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.
This entry was posted in Financial Implications and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. Yoshua says:

    The African swine fever in China could be out of control and lead to a protein shortage in China.

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      Yea, This Week in Virology covered that recently.
      It is just a matter of time before the US gets hit.
      Europe is being threatened by the disease spread in wild boars.

    • aaaa says:“The swelling around the kidneys and the muscle hemorrhages visible here are typical of pigs with African swine fever.
      In the acute form of the disease caused by highly virulent strains, pigs may develop a high fever, but show no other noticeable symptoms for the first few days.[9] They then gradually lose their appetites and become depressed. In white-skinned pigs, the extremities turn blueish-purple and hemorrhages become apparent on the ears and abdomen. Groups of infected pigs lie huddled together shivering, breathing abnormally, and sometimes coughing. If forced to stand, they appear unsteady on their legs. Within a few days of infection, they enter a comatose state and then die. In pregnant sows, spontaneous abortions occur. In milder infections, affected pigs lose weight, becoming thin, and develop signs of pneumonia, skin ulcers, and swollen joints.[10]”

      That’s just sad to read, although death comes for livestock in many forms. Pigs have to be one of if not the most mistreated animals by humans.

    • Bruce Steele says:

      I am a pig farmer and keeping pigs outside with mud wallows , pasture and dirt to dig around in is what keeps them happy. African swine fever can easily transfer from wild pigs to domestic stock if they are farmed outside however . So swine fever forces production into climate controled buildings with very tight enviornmental controls . These huge hog operations are something close to hell for the pigs, metal grate floors, and zero access to dirt. When African swine fever gets here I am done , it’s bad enough sending happy pigs to slaughter but a least I try to give them a good life while they are here.

      • I am sure that the climate controlled buildings are much more fossil fuel intensive than just allowing the pigs to run around outside. It is not really a sustainable way of raising pigs.

      • Xabier says:

        Good for you: just like my neighbour’s sheep and pigs, their life is basically heavenly with no predators to chomp bits out if them, and lots of space. I hope such a horrible disease doesn’t reach your farm.

    • Humans don’t need nearly as much protein as we have been eating. The National Kidney Foundation says

      Protein needs vary based on your age, sex and overall general health. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein in healthy adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of desirable body weight a day. So, for a 150 pound person (divide by 2.2 to get 68 kilograms then multiply by 0.8), that is 55 grams of protein a day. For someone who weighs 120 pounds, that would be 44 grams of protein a day.

      It does not take a serving of meat a day to get this much protein.

    • david higham says:

      The death of all the pigs in China would lead to a shortage of pork,but not a shortage of protein. The amount of protein available for direct human consumption would increase significantly,not decrease. Pigs do not create protein. They consume and recombine the amino acids which are initially synthesised by plants. Pigs can be a valuable ‘recombiner’ where they are part of small scale agriculture,but in industrial agriculture, where they consume mainly grains and soy beans, they are a very inefficient way of obtaining protein.

      • djerek says:

        All protein is not created equal. In humans, animal protein show far higher levels of biointegration than plant protein.

        • djerek says:

          obviously that should read animal proteins

          • SUPERTRAMP says:

            That’s why you need to mix it like Rice and Beans to make a complete protein.
            Gail is correct, grown humans do not require as much and the human body can not store it.
            Whatever is not utilized is just put in with waste…😮

          • Kowalainen says:

            The need for proteins has been greatly exaggerated.

            Animal proteins/meat comes with several drawbacks, such as an increased risk of cancer.

      • DJ says:

        Pork is maybe 50% protein.

        Grains and soybeans much less, and possibly the pig feed is not fit for human consumption .

        • Our kidneys are wrecked by too much protein. Many drugs also have an adverse impact on kidneys. The national kidney association recommends only 44 grams of protein (176 calories worth) of protein for someone whose ideal weight is 120 pounds and 55 grams (or 220 calories) worth of protein for someone whose ideal weight is 150 pounds. This amounts to something like 10% (tops 12%) of total calories. It is easy to get this much protein from a mixture of vegetables and grains. At most, a person can only have a little meat and milk in the mix, or the percentage from protein goes way to high.

