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. Jan Wiklund says:

    The first book written about the subject from the Swedish environmental movement, Lågenergisamhälle – men hur? (Low energy society – but how), 1975, calculated with only solar and wind energy – and a huge reorganization of society. First of all, lots of things should be held in common instead of everyone buying one for himself. Second, the suburban nonsense of living in one place and doing all other things in other places should be scrapped; before the oil age we lived in towns and villages and did everything within walking distance. Third, the idea of producing things in China and consume it in other continents is of course ridiculous; as Keynes stated most things should be produced at home. And of course, buildings can easily be made self-sufficient with energy for heating, lighting etc.

    Your article seems to argue that any drop in energy consumption is tied to an economic and social disaster. I don’t believe in that. Sweden’s energy consumption per capita has, to be sure, increased since the 70s, but most of it is due to increasing losses in nuclear plants and increased commuting. Without these red figures it would have diminished – and we would be better off, not worse. Add to that the suggestions above.

    The changes would of course take time. Society has developed in the wrong direction for 80 years and will be more difficult than an oil tanker to turn. But don’t say it is impossible. If so, it is only impossible for political reasons, like the tearing down of the Berlin wall.

    • DJ says:

      But since -75 every swedish house built has been built in the wrong place .

      What do you mean with self sufficient buildings? Wood heated or solar panels from China and lithium from Congo?

      Political reasons are reasons enough in a democracy.

      • Non – insulated 1950s standard US house up north (not mansion) could be heated by only one cord of wood, if you know what you are doing. And on tiny fraction of that energy (basically just scraps) if it was done properly in the first place, i.e. house partly concealed inside the terrain, having additional greenhouse as part of the structure and one or two acres of woody food garden around, voila you are suddenly consuming 1/10 – 1/20th or less of today’s total per capita kWh.

        • DJ says:

          Unfortunately we have the houses we have and for practical purposes 0 m2 forest garden per home.

          But Scandinavia, not being grossly overpopulated, could possibly rebuild to wood heated housing. Probably less expensive than converting to a solar/wind energy system, and renewable!

          • Who pays for the cost of rebuilding to wood heated housing? What do banks do, if prices of current homes go to zero?

            I don’t think this plan would work.

          • Kowalainen says:

            Scandinavia is grossly overpopulated. Without the excess population we could be self-sufficient in energy, just like Norway is today.

            But oh no, the Swedes, nomenclature and government-leftists chose quantity over quality any day. Consumerism and scams instead of investment and tech development.

            Let em have it all, they voted for it and now the reap what they have sown.

            Please Mr President, bring down this pretentious sh1t-sh0w. Let their ‘investments’ and ‘gold’ be turned into debt and lead.

    • DJ says:

      Now is that time in the year when everyone takes out their own pneumatic tools and changes tires on their own car used to go to work 50+K away.

    • You are partly correct and partly wrong..

      There was perhaps a window of opportunity to ‘turn this tanker around’ say in 1970s, when both the energy as well human capital in the meaning of hands on – craftsmanship experience still could be tapped into at least partially via consulting by older generations at that time.

      We don’t have these advantages readily available today*, plus the civilization’s techno sphere moved during recent decades full steam ahead into JIT service and maintenance only regime, therefore even any trivial disruption in energy and parts flow globally would disintegrate entire clusters of economies within the IC hubs.

      The only possible thing is to move on decentralization on your very own (& nearest circle) and hope not to be immediately enslaved – feudalized over by remnant mil – crime scene elements in few years time after the crash..


      * not mentioning since then further pop increase, water table decrease and contamination, suburban sprawl, disease spread, ..

    • Tim Groves says:

      Gail will probably have something incisive to say about this. I’d like to think you are correct that the transition to a low energy society would be doable, But from my admittedly foggy viewpoint, I see any attempt to turn that oil tanker of society around breaking the thing it on the rocks and the entire crew thrown to the waves.

      Oh it’s like a storm at sea
      And everything is lost
      And the fretful sailors
      Calling out their woes
      As to the waves they’re tossed…

    • Xabier says:

      If society were to retreat and reform to a world of small villages and small towns, surrounded by fields and market gardens, with nearly everything being sourced and done locally, then why bother with solar panels, etc?

      They, EV’s , wind turbines, are inherently part of the globalised industrial economy.

      People will never vote for the 18th century, as sensible as it might seem: nor for the huge population drop required, endemic disease, periodic famines, etc.

