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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1,252 Responses to The true feasibility of moving away from fossil fuels

  1. Aubreyenoch says:

    Just wondering about all the comments about govt subsidies to alternative energy. Would we count the trillions of dollars spent on our wars and occupation in the Middle East as a subsidy to the oil industry?

    • JesseJames says:

      It would be more accurate to count the cost as an expense of maintaining an empire.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      “… subsidy to the oil industry?”

      it’s of the utmost importance that abundant energy flows through IC continuously… so one of the major roles of govt is to ensure that this happens…

      as perhaps is/will be happening because of low FF prices, if FF production starts to lag this year/next year/soon, then the US govt must step in with policies that continue adequate energy flow for BAU…

      subsidies, tax breaks, zirp loans, bailouts, nationalization…

      whatever it takes, it must be done…

  2. GBV says:

    “Demographic Doom? The Number Of Children Per Household Is Collapsing”


    Forget debt and deflation: the biggest threat to the global economy and the future of modern civilization as we know it, may be demographics, according to a recent Euromonitor study.

    Whereas over the past decade policymakers have been mostly focused on how to reverse the global infatuation with debt and how to reverse what appears to be a structural decline in inflation (assuming the economist-accepted definition of CPI which conveniently “hedonicaly adjusts” such surging costs as shelter, healthcare, education and in many cases food), an even more troubling trend has been observed in recent years: due to a culmination of factors including falling fertility rates, rising divorce rates and expensive real estate, family sizes across the world are shrinking.


    Less young, able-bodied, useful people and more useless, unhealthy old farts… what could go wrong?


    • Country Joe says:

      Alfred E in Twenty Twenteeeee.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      “Less young, able-bodied, useful people…”

      one possible solution is that the younger adults could work 80 hours per week…

      where is it written that the universe owes humans some good prosperity on a mere 40 hours of work in a 168 hour week?


      one: even with half as many workers, the total work would be equal…

      two: the average worker would die younger from the overload, thus reducing the overpopulation problem…

      I’m 60-ish, and I think that’s a good plan…

      • GBV says:

        “one possible solution is that the younger adults could work 80 hours per week…”

        I think some younger people would work 80 hours per week, if they were given the chance to work in a job that a) paid well; b) showed promise for growth / development; c) actually contributed to something meaningful (personally and societally), and; d) didn’t make them feel like service-slaves to an overly asset-enriched / entitled Boomer generation.

        Heck, I don’t think you even need all of those boxes to be checked to encourage a greater degree of dedication by the young to their jobs / society. I’m sure when Boomers were younger, they probably only had two (on average) of those things going for them at any given time, and that was probably enough.

        “two: the average worker would die younger from the overload, thus reducing the overpopulation problem…”

        Correct in more ways that you probably think. If young people did work themselves to death, they wouldn’t have time to procreate – leaving all the old farts nobody left to exploit. Collapse of the system and the population (of all ages) would ensue fairly quickly at that point.


        • Well GBV, thank you for that overview. I worked some 100 hrs a week for 15 years building my own computer company 1981 – 1995 which my eldest son, Adam, manages now:

          The pressure blew my brains out in 1990 and I ended up with the men in white coats carrying me away to the Funny Farm for a spell of R & R. After that I found a new path in life and became comfortable in my own skin.

          The Part 2 of my book “The Financial Jigsaw”, describes this episode. My Part 1 is being serialised on ‘The Burning Platform’ weekly: We are half way through the book. If this is of any interest to you, no worries otherwise.

          • GBV says:

            “The pressure blew my brains out in 1990…”

            I’m curious to know what kept you from just walking away / seeking more balance before it got to that point? If, that is, you’re willing to share that on a public forum (if not, I completely understand)?

            I guess it’s of interest to me given that, after my life imploded, I found myself looking back and realizing all the crazy things I had done / thought, and struggled to understand how I could let my life spiral so far out of control without realizing it.

            Though in my case it wasn’t from working 100 hour weeks and burning out due to stress, but rather from working a cushy government job and realizing that a) I had few, if any, intimate and *real* connections / relationships with others and thus felt terribly alone; b) I was overpaid and my life had no purpose / meaning; c) government bureaucracies were (and likely still are) full of dim-witted collectivists who have little to no understanding of what it means to be a public servant, nor all that concerned with doing anything that actually makes a difference, and; d) how ridiculously, woefully unprepared I was for Collapse.

            But I bet there’s an argument to be made that whether it is due to 100’s of hours of stressful work, or 100’s of hours of self-reflection and over-analysis of one’s own existence, most of the stress that sends people over the edge / to the funny farm is needlessly self imposed 😐


            • Many thanks GBV for giving me the opportunity to explain my condition, which I am please to expose on a public forum in the hope that it may help others. In quick summary:

              In the last half of 1990 my computer company had developed unique software, built by my partner, but he wanted total control as he owned the IP – my work was sales & marketing because i knew the market (I am ex Xerox – 1970s). I had to recruit some ‘black art’ system software developers to reverse engineer my partner’s software to save the company. After 6 months of 24/7 intensive work, fuelled with alcohol, we managed to achieve a new improved product and launched it with great success. My eldest son, Adam, still runs the company:

              I was diagnosed ‘hypomanic’ and put on lithium for 5 years (which is devastating). I retired in 1995, having joined AA in 1993 believing that I was an alocholic. I lost everything, house, wife, job but not my 4 children. My life changed course which I describe in Part 2 of my book.

              In fact it wasn’t until 2009, at age 65, when I returned to UK that I was diagnosed Bipolar Disorder and given medication that keeps me balanced now. It turns out that I wasn’t an alcoholic after all, but the 10 years I spent with AA was the finest training one could ever have. It is said that it is the most expensive club in the world – the cost to join is priceless.

              I often ask: “Is it me that’s mad or is it the world at large?” I think OFW and other sites have given me the answer, especially people like yourself who are strong enough to share honestly.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Both of your stories are heartbreaking for me and without hearing the details I am sure that you’ve both suffered tremendously. You’ve been through the refiner’s fire and emerged as bars of 24-carat gold with all your impurities removed. You’ve been through the long dark night of the soul and emerged into the sunlit morning of maturity, wisdom, sagacity and being to old for that shit. Like caterpillars faced with the narrow limits of caterpillar existence, you’ve been through the cocoon experience and emerged as butterflies. Experience and trauma have tempered you into well-tempered musical instruments of the kind Glenn Gould favored. (Sadly, Glenn never made it through the refining process himself.) And now you are free to dine with the rest of the cognoscenti at the Restaurant of the End of the Universe, aka OFW.

            • Thank you so much for those lovely words and thoughts Tim, much appreciated. And the thought of a restaurant at the end of the universe OTW is a stunning image.

    • Xabier says:

      Alas, many of the young are neither able-bodied nor particularly useful, and this is particularly true of the unskilled African and Asian migrants being shoe-horned into Europe at present by politicians desperate to off-set the demographic crunch – minimum unemployment rate around 45%.

      • I note your theme Xabier, thank you. But have you thought that some migrants have exceptional talents? In Cape Town, when we were there in 2000 – 2009, many Zimbabweans and Somalis came and they were very good workers and entrepreneurs, opening shops and businesses.

        The local Xhosa people (Xhosa [/ˈkɔːsə, ˈkoʊsə/) is an Nguni Bantu language with click consonants (“Xhosa” begins with a click) and is one of the official languages of South Africa. It is also an official language of Zimbabwe]….. they were not amused and the angst continues to this day in South Africa. The Zulus had less difficulty as they are very active anyway.

        I know that I am generalising here, but it is just to give a flavour of how immigration can be a benefit in many circumstances.

        • Very Far Frank says:

          You can make many arguments for the supposed benefits of immigration during times of economic expansion, when there are jobs and opportunities to fill, but the entire thread of this blog is that demand for those positions will quickly dry up. And then you are left with a mess of a country up to its eyeballs in ethnocultural conflict. To avoid balkanisation in the future, its necessary to recognise today the conflict that will ultimately ensue due to current complacent immigration policy. It will all come to a head, and with more immigration everyone will be worse off.

