. The economy operates under the laws of physics, and history shows disturbing outcomes if energy consumption per capita declines.

There are a number of issues:

  • The impact of alternative energy sources is smaller than commonly believed.
  • When countries have reduced their energy consumption per capita by significant amounts, the results have been very unsatisfactory.
  • Energy consumption plays a bigger role in our lives than most of us imagine.
  • It seems likely that fossil fuels will leave us before we can leave them.
  • The timing of when fossil fuels will leave us seems to depend on when central banks lose their ability to stimulate the economy through lower interest rates.
  • If fossil fuels leave us, the result could be the collapse of financial systems and governments.

[1] Wind, water and solar provide only a small share of energy consumption today; any transition to the use of renewables alone would have huge repercussions.

According to BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data, wind, water and solar only accounted for 9.4% 0f total energy consumption in 2017.

Figure 1. Wind, Water and Solar as a percentage of total energy consumption, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Even if we make the assumption that these types of energy consumption will continue to achieve the same percentage increases as they have achieved in the last 10 years, it will still take 20 more years for wind, water, and solar to reach 20% of total energy consumption.

Thus, even in 20 years, the world would need to reduce energy consumption by 80% in order to operate the economy on wind, water and solar alone. To get down to today’s level of energy production provided by wind, water and solar, we would need to reduce energy consumption by 90%.

[2] Venezuela’s example (Figure 1, above) illustrates that even if a country has an above average contribution of renewables, plus significant oil reserves, it can still have major problems.

One point people miss is that having a large share of renewables doesn’t necessarily mean that the lights will stay on. A major issue is the need for long distance transmission lines to transport the renewable electricity from where it is generated to where it is to be used. These lines must constantly be maintained. Maintenance of electrical transmission lines has been an issue in both Venezuela’s electrical outages and in California’s recent fires attributed to the utility PG&E.

There is also the issue of variability of wind, water and solar energy. (Note the year-to-year variability indicated in the Venezuela line in Figure 1.) A country cannot really depend on its full amount of wind, water, and solar unless it has a truly huge amount of electrical storage: enough to last from season-to-season and year-to-year. Alternatively, an extraordinarily large quantity of long-distance transmission lines, plus the ability to maintain these lines for the long term, would seem to be required.

[3] When individual countries have experienced cutbacks in their energy consumption per capita, the effects have generally been extremely disruptive, even with cutbacks far more modest than the target level of 80% to 90% that we would need to get off fossil fuels. 

Notice that in these analyses, we are looking at “energy consumption per capita.” This calculation takes the total consumption of all kinds of energy (including oil, coal, natural gas, biofuels, nuclear, hydroelectric, and renewables) and divides it by the population.

Energy consumption per capita depends to a significant extent on what citizens within a given economy can afford. It also depends on the extent of industrialization of an economy. If a major portion of industrial jobs are sent to China and India and only service jobs are retained, energy consumption per capita can be expected to fall. This happens partly because local companies no longer need to use as many energy products. Additionally, workers find mostly service jobs available; these jobs pay enough less that workers must cut back on buying goods such as homes and cars, reducing their energy consumption.

Example 1. Spain and Greece Between 2007-2014

Figure 2. Greece and Spain energy consumption per capita. Energy data is from BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy; population estimates are UN 2017 population estimates.

The period between 2007 and 2014 was a period when oil prices tended to be very high. Both Greece and Spain are very dependent on oil because of their sizable tourist industries. Higher oil prices made the tourism services these countries sold more expensive for their consumers. In both countries, energy consumption per capita started falling in 2008 and continued to fall until 2014, when oil prices began falling. Spain’s energy consumption per capita fell by 18% between 2007 and 2014; Greece’s fell by 24% over the same period.

Both Greece and Spain experienced high unemployment rates, and both have needed debt bailouts to keep their financial systems operating. Austerity measures were forced on Greece. The effects on the economies of these countries were severe. Regarding Spain, Wikipedia has a section called, “2008 to 2014 Spanish financial crisis,” suggesting that the loss of energy consumption per capita was highly correlated with the country’s financial crisis.

Example 2: France and the UK, 2004 – 2017

Both France and the UK have experienced falling energy consumption per capita since 2004, as oil production dropped (UK) and as industrialization was shifted to countries with a cheaper total cost of labor and fuel. Immigrant labor was added, as well, to better compete with the cost structures of the countries that France and the UK were competing against. With the new mix of workers and jobs, the quantity of goods and services that these workers could afford (per capita) has been falling.

Figure 3. France and UK energy consumption per capita. Energy data is from BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy; population estimates are UN 2017 population estimates.

Comparing 2017 to 2004, energy consumption per capita is down 16% for France and 25% in the UK. Many UK citizens have been very unhappy, wanting to leave the European Union.

France recently has been experiencing “Yellow Vest” protests, at least partly related to an increase in carbon taxes. Higher carbon taxes would make energy-based goods and services less affordable. This would likely reduce France’s energy consumption per capita even further. French citizens with their protests are clearly not happy about how they are being affected by these changes.

Example 3: Syria (2006-2016) and Yemen (2009-2016)

Both Syria and Yemen are examples of formerly oil-exporting countries that are far past their peak production. Declining energy consumption per capita has been forced on both countries because, with their oil exports falling, the countries can no longer afford to use as much energy as they did in the past for previous uses, such as irrigation. If less irrigation is used, food production and jobs are lost. (Syria and Yemen)

Figure 4. Syria and Yemen energy consumption per capita. Energy consumption data from US Energy Information Administration; population estimates are UN 2017 estimates.

Between Yemen’s peak year in energy consumption per capita (2009) and the last year shown (2016), its energy consumption per capita dropped by 66%. Yemen has been named by the United Nations as the country with the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” Yemen cannot provide adequate food and water for its citizens. Yemen is involved in a civil war that others have entered into as well. I would describe the war as being at least partly a resource war.

The situation with Syria is similar. Syria’s energy consumption per capita declined 55% between its peak year (2006) and the last year available (2016). Syria is also involved in a civil war that has been entered into by others. Here again, the issue seems to be inadequate resources per capita; war participants are to some extent fighting over the limited resources that are available.

Example 4: Venezuela (2008-2017)

Figure 5. Energy consumption per capita for Venezuela, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data and UN 2017 population estimates.

Between 2008 and 2017, energy consumption per capita in Venezuela declined by 23%. This is a little less than the decreases experienced by the UK and Greece during their periods of decline.

Even with this level of decline, Venezuela has been having difficulty providing adequate services to its citizens. There have been reports of empty supermarket shelves. Venezuela has not been able to maintain its electrical system properly, leading to many outages.