          US farmers have been pushing people in the US to eat a whole lot more meat and cheese than is possibly needed for this level of protein.

          The reason I am concerned about this is osteoporosis. This also seems to be caused partly by too much protein in the diet. I was reading yesterday that bone densities in the US have fallen materially, even for people as young at 30 years old. I expect that too much meat/cheese in the diet is the problem.

          • DJ says:

            The argument was that you could get more protein by eating the pig feed, which is not true.

            • When I look up cut corn in the USDA data base, I find that there are 2 grams of protein in 80 calories of corn. Two grams of protein = 2 x 4 = 8 calories protein. Comparing the 8 to the 80, corn is about 10% protein. There seem to be 2 grams of fiber in corn as well. It is not all bad. (Of course, this is corn for humans, not “field corn” for pigs.

              Soy beans have 8.5 grams of protein in a 120 calories of soy beans. Multiplying out, 8.5 grams of protein x 4 calories per gram comes to 30 calories of proein. Soy beans seem to be about 30 / 120 = 25% protein.

              Animals are very inefficient users of the food they eat. One estimate is that they need to eat 10 times as many calories, as the calories of meat they produce. I am sure this varies with the animal. They also require the use a huge amount of fresh water.

              It is only very wealthy economies that can afford to feed their people very much meat (as well as refined foods of all kinds). Judging by how poorly life expectancies in the US line up with those in other countries, the US’s approach (lots of meats and lots of refined foods) is not working well.

            • naaccoach says:

              Humans have fat (EFA, or essential fatty acids) and protein (EEA, or essential amino acids) requirements for OPTIMAL health that plants cannot meet on their own outside of a highly industrialized system (supplements and/or imports). That is not even considering the vitamin and mineral requirements for OPTIMAL health, which organ meets (liver, cod liver oil, heart, brains, etc) are by far the best sources of ounce for ounce.

              Optimal health is a bit beyond mere survival, and likely beyond the habits of most people. Balance of plants and animals in the diet is likely best.

              And the primary correlation with longevity and “health”-gevity is muscle mass. Muscle mass requires a full compliment of EEA’s, very difficult to come by sans animal (or at the very least, dairy) protein.

              Concerned about osteoporosis? Read the calcium paradox for a better handle on calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K and their somewhat complex interaction/s in us humans…

              Just like the actual energy story we get here is largely more complex than usual sources will touch on, so is OPTIMAL human health.

            • Somehow, people almost everywhere have chosen to use a mix of at least a bit of animal (sometimes milk) protein plus plant-based foods.

              Also, I have noticed that studies talk about J shaped curves when it comes to life expectancy. There is a sweet spot. Too low isn’t good, and neither is too high.

            • david higham says:

              It is true. Gail is correct when she says that there is a loss of protein and calories at each step of a trophic chain . Proteins are combinations of various amino acids.. Most single vegetable sources do not have all the amino acids,but all the amino acids are available from different vegetable sources,so a mix of different grains legumes and vegetables supplies all the essential
              amino acids. Proteins are metabolised as a source of energy,just like carbohydrates and
              fats are,which is why there is a loss of all of those at each trophic level. (Some of the ingested amino acids form part of the animals body,and others are metabolised to supply the energy the animal requires)

            • DJ says:

              I think animals with low feed conversion ratios live really horrible lives.

              I don’t think the animals drink very much water. To the extent it is not entirely fake news, which it mostly must be, it must be indirect through farming the soy and corn.

              Grazing animals around here seems to share a bath tub the farmer possibly fills.

          • Curt Kurschus says:

            We need to consume some measure of animal protein for the sake of Vitamin B12 – the only vitamin that we cannot acquire from vegetarian sources.

            • DJ says:

              I believe you can get B12 from sauerkraut.

              Still, animal D and K, and probably others, have higher quality.

            • This is from an article I found about vitamin B12, called B12: Why it’s not just a vegan issue.