          • Thank you, Very Far Frank, for a very succinct response. And I must say that I can’t disagree with your analysis in the final outcome; that is an ultimate collapse as we all agree on OFW. In my book, ‘The Financial Jigsaw’, I postulate that a sudden crisis, (GFC2 if you prefer), will be followed by a New Emergent Economy.

            Now what this will look like is difficult to project, but I am reasonably sure that it will require ancient skills, many of which have been forgotten, and local economies centred on surviving in a relatively hostile world. These localised systems must be supported by skills in current use and by immigrants from say, Eastern Europe, who are far more adapted to this kind of situation.

            It is with this in mind that I support controlled immigration, determined by reference to the skill levels prevailing at the time. I do acknowledge that this is conjecture and I may well be wrong, but I live in hope. What I witnessed in South Africa was extreme skills being used by the indigenous population far beyond what I or a western trained person could achieve.

            • Artleads says:

              I can see your point. In my case, coming from a world so totally divorced from finance and banking, the resistance (based on such seeming certainty of why my recommendations can’t work makes me spend years trying to figure out why. I see no end of ways to employ increased numbers of people (which I imagine could be called growth) while doing far less environmental damage that I’m always being told is the cost of staying alive in a complex economic system where you can’t change a single thing. Here’s one small example of how I see growth and jobs:

              We can save on building costs by encasing all discarded hard plastic within the mortar in buildings. And nearly all paper and cardboard is compostable.

              So you can afford to build more shelter and create more jobs, doing it without degrading water ways with plastic, thus producing more food from fish. And there are countless pits from mining that could be filled with paper and cardboard waste, thus creating more soil to grow more food and provide more jobs doing all of those things.

              Maybe it’s my third world heritage that makes for a total lack of understanding of why what seems easy and straightforward meets up with such stern resistance by people who seem extraordinarily sure of themselves.

            • Thank you so much Artleads for some very insightful analysis. I think the problem lies in the private ownership of all the land use (not the legal ownership which has been held by the crown ever since 1066).

              For example, a disused mine, which would be ideal for storing waste as you suggest, must be in the hands of somebody and perhaps research into this would be fruitful to discover why this is not done, or maybe it is?

            • GBV says:

              “It is with this in mind that I support controlled immigration, determined by reference to the skill levels prevailing at the time. I do acknowledge that this is conjecture and I may well be wrong, but I live in hope.’

              Kinda made me think of this video, which I always enjoyed:

              As a Canadian, I’m pretty used to a multicultural existence, which I quite enjoy (though I also recognize that the places I’ve lived, like Toronto and its surrounding area, are highly balkanized by ethnic group). But as I started to learn more about collapse and it’s implications, my concerns about the long-term success of multiculturalism have grown; I worry that Very Far Frank’s comments on ethnocultural conflict will be proven to be spot on once economies start to falter…


            • I think you are right GBV to question multiculturalism as the benefits are yet to be proven. My own experience of for example, Polish people living nearby, does indicate that we do need their exceptional skills. But a conflict of cultures cannot be ignored, so I reserve judgement on this one.

            • GBV says:

              If one stops to think about it for a moment, there really isn’t all that much difference between people of different cultures – we all likely do the same things that most humans do (eat, breath, sleep, poop, have families, sing, tell stories, experience emotion, etc.), with our cultural differences simply adding some context & variety in how we go about doing those things (which I find very interesting and refreshing!).

              But the sad / tragic thing is that when fear and scarcity start to grip our collective minds, cultural differences begin to be amplified and perceived negatively. We end up blaming multiculturalism for our societal / economic woes, whether they contribute to those woes in any meaningful way or not, and avoid recognizing the real issues we need to address 😦


            • Wise words my dear GBV and well put thank you. I cannot add to your sentiment here, I am with you 100%.

            • djerek says:

              If one stops to think about it for a moment, there really isn’t all that much difference between people of different cultures

              There are massive differences across human cultures due to divergent development for tens of thousands of years, which are reflected biologically and culturally. If you aren’t aware of them due to your ignorance, then you’re just a myopic bigot who can’t open his eyes to appreciate human diversity.

            • Oh dear djerek, I seem to have hit a nerve to obtain such a vitriolic response. It is generally understood in psychology that opinions of others that disturb us often reflects upon their own insecurities, fears and internal comfort level.

              My meaning was rather more basic than culture or obvious biological differences like skin colour etc. I was referring to basic similarities such as feelings and life mangement concerns like food insecurity, water shortages and polution, disease and health issues, the need to have love in our lives and our relationships with others, to name but a few. In this respect I see a commonality.

              Maybe you would like to relect on this? Or not, it is your issue.

          • psile says:

            It’s too late to avoid ethnic and sectarian conflict now, where too near the end. All these multicultural states are going to face a ghastly demise, as they break down. Hopefully, due to our already gigantic overshoot, the worst of it will be over with very quickly, as population crashes.

            • Duncan Idaho says:

              We have a winner—–

            • GBV says:

              “All these multicultural states are going to face a ghastly demise, as they break down”

              My hope is that the increased number of inter-racial / inter-cultural relationships will help to mitigate or contain the situation. It’s probably a lot more difficult to become a raging, racist / bigoted hate-monger if your sister is married to someone of a different culture, or if your cousin has an inter-racial child. But again, that’s just hope…

              My real fear is the “balkanized” areas found in multicultural states, where mono-cultures / single-race communities tend to reside. In Toronto, my old stomping grounds, I remember being very aware of the regions that were predominately Asian (Markham / North York / Northern Scarborough), Indian / Pakistani (Brampton), Caribbean (East York / West Scarborough), Italian / Portuguese (East York / Vaughan), Russian (North York), etc. As a visible white man (despite having a multicultural background), I might be concerned about walking around some of those areas during / post-collapse….


      • jupiviv says:

        Let’s see…

        In the UK the employment rate for African & Pakistan -born males is 2% higher than UK-born. For “Other Asia” it is 6% lower. Women from those countries are less employed than native-born counterparts but the difference is far from overwhelming and, ceteris paribus, is likely to shorten considerably with time.

        The picture is somewhat different elsewhere, and unsurprisingly depends primarily on how well a nation’s economy is doing. Germany’s integration for post-2014 refugees is accelerating although unemployment is still ~40% vs ~5% overall.

        The elephant in the room here being the very real possibility of collapse finally beginning in earnest circa this year and the next. GFC 2 converging with peak affordable oil, shale bust, political upheaval etc. That won’t bode well for *all* employment figures.

        The conflicts of interest that *all* groups of people will have both with the refugees and the other 95% of the population of any given country in question will be arrant and violent. One could find cause for hope despite this bleak reality. Conversely one might do so by averring its superfluity in the absence of some miserable useless eaters.

  3. Baby Doomer says:

    History tells us where the wealth gap leads – Peter Turchin

    • At the very end, he comes to

      Three years ago I published a short article in the science journal Nature. I pointed out that several leading indicators of political instability look set to peak around 2020. In other words, we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp, at which the US will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval. This prediction is not a ‘prophecy’. I don’t believe that disaster is pre-ordained, no matter what we do. On the contrary, if we understand the causes, we have a chance to prevent it from happening. But the first thing we will have to do is reverse the trend of ever-growing inequality.

      But I don’t think that Turchin really understands the energy consumption per capita issue, or the excessive complexity issue.

      He has some reasonable ideas, but they are sort of thinly scattered through the article.

      • 2020 is the year that Trump is planning to get re elected

        if it’s a close run thing, as is likely, he is going to scream fraud—as always. Even if it isn’t he’ll still scream fraud

        Add to that mix the possibility of economic downturn, if not outright collapse.

        The USA is entirely a debt based ponzi economy, run for a rich elite now. Trump is commander in chief of the military.

        suppose, in the economic collapse, the military just decide to back Trump as their best chance of getting their wages paid (that’s what it comes down to in the end) and then pretend to be followers of jesus (like Trump and Pence)in order to hold on to a cohesive grouping. (god is always “on our side”)

        You then have the certainty of a military coup, a takeover of government with Trump installed as dictator. You can forget the constitution.