[4] Most people are surprised to learn that energy is required for every part of the economy. When adequate energy is not available, an economy is likely to first shrink back in recession; eventually, it may collapse entirely.

Physics tells us that energy consumption in a thermodynamically open system enables all kinds of “complexity.” Energy consumption enables specialization and hierarchical organizations. For example, growing energy consumption enables the organizations and supply lines needed to manufacture computers and other high-tech goods. Of course, energy consumption also enables what we think of as typical energy uses: the transportation of goods, the smelting of metals, the heating and air-conditioning of buildings, and the construction of roads. Energy is even required to allow pixels to appear on a computer screen.

Pre-humans learned to control fire over one million years ago. The burning of biomass was a tool that could be used for many purposes, including keeping warm in colder climates, frightening away predators, and creating better tools. Perhaps its most important use was to permit food to be cooked, because cooking increases food’s nutritional availability. Cooked food seems to have been important in allowing the brains of humans to grow bigger at the same time that teeth, jaws and guts could shrink compared to those of ancestors. Humans today need to be able to continue to cook part of their food to have a reasonable chance of survival.

Any kind of governmental organization requires energy. Having a single leader takes the least energy, especially if the leader can continue to perform his non-leadership duties. Any kind of added governmental service (such as roads or schools) requires energy. Having elected leaders who vote on decisions takes more energy than having a king with a few high-level aides. Having multiple layers of government takes energy. Each new intergovernmental organization requires energy to fly its officials around and implement its programs.

International trade clearly requires energy consumption. In fact, pretty much every activity of businesses requires energy consumption.

Needless to say, the study of science or of medicine requires energy consumption, because without significant energy consumption to leverage human energy, nearly every person must be a subsistence level farmer, with little time to study or to take time off from farming to write (or even read) books. Of course, manufacturing medicines and test tubes requires energy, as does creating sterile environments.

We think of the many parts of the economy as requiring money, but it is really the physical goods and services that money can buy, and the energy that makes these goods and services possible, that are important. These goods and services depend to a very large extent on the supply of energy being consumed at a given point in time–for example, the amount of electricity being delivered to customers and the amount of gasoline and diesel being sold. Supply chains are very dependent on each part of the system being available when needed. If one part is missing, long delays and eventually collapse can occur.

[5] If the supply of energy to an economy is reduced for any reason, the result tends to be very disruptive, as shown in the examples given in Section [3], above.

When an economy doesn’t have enough energy, its self-organizing feature starts eliminating pieces of the economic system that it cannot support. The financial system tends to be very vulnerable because without adequate economic growth, it becomes very difficult for borrowers to repay debt with interest. This was part of the problem that Greece and Spain had in the period when their energy consumption per capita declined. A person wonders what would have happened to these countries without bailouts from the European Union and others.

Another part that is very vulnerable is governmental organizations, especially the higher layers of government that were added last. In 1991, the Soviet Union’s central government was lost, leaving the governments of the 15 republics that were part of the Soviet Union. As energy consumption per capita declines, the European Union would seem to be very vulnerable. Other international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, would seem to be vulnerable, as well.

The electrical system is very complex. It seems to be easily disrupted if there is a material decrease in energy consumption per capita because maintenance of the system becomes difficult.

If energy consumption per capita falls dramatically, many changes that don’t seem directly energy-related can be expected. For example, the roles of men and women are likely to change. Without modern medical care, women will likely need to become the mothers of several children in order that an average of two can survive long enough to raise their own children. Men will be valued for the heavy manual labor that they can perform. Today’s view of the equality of the sexes is likely to disappear because sex differences will become much more important in a low-energy world.

Needless to say, other aspects of a low-energy economy might be very different as well. For example, one very low-energy type of economic system is a “gift economy.” In such an economy, the status of each individual is determined by the amount that that person can give away. Anything a person obtains must automatically be shared with the local group or the individual will be expelled from the group. In an economy with very low complexity, this kind of economy seems to work. A gift economy doesn’t require money or debt!

[6] Most people assume that moving away from fossil fuels is something we can choose to do with whatever timing we would like. I would argue that we are not in charge of the process. Instead, fossil fuels will leave us when we lose the ability to reduce interest rates sufficiently to keep oil and other fossil fuel prices high enough for energy producers.

Something that may seem strange to those who do not follow the issue is the fact that oil (and other energy prices) seem to be very much influenced by interest rates and the level of debt. In general, the lower the interest rate, the more affordable high-priced goods such as factories, homes, and automobiles become, and the higher commodity prices of all kinds can be. “Demand” increases with falling interest rates, causing energy prices of all types to rise.

Figure 6.

The cost of extracting oil is less important in determining oil prices than a person might expect. Instead, prices seem to be determined by what end products consumers (in the aggregate) can afford. In general, the more debt that individual citizens, businesses and governments can obtain, the higher that oil and other energy prices can rise. Of course, if interest rates start rising (instead of falling), there is a significant chance of a debt bubble popping, as defaults rise and asset prices decline.

Interest rates have been generally falling since 1981 (Figure 7). This is the direction needed to support ever-higher energy prices.

Figure 7. Chart of 3-month and 10-year interest rates, prepared by the FRED, using data through March 27, 2019.

The danger now is that interest rates are approaching the lowest level that they can possibly reach. We need lower interest rates to support the higher prices that oil producers require, as their costs rise because of depletion. In fact, if we compare Figures 7 and 8, the Federal Reserve has been supporting higher oil and other energy prices with falling interest rates practically the whole time since oil prices rose above the inflation adjusted level of $20 per barrel!

Figure 8. Historical inflation adjusted prices oil, based on data from 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, with the low price period for oil highlighted.

Once the Federal Reserve and other central banks lose their ability to cut interest rates further to support the need for ever-rising oil prices, the danger is that oil and other commodity prices will fall too low for producers. The situation is likely to look like the second half of 2008 in Figure 6. The difference, as we reach limits on how low interest rates can fall, is that it will no longer be possible to stimulate the economy to get energy and other commodity prices back up to an acceptable level for producers.

[7] Once we hit the “no more stimulus impasse,” fossil fuels will begin leaving us because prices will fall too low for companies extracting these fuels. They will be forced to leave because they cannot make an adequate profit.

One example of an oil producer whose production was affected by an extended period of low prices is the Soviet Union (or USSR).

Figure 9. Oil production of the former Soviet Union together with oil prices in 2017 US$. All amounts from 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

The US substantially raised interest rates in 1980-1981 (Figure 7). This led to a sharp reduction in oil prices, as the higher interest rates cut back investment of many kinds, around the world. Given the low price of oil, the Soviet Union reduced new investment in new fields. This slowdown in investment first reduced the rate of growth in oil production, and eventually led to a decline in production in 1988 (Figure 9). When oil prices rose again, production did also.