      Children are being taught in school that only a lack of political will is the problem, and that is surely not the case.

    • I expect that the 1975 study was incorrect, or perhaps that you are quoting it incorrectly. You talk about solar and wind? Why not include wood and hydroelectric, Sweden seems to have both, more than more countries. And Sweden is decidedly deficient in solar, especially in winter.

      I also expect that the 1975 study did not consider all of the parts of the economy that would need to be taken care of. For example, providing food and water for the entire population, paving roads and repairing them, maintaining electric transmission lines, heating buildings of all kinds, keeping the financial system operating, building schools and publishing books, paying for government services of all kinds. The big issue is that we cannot go backwards. If citizens can’t use credit cards, Sweden needs an alternative they can switch to immediately. Workers must be paid, even if the electric grid is down. I cannot see how this would possibly operate.

  2. GBV says:

    Gail / OFW’ers,

    Has anyone here watched Ray Dalio’s “How the Economic Machine Works” video from 2013?

    https://www.bridgewater.com/research-library/how-the-economic-machine-works/

    I just stumbled across it today for the first time, and while overly simplistic, it was entertaining enough (for me, anyway) to watch through it’s entire 30-minute run time. Though I didn’t watch it with a critical eye, two things did jump out at me:

    First, I wasn’t sold on Dalio’s price-based explanations of inflation / deflation. I’m more of an old school economic theorist who sees inflation / deflation as monetary events – i.e. changes in the money supply – as opposed to price changes, which are symptoms of inflation / deflation.

    Second, the idea of a “beautiful deleveraging” sounds overly optimistic to me. It would have been nice if Dalio gave an example of a historical “beautiful deleveraging”, assuming such a thing has ever occurred before.

    I’d love to hear what the rest of you thought of the video.

    Cheers,
    -GBV

    • I started to watch that video

      Economy starts with:—-transactions (2 mins in)

      I gave up at that point—the economy starts with energy extraction/conversion, to underpin money with which to enable the transaction

      without that energy availability/input there can be no meaningful transaction—he is therefore just an economic dreamer
      He seems to infer that as long as transactions take place, the economy is self perpetuating—maybe it gets more logical further on.

      • doomphd says:

        perhaps they take in each other’s laundry, like the Swiss. i’ll have to watch the video.

      • GBV says:

        Sorry, I should have made clear that Dalio’s video is only focused on finance.

        Energy / resource extraction goes a bit beyond the scope of what I believe the video was intended to capture… but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While energy / resources drive our society and thus our financial system, it may be easier for the layman to first grasp how the financial system works before getting into the complexities of the energy sector, EROEI, ECOE, chain-lengths of hydrocarbons, peak oil theory, abiotic vs biotic origin theories, etc.

        Cheers,
        -GBV

    • Your view of inflation being a monetary event GBV conforms with mine and is explained in my book, which is being serialised weekly at:https://www.theburningplatform.com/2019/04/13/the-financial-jigsaw-issue-no-47/ We are talking about inflation at this very time.

      • GBV says:

        To give credit where credit is due, it was Nicole Foss over at The Automatic Earth (TAE) which clued me into the concept of inflation / deflation as a monetary event.

        By the time I went away to university to study Commerce and Economics, the textbooks had already shifted away from that definition and (sadly) towards the “price inflation / deflation” concept that seems to be pushed / taught today.

        Glad I stumbled across TAE in 2010!

        Cheers,
        -GBV

  3. jupiviv says:

    I’ve been looking for more of Chris Clugston’s stuff. Dude’s not very active on the internet (how unhealthy!) and the most recent thing of his I could find was this paper from 2014:

    https://npg.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WhatEverHappenedGoodOldDays.pdf

    Excerpt:
    “While NNRs are essentially ubiquitous within Earth’s crust, “economically viable” NNR deposits – i.e., those that are both profitable to produce and affordable to procure – are extremely rare in almost all cases.

    Crustal occurrences: Vast quantities of nearly all NNRs exist in Earth’s undifferentiated crust, the outer rocky shell that ranges in thickness from approximately 3 miles to 30 miles.9 Unfortunately NNR concentrations in Earth’s undifferentiated crust are too small in all cases to be economically viable.

    Resources: Significantly greater NNR concentrations exist in mineral deposits classified by the US Geological Survey (USGS) as “resources”.10 Resources account for only very small subsets of total NNR occurrences however; and most NNR resources are not economically viable.