        All the fascist elements are in place already, just as they were in Germany in the 30s.
        56% of the American people have already said that that Trump should stay in power irrespective of the 2020 election. There would be no shortage of people to carry out the necessary political excesses if that were to happen. Poverty is always someone else’s fault.

        Europe is not immune either. The extreme right is on the rise here too, and the same thing is likely to happen, as prosperity goes into decline

        • Xabier says:

          Dark clouds certainly loom, but the radical Left are in fact far more numerous than the ‘extreme Right’ – neo-Nazis are just a few sad and repulsive nuts after all – and are just as likely to establish a form of totalitarian dictatorship, which is something their ideology ( one correct way of thinking for all, one party defining it and leading) naturally tends to anyway.

        • Very Far Frank says:

          You have allowed your political partiality to push you over the edge into abject paranoia. Go outside once in a while- Trump as President hasn’t brought on the apocalypse as many on the Left might have us believe.

          • only because all the circumstances are not yet in place for that to happen

            It may be that Trump is not competent to take over as dictator, but others certainly are.

            my thinking has little to do with politics, and everything to do with economic reality.

            Consider current reality–(delete anything ”unreal”):-

            1 The nation is run as a debt based economic system
            2 There is a notion of infinite entitlement
            3 Energy availability is not infinite
            4 growth is not infinite
            5 when growth stops, civil disorder is certain
            6 Anyone competent is jumping ship.
            7 Current POTUS is 4x bankrupt
            8 VP is a jesusfreak
            9 Blame is on ”others”
            10 complete political denial of the above

            With minor variations, the rest of the industrial world is in a similar situation.

            • Hear, hear, well said Norman, I support your notions and endorse the concept that USA is finished as a unipolar world dominator – their time has come. But I do expect the Eagle to bare its talons as the ’empire’ degrades and it is anyone’s guess how they will react having so much military might on hand and 800+ bases across the world.

              The sooner the EU recognises this and starts negotiations to allow Russia to join the ‘club’ the sooner will their security be established and their energy sources determined postitively. At present, they remain as a vassal super-state although their position on Iran is encouraging.

            • Very Far Frank says:

              You seem not to understand what is necessary for dictatorship to occur in energy terms. Dictatorship is radical centralisation, whereas the collapse is radical decentralisation. Both cannot occur simultaneously. It may be that leaders emerge in the US, but they cannot hold onto a country going through collapse. It would be like trying to hold water in a colander. You explicitly stated that Trump would take on the reins earlier- I think its much more likely under collapse that political leaders would hold elections to parse off responsibility for such a mess. Another clarification- Trump himself has never been declared bankrupt. Four out hundreds of businesses have filed chapter 11, which isn’t bad as far as serial entrepreneurship goes.

            • in this hypothesis there are many factors–we cannot know how they will pan out, in a few years

              the critical factor is, that the USA, (as well as places like the EU) was stitched together with threads of oil coal and gas

              There has been nothing else. That is how industrial civilisation works

              It follows then that as the energy-threads come apart, so the nation itself will come apart.

              This will happen at various places at different rates, and the overall factor will be that of denial, particularly among Trumpsters, and most politicians

              As with all collapsing empires, those who see themselves in power will use the military to assert control.
              And those who still believe in the cohesive empire will demand that control–so they will welcome the dictator and his methods, and will willingly participate in all his excesses

              This will become less and less effective as energy depletes, but will make life unpleasant in the meantime for most people

              We can’t know the time factor of course.

              But each region, maybe six or seven will begin to govern themselves more and more, and each will set up its own mini fiefdom, as a matter of survival. Those regions are pretty clear right now,
              They will not be pleasant places to live, because each ruler will be desperate in his certainty of denial that anything is wrong.
              So that will lead to internal conflict as well as regional conflict as energy depletes further.

              Conflict will be over energy resources, as always

              Yes, you have radical decentralisation, but the continantal USA is as big as half a dozen major nations elsewhere, and each will want its own autonomy, while the POTUS still sees himself as ruling all of it. Not Trump perhaps, but his successor. He will be in denial that he is ruling only the eastern seaboard—and will insist that he can make America great again.

              Don’t believe me? Study how Rome fell apart. Rome got too big to be supported by its slave economy. We got too big to be supported by our oil economy. The end result is the same. Rome was overwhelmed by forces bigger than itself.

              The average world citizen demands BAU, and will destroy the world itself to hold onto it. Which explains the wars over oil since 1940. (or 1916 if you go back far enough)

              How long? Maybe 10/20, not more than 50 years tops

              For what it’s worth I’ve tried to explain it, but nobody like bad news:

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              “How long? Maybe 10/20, not more than 50 years tops”

              yes, maybe by 2029 or 2039, or at least by 2069 for sure, we are doomed!

              so BAU FULL THROTTLE, BABY!

            • Thank you David for a valuable insight.

              It is written that nobody knows when the end will come, but there will be signs, and vigilant people on OFW have indeed spotted many relevant signs and clues.

        • Tim Groves says:

          Yes, the Donald will be re-occupying the Rhineland any time now, right after hanging the entire Democratic Party leadership from piano wires—if this early 2016 parody video approximating your fears for the future valid.

          It’s intriguing that right after Hitler came to power, people began scrambling to leave Germany in fear of their lives. The Führer took over in March 1933, and by December of the same year, 100,000 Jews out of the total 523,000 German Jews had emigrated to Palestine. Indeed, leaving Hitler’s Germany became such a popular pursuit in the 1930s that the government eventually prohibited it.

          Contrast this with the Don. Since Trump came to power in January 2017, foreigners have been immigrating to the US in droves. A total of 1,127,167 foreign nationals were granted lawful permanent residence in 2017 alone. And the number of illegal immigrants entering the US is difficult even to estimate as they tend to do it on the sly. Indeed, entering Trump’s America illegally is such a popular pursuit that foreigners can’t seem to stop.

          I remember people fearing that Dubya would not step down after 8 years and also that Obama would not step down after 8 years, and now similar concerns are being raised that Trump will not step down if defeated, etc., etc. But US Presidents are basically CEOs of the US Corporation. In over 200 years not one of them has stayed on beyond his (and they have all be male) duly elected term. Still, I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

          • every major economic collapse throws up a dictator, because people panic and demand stability

            There were no serious comments about Bush /Obama hanging on after 8 years.

            the 1929 crash threw up Hitler, America reacted by throwing energy resources at Germany and kept those resources flowing outwards until 1970 to keep the population stable. As happened in most other places
            it’s important to see 1940/1970 as a continuous chain of economic events, not war then peace

            Democracy must thrive on prosperity

            We are now heading for the 1929 scenario but by a different route.

            If the crash occurs on Trump’s watch, violent disorder is certain, because there are no energy resources/outlets to throw at the problem

            • Tim Groves says:

              There were no serious comments about Bush /Obama hanging on after 8 years.

              Ah, the no true Scotsman fallacy! So you are agreeing with me that there were comments about them hanging, but that all of those comments were frivolous? But you are claiming that similar comments about Trump are serious?

            • Tim Groves says:

              If the crash occurs on anybody’s watch, violent disorder is on the cards, because it is not certain that Humpty Dumpty can be put together again. But arguably, Trump has prevented the crash so far and, moreover, had a Democrat been elected to the Presidency in 2016, whether Clinton or Saunders, it is arguable that the crash would already be occurring by now and you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation.

              Seriously, we we’re a gnat’s wing away from having this wrecker in power.

            • ((Couldn’t reply directly to your last comment for some reason)))

              comments about Trump/dictatorship are irrelevant

              My point is that circumstances will make it inevitable—whether it happens while the don is in office, or his successor

              ultimately trump would likely be too weak for that role

              but he makes a perfect pupett for those who are not weak

            • Tim Groves says:

              This gentleman has been fighting the One Percent for so long that he’s become one of them. Apparently, his net worth is now over 2 million dollars and allegedly he doesn’t have to spend much of his own money because almost all of his daily needs are paid for out of donations. Bernie seems to have perfected the art of getting free stuff that other people pay for.