Figure 10. Energy consumption per capita for the former Soviet Union, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data and UN 2017 population estimates.

The Soviet Union’s energy consumption per capita reached its highest level in 1988 and began declining in 1989. The central government of the Soviet Union did not collapse until late 1991, as the economy was increasingly affected by falling oil export revenue.

Some of the changes that occurred as the economy simplified itself were the loss of the central government, the loss of a large share of industry, and a great deal of job loss. Energy consumption per capita dropped by 36% between 1988 and 1998. It has never regained its former level.

Venezuela is another example of an oil exporter that, in theory, could export more oil, if oil prices were higher. It is interesting to note that Venezuela’s highest energy consumption per capita occurred in 2008, when oil prices were high.

We are now getting a chance to observe what the collapse in Venezuela looks like on a day- by-day basis. Figure 5, above, shows Venezuela’s energy consumption per capita pattern through 2017. Low oil prices since 2014 have particularly adversely affected the country.

[8] Conclusion: We can’t know exactly what is ahead, but it is clear that moving away from fossil fuels will be far more destructive of our current economy than nearly everyone expects. 

It is very easy to make optimistic forecasts about the future if a person doesn’t carefully examine what the data and the science seem to be telling us. Most researchers come from narrow academic backgrounds that do not seek out insights from other fields, so they tend not to understand the background story.

A second issue is the desire for a “happy ever after” ending to our current energy predicament. If a researcher is creating an economic model without understanding the underlying principles, why not offer an outcome that citizens will like? Such a solution can help politicians get re-elected and can help researchers get grants for more research.

We should be examining the situation more closely than most people have considered. The fact that interest rates cannot drop much further is particularly concerning.

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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1,253 Responses to The true feasibility of moving away from fossil fuels

  1. Joe says:

    There’s ZERO reason to move away from these naturally burning fuels. Oh, “fossil fuels” is a misnomer. They do not come from fossils and are instead self-replenishing products of the planet itself.

    Wind, solar and all the rest of it.. total waste of time for most. All based on virtue signaling and accomplishes nothing. It’s just more fruitcake Liberalism.

    • There’s ZERO possibility of losing fossil fuels and keeping the current techno-state-ist system going, with 7-8 billion people on Earth.
      The abiogenic theory of fossil-fuel replenishment was debunked long ago — these fuels are replenished over many million years of stored sunlight energy, from photosynthesis.

      • GBV says:

        “The abiogenic theory of fossil-fuel replenishment was debunked long ago”

        Debunked if you are an unquestioning follower of what is accepted today as mainstream “science” and “fact”. If one considers the Electric Universe (EU) theory, previously discounted / debunked theories on hydrocarbon formation suddenly become much more plausible…

        http://www.eu-geology.com/?page_id=325

        *********

        In an Electric Universe, the abiogenic-cosmic explanation for Petroleum regains a lot of weight. The basic idea is an extraterrestrial deposition of a large part of the material in question within several catastrophic episodes. It might have been deposited in the form of a chemical precursor of petroleum. This idea is not new [Velikovsky 1950, Cardona], but it gains credibility in combination with the new approach to the Geology of the Electric Universe and has a high explanatory power for the many inconsistencies that have been shown above.

        These considerations do not exclude the biological production of petroleum on Earth. They also do not exclude the option that stored hydrocarbons from the inner earth are gradually released towards the surface. But they attribute a large part of the currently existing hydrocarbons on Earth to an external source. This material came down to the surface together with large amounts of other extraterrestrial matter and sedimented in many parallel layers and in a short time. For dolomite an extraterrestrial deposition on Earth has been already been considered. Petroleum in dolomite may have been deposited easily together, which is also compatible with the more recent notions on the porosity of dolomite. The mixing with organic material present at that time on the surface is also possible without problems. It would explain the biomarkers, as well as the diverse fossils found close to it. In the older Precambrian times, with less available organic material, the organic signature of the oil is correspondingly smaller. This is again observed. Also the large amounts of gas hydrates found under ice in permafrost regions (e.g. Alaska) and in sediment filled basins under water (e.g. Carolina Trough) [USGS] could result from hydrocarbons raining down on earth and being stored in basins with the sediment.
        *********

        Cheers,
        -GBV

        • jupiviv says:

          The serious research on the subject indicates abiotic oil may exist but doesn’t identify commercial deposits as abiotic. So the entire subject is moot in the context of resource depletion/peak oil issues.

          In the form you express it, it’s just oil industry and/or techno-utopian propaganda. Also, what are you even doing here if you truly believe it?

          • GBV says:

            “Also, what are you even doing here if you truly believe it?”

            While I believe it’s important to understand where the fuel that powers our entire world comes from, if only to be factually correct (something science used to care about? something people with integrity should care about?), the reason I come to OFW has more to do with the affordable cost of the extraction of energy than the origins of energy itself.

            So yes, “…the entire subject is moot in the context of resource depletion/peak oil issues…” may be true (not that the OP suggested that – he straight out suggested that abiotic oil theory was “debunked”), but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t poke holes in the dogmatic crap people try to pass off on this site as “settled science”.

            Also, if people took some time to take a look at EU (electric universe) theory, they may be surprised how it opens up doorways to new ways of looking at / thinking about things (perhaps even presenting new solutions to some of our current problems / predicaments).

            Hopefully that (politely) answers your passive-aggressive question as to why someone would visit and comment on a public blog / forum.

            -GBV

            • JesseJames says:

              I’m with you GBV…we’ve got to,have a open mind….the Electric Universe opens up new possibilities.

            • jupiviv says:

              “So yes, “…the entire subject is moot in the context of resource depletion/peak oil issues…” may be true (not that the OP suggested that – he straight out suggested that abiotic oil theory was “debunked”), but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t poke holes in the dogmatic crap people try to pass off on this site as “settled science”.”

              The form of that theory you proposed has indeed been debunked. Most hydrocarbons on this planet, including what is usually meant by “oil”, most likely doesn’t have an abiotic origin.

              The contention (again of serious proponents, not propagandists or lunatics) is that certain conditions on earth MAY produce basic hydrocarbons like methane (not petrol, gas or coal). As I alluded previously, such conditions are postulated to exist in locations (e.g. the mantle) on earth that entirely exclude any possibility of commercial extraction with current and foreseeable tech.

              So before you mouth off about “scientific dogma”, at least understand the elementary concept of empirical evidence. Just because science is necessarily uncertain, and cannot entirely disprove any logically conceivable theory, doesn’t mean said theory has epistemic value.

            • Nice comment GBV, thank you – and very restrained IMO. I too study the electric universe, much to discover about magnetism and plasma. I continue my wanderings.