              What you might not know is that B12 is produced by bacteria found in soil as well as in the guts of animals (including humans) – but in order for the bacteria to make B12 the soil needs to contain the mineral cobalt. The B12 produced within our guts is too far down our digestive system to be absorbed by our body but is excreted in our feces. Our closest relatives, gorillas, get their B12 from accidental eating of soil (and their own feces) containing B12 when naturally eating their plant-based diet.

              Due to declining soil quality from intensive over-farming making the soil deficient in cobalt, and because our vegetables are super-washed (because we would rather not eat soil/manure) vegans don’t get enough B12 without supplementation and fortification.

              Early humans received plenty of B12 from the good quality (cobalt-rich) soil that was yet to be intensively farmed and drained of nutrients, and because they drank dirty (“natural”) water from rivers which also contained B12 and B12 producing bacteria.

              The declining soil quality isn’t just a problem for humans though – it’s a problem for farmed animals too. Cattle naturally get B12 and bacteria that produces B12 from clumps of dirt around the grass roots, and chickens get B12 from pecking around for worms and other insects.

              But most factory-farmed animals are kept indoors and never even see soil during their lifetimes, so would certainly be deficient without supplementation. These horrible artificial conditions make the “vegan diet is unnatural” argument seem somewhat ironic. In fact, around 95% of all B12 supplements manufactured are actually given to farmed animals.

              So people who then consume the meat from these animals are just receiving the B12 which originally came from the supplements fed to the animals. Isn’t it far better to simply take a B12 supplement and cut out the middle man?

            • See my other comment. The reason the farmed animals have B12 is because they were given B12 supplements!

            • DJ says:

              Maybe you shouldnt eat factory farmed animals?

            • I certainly do my best not to eat meat or dairy products from factory farmed animals. We don’t eat much dairy or meat to begin with, but what I do buy, I try to get from non-factory farmed sources.

          • Dennis L says:

            Thank you for your comments on diet, in this area also I follow your lead; once in a while though a nice steak and potato with butter does go down easily.

            Dennis L.

  2. Duncan Idaho says:

    Photos show the dramatic difference between an $800K home in Texas and San Francisco
    Gee, I wonder why?

    • Jason says:

      It must be the allure of human feces and drug needles on the sidewalks.

      • LOL!

        I don’t remember California being so unappealing years ago when I visited, but the last time I visited, it seemed way too crowded. The roads were overly-full and not well maintained, either.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          Yep, that is why the difference– (sarc)
          Maybe the 5th largest GDP on Earth is a reason?
          I mean, besides a stellar geography.
          (larger than the UK, and has a huge budget surplus)

          • Very Far Frank says:

            You should know by now Duncan that GDP will matter even less than it does now after collapse. Unsustainable living is unsustainable living…

            • Duncan Idaho says:

              But the rest of 3rd world US won’t get the food shipped from CA, 1/4 the total for the US.—-
              Filling up the F150, and getting beer at the store for the football game will be off the table for our Red State friends.

            • Very Far Frank says:

              Cali grows food from massiveaamounts of imported water. Therein lies the problem. So our Red State friends will almost certainly be enjoying their beer while Cali enjoys the drought that it would otherwise experience.

            • Duncan Idaho says:

              Cali grows food from massiveaamounts of imported water.
              Most food is grown with in state water.
              The only imported water into California is the Colorado River, and that is only a fraction of the southern part of the State.
              Living in Northern California, I had local water, usually from my own well.

            • Lots is pumped from depleting aquifers. Without the fossil fuel system, this ends. Even with the fossil fuel system, this will come to an end in not too long.

      • doomphd says:

        you’re referring to the Tenderloin district. it was never a good idea to hang out in that part of SF, unless, of course, you have to.

    • JeremyT says:

      No doubt you’d need the help of some illegals to keep 3500sqft spick and span!

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        Lets be honest– that house is a embarrassment, unless you live in Red State US.

        • doomphd says:

          i’d rather live in the dump in paradise, than in the mansion in the dump. too bad they don’t show these homes in “climatovision”(TM), where you can feel the oppressive heat and humidity when you step outside, not to mention the mosquitoes and flies. you would appreciate the coolness of the maritime climate offered by the Bay area. it rarely gets over 90 in the summer, and it never snows in the winter. also, the Bay area never gets hit by hurricanes or tornados, whereas in Texas it’s a crapshoot, playing “dodge ball” for keeps with tornados.