            • offering a clip of Obama speaking in a plainly humourously ironic tone as some form of ”dictatorship” theme is frankly foolish (though unsurprising) in the extreme and renders any further discussion on this thread pointless

              After watching the Obama clip I didnt waste time on the Bush one

            • So true Norman, thank you and the 1929 simulation is appropriate IMO. And should the next election result in the left dominating, then all hell will break out potentially.

            • Tim Groves says:

              At times, Norman, you can be downright passive aggressive sometimes. Did you know that? 😉

              Foolish I may be, but wiser heads have long observed that democracy has a tendency to evolve toward dictatorship, and not necessarily due to declining energy availability.

            • i tend to collect up all the snippets of truth that seem to be lying around, paste them together, and if there are not too many bits missing , offer it as some kind of truth to anyone who might be interested

              nothing passive, nothing aggressive

              if its a truth that folks don’t like, well–truth is what it is, i don’t make it. i don’t change it—bit like an energy form i suppose

              truth just ”is”—I don’t deal in alternative facts.

              if my version of reality is wrong, as it often is, then i look to see if it can be fixed. I’m not in a position to try to inflict it on anyone else. nor do i try to.

              But as I forecast in 2011 “a fascist Trump’ as being inevitable for 2016 or 20, I reckon I put together that particular jigsaw without too many bits missing. I couldn’t alter what I knew was going to happen.

              My comments about the inevitability of dictatorship follow on from that

              (And the Greeks did not have a democracy, they were supported by a slave underclass)

            • Tim Groves says:

              Enough natural gas to power every home in Texas is being flared in the Permian basin. That’s a lot of wasted energy and unnecessary generation of C – O – 2. But fear not, the Prez is trying to change things for the better.

              Trump’s Latest Executive Action Could Alleviate A Huge Problem For The World’s Most Productive Oil Field
              Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

              The Permian basin, now the world’s most productive oil and gas field, is booming — so much so that there’s not enough pipeline capacity to carry out all the natural gas it produces, meaning much of it is flared.

              How much? Some 553 million cubic feet per day, or enough to power every home in Texas, according to data from Rystad Energy compiled by Bloomberg.

              The mismatch between pipeline capacity and production is nothing new, but flaring in the Permian basin, which straddles parts of Texas and New Mexico, jumped 85 percent in the last year.

              More natural gas will be flared off rather than brought to market if the trend continues. That’s a problem President Donald Trump is looking to tackle.

              Trump signed a pair of executive orders Wednesday aimed at expediting oil and gas pipelines, including asking the Environmental Protection Agency to clarify how states and environmentalists can challenge Clean Water Act permits.

              Trump also ordered the U.S. Department of Transportation to update rules for transporting liquefied natural gas by rail, and make it easier to finance new energy projects.

              “Too often, badly needed energy infrastructure is being held back by special-interest groups, entrenched bureaucracies and radical activists,” Trump said at an International Union of Operating Engineers training center near Houston, before signing executive orders Wednesday.

              “This obstruction does not just hurt families and workers like you. I


            • The biggest problem the natural gas folks has is not lack of infrastructure; it is too low prices. Adding more infrastructure so that more natural gas can get to market will tend to make the too low prices worse.

              We either lose the natural gas through flaring or through low prices driving the producers out of business.

            • Very Far Frank says:

              Violent disorder will occur no matter who is in. Once again, you are placing Trump on a reverse pedestal according to your political predilections. No matter who is President, no dictatorship can form without centralisation, which requires resources and energy. Did the leaders of the Weimar Republic suddenly up and start a dictatorship during hyperinflation? The dictatorships usually start afterwards, where Trump would likely preside over the crisis itself.

            • Tim Groves says:

              (And the Greeks did not have a democracy, they were supported by a slave underclass)

              And we’re not? Ever hear the factory drones who put together the cheap products we in the West obtain from our subcontractor China…

              Or the kids who work the mines in our subcontractor Congo to obtain the cobalt and lithium that goes into those neat rechargeable batteries in our phones and laptops?

              Arguably, we allow our Second and Third World subcontractors to get away with exploitation at least as cruel and inhuman as what the ancient Greeks did.

              And at least the Greeks were honest enough to admit that their slaves were slaves and didn’t try to hid behind euphemism and weasel words.

            • I didn’t mean to infer that we don’t have a slave underclass– we do.

              In previous times, slaves could not leave their owners any more than cattle could

              now our underclass can generally go elsewhere, but ultimately that doesn’t change their status very much

              our slave system is oil-supported, which boosts their output to unrealistic levels

              as oil availability falls away, the underclass will be driven harder and harder to sustain current output,

              ie— running faster and faster to stand still—which is what is happening right now. People must borrow money to stay alive

              which is of course ultimately impossible, and so will crash the entire system

            • So true Norman, thank you. The gig-economy is representative of a slave labour economy in Greek and Roman times. It is cheap human labour that drives the wheels. The illusion of ‘freedom’ is created by the oligarchs who run the show – Amazon et al.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Thanks Norman for clarifying.

              A few quibbles notwithstanding, I think we are singing from the same hymnbook .

              At OFW, we are snarling like hounds from hell, rabid for the truth. No wonder we scare the relatives and the neighbors. It’s a good thing we’re kept on a strong leash.

            • Very poetic, Tim, thank you and very true, thanks to the good agency of Gail.

        • You are very right Norman, thank you. I entirely agree with your prognosis and I do believe that USA is indeed a fascist state already as government has merged with the corporate sector (if that is how one choses to define it).

          What frightened me was viewing Nigel Farage at the launch of his new Brexit Party – his speech was evocative of the 1933 Hitler mass rallies and just as stirring for many. I think we are seeing a sea-change in UK politics if not Europe and N. America also. The Tories are going to be demolished in the next election – the people have long memories don’t they?

          • Peter
            left or right is irrelevant when the energy rug is pulled from under your feet

          • Chrome Mags says:

            “I do believe that USA is indeed a fascist state already as government has merged with the corporate sector…”

            I agree, Peter. As a horrible example of that, take a gander at this article;


            ABC News called it “pink slime.” Now, USDA says it can be labeled “ground beef.”

            “Beef Products Inc. (BPI), the South Dakota-based meat processing company at the center of 2012’s “pink slime” controversy, just won a long-sought semantic victory. For years, the company has argued that its signature product is safe, wholesome, and not unlike everyday burger meat. Now, BPI has enlisted a powerful ally in its effort to recoup its image and reclassify its product: the federal government.”

            “After a months-long evaluation, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) determined in December that BPI’s signature product—the offering famously called “pink slime” in an ABC News exposé that got the network in a lot of trouble—can be labeled “ground beef.” Legally speaking, it’s now no different from ordinary hamburger, and could even be sold directly to the public.”

            The quotations are simply to indicate the information is pasted from the article. The USDA, FDA, and many other Federal Government agencies are now operating in step with corporations at the behest of what you pointed out is a fascist government. They no longer serve ‘The People’.

            Another example is the government requiring parents to make sure their children are inoculated at a very young age, in spite of those shots use of mercury (not good for the brain, especially young developing brains), which has in some instances been linked to autism, as much as they run articles to claim the contrary. There is a couple that had twins and shortly after inoculation, both became autistic. Then they had two other children, avoided having the inoculations and neither one developed autism. Norway has outlawed use of mercury use in inoculations.

            • Excellent examples CM, thank you, and the link is typical of government taking control as in all dictatorships. All this is of course is forecast in the bible:

              “The Second of Peter
              2 However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you.+ These will quietly bring in destructive sects, and they will even disown the owner who bought them,+ bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. 2 Furthermore, many will follow their brazen conduct,*+ and because of them the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively.+ 3 Also, they will greedily exploit you with counterfeit words………”

              Whether one is a believer or not, it makes little difference, because the descriptions in the bible often relate to what is happening today. This is mainly due to human nature not changing, a fact exploited by our lords and masters, and recorded since time immemorial.