            • GBV says:

              “The form of that theory you proposed has indeed been debunked”

              Thanks for sharing your belief. Sadly, I can’t share it with you, as there are several scholars out there who disagree with you, so much so that they actually publish their work for the world to review (rather than post their dogmatic beliefs under the cover of anonymity on OFW).

              Even Dr. Magdi Ragheb at the University of Illinois teaches a course on Nuclear Power Engineering which uses materials suggesting that the abiotic oil theory could still be substantiated one day, and has implications for how we extract oil today:

              https://mragheb.com/NPRE%20402%20ME%20405%20Nuclear%20Power%20Engineering/Biogenic%20and%20Abiogenic%20Petroleum.pdf

              “Just because science is necessarily uncertain, and cannot entirely disprove any logically conceivable theory, doesn’t mean said theory has epistemic value”

              Well that’s hypocritical. You caution me about “mouthing off” with regards to “scientific dogma” and failing to understand empirical evidence, and then proceed to suggest that a scientific theory which cannot be empirically proven to be false should be dismissed…

              “Scientific dogma is used in two ways: one to refer to very, very well-established theories in science (which is a pretty decent usage, albeit different from the traditional religious use) and one to negatively refer to scientific theories that the speaker doesn’t like, with the implication that science is unchanging and suppressive of minority views (like religious dogmas). This second usage is unbased in fact.”
              – RationalWiki

              https://tse2.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.xMN105o9XJ1QoWaZcGE_PQHaDf

              -GBV

        • jupiviv says:

          “Also the large amounts of gas hydrates found under ice in permafrost regions (e.g. Alaska)”

          Ah it’s permafrost, so that must mean it is permanently frosty and always has been. Also, tectonic plates are a Leninist conspiracy theory! JFC.

    • I heard the Don is looking for someone to head up his energy advisory team, get y’self over to the White House quick, folks move so fast out through his revolving door

      when times is hard—a good all round laugh is good for the soul

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  4. Robert Firth says:

    Gail, please may I share another thought on your excellent post.

    Throughout, you display energy consumption per capita for various nations: US, Venezuela, Atlantis, … But that obscures an important fact: some people consume vastly more energy than others.

    Suppose we wanted to reduce US energy consumption by a tiny smidgeon. The think tank comes up with two proposals:
    (a) kill every child in the Detroit ghettos, or
    (b) hang Al Gore

    Almost everybody would choose option (b), and consider themselves on the side of the angels. The man is an obnoxious hypocrite who jets around the world from his huge mansions lecturing us about climate change. As do hundreds of other hypocrites with the same agenda and the same totally contradictory lifestyle.

    But even in wasteful countries, there are individuals, small groups, villages, … who are both researching and practicing sustainability. Such as the Amish I met living in Pennsylvania. Could these not become the seeds of a bottom up change in our thinking and our habits? It is evident that the top down approach has been going nowhere for 50 years.

    Best wishes.

    By the way, I abandoned the automobile 22 years ago, and on the rare occasions I have to fly, I fly business class with airlines that promise me this is carbon neutral. And almost all my diet is created within 100 km of my home in Malta, half of it on this isle of Gozo. Not much, but a deeply satisfying lifestyle.

    • Malta (and the island of Gozo within Malta) are located in the Mediterranean Ocean, south of Sicily. The island of Gozo is 14 km (8.7 miles) in length and 7.25 km (4.5 miles) in width. According to Wikipedia, the population of island is 32,723, making the population density 557 per square kilometer, or 1,443 per square mile.

      Gozo is a place where a person doesn’t really need to have an automobile. The whole island is small enough to get around by foot, and there is public bus service, according to Wikipedia. I expect that a person doesn’t need to have heating or cooling, either.

      Gaza gets its electricity via underground cables from the main island of Malta. Electricity requires todays complex economy. Electricity in 2017 was from imported natural gas (from LNG with regassification), with imported oil as backup. In fact, oil probably still provides over 50% of total electricity, given the low capacity of the new natural gas plant. With electricity from oil, it tends to be very expensive, discouraging industries that need to be competitive with output from other countries.

      The CIA Factbook says,

      Malta’s free market economy – the smallest economy in the euro-zone – relies heavily on trade in both goods and services, principally with Europe. Malta produces less than a quarter of its food needs, has limited fresh water supplies, and has few domestic energy sources. Malta’s economy is dependent on foreign trade, manufacturing, and tourism. Malta joined the EU in 2004 and adopted the euro on 1 January 2008.

      Also,

      Malta’s services sector continues to grow, with sustained growth in the financial services and online gaming sectors. Advantageous tax schemes remained attractive to foreign investors, though EU discussions of anti-tax avoidance measures have raised concerns among Malta’s financial services and insurance providers, as the measures could have a significant impact on those sectors. The tourism sector also continued to grow, with 2016 showing record-breaking numbers of both air and cruise passenger arrivals.

      The issue that is problematic is that even if you, personally, keep your direct energy consumption low (which is quite possible in an island with a favorable climate), it really doesn’t allow Malta to be separated from the rest of the world. If the rest of the world collapses, Malta is likely to go with it, including Gozo. Malta seems to get revenue from its tourism industry, tax avoidance schemes (which I am sure encourage more tourism as well, by directors of those businesses seeking tax avoidance), and online gaming businesses. Without all of the outside support, Malta’s oil, natural gas, and electricity supplies would soon be cut off. Without those, it could not possibly support all of its population. The same is true for the island of Gozo.

      Also, the big problem the world is facing today is fossil fuel prices that are not really high enough for producers. Cutting back on demand works in the wrong direction with respect to fixing this problem. Perhaps we should be encouraging the use of more SUVs for transportation.

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        USA 12,000 kWh per capita
        California 8,000 kWh per capita
        San Francisco? 3600 kWg per capita (lowest in US)
        So, the smarter you are, the less you use?
        I know it is an obvious question.

        • If you live in a part of world where you really don’t need heating/cooling, your electricity needs are a whole lot less.

          Also, California has high enough electricity rates to drive out all industry that requires reasonable electricity prices.

          • Duncan Idaho says:

            Its true—
            In Micronesia, I lived for a year without electricity– or running water.
            After a few months, you don’t notice.
            But look at the dwellings of SF and say, Dallas.
            The intelligence of Dallas is very apparent.
            What were they thinking?

        • Nope.avi says:

          You are carrying the torch for California, a state that embodies BAU,
          A state where having access to a car is a requirement to be a productive adult
          A state that uses plenty of fossil fuels to keep cool and to transport its citizens around.

          If you love California so much you should marry it.
          but don’t tell us how great it is.
          California is as unsustainable as it gets.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Hello again Gail

        Many thanks for your reply. Yes, Malta is moving in exactly the wrong direction: more financial services, more tourism, and inevitably more conspicuous consumption. Hence its growing food shortage, because these industries create demand for imported food. And the biggest offender is probably the cruise industry, which I am resolved never to patronise.