          • Duncan Idaho says:

            I’m a former Bay Area person.
            There is a reason SF is the most expensive city in the world:
            San Francisco is The Most Expensive City in The World
            Does anyone know why?

            • Very Far Frank says:

              I’ll hazard a guess: because people who love to speculate on the eternal growth of the tech sector are the same people who haven’t a clue about imminent economic collapse? The Bay Area would be a terrible place to try to eke out a living under low-energy conditions.

            • Dennis L. says:

              A guess:
              Price’s Law states the square root of the number of employees does 50% of the work, or with a workforce of 10,000, 100 are doing 50% of the work. In SF the business are so profitable that the overall square root of the people do half of the work and the people who gather there are extremely talented. It is said that a good goal is to always be around people brighter than you so SF attracts the brightest of the bright and for them housing, living expenses are still minor relative to wealth. If a person is struggling there then probably that person is not one of the brightest of the bright, but they are hanging with very bright people.

              Dennis L.

            • Very Far Frank says:

              Moving to San Francisco in the current climate I would argue is short sighted. Classic case of an expression of intelligence at the expense of wisdom. What lovers of California on here don’t acknowledge, is that the better off and more ‘developed’ a location is now, the further it’ll have to fall, and the harder hit it will be by collapse. Duncan called the Midwest ‘3rd World’- good for the Midwest: it’ll cope better. CA citizens will panic because they have such dependence on existing infrastructure and services. Not a very resilient place to be.

      • djerek says:

        It’s completely moral to import a class of helots, uprooting them from their homes and cultures, as long as you justify it by some abstract allusion to “human rights”.

  3. DJ says:

    4.5 hours… nights are short at southern latitudes.

  4. Sven Røgeberg says:

    Very interesting new study.
    «In our paper, we show that the German banking crisis was crucial to boosting the Nazi movement’s electoral fortunes. It aggravated the German economy’s downturn, leading to more radical voting because of declining incomes. In addition, it also increased the Nazis’ popularity directly. The bank at the centre of the crisis, Danatbank, was led by prominent Jewish banker Jakob Goldschmidt. The Nazi party’s central long-standing claim that “the Jews are [Germany’s] misfortune”2 was thus seemingly borne out by indisputable fact. We argue that these non-economic effects of the banking crisis were crucial to explaining political radicalisation.»

    • The laws of physics work out through real human actors, in ways they don’t really understand.

      If it weren’t the Jews, it would have been someone else (gypsies, and others). There weren’t enough resources to go around.

      • Xabier says:

        There was an interesting exhibition at the museum here which showed that the persecution and murder of the Jews was foreshadowed in the illustrations placed on the emergency money which was produced in Germany at the end of WW1.

        They showed caricature Jews and bankers being hanged. All pre-Nazi party.

        I’d never heard of these notes before, it’s rather chilling looking at them even now. They set out just what was going to happen.

        The Jew-hatred of eastern Europe had almost nothing to do with 20th century banking crises though, everyone shared it. So they found no protectors when the German armies arrived.

        The future often casts a shadow…..

        • Self-organizing systems work in strange ways!

        • krl says:

          “So they (Jews) found no protectors when the German armies arrived.” That’s not true. There were many, many Poles helping Jews during German occupation (even though it was punishable by Germans with death, unlike in the Western European countries under German occupation)., and thousands and thousands of Jews were saved this way.
          There was also a widespread antisemitism, but this is another story…

  5. SuperTramp says:

    For all Gentiles..It’s Easter Sunday Christ is Risen Allah be Praise….something like that….
    Have a nice Day EVERYONE…. Especially, you, Gail, for giving so much to us all here and the work you put in it all😃

    There is a plan…by the ……

    • Thanks! Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

      Yes, I did attend the services this morning. In fact, I attend church petty much every Sunday morning. This is one way I see real live people, whom I know fairly well, on a regular basis. (On Easter, there are a lot of “extras” as well.)