          • Xabier says:

            The Remainers, and the attempt to set aside the referendum result, have made the Brexiters feel -quite rightly – marginalised, ignored and, worst of all, cheated when they see themselves -again quite rightly – as natural British patriots: this can only create a strong back-lash the consequences of which we can only guess at.

            I have to say, as much as I try to be detached, the mocking and patronising tone of Remainers now they scent victory puts even my back up: they should recall that they are addressing their fellow Brits, not some kind of under-class! But then, of course, so many are now not really Brits, are they?

            The tone of politics in Britain reminds me more and more of the high emotion and spitefulness of Spain, with the virtue of compromise seemingly forgotten. I cannot see how these divisions, so foolishly encouraged and indulged in, will be healed.

            Not the best way in which to enter a global economic crisis……

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      that was published in 2013…

      “Three years ago I published a short article in the science journal Nature. I pointed out that several leading indicators of political instability look set to peak around 2020.”

      so he pointed out these indicators in 2010…

      a lot has happened in the world energy sector since 2010…

      I wonder if he has added energy to his thinking (I doubt it)…

      • I heard him talk in June 2018. Turchin clearly had not tuned into energy being important at that point. He was interested in finding graduate students to put together huge data sets for him. He planned to “mine” them to figure out relationships among variables.

        • Very Far Frank says:

          The lack of awareness among mathematicians, economists and scientists of the very simple fact that ‘energy is required to do anything’, is honestly mind-boggling. Maybe they are such victims of the growth in complexity of science that they are embarrassed to extrapolate from simple principles.

  4. CTG says:

    Academics, experts, etc generally has silo mentality. They focus on what they know best and nothing else. I wanted to do my Masters and PhD. I did not because I realized that it is not helpful or good to me. I need to cite a lot papers and research of other people. I did ask the supervisor what if the original paper is wrong. Well, he could not answer me.

    Energy is either sacred or too difficult for people to grasp and understand. All these years, while talking to people from all walks of life, it is not possible for them to think about energy. It is just too abstract for them to think critically. Even those working in the oil and gas, when asked about decline rates, they know about it but somehow, the implication of the decline rate does not even register in their brains as “critical to the level of being extinct without it”. They will just shrug and say it is someone else’s problem.

    I am seriously inclined to believe that only a small group of people who are somehow clear on the connection between energy and everything else and it is this group here on OFW.

    By the way, I have already given up talking about energy more than a decade ago and just nod and follow through with the conversation on the roses and unicorns of EVs and other stuff.

    • jupiviv says:

      “I am seriously inclined to believe that only a small group of people who are somehow clear on the connection between energy and everything else and it is this group here on OFW. ”

      Don’t forget the rest of the collapse community. I was initiated via Steve Ludlum’s blog. Here’s a survey of responses to collapse issues from the collapse subreddit, which has over 100k members:

      Although, most people there are nihilistic douchebags. Not a healthy place to spend your time on the internet. On OFW you at least get a saner and more diverse spectrum of views.

      • 3 hip horrays for OFW – well said, there is indeed sanity on this blog and Gail is generous enough to allow us to go OT sometimes, but I always feel that I should apologise nevertheless.

        • Tim Groves says:

          HIp Hip…..

          Hang on a mo….

          Does that small group include me Jup?
          Can I be in your OFW in group?
          Please don’t leave me outside with the nihilistic douchebags!

    • Xabier says:

      Well, CTG, it’s a bit like asking people to reflect on their blood supply, or all those little neurons, or whatever they are called, firing away (or not!).

      From the day their chubby little hands could reach out to a button or switch, the power has simply been there.

      I used to be just the same: am I any happier for knowing? Certainly not, although there is always a pleasure in understanding how things really are, or approximating to it as best one can.

      I’ve been suffering quite a lot from asthma caused by diesel pollution, and the response has always been: 1/ ‘It might be something else, how can you be sure?’ 2/ ‘Just get drugs from the doctor!’

      People just won’t face insoluble issues (‘there must be a drug for that!’) and the implications for themselves even when it’s all cut and dried.

      Curiously, now it has been in the press a bit more, they have accepted that I was right all these years….

      • CTG says:

        Am I happier knowing it? Yes. Of course. I am enjoying life as I am suppose to do. I don’t regret everyday that I am alive. I am not interested in luxury goods and neither am I going to spend time chasing after them. It is the detachment from the rat race that is very fulfilling. I am 4 years from the age of 50. Still a long way to go if things does not fall part.

        I did not go through a crisis to know about this. All this while, I think differently and sometimes, I do feel a little left out. Since young, when I watch movies, I was frustrated on “why the actor is not to do this or that”, while I see that the other people are really enjoying the movies. That is where I am now in real live, facing the greatest threat yet, no one is interested.

        I do think it is very hard for us to reach 2020. From Harry McGibb’s constant post of news (very appreciative of that that), it does seem to me that TPTB are trying kick the can and it is really getting harder and harder.

        Oil is the master resource. View oil as fossilized sunlight that is available in abundance until it is not. View it as the ultimate battery that you can take along easily and has very high power density. We have already gone past the point of no return long way in the 1970s. Even if a country proclaims that it has found a cheap source of oil that is easily extracted, it will collapse the world economy overnight. It is because of debt. Say country X announce that it has found oil in its land where literally, it is flowing from the ground when you dig 3 feet down. It has billions and billions of barrels of easily recoverable oil. You know what happened, the price of oil will crash next to nothing, Saudi and all other oil producing regions will be chaotic but guess what the oil will only flow in 2 years time. The entire supply chain will crash as well when debts are not repaid. Think about it. Think a little out of the box. If that can happen, what are the chances of solar, wave, satellites, etc will do when cheap oil can crash the economy. You cannot force people to buy stuff when they are out of money. There is a limit to debts. It has replaced oil.

        Watch out below

        • Harry McGibbs says:

          “From Harry McGibbs’ constant post of news (very appreciative of that).”

          CTG, thank you. I worry that it gets a little monotonous, the endless roll call of risks, but sooner or later one of these cracks may start the entire edifice of IC crumbling, so I can’t look away.

          TPTB will indeed do everything they can to keep kicking the can down the road:

          “Global finance officials are pledging closer cooperation in efforts to lift the world economy out its current slowdown, but tensions persist on a number of fronts between the United States and other nations over trade and other issues.

          “Officials wrapped up the spring meetings of the 189-nation International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on Saturday, expressing hope the slowdown that began last year will be followed by stronger growth in the second half of this year and into 2020.”

    • Very Far Frank says:

      That lack of understanding around energy contributes to an unfortunate utopian attitude that pervades much of Western culture at the moment. If you present an intellectual challenge to the idea that things will always continue to ‘improve’, or rather to become more convenient, cognitive dissonance will set in, and people won’t want to understand. At that point it really is like speaking to a zealot- but instead of religion it’s the twin myths of progress and endless abundance that you’ll be trying to moderate. But while the infrastructure of a high energy consumption society still exists more or less intact, I think it’s near impossible to get people to see. I think the energy/society connection is something that needs to be realised through epiphany to do justice to the weight of its significance.

      • psile says:

        “The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future. —”
        ― Frank Herbert, Dune

        • Excellent quote, psile, thank you. May I presume to reply?

          Stein was the formulator of “Herbert Stein’s Law,” which he expressed as:
          “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop”

          I think Herbert Stein was on to something, finite energy perhaps?

          • Also, prices cannot rise forever, because wages do not rise endlessly.

            The end comes because prices fall below what producers require to make a profit.

            We are facing collapse, not “peak oil.”

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          I had Herbert as a prof in a future of man class at UCSB.
          He was great!

      • Rufus says:

        “the energy/society connection is something that needs to be realised through epiphany to do justice to the weight of its significance.”
        Very well said ! Brillant !