    Reserves: Economically viable subsets of resources exist in proven deposits that the USGS classifies as “reserves”. Reserves are the NNR occurrences that enable us to perpetuate our industrial lifestyle paradigm; they are also the least abundant NNR occurrences on Earth.

    To put global NNR occurrence into perspective, if the total quantity of an NNR in Earth’s crust were represented by the size of Disneyland (150 football fields), the economically viable NNR “reserve” would be approximately the size of a postage stamp; and the potentially economically viable “resource” would be about the size of a cell phone.”

    • Xabier says:

      The wealth of the mines had been released: the party was wonderful, the crystal glasses exquisite, the silver shining and elegant, the vintages rare and memorable, the imagination and subtlety of the dishes unprecedented.

      But it was not real life: and quite unrepeatable. ‘For now the time of gifts has gone’…….

    • Tim Groves says:

      Hearing about how so many of these economically viable NNRs are going to run out is, psychologically, a bit like being told we’re suffering from a terminal disease. Some of us will ask the doc what we can do to make our remaining time as painless and pleasant as possible, some will dispute the diagnosis, and some will stick fingers in ears and shout “I can’t hear you!’

      • If the price of finished goods would go higher, relative to wages, I would expect that we could have both more energy products and more other NNRs. As far as I can see, the maximum production of most of the NNRs depend very much on how high prices can go (for oil and other energy products, plus for the NNRs themselves). We know, for example, that there is gold dissolved in sea water. There seem to be many NNRs that can be found in underwater deposits. If the price were high enough (relative to wages), it would be possible to extract any of these resources. The problem is that prices aren’t very high.

        • Yes, someone recently mentioned rich undersea(shelf?) coal beds, theoretical bonanza, but in practice probably not to be extracted ever..

          Not sure about humans or other mammals to bring about another techno civilization, my bet is on the squirrels, if they exchange a bit of their supreme athletics-acrobatics into brains and bit bigger body they could succeeded eventually..

      • Xabier says:

        ‘We Can Fight It!’ etc.

    • Curt Kurschus says:

      And yet, people still fervently believe that electricity from solar cells and wind turbines are renewable, sustainable, and will allow us to keep driving our cars forever.

      • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

        well, sun and wind are essentially “free fuel”…

        though the devices that use these free fuels to produce electricity are costly… and as of now, the energy used to produce these devices comes from FF…

        like the various (limited) places in the world where hydro is worthwhile for producing electricity, there are places where solar and wind MIGHT be cost effective for producing electricity…

        the more likely scenario for solar and wind is that they will be fossil fuel extenders, used along with the remaining FF to extend BAU for another decade or two…

        or not… economic/debt collapse could put a swift halt to any buildup of renewables…

        but, as long as (cheap) natural gas continues to increase in supply, there is a window of opportunity for the so-called green crowd (socialist Ds in the USA) to push for 100% renewables, which is a laughable goal… and ironic, since FF is required…

        even 50% will be difficult, but it could happen if there is enough net (surplus) energy in the remaining FF resources…

        this will be much clearer by 2030…

        • Curt Kurschus says:

          New Zealand, where I live, is one such place where we have an abundance of hydroelectric power (already well exploited) as well as locations which are are well suited to wind turbines (the hills around Wellington are buffeted by nearly constant winds, for example) and solar generating capacity (such places as Marlborough and eastern areas of the North Island come to mind). Add that to Geothermal and we would seem to be well placed for meeting our energy needs by so-called renewable means. However, the mineral resources which are essential for building the wind turbines, solar panels, hydro power plants, and Geothermal power stations are finite, depletable, and non-renewable.
          Extracting sufficient quantities at such low costs to keep them affordable for use in constructing the aforementioned electrical generating capacity to meet even our own rather limited needs will take enormous quantities of fossil fuels – let alone the needs of the world as a whole. Throw in not only other applications that many of the same minerals are used for but also the need for fuelling economic growth, and it becomes an impossible task.

          This is something that many people seem to forget: the finite nature of the required mineral and energy resources combined with the sheer scale involved. It is also apparent that the environmentally conscious people and parties pushing for such “renewable energy sources” have factored in neither the environmental damage that comes from extracting such huge volumes of minerals at low cost, nor the fact that – thanks to Thermodynamics – the same “renewable energy sources” will be contributing to the very Global Warming that they seek to combat by such means.