      I ran across an article saying that religion triggers the same area of the brain as sex, drugs and love.

      The related academic article is a study of 19 Mormons. (OK, but not a huge study.)

      I am guessing that video games also trigger the same areas of the brain. So, in at least in the view of some, we don’t need religion any more.

      Also, now that we have governments who claim to care for us from cradle to grave, a person wonders why we need religion, other than “he who dies with the most toys wins.”

      The external God doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job, so there is a real temptation to move on to sex, drugs, and whatever else gives pleasure.

      • Xabier says:

        Many early religions also offered the sharing of intoxicating substances and sacred sex as part of their rites – a happy combination for everyone it seems. The current world religions are rather dull in that respect.

        And, of course, the consumption of sacrificed animals – oxen, sheep.

        Everything the hairless ape could desire, in fact.

        • We need some sort of excuse to get together on a regular basis with other people. “Meetup Groups” are not quite the same. These are interest based groups that are advertised over the internet. They often meet once a month, for a particular purpose. For example, mothers of preschool children, who want to get together and socialize. And a lot of dating sites of this type.

          Also, hanging around bars sometimes serves this purpose, especially for men. But it works much less well for women.

          With modern moving around, get togethers with families members are harder to orchestrate. They mostly occur over the phone.

          Women, especially, need the social outlet of churches.

          • Dennis L. says:

            Consistent with Camille Paglia’s comments regarding women in cultures of old laughing while doing laundry at a stream. Lady’s aid comes to mind as well. In an earlier day boys had DeMolay, men the Mason’s with some rituals tracing their roots back to masons in the time of the Pharaohs.

            Dennis L.

        • Robert Firth says:

          Xabier, religion over most of the world has been destroyed by monotheism, perhaps the most evil idea that has ever gripped the human mind. And people are still killing each other wholesale in the name of their favourite supernatural obscenity.

          • chrish618 says:

            Not just religion either, Robert. Throughout the centuries, Homo Sapiens has a propensity to imagine secular as well as religious ideological beliefs and then lock onto them with demented passion. Indeed some of our most destructive beliefs, like that of perpetual growth, though not religious may be regarded as a quasi religious doctrine. Faith in technology is another.

      • Ed says:

        No, video people are not satisfying in the way relations with real in person people.

    • Xabier says:


      Adonis lives! Osiris is reborn!

  6. MG says:

    The only reliable replacement for fossil fuels in electricity generation still seems to be only nuclear:

    • Right, but we are having a hard time affording it now, with all of the concerns about how robust the structures must be made, to withstand anything that might happen. Too many companies in this business are having financial problems. We also have not solved the problem with spent fuel, including the problem with rods in cooling pools, if we lose electricity in general. It is hard to get support for building more of these, given the many issues involved.

      • Ed says:

        Chuck the rod in the sea. The coolant level will never fall too low in the 300,000 years needed to completely decay the rods.

      • Well, the Fins sort of win in the lottery again, because they have got good long term biz relations with Russia, which is nowadays the only big enough and reliable NPP industrial chain supplier. They will simply take out the spent fuel from Finland on train to their new upgraded and enlarged recycling facilities back home (I described earlier)..
        The previous deal included British defense-energy subcontractor for some of the controls of their Russian NPP (mostly for political reasons), not sure this will continue into the future though, they could go with only one general supplier for that new deal.

        Countries such as UK, US, simply can’t do that (order Russian NPP) on any grounds, political, economic, simple logistics.. South Koreans and Chinese are the only other players to be mentioned now but they seriously lack some of the goodies (waste fuel recycling and or enough experience and production capacity).

  7. Rodster says:

    Bad news for car and Oil/Shale companies !