    • Tim Groves says:

      When things break and we don’t know how to fix them, we either call someone who knows how to fix them, we bang the item about a bit, or we obtain a new item.

      For most of us, this is “the fix” to-do list for most of problems with things that aren’t working, whether its an amplifier that has blown a channel or a chainsaw that won’t start up or a partner who doesn’t cooperate with us. (Even George Monbiot, who advocates recycling and making do with what one has, split from his wife a few years ago and moved in with a new partner!)

      But when the things that break are on a sufficiently large scale, there is nobody who knows how to fix them, or even if they have the knowledge, nobody with the power to fix them. And everything humans build is subject to breakage eventually. Even the pyramids are slowly being worn away by erosion. The global economic system is the biggest thing we’ve ever built, and it is headed for a Humpty Dumpty moment sometime in the not too distant future.

      • Xabier says:

        One can’t really re-cycle a wife, though, so let’s not be too hard on poor old Monbiot.

        Sometimes a new model is the only viable option. 🙂

      • To get something repaired these days, and I mean attempt repair by any means not just swap JIT style OEM part is increasingly impossible. I had to chuckle a lot about it recently as several techno gadgets failed on me.. The amount of resources (mental to plan very tedious workarounds, physical as per actual repairing process and consulting multitude of ‘experts’ surprisingly without expected set of tools or hands on experience, ..).

        It’s a bit like one of the ‘new’ members commented recently with great enthusiasm about the great prospects of straight vegetable oil engines. The caveat obviously being this particular hobby micro scene died out decades ago, also for the simple fact the engines and parts are hard to source, not mentioning the active policy of industry and govs to phase out ‘old clunkers’ out of the circulation as fast as possible. It’s not compatible avenue with these new funny turbocharged, chip fuel injected lawnmower cars of today.. And so on..

      • GBV says:

        This reminded me of one of my trips to Thailand. My Thai friend took me to a fish farm in Bangkok where some of her family helped out on weekends (it was the main source of income for her grandmother though, who, unfortunately, passed away in the last few weeks) to introduce me to them, as well as to put me to work 😀

        We arrived to find her brother and some other Thai men squatted down around an outboard motor, talking in Thai (which I didn’t understand, but surmised was a discussion on how the motor had broken and what was the best course of action to fix it). The outboard motor itself looked quite well-worn, and as if it had been repaired / jury-rigged several times before by it’s Thai owners.

        I guess it isn’t such a shocking thing to witness – i.e. a bunch of men sitting around something broken and discussing / arguing how to fix it; that probably happens frequently here in North America too, at least in places where people work together communally. What did jump out at me from that experience was how, unlike North Americans, those Thais probably couldn’t just replace that outboard motor on a whim (as witnessed by the extreme amount of repairs / jury-rigging the motor had endured).

        That might be changing now, as Thailand has really seen their standard of living increase (almost quadrupling) over the last 20 years:

        I think that a lot of deferred payment / financing / installment plants have also cropped up in Thailand over the last 20 years, which has allowed the poorer Thai underclass (those who make less than $10 USD a day) to afford “necessities” like cellphones, motorbikes, etc. That probably adds to the “wealth effect” that has allowed Thai household income per capita to rise…

        Anyway, perhaps one day I’ll be the one squatting down around something broken with a gaggle of my impoverished chums, trying to deduce the best way to MacGyver it back into service, out of necessity…


    • Slow Paul says:

      People are practically brain-washed by the religion of progress and growth. It is just so ingrained in all of culture, education, sports, business and the media. If you tell them that stuff they are involved in can end, disappear, die, diminish… they will give you a blank stare as if you had spoken in a completely foreign language.

      Unless you have been down the rabbit hole of doom, you won’t have created the neural pathways in your brain to be able to think sincerely about this stuff. My personal belief/experience is that one must have gone through a crisis to descend down in the first place, in addition to have an open mind and courage to hold your own opinion.

      I also try not to get involved in conversations, or just give open-ended answers. It’s no use trying to convey the message to people who lack the ability to think matters through in a rational manner.

      • Chrome Mags says:

        Slow Paul, I find most people endeavor to remain in a foggy state of realization about their reality and how it could change for the worse. They like having a veil over their eyes. Most have no courage to look at the monster of troubling information. It takes a different kind of person to delve into the realm of lets say, other topics of interest.

      • Xabier says:

        One beneficial experience is to visit the remains of one of the cities, temples or palaces of the Ancient world – preferably on a wind-blown, goat-haunted hillside – as it brings home, physically, how something complex can just fall apart and cease to function.

        One has to have a certain amount of imaginative capacity, though, which I have found many lack -particularly when the news is bad!

        I have a bit from a Minoan palace on the bathroom shelf, to contemplate time and change…..

    • I think part of the problem as well is that those who understand energy can’t seem to understand why the financial system and debt are important to the system.

      The fact that we are dealing with a self-organizing networked economy, and also the fact that both prices and energy quantities are important, is really confusing. Most people cannot put together so many different areas of understanding.

      • Niels Colding says:

        Dear Gail

        “I think part of the problem as well is that those who understand energy can’t seem to understand why the financial system and debt are important to the system.”

        It would be very helpful if you in one of your posts could explain to us who “owns” and who “owes” the debt. A question that always arises is why not just delete all debt and go back to start. I is no doubt a very complex system but I think you will be able to explain it. And for my part I hope that I will be able to understand it.

        • djerek says:

          Whenever you delete (or repay) debt you are erasing money from the money supply. Instantly erasing all debt would destroy a ton of money and make every financial institution instantly insolvent.

          • You are so right,djerek, thank you. But the problem is that our banking and money system is so complex and complicated (by design) that very few understand it. This, from RT, describes an overview in a 20mins video:
            “For many years, we’ve been told that finance is good and more finance is better. But it doesn’t seem everyone in the UK is sharing the benefits. On this program, we ask a very simple question – can a country suffer from a finance curse?

            Host Ross Ashcroft is joined by City veteran David Buik and the man who coined the term Quantitative Easing, International Banking and Finance Professor Richard Werner.”

          • Niels Colding says:

            Thanks djerek

            You are right of course. But how is all that debt distributed? And how is it possible that Japan almost endlessly can continue to build up huge amounts of debt and things are going fairly well in spite of that? I think there are lots of questions to be answered.

            • Tim Groves says:

              That’s a very good question Niels, and I don’t claim know the answer to it. But it may be that in Japan, things are going fairly well not in spite of but because of that huge national debt. It the debt hadn’t been incurred, the economy would probably be running at a much lower level. The accumulation of debt was deemed necessary in order to keep the economy running at at least half throttle in the face of all the cross winds it faces, including the aging society, increasing international competition, and of course, higher net energy costs.

            • The unmentioned interesting component of it all in terms of Japan is how come in this case it has been off limits for the ‘big speculators’ to crucify Japan via some financial instruments. The answer to it consists of several areas of interest to us, chiefly Japan is too big to fail as it operates under the cloud in the first league of the global CB cartel, also Japan is deemed strategically important in terms of production volume capacity, should there be another major conventional conflict, that’s the so called Japan = island land carrier.. so FED and others watch their back.

              Another aspect is that lot of the smelly paper with leverage on Japan’s economic (mal-)performance circulates only inside Japan, so it’s harder or impossible to global financial sharks to attack from behind. So, you can to a degree bite Nomura or Deutsche Bank, which are exposed on the global casino scene, but not Japan or Germany itself, because their most important inner core columns are local banks and local political / economic structures.

          • GBV says:

            “Whenever you delete (or repay) debt you are erasing money from the money supply. Instantly erasing all debt would destroy a ton of money and make every financial institution instantly insolvent.”

            Deflation on a grand scale…


            • naaccoach says:

              Personal anecdote on debt and insolvent banks…. 2008/9 I was finishing remodeling my home and ended up with a short sale ($5k, so not a giant short sale) in late 2009. I still have an account at the same bank the mortgage was at, and every Jan since my “accounts” page now shows that my home “sold” the year prior. So on my current accounts page my old home sold in 2018…!