        But I researched my own diet. All my fruit, vegetables and salads are grown on the island itself. My meat consumption is very small. Some packaged Italian food, and likewise very inexpensive Italian wine. I think the food that has the longest journey is the Latvian Vodka I enjoy on the odd evening.

        I don’t use ambient cooling, ever; growing up in Africa without it I never missed it. Ambient heating is provided by heat exchanger, and I’m debating whether to use solar panels on the roof (1000 sq ft of roof) to feed it.

        • Hubbs says:

          But again, a lot of energy went into making those panels and having them shipped to your island. I am guilty of the “hypocrisy”. But one child and vasectomy and asking my daughter to adopt if she ever wants children.

      • Hubbs says:

        Gail, thanks for pointing out the real inconvenient truth. I don’t like it , I try to justify it by various ways. Basically we have to go from being righteous to realistic: I and everyone else have been enjoying a hell of a good ride on FF.

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      Lol!
      And we are having problems?

    • Tim Groves says:

      I personally can trump you guys since in sixty years I have never fathered a child, never owned or driven a car, haven’t flown on an airplane since 1994, cut and chop all my own firewood, grow enough food to feed half a dozen people organically, and never buy the the softest toilet paper.

      I don’t live like this to try to save the world or slow its momentum towards disaster, or atone for my past sins of consumption during my younger and more foolish days, or to feel smug and superior to my fellow humans. I live like this because I want to.

      So can we cut out the virtue signaling guys? If we really believe in the Green religion we are trying to guilt trip everyone else into following, we can all do far better than we are doing now. For instance, we could at least make our own clothes!

      And Hubbs, I bet you took advantage of the abundant benefits of fossil fuels in having that vasectomy!

      • jupiviv says:

        “I don’t live like this to try to save the world or slow its momentum towards disaster, or atone for my past sins of consumption during my younger and more foolish days, or to feel smug and superior to my fellow humans. I live like this because I want to. ”

        This is a *brilliant* argument: we should eschew fun only if doing so is fun, because fun is the only reason to do anything. No rebuttal possible, or necessary!

        • Tim Groves says:

          When we moved to the countryside over a quarter of a century ago, the locals regularly wondered why we never drove or owned a car. I used to tell them I hated the idea of having an accident and hurting someone, or even of driving over the thousands of newly hatched frogs that cover the roads at night in early summer a few weeks after the rice paddies are filled—you simply can’t avoid squashing dozens of them no matter how slowly you drive down the road.

          But more than anything, I felt that the car was a huge black hole for pouring good money down. The average rural adult buys a car on loan which has to be repaid monthly and in addition they pay annual car tax and accident insurance, gasoline, compulsory two-year vehicle inspection, parking charges when going to town, etc., etc. All this consumes 10% or more of the average person’s pre-tax income, and around 90% of individuals own at least one car around here and are psychologically dependent on having one even if they don’t need it for commuting. Car ownership is fun for some, a pain in the rear end for others, but as a general observation, it keeps people poor. It forces them to part with money that could be used for better quality food and clothes, and for nicer things in general. Also, it keeps them unhealthy, as they get out of the habit of walking and carrying things.

          The smartphone is another great money-waster—especially in Japan where phone contracts are so expensive that the government has ordered the phone companies to cut prices this year. And while some people think it’s fun to have one, for me it’s a bloody nuisance with all those flashing lights and message arrival noises interrupting me while I’m trying to wright my novel or solve the world’s political problems. No, give me a good old fashioned vintage landline phone every time—one with just two bells and no whistles.

      • the toilet paper self torment thing is taking things too far

        and you getting better at sinning as you get older, experience counts!

        • Tim Groves says:

          Its Holy Week now and Good Friday will soon be upon us. Which mean the self- flagellants will be out in force in the Philippines. Makes the second softest toilet paper seem a rather mild act of self denial.

  5. Tim Groves says:

    Have we reached peak fake shameless David Attenborough yet?

    Over the weekend, social media and the newspapers were full of stories of Pacific walruses plunging over sea cliffs to their deaths. Heart-wrenching film of the corpses of these magnificent beasts piled up on the shore have been driving many to tears.

    This all came about as the result of the latest episode of Our Planet, the new wildlife extravaganza from Netflix. As is normal for such programmes, the story that accompanies the animal eye-candy is told by Sir David Attenborough and, as is positively compulsory, it is spiced with multiple references to the horrors of global warming. In fact, we are told, it is us who should shoulder the blame for the slaughter of the walruses, because shrinking sea ice caused by climate change forces them to haulout – leaving the water to take refuge on the shore instead.

    The programme ends with Attenborough directing viewers to a website run by WWF, the co-producers of the series. It is therefore, in essence, an eight-part, multi-million pound fundraiser.

    Which is a pity, because there is now considerable evidence emerging that the story is not quite what it seems.

    For a start, as the zoologist Susan Crockford has documented for the GWPF, walrus haul out behaviour may not be related to global warming. In her 2014 paper On the Beach, she cites examples as far back as the 1930s, long before global warming. She also explains that there doesn’t appear to be a strong correlation between sea-ice levels and haulout behaviour.

    Nor is the phenomenon of walruses falling to their deaths from sea cliffs new. American TV recorded the same phenomenon in 1994 and the New York Times reported 60 deaths in a single incident in 1996. Attempts were made to install a fence at one site, while another employs rangers whose sole job is to keep the walruses away from the cliffs. At the time, scientists explained that the most likely explanation was overcrowding at the water’s edge.

    Crockford thinks that the footage on the Netflix show comes from a well-documented incident that took place in the village of Ryrkaypiy, in eastern Siberia, in October 2017. September and October are the peak period for walrus haulouts, and there are numerous examples, which date back to the 1960s, of the cliff phenomenon taking place on Wrangel Island, a few hundred kilometres to the north.

    However in 2017, as the Siberian Times reported, the colony attracted polar bears that frequent – and indeed at the time terrorise – the area. The bears drove several hundred walruses over the cliffs to their deaths, before feasting on the corpses. They continued to frequent the area right through into the winter.

    I’ve been able to show that Crockford’s supposition about the geographical origin of the footage is correct: analysis of the rock shapes in the film and in a photo taken by the producer/director both match archive photos of Ryrkaypiy. The photo was taken on 19 September 2017, during the events described by the Siberian Times.

    But whereas the Siberian Times and Gizmodo website, which also reported on the 2017 incident, were both quite clear that the walruses were driven over the cliffs by polar bears, Netflix makes no mention of their presence. Similarly, there is no mention of the fact that walrus haulouts are entirely normal. Instead, Attenborough tells his viewers that climate change is forcing the walruses on shore, where their poor eyesight leads them to plunge over the cliffs.