        • Anything can happen (although low probability), if they bring about further capital cost (and raw material) decrease for batteries (already happening new incoming machines are fraction of today’s large manuf lines and less rare metals), lets say even some sort of simple “casting process” of batteries – the quasi altered BAU could get further legs on mixture of renewable, natgas and various NPP schemes be it already existing fuel recycling or breeders.. Would such a world necessarily resemble much of today’s structures in every aspect? no..

          • Xabier says:

            Some such combination will be tried, certainly:

            ‘With crutches, a mobility scooter, a hoist and a mechanized bed, and a support team of minimum pay carers, the patient was leading a normal life again and getting about almost like before……’ 🙂

      • Xabier says:

        Exactly: ‘renewable’ and ‘sustainable’ have been almost emptied of real meaning by constant mis-use.

        ‘Clean’ is the final joke……..

        As a consequence of this propaganda, the ‘Extinction Rebellion’ people currently stopping traffic in central London sincerely believe that our economies can stop using fossil fuels in a mere 5 years, and function with ‘clean, green renewables’.

        I’m not mocking them: they are merely repeating what they have been told by the media, that Transition is practicable, now, and that the only obstacles are the vested interests of the coal/gas/oil industries, financiers, and political corruption.

        • They would have perhaps gained a sand particle of trust about what they are trying to do should they somewhere on their protest signs sport a motto as well: ” ..For every missile and fighter plane offset by each local quality domestic horticulture sale and repair shop.. !”

  4. Duncan Idaho says:

    Notre Dame is burning.
    Not a good omen, for the superstitious.

    • doomphd says:

      I couldn’t watch the news coverage, it was too painful.

    • Yes, like adding another piece into the depressing puzzle picture for them, France is in free fall..

      In fact, they said much of the original structure was just first half 19th century remodel anyway, as the original historic piece had been badly damaged in the revolution years before that.. (and neglect before that..) ..

      • Xabier says:

        Lots of work for some skilled craftsmen, just as it should be. Notre Dame has to be rebuilt and cannot be neglected by the state.

        Whereas, in a true collapse, vital buildings in your peripheral town will go up in smoke, fall down, and never be replaced….

  5. Yoshua says:

    Notre Dame is burning down.

    I once attended a Sunday mass there and then slept next to her. In the morning at the yard I saw a man staring at a woman. She got so angry that she turned around and pulled down her trousers and showed him her ass. He responded by saying: I came to France to see your ass. Excellent!

  6. Baby Doomer says:

    The French singing together on the streets near Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris

    [video src="https://vredd.it/files/u28u757vuhs21-u28u757vuhs21.mp4" /]

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  9. Yoshua says:

    Notre Dame is now the 10th cathedral that has been vandalised or started to burn in France.

    • Authorities were very quick to announce the fire has nothing to do with anything, just an accident during ongoing reconstruction work..

      • Tim Groves says:

        However, those same authorities have subsequently announced that half of the detectives in paris are being assigned to investigate what they were so quick to call an accidental fire.

    • Fire is a very normal occurrence. Forests are meant to burn at some stage in their development. If there are homes heated with fire wood, they tend to burn down at a very high rate. (I remember hearing 30 years being the life expectancy of a home built and heated with wood.) Insurance companies know that restaurants very often burn down.

      We kid ourselves when we model the future as being just a continuation of the past. Just because something doesn’t happen every year, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect it. In Georgia, USA, termites are a problem. Wooden structures will not last many years without a lot of termite control. Also wind storms and floods, depending on where a structure is located.

      This is one of the problem with modeling wind and solar, too. The models miss all of the things that go wrong in the future. Bankruptcy of suppliers is an issue, as is lack of suitable replacement parts, for example.

  10. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The recent collapse in global trade is the worst since the financial crisis and as steep as during the recession of the early 2000s, according to new figures from the Dutch government.

    “World trade volumes slumped 1.8pc in the three months to January compared to the preceding three months as factories grapple with a deepening global industrial downturn, the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis revealed.

    “An industrial slump has been triggered by a perfect storm of factors, including China’s slowdown, the car industry downturn, Brexit paralysis and Donald Trump’s attempt to upend the international trade system with tariffs on European and Chinese goods.”

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/04/15/global-trade-suffers-biggest-collapse-since-great-recession/

    • I tried to find more information on this, but the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis only has information through January up on its site, at least for non-subscribers.

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