              Rolling that small amount of debt, for that long, they’re certainly totally insolvent.

  5. jupiviv says:

    @Gail, are you aware of Chris Clugston’s book “Scarcity”? Here is a summary/review:

    I was scanning through it last night and his views more or less align with yours.

    “Clugston argues that our modern industrialized civilization and improving standards of
    living are made possible by an indispensable use of fossil fuels, metals, and non-metallic
    minerals that are never replenished in any relevant time span. There are 89 of these nonrenewable minerals and Clugston meticulously analyses each. Those that are viable
    economically are becoming scarcer and more costly. When their extraction/ production
    ceases to rise, as is now happening, it is inevitable that a sharp decline in global societal
    wellbeing must follow. Indeed, he shows that the Great Recession of 2008 was
    precipitated by the rising costs of NNRs.”

    • thanks for the Clugston link


    • Xabier says:

      Thank you, new name to me at least. And he’s right.

    • While Chris Clugston makes some interesting observations, he doesn’t really make the connection between energy costs and the cost of extracting the other minerals. As energy costs rose about 2008, the cost of extracting all of the minerals increased, simultaneously. Energy plays such an important role that if it is cut back, the production of all of the minerals shown will decline, more quickly than he says.

      Thus, we are dealing with a situation when the extraction of many minerals can be expected to decline simultaneously, if the use of coal or oil declines.

      • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

        that’s a good point… 3 of his 89 are coal, oil and natural gas, and the decline of those will hasten the decline in production of the others…

        as you have said, it will look like more inefficiency in the production…

        he does mention debt though:

        “… increasingly desperate attempts to perpetuate its unsustainable American
        way of life. Indicators have become increasingly pronounced in recent years:
        *Continuously devaluing US dollar
        *US transition to a service economy
        *US foreign oil dependence
        *US dollar becomes a fiat currency
        *US transition to a net importer
        *US transition to a debtor nation
        *US transition to a net asset seller
        *Declining US real median family income
        *Unfunded US “social entitlement” programs
        *Unrepayable US debt
        *Increasingly costly US military presence
        *Aging physical infrastructure
        *Post-peak US NNRs
        As NNR inputs to the US economy decline, US economic output (GDP) and societal
        wellbeing must decline as well.”

        much earlier than 2050…

      • jupiviv says:

        Note that the link I posted is a summary of Clugston’s book written by someone else. Still, it does mention the effect of increasing costs of extraction:

        “Economically viable NNRs positively impact economic output (GDP) levels, thereby improving societal well-being levels attainable by industrialized and industrializing nations [As extractions proceed,] NNR producers must exploit increasingly marginal—and expensive—NNR deposits. NNR producers therefore require higher [constantly rising] prices to cover their operating costs and expenses.”

        Here is the amazon link for his book:

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      “Crustal Occurrences: Huge quantities of nearly all NNRs exist in the undifferentiated
      earth’s crust. Unfortunately, crustal concentrations are too small in all cases to be
      economically viable. For example, economically viable iron ore concentrations are at
      least 6 times greater than average crustal concentrations; zinc 30 times greater, titanium
      25-100 times greater, copper 100-200 times greater, and for chromium 4000-5000 times
      greater. Mining the undifferentiated earth’s crust is not a viable solution for perpetuating
      our industrial lifestyle paradigm.”

      “Clugston tracks the availability and usage of 89 non-renewable mineral resources (NNRs)
      are critical to the existence of industrialized civilization. For the US economy they are
      95% of the annual raw material inputs, and we’re using them up.”

      “*Annual US extraction/production levels associated with a sizeable majority, 61 of the
      89 analysed NNRs, have almost certainly peaked permanently;”

      great stuff…

      many specifics about the inevitable diminishing returns of the basic resources used in economic activity…

      95% of annual raw material inputs… wow…

      his conclusion is basically that this is not going to end well…

      • Tim Groves says:

        Think of resource depletion as a feature, not a bug. On the up side, it will prevent the process of turning the surface of the earth into productive and profitable real estate lots from going too far.

      • It would be interesting to know the ‘salvageable ratio’ of iron or copper for the major global IC hubs. For example in the US, how much steel can be recycled from obsolete path dependency sunk investments such as sky scrapers and cars? Is it just few percent out of national consumption or is it much more in say double digits? US is not building enough new bridges or railroads or docks or whatever. Call it crazy or not there might come a political-social culture realignment by which pop would prefer to demolish these frivolous objects and smelt them (with the dose of last energy endowment) into more lasting infrastructure like local rail and no till farming equipment..

        • We should probably expect the salvageable ratio to be close to zero. The reason this happens is because we need the whole economic/financial system to be sufficiently together
          (a) to continue to have international trade on anywhere the scale we do today,
          (b) to continue to operate any coal mines and any oil and gas company,
          (c) to be able to have the heat energy needed to smelt them,
          (d) to allow the world electrical system to operate.

          I think everything comes close to coming down at once. Once it is impossible to pay employees, the system has to crash. The idea that we will have enough energy left to even recycle what things is supply a myth. Instead, the world is likely to be facing big ground-level pollution issues from degrading solar panels and wind turbines, and from storage pits from coal ash.

          • Gail, you have to look at world’s history marry hints to us in wider spectrum of possible outcomes. For example, the Bolsheviks managed completely different system paradigm, able to produce stuff of their particular liking and priorities, obviously limited and shaped by various intervening trends, failures, and complexities..

            Similarly, even systems on the energy consumption down swing spiral could find a temporary plateau for reorganization on some to us unknown pattern.

  6. Chrome Mags says:
    In 2008 oil price skyrocketed to a peak of $147. a barrel and fuel at the pumps in CA was ~$5.00 a gallon. Now WTI is ~63. a barrel and fuel is ~$4.00 a gallon. Something is out of whack – what?

  7. SUPERTRAMP says:

    Observe people and they are glued to their smart phones, at work, sitting outside on a bench and especially driving a car. How do Ii know that? When I’m the car behind them at a stop light their head is down and when the light turns green I have to toot my horn 😠 from them to realize it’s time to go!
    Now, what are they looking at? Judging by this statistic, they must be shopping for a good part.!

    .uS. Retail Stores’ Planned Closings Already Exceed 2018 Total
    “In all the other cycles, including 2008, a lot of people would come in and buy racking, circular racks and so on,” Mr. Mulcunry said. “They’d buy it all and warehouse it and wait until somebody wanted to reopen a store and sell it back to them. Those people have gone away.”
    He added, “People don’t think retail is going to grow again from a bricks-and-mortar perspective.”
    As the internet continues to change shopping habits, stores across the United States continue to close. Less than halfway through April, American retailers have announced plans this year to shut 5,994 stores, exceeding the 5,854 announced in all of 2018, according to data from Coresight Research.

    The announced closings still have a ways to go before they reach the 2017 record of more than 8,000. And openings and renovations are still taking place. Coresight has tracked announcements of 2,641 store openings by retailers in the United States this year, compared with 3,239 for all of 2018. Many of this year’s openings are dollar stores and other discount chains — areas that are less threatened by e-commerce right now. Online retailers like Warby Parker are also opening stores, though on a small scale
    “It’s not really a recession-driven or, even to an extent, management-driven change — it’s a change in the way people are buying,” Mr. Mulcunry said. “Retail is not dying. It’s just changing, so we’re a part of that change.

    One thing is certain, humans perception of time is changing too!
    Jeremy Rifkin wrote a book long ago on the subject titled TIME WARS and in it looked at the transformation energy, innovation and technology transformed the way humans experience time psychology. Today with cyberspace we cannot experience the nanosecond and everything is instant.
    Out relationship not only with the business world is transitory, (remember back when and actually talking to the owner of the store you shopped in?), But our friends as well, Facebook and the like!

    A battle is now brewing over our present conception of time. Its outcome will help determine the future of our society in the coming century. On one side are the power-time advocates, who would have us enter a hyperefficient computerized world where time is taken beyond human conception and recorded in nanoseconds (billionths of a second)-an artificial time world where past, present, and future blur together to create a simulated paradise divorced from the organic and seasonal time orientation of the planet. On the other side stand the time rebels, who question society’s capitulation to the nanosecond time frame. They argue instead for an ecological time orientation that would resynchronize our social and economic activities to the biological and physical rhythms of the natural world.