    “America’s Love Affair With Cars Nearly Finished. At increasing rates, millennials and generation Z see no need to get a drivers license.“

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      let’s make some rough estimates:

      a car owner pays 30k for 15 years of ownership = 2k per year

      drives 20,000 (a lot!) miles per year at 40 mpg = 500 gallons x $3 = $1500

      repair/maintain $500 per year

      insurance $1000 per year

      so that’s $5000 per year…

      what does that get?

      that 20,000 miles gets the driver to/from work 200+ round trips per year…

      gets a heavy load of groceries from a store a mile away… multiple times per week if needed…

      gets the driver and passengers to a vacation many hundreds of miles away…

      gets out of the driveway in about a minute after an urgent phone call, or after realizing that s/he’s running late to something important…

      and guess what?

      if you own a car and don’t feel like driving, you can call an uber…

      but if you don’t own, and occasionally call an uber, you don’t have the option of taking your own car when you feel like it…

      the car ownership thing is far superior when all types of trips are considered… 4 minutes down the road… 4 hours down the highway… for a quick lunch or in the middle of the night…

      bottom line is that there have been solid reasons for the popularity of cars… 200+ million cars in the USA…

      it’s the economics… almost anyone who can fairly easily afford the $5k per year will own…

      but each generation from now on will be getting poorer on average…

      millenialls and gen Z are on the tail end of BAU prosperity…

      • Rodster says:

        “but each generation from now on will be getting poorer on average…
        millenialls and gen Z are on the tail end of BAU prosperity…”

        I think that pretty much summed it up. Besides making matters worse, is online shopping and online grocery delivery. I had a discussion with a PR rep for the Indycar racing series and he feels that autoracing will be a thing of the past in the next 20-30 yrs because fewer people will own cars and won’t care or have a connection to watching an auto race.

      • Tim Groves says:

        I agree with you, David, but you forgot to mention the lottery of death and destruction car owners enter every time they drive. You can’t really put a price on serious injury or death, although insurance companies do just that. You also forgot the paving paradise bit and the road rage bit and the stressed out stuck in traffic bit and the lack of exercise leading to all sorts of nasty diseases bit.

        Like just about every modern convenience, cars come with a downside.

        That’s why smart folks prefer four-legged transport.

        • nikoB says:

          I was thinking about cars and roads today. Here in Australia there are probably about enough cars and trucks etc to fill up every road in no more than half of Sydney. Yet we have so many paved surfaces throughout the country that must be 1000s of times the area of the cars and they will all need resurfacing in the next 20 years. That’s all oil derived. EVs will definitely not be a solution. And let’s not forget about the oil that goes into each tyre.

          • SuperTramp says:

            Michael Ruppert said the same in his documentary movie “Collapse”.
            Hard to believe he died 5 years ago!😶
            Boy, the years fly by too FAST…right Eddie!?

            Amazing the Human Hoard BAU still rolls on by hook and crook.
            One reason I still hang in there is to witness the Seneca Cliff…
            and to be at the End off the World Party!😉🎉

            • Dennis L. says:

              Ruppert died by suicide, FE gave up on prepping from what I understood and moved forward.
              From an old fart, each yesterday is generally worth more than tomorrow metaphorically speaking as the day before we were younger. Eventually all of us die, how many days have been spent preparing for the end both intellectually and physically? Humans are resilient and self organizing, they also adapt which means that which does not work is discarded and life moves forward. Those who are doing BAU, experiencing the challenges of living, practicing adapting might be better off than those who have a certitude of what tomorrow will be like and if wrong have only thought of one outcome instead of living and practicing adapting both mentally and physically.
              Think of it as an adventure.

              Dennis L.

            • SuperTramp says:

              Yeah, Remember when Michael decided it was time, suppose it was a combination of things, maybe health issues, the toll of being a light of the what actually was going on, and being a Target by the Establishment. Heard he didn’t make the royalties he expected on the
              Collapse movie sales and was just getting by financially.
              There is a price to pay being a “radical” and shaking up the status quo
              My favorite clip is of him exposing the CIA and its drug operation, classic!
              Cause the resignation of the CIA Director

              Fast Eddie moving on and giving up! Wow, what a surprise, no way Jose!
              Must be back in Hong Kong, living the good life!