    This is all very troubling as it raises the possibility that Netflix and the WWF are, innocently or otherwise, party to a deception of the public. Exactly who was aware of the presence of polar bears remains unclear, but it seems doubtful that no one at the WWF and the production team was unaware. And given that one of the prime objectives of the show seems to have been to raise funds for WWF, that seems… problematic.

    https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2019/04/has-netflixs-our-planet-hidden-the-real-cause-of-walrus-deaths/

    • JesseJames says:

      Yes, everything must be blamed on gloooob le w ring.
      Humans also love to pretend they can identify a s8mple cause while ignoring other complex phenomenon.

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      Here’s a deeper and more balanced look at what is occurring in that footage and accompanying narration, which certainly is somewhat dubious, for those who find Andrew Montford a little slanted:

      https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/586510/

      • Tim Groves says:

        Either Andrew Montford’s take is a little slanted or the Atlantic’s take is a little slanted. You assume the Atlantic’s view is more balanced than Montford’s. I view it as a “damage limitation” exercise now that Attenborough has been caught red-handed fabricating another globbly wobbly scare story.

        What’s your reason for thinking Montford a little slanted, Harry? Has he fabricated anything? Is it true or false that there have been incidents of Walruses doing this sort of thing since as far back as the 1930s? Is his and Susan Cockford’s contention that the footage on the Netflix show comes from a well-documented incident that took place in the village of Ryrkaypiy, in eastern Siberia, in October 2017 correct or incorrect?

        The Atlantic article makes some clear claims that are clearly incorrect. For one thing, it claims there were no polar bears around. If I wanted to be picky, I would point out that its sea ice reduction claims are exaggerated, but that’s par for the course these days.

        Here’s the Siberian Times article from 19 October 2017

        Village besieged by polar bears as hundreds of terrorised walruses fall 38 metres to their deaths

        Around 20 beasts have surrounded Ryrkaypiy, with one bear cub trying to get into a house through the window. The polar bears were attracted by 5,000 walruses that appeared this year at a special protection zone in Chukotka.

        Many of the frightened flippered marine mammals fell off cliffs at Kozhevnikova Cape as they sought to flee the invaders.Several hundred fell to their deaths, and the polar bears then ate the carcasses.

        Head of WWF project Polar Bear Patrol, Viktor Nikiforov, said: ‘This autumn the situation is alarming.
        ‘Many crashed, falling from a height.
        ‘Their rookery had attracted polar bears.
        ‘The walruses were obviously frightened by the predators, panicked and fell from the top to their deaths.’

        Visit the URL of the article and you’ll find some very nice pictures.

        http://siberiantimes.com/ecology/others/news/village-besieged-by-polar-bears-as-hundreds-of-terrorised-walruses-fall-38-metres-to-their-deaths/

        Like most people of my generation, I grew up on Attenborough’s nature documentaries and I greatly admire his work. That does not mean his current delusional claims should be unquestionably presented as fact.

        • Harry McGibbs says:

          Let’s not get deeply into Andrew Montford’s scientific credibility and journalistic integrity, Tim. Many find him slanted simply because he is at one end of the cc/gw debate spectrum.

          For OFW readers curious enough to Google, De-Smog blog will provide one view of Andrew and WattsUpWithThat another.

          • Tim Groves says:

            OK, Harry, for the sake of our very warm friendship we won’t take this one to the shouting stage. But can we try to get beyond the issues of Montford’s credibility and integrity or Attenborough’s or De-Smog blog’s or WUWT’s, or Susan Cockford’s (who is IMHO the real adult int the room here!)—because nobody’s perfect and it is so easy to sling mud at people whose views we disagree with and who are pointing out things we’d rather not have to consider.

            Can we consider that it is possible the filmmakers were not being truthful, and that either the polar bears were there and drove dozens or hundreds of walruses off the cliffs or else the Netiflex filmmakers did it by scaring the walruses either intentionally or unintentionally?

            Can we at least agree that it is possible that the events were unconnected to globbly wobbly because similar events have been recorded since as far back as the 1930s. Can we at least agree that?

            By the way, how are the polar bears doing?

            • Harry McGibbs says:

              “Can we at least agree that it is possible that the events were unconnected to globbly wobbly because similar events have been recorded since as far back as the 1930s. Can we at least agree that?”

              On this we certainly can agree and further to that I can also agree that globbly wobbly has become a mainstream cause célèbre in many ways that are hypocritical, tiresome and dishonest.

              I’m even open to debate over the extent to which it is anthropegenic. Where our views are unlikely to elide is over whether or not it exists at all and the level of threat it poses, our inability to do anything about it and the possibility of an economic collapse taking all cards off the table notwithstanding.

              OFW is a contrarian blog that successfully challenges some key assumptions underpinning the status quo, so on the one hand contrarian views are to be expected here and indeed welcomed. On the other, globbly wobbly is a particularly divisive and politically charged issue, and it rarely seems to lead anywhere edifying when raised in the comments section, so entrenched are the polarities of opinion.

              Glad to hear that our friendship is heading for the next level btw. My heart-cockles are warmed.

      • SuperTramp says:

        Thank you Harry, seems we have over zealous ideas on both sides of CC and wonder why all the fuss is about? Regardless, 7.8 billion people and still growing is not sustainable nor desirable for other life on our planet. Does not matter CC is slow or fast, it’s happening and based on Science of Physics, we are contributing to it. How much research and data will be enough? Never enough because of inertia….who moved my cheese?

        • Tim Groves says:

          It all depends on what you mean by CC. It’s a very malleable concept, SuperTramp. At its most extreme, we have Guy McP, who has claimed we are all going to die by 2030 at the latest due to accelerating climate feedbacks that could cause a global average temperature increase of between 1° and 6° Celsius. In 2012 he predicted this would happen by 2020, but more recently he has been shifting the goalposts on this one. Guy claims it’s happening and based on “Science of Physics”. And Guy has qualifications and he has stats.

          At the other end of the spectrum is the view that no CC is happening whatsoever. This was the orthodox prevailing view until around 1800, when Western physicists assumed we lived in a geological and climatically stable world. I should think the number of people who entertain this view today is approximately zero outside of a few members of fundamentalist cults.

          Let’s face it, by any practical definition we all accept that CC is happening. We accept there have been ice ages, many of accept there was a medieval warm period and a little ice age that had global effects, and we accept that it has become a little warmer since the 19th century. The questions are how much is natural, how much is human activity contributing, will it be friendly, how severe will it be in future, is it an existential problem or not. and should we commit collective seppuku in an effort to mitigate its effects?