    Just as the “small is beautiful” idea challenged the myth that “bigger is better,” the new ecological time vision, “slow is humane,” challenges the prevailing view that increased speed and efficiency automatically mean progress.

    • I know I visited a store in an outdoor strip mall on Saturday. I went because I knew that they had a 40% off sale on all merchandise – (women’s clothing). In fact, as I walked from my car to the store, I saw many empty store spaces. I saw one store that said “Store closing; 30% off everything.” I saw other stores with 30% or 40% off signs as well, but not saying that these stores were closing. The reduced prices related to spring and summer clothing that had just come in.

      How in the world are these stores going to survive? They cannot continue functioning with prices this far below what they usually charge. I am guessing that they badly need cash flow, and decided cutting prices was the only way they were going to get shoppers to stop by.

      • SUPERTRAMP says:

        I can order now directly from China and it’s mailed to me directly, saving 1/2 off the retail in a store. Did this for an aquarium I’m setting up. PetSmart can’t compete.
        I go to Dollar Stores now for grocery items, much less expensive than regular Food marts like Publix. Some even have produce and bread! Seems that is the path we are headed now, Ross, Marshall and TJ Max instead of Macy’s and JC Penny.
        I was in retail way by in the Auto Parts business. Now with the internet, I don’t see how an independent can compete, even a chain store, like Advance Auto.
        One just merged with O’Reilly auto parts called Bennet.😁 Either get big or get out.
        I see many smaller store fronts empty now and others closing.
        Believe it or not one Lady in my city opened a small store just for CATS! She’s been there for just over a year now. I’m not sure of her turnover, but it’s a nice little place.
        Her prices aren’t at a discount and probably blows her out of the water.
        Suppose some Cat people need to feed kitty ORGANIC Cat food!
        The next Recession should be interesting, see who is left standing with their doors open.

  8. Harry McGibbs says:

    “U.S. online lenders such as LendingClub Corp, Kabbage Inc and Avant LLC are scrutinising loan quality, securing long-term financing and cutting costs, as executives prepare for what they fear could be the sector’s first economic downturn.

    “A recession could bring escalating credit losses, liquidity crunch and higher funding costs, testing business models in a relatively nascent industry.

    “Peer-to-peer and other digital lenders sprouted up largely after the Great Recession of 2008. Unlike banks, which tend to have lower-cost and more stable deposits, online lenders rely on market funding that can be harder to come by in times of stress.”

  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    “High street decline and paralysis over Brexit has triggered the most UK profit warnings since the financial crisis. London-listed firms issued 89 alerts in the first three months of 2019, a fifth higher than last year, according to Ernst & Young. The ailing retail sector, particularly clothing, and the travel industry were among the hardest hit…”

  10. Robert Guercio says:

    Your entire argument is based on flawed assumptions. Yes. Each new human requires the expenditure of more energy. Less humans is the solution. Geri g rid of carbon based energies is a utopia. The solution is not perfection. It is drastic reduction. And the elimination of inefficient behavior and harvesting, conversion, creation & use of energy. Would our economy collapse? Yes. If we transitioned over night. But that won’t happen. It can’t happen. And if we don’t transition…? What are those costs? Far greater. How much value is 1 life? $10 million dollars? Multiplied by 2 billion? 3? What about quality of life & pursuit of happiness? Joy? What value do you place on these things? Your math needs a new context.

    • You are right. The only solution that will work is a reduction in the number of people. But that is not something that most people can even consider.

      Furthermore, we need this reduction now, not two or three or five generations from now.

      • Robert Guercio says:

        We can not limit our discourse to what the masses will believe. We must put only accurate information out there. Otherwise, we are clearly illustrating that the inequities and failings of the past will dictate our solutions for the future. Plus, we open ourselves up to fake news and inevitably begin ourselves to practice false logic skewing our own belief systems. We become a victim of our own lack of tenacity to speak the truth. No matter how painful. That said population curves can come down and are coming down fast. We also have the potential to do MUCH more with what we have than we do now. Ironically it may be that we can only change at the precipice. So many factors and pressures are coming to bear. But this is not the best path to change. “Break or make”. We must find and discuss transitional solutions. They do exist.

      • Artleads says:

        IF the problem is to reduce population, and if that is complicated by the complexities of there being too many people for that reduction to work easily, I have a simple solution: Simplify the issues we focus on.

        We somehow have to figure out how to think strategically, not losing sight of the forest for the trees.

        WOMEN: Currently the largest segment of the human population, are underestimated for their role in thinking through population issue.

        Women get very distracted by tugs to identify with other issues apart from strictly women’s issues.

        ABORTION: The single women’s issue that gives women control over their bodies and their lives is abortion. Abortion rights are continually under threat and are continually being whittled away within our current system. But if, as I strongly believe, it is the strategic, determinative issue as to whether population grows, stays constant, or reduces, safe legal abortion access–whether it is used or not–is 90% of what social movement should be about.

        If we get abortion right, we will probably get every other issue right as well. It’s a matter of systems thinking.

        • Xabier says:

          But once a woman actually wants to have a baby, it kills her soul not to have one -something that a man can never fully comprehend.

          So we need, perhaps, to go back to a world of high infant and maternal mortality and a fraction of the current population managing to survive. Like most other animals.

          Women will have the babies they rightly crave, and the world will not be destroyed by over-population.

        • Artleads says:

          The availability of abortion doesn’t force a woman (or girl) to have one. I don’t know whether the “craving” of some women (by no means all) to have babies is more biologically drive than socially driven.

      • DB says:

        I’m a long-time reader of your truly fantastic blog, Gail, and now a first-time commenter. I especially like your openness to different ideas and your rational approach to evaluating them.

        Is population reduction, no matter how large or small really a solution in your framing of the problem? It seems to me that a population reduction, especially in a short period of time, would lead to debts owed by the deceased being unpaid permanently (crashing banks?) and decreased demand for goods and services in the aggregate. If the population loss occurs among the biggest consumers, I suspect it would also affect the ability to produce fossil fuels as well (due to the loss of skill/expertise, harm to the financial system, etc.). If the population loss occurs among the smallest consumers, the demand for fossil fuels would almost remain the same.

        Perhaps I’m missing something, but the size of the population doesn’t seem to be related to the underlying affordability problem. Whether there are 1 billion or 100 billion people, it won’t get any cheaper to extract and deliver fossil fuels.

        Could it be that population growth, like advancing technology, is a one-way street? That is, we essentially kick the rungs out of the ladder as our population grows in size (a variation on your metaphor), and going back to a smaller population size only speeds us toward collapse.

        • I think you are right with respect to both observations:

          1. “Whether there are 1 billion or 100 billion people, it won’t get any cheaper to extract and deliver fossil fuels.” The cheap fuel to extract, process, and transport is, to a significant extent gone, because we removed it first. There is more out there, but we need higher prices to get it.

          2. “Going back to a smaller population size only speeds us toward collapse.” Adding population adds the need for more homes, more vehicles, more roads, more pipelines, more food, and pretty much more of everything. It helps hold up commodity prices. It also helps hold up real estate prices. A smaller population leads to the opposite of “economies of scale.” If leads to overhead becoming a bigger and bigger share of an operation’s costs, and sales start to fall. It becomes necessary to close stores and offices. Some homes have no buyers. There becomes downward pressure on real estate prices, unless governments work on preventing this problem. The elderly are likely to become a disproportionate share of the population. Young people cannot really support this many elderly. If existing costs of medical care and institutionalization stay in place, the cost of care for the elderly becomes absurdly high relative to the wages of young people.

          Putting these two problems together, it becomes impossible to repay debt with interest.

        • I am sure Gail can answer better than I. I would just like to welcome you to OFW and look forward to interesting exchanges. best wishes, Peter

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