          • SuperTramp says:

            Tim, been reading your comments here regarding CC and your lampoons.
            As far as a malleable concept, sorry it’s all about the Science as Gail has repeatedly stated, in this case Physics and Chemistry. The Data and research studies back up the conclusions of the Scientific Community.
            I realize that there will be a segment of the population that will disavow those no matter what is placed before them. Fine with me, because I have stated before here, I agree totally with Gail, there is not much we can do about it with population levels and economy we have created. That does not mean I will reject totally the body of scientific evidence.
            Even Dr. James Hansen wrote in his book, ” Storms of My Grandchildren”, unless we address the population, nothing will work. Still waiting.
            Oh, please continue with your posts.

            • Regardless of what the scientific studies say, there is fundamentally nothing that we can do about climate change, other than killing ourselves off. I suppose if everyone became vegan, that might reduce pressure on resources for a while, but I don’t think that there is anything fuel-wise that is helpful. Wind and solar are not! Also, at this late date, there is nothing we can do about population, beyond what has been done. Reduced population tends to collapse the economy as well, because there become too many old people for the young people to support, and we are already reaching limits on that.

            • SuperTramp says:

              Exactly, Gail, bravo, thank you for stating and pointing this out to all of us.
              That does not mean it is not happening or continue to do so because of climatic system ineratia.
              The IPCC, which represents the Scientific Community, issues projections based on the data and research , in the form of different degrees of low, medium or high.
              It really does not matter which is occurring. I’m of the mindset to be a lukewarmer on the low side of forcing. It helps me get by and hopefully reach the big 70 in one piece.
              Up to this point, nothing has been materially done to address CC, judging by the jump in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. It will continue to do so in line with the increase in human population levels.
              Being in my 60s now. I avoid the overpopulation topic at ALL times in personal discussion.
              Because in all fairness, the older generation ( folks like us, baby boomers), should be pushed off first! That does not sound like a good option for myself at this time.
              It’s OK for Tim to poke fun. I’m beyond the stage to put up a fuss. I will, though, try to post a balance view to keep it real.
              Thank you🤗

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  8. While your points are well taken, I believe you have completely missed (and not accounted for) the types of synergies that solar enables that have never before been possible. Here is but one example:

    https://cleantechnica.com/2019/04/12/fraunhofer-reports-combining-farming-with-solar-186-more-efficient-in-summer-of-2018/

  9. Hubbs says:

    Zero Hedge reposting of your article yesterday, and my rebuttal to a comment challenging your thesis Gail.
    (God I hope I got this right.)
    ______________________________________________________________
    You wrote: “It seems likely that fossil fuels will leave us before we can leave them.”

    ​​​This dissenter wrote:
    “No
    The timing of when fossil fuels will leave us seems to depend on when central banks lose their ability to stimulate the economy through lower interest rates.
    ​​​​​​​This is exactly backwards. Central Bank money printing is directly responsible for our consumption rate.
    If fossil fuels leave us, the result could be the collapse of financial systems and governments.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
    Again, cart before the horse.”

    16 hours ago
    I wrote:
    “I think that cheap aavailable,readily accessible energy in the past permitted tremendous economic growth, trade, industry, roads, and food production, I.e., what has allowed all the prosperity of 20th century, as reflected by population growth to 7 + billion.

    Whether you paid for this in fiat/ borrowed money or in honest money like gold or silver, the energy was still cheap and made the distinction almost irrelevant. Now we are trying to put off the day of reckoning of cheap energy by borrowing ( FED, fiat, financialization, whatever you want to call it, e.g. to prop collectively a money losing proposition like shale, solar and wind which require subsidies). Yes, there is still PLENTY of oil out there, but it costs too much to get it out of the ground. I think Gail is correct.

    This concept admittedly I have struggled with. Without cheap energy, the economy declines faster than the availability of the oil produced. People get overwhelmed with debt to the point they can not afford to buy expensive energy, and a pernicious unwind of the economy begins.”

    • GBV says:

      @Hubbs

      The poster you responded to is, in a misguided way, onto something. Consider this from the 2017 Primer Guide on The Automatic Earth:

      *********
      TAE is known primarily as a finance site because finance has the shortest time frame of all. So much of finance exists in a virtual world in which changes can unfold very quickly. There are those who assume that changes in a virtual system can happen without major impact, but this assumption is dangerously misguided. Finance is the global operating system – the interface between ourselves, our institutions and our resource base. When the operating system crashes, nothing much will work until the system is rebooted. The next few years will see that crash and reboot. As financial contraction is set to occur first, finance will be the primary driver to the downside for the next several years. After that, we will be dealing with energy crisis, other resource limits, limitations of carrying capacity and increasing geopolitical ramifications.
      *********

      He’s likely right to suggest that financial systems and governments will collapse before our energy extraction sector will – as long as there is a functioning financial system and government in place, all sorts of shenanigans will take place to keep the Spice (err, oil) flowing…

      That being said, Gail’s statement is likely still correct as well – seeing as how there is nothing energy-dense enough for us to transition to that can replace fossil fuels, and given how modern society is unwilling / unable to scale back its energy usage to live off less energy-dense fuels, BAU will likely continue until a financial crisis hits, governments and financial systems collapse, and finally an energy crisis arises that puts fossil fuels beyond our reach (for the most part, anyway).

      Then… zombies?

      Cheers,
      -GBV

      • I don’t think that most people will ever recognize the crisis as an energy crisis. It will look like some combination of a financial crisis/collapse, governmental collapse or overthrow, war, and bad epidemic. There will probably be gluts of all kinds of products that can’t be sold, because wage disparity is too much of an issue. Remember the verses I quoted about the collapse of Babylon from Revelation 18:

        11 “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore— 12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.

        The sign of collapse is low prices and gluts, not high prices and shortages!

        • GBV says:

          I guess as a “collapsenik”, I appreciate the works of Nicole Foss at TAE and Dmitry Orlov – they’ve broken the overall collapse narrative down so that it fits into theoretical phases / events, which can help one wrap their heads around such an overwhelming concept. But given how interconnected everything is, you’re probably right Gail – collapse will seem like an admixture of near-simultaneous catastrophes to the average Joe.

          That being said, I still think Foss / TAE are onto something here: “So much of finance exists in a virtual world in which changes can unfold very quickly”. The collapse of a virtual system can be instantaneous, while collapse in the physical world make take a bit longer, likely due to laws of physics…

          Cheers,
          -GBV

          • Exactly, GBV, thank you raising this important factoid. Tim Morgan at: https://surplusenergyeconomics.wordpress.com/ says the same thing and is exactly in tune with Gail IMO.

            • I am not sure that Tim Morgan and I are exactly saying the same thing. There are certainly major differences in the way we come at this issue. I would read Tim Morgan’s work very closely before coming to this conclusion. Tim has developed a new version of EROI. I am not convinced that this tells a person much at all. We are experiencing diminishing returns, but this happens in a wider context. EROI calculations are badly flawed, especially for wind and solar. I don’t know how his calculations really work.

            • Thank you Gail, I do tend to take up new concepts with enthusiasm which sometimes out-paces me! I read Tim’s book: “Life after Growth” written in 2013 and was amazed that his predictions have come about. I will think on, although I am very convinced about EROEI Thank you for your guidance and I will continue to learn and inwardly absorb!

            • EROEI works passably well for fossil fuel, largely because they are “drill them and use them” products.

              EROEI doesn’t work for wind and solar for multiple reasons:
              (1) The return isn’t sufficiently instantaneous.
              (2) Intermittency is a huge problem which is not addressed.
              (3) Too much equivalence of apples to oranges in the calculation. High quality energy is used to produce low quality energy.
              (4) A tendency to overestimate future output and underestimate future costs.
              (5) The calculation really needs to be energy in versus energy out in the same year. Building now, and getting the output later doesn’t really work. (Related to (1))

              Also, no one stopped to think that the minimum EROI was passed long ago, back in the 1970s. We have only been hiding the problem with a huge debt bubble. Thus, the threshold being used for comparison is way off.

            • Thanks Gail and I totally agree – I was focusing on Oil as the ultimate concentration of energy per pound which has been the main driver over these many decades. The ‘renewables’ have an entirly different return and of course the total FF required to service and maintain them is lost in the current enthusiasm for this type of replacement energy source.

              Tim is after all and Oil specialist and this is his world. Your expanded understanding in your discipline allows for many more variables and for me is much more valuable as a research base.

            • I don’t think Tim is an oil specialist. Tim is an economist, as far as I know. His job was head of research at Tullett Prebon. He started reading and writing about falling EROI while at Tullett Prebon, as far as I know. I presume the folks act TP did not particularly appreciate his take on what was happening. He has commented at OFW a few times.

            • Many thanks Gail, I read Tim’s book recently and he is described as an ‘Oil Analysist’ which I took to mean an engineer in the FF business but I don’t know what his doctorate is in so I guess you are right about this. He does seem to have parallel views to your own though.

              I thought this write-up on his book a rather revealing story, especially as it comes from my neck of the woods:
              https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/tag/tim-morgan/

              I must do more work to get my head right!

            • GBV says:

              I’ll definitely start to follow Tim Morgan’s blog. Thanks for the link Peter!

              I thought this post provided a decent overview / big picture of how Tim views our current situation in terms of energy / finance:

              https://surplusenergyeconomics.wordpress.com/2019/04/05/149-the-big-challenges/

              Cheers,
              -GBV

            • Glad you have joined us GBV – enjoy the journey
              Best wishes
              Peter

  10. Nonplused says:

    Nice summary Gail, although not very optimistic. Maybe they can get Gen IV nuclear working in time? Although for that to happen somebody would have to start building them.

    I noticed the comments section filled up with “abiotic” oil people immediately. How can we have a reasonable discussion about serious issues if the room is full of people that have no grasp of the reality of things? Regardless of whether oil is biological in origin or not, they aren’t making any more of it. It is not necessary to understand exactly how the photosynthesis of CO2 in the early sea led to most oil being formed. You only have to understand that their is a finite amount of it, and that the earth is not making new oil based on our consumption. If it were, we’d be swimming in it, because we didn’t start using it until 100 years ago. Abiotic or not, we have the same problem.

    • Right! I saw that Zerohedge has this post, and that 28,000 people had read it there. I am sure their comments were even more ones about abiotic oil.

      • Nonplused says:

        I read the article first on Zerohedge but came here to comment because the comments section at the hedge resembles a bunch of riled up chimps more so than anything.

        Anyway, my point for the abiotic crowd is “what difference does it make? It’s still finite.” It seems to me the science behind the biological creation of oil is sound, but in the time frames we are discussing we can start with proven + probable reserves and ignore how it was formed. We know for fact that once an oil well is depleted it does not fill back up. Or in the case of the tar sands you can see quite clearly that once the sand is processed they need to dig up more sand.

        • GBV says:

          It make not make a difference to OFW’ers and our conversation on the long-term viability of “fossil fuels” / oil as our primary source of energy… but it matters in a factual sense, and simply in terms of being scientifically truthful, that abiotic oil theories are not “disproved” or “debunked”, as many would suggest.

          I know we here at OFW like to think (and deep down, know it to be true) we are the most intelligent and enlightened people on the face of the earth, having to bear the incredible burden of wrestling with the terrifying realization of our species impending financial & energy collapse…

          …but I still don’t think that gives us the right to make ignorant, dismissive statements 😐
          (unless they are made for comedic purposes… comedy shouldn’t be censored!)

          Cheers,
          -GBV

          • doomphd says:

            the abiotic oil types also believe that the Earth continuously makes oil, so it is renewable. the biotic hypothesis implies a finite amount. actually, biotic oil is made more-or-less continuously, but the rates are much too slow to resupply what we are drawing out.

            • GBV says:

              “…the biotic hypothesis implies a finite amount…”

              Does it?

              If biological material was trapped / compressed by extreme geological pressure over millions of years for fossil fuels to be formed, what is to say that process isn’t occurring as we speak and more oil is (verrrrrry slowly) being formed?

              I think you would be more correct to suggest that the rates for either theory – regardless of which one (or both?) proves to be true – are much too slow to resupply what we are drawing out.

              Back to biotic vs abiotic theories (not that your comment focused on that exactly, but I feel like getting back up on my soap box!) – I think there’s a lot more problems with biotic theory that people are aware of. Perhaps that is to be expected, given biotic oil theory is the mainstream theory and thus it is simply accepted by individuals who do not question the mainstream scientific theories they are spoon-fed as “fact”?

              For example, if we look again at the EU (electric universe) theory, we recognize that there are serious issues with the generally accepted ideas surrounding dinosaur physiology and the strength of gravity in prehistoric times…

              If these problems effectively alter our understanding of how old dinosaurs are (and perhaps our planet and everything else that’s ever existed on it?), it would undoubtedly have knock-on effects on biotic oil theory in terms of the material inputs and length of time required for fossil fuels to form.

              While I’m not sure that would have any impact on Gail’s work on OFW, I could definitely see it having an impact on longer-term predictions that have been made here; i.e. faster-replenishing oil, whether biotic or abiotic, could mean that another “Age of Hydrocarbons” may occur again sooner than we would be led to believe…

              Cheers,
              -GBV

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