              Too bad Mrs Eddie has a short lease on him and has a curfew of 10 pm or else!
              Happy wife, happy life.😍

            • From what I recall, FE/TM was sort of a lukewarm practical collapsnik, he got the overall picture, but with the wrong bet on ‘universal single crash any moment scenario’ got entangled (as many of us do anyway) in the time horizon, sequencing and actionable performance misfire. If he was to be believed he regretted the NZ bolthole decision (although claimed possessing several places of residence in the wider SE Asia), which was kind of wrongish from the day one, as it was based on the old strategic relocation principle that nuclear exchange or industrial accidents are best to be survived in the southern hemisphere. But looking at the map one quickly realizes that hemisphere and NZ in particular is one of the worst possible choices if one seeks the end of the road hide out.. there are much better places not as much boxed in when speaking about the default choice in the North.. Not mentioning the plethora of douche bag – lesser millionaires doing the same and becoming his annoying neighbors in the NZ. In fact the true fat cats with either granted direct access to gov-mil bunkers or doom’s day private facilities on their own are not much worried about the immediate event itself, which they will survive with flying colors in safety and abundance, instead they are more worried about the bleak vision over the next years, when spare parts and life support systems might go dark and or their lieutenants and staffers misbehave..

        • Xabier says:

          Horses can be damned dangerous: my great-grandfather died in 1912 as the result of a carelessly placed hayfork going into his leg in the stables, the wound went bad and was inoperable. Took over a year to kill him, a very nasty end.

          But he was a ‘horsey gent’ through and through, it as his life, so in a quite way appropriate, although a broken neck from being thrown would have been preferable.

          • Dennis L. says:

            It would be interesting to see the injuries per horse mile as compared to car mile.
            Years ago I had a farmer patient, big guy, raised work horses as a hobby; one horse stepped on the farmer’s foot, not sure if it ever fully recovered. OSHA approved, steel toed cowboy boots anyone?
            Dennis L.

          • doomphd says:

            the famous example of actor Christopher Reeve. he never blamed his horse.

            • doomphd says:

              my father used to scare the sheet out of me by reminding me that accidents don’t have to fatal, but can leave you paralyzed for life. thrown by a horse, wipeout on a skate board, xyz car collision, etc., etc. on the bright side, it reminds you of how lucky you are not to be living such an existence.

              cue Monty Python, closing scene of “The Life of Brian”.

            • JesseJames says:

              Horses are accidents waiting to happen.

      • Robert Firth says:

        David, the problem with cars is not about the convenience of the owner: it is about the massive inconvenience they inflict on everyone else. We now have suburbs where all children, and many old people, live in near permanent house arrest. Where there is simply no safe place to walk, no open space in which to meet, and no amenities within three miles or so. The damage to the human spirit is immense.

        And, as I found out living in the US for many years, the automobile is the great destroyer of liveable cities. When I left (for Singapore), I vowed never again to own a car.

  8. Rodster says:

    “Electric Car-Owners Shocked: New Study Confirms EVs Considerably Worse For Climate Than Diesel Cars”

    • The issue of pollution related to battery consumption would seem to apply to wind and solar PV, if they really cannot be utilized without considerable battery backup. Of course, if some other approach is used (such as molten salt for CSP electricity storage) this would make a difference.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Thank you, Gail, and I agree. But wind and solar installations themselves create pollution. I once did a rough calculation of the EROEI of those tall windmills countries keep erecting, and it came out negative. Add up the cost of mining the raw materials, refining them, forging intricate components, The add the cost of erecting them in (largely barren) windy areas, building the infrastructure to connect roads to them and them to the grid. And factor in the real useful life, which is about one third of what the industry claims… It’s a big number.

        The windmills of the middle ages had two big advantages. First, they could be made sustainably, by the carpenter and the blacksmith. Secondly, their use involved no energy conversion, and needed no energy storage buffer. But then, they were part of a sustainable civilisation.

  9. Duncan Idaho says:

    74.01 USD +2.00 (2.78%)

    Well, its not 86, but it is not 49.
    Marching up– we will see if it continues.
    I’m with Gail–146 is not in the cards.

    • We would like the upward slide in prices to continue as long as possible, because this indicates that our debt-based system is continuing to pump in more demand, relative to supply. Right now, it is fear that the loss of oil from Iran (because of the loss of US waivers) will reduce supply, and thus tighten the market. This may, indeed, be the case for a while. But at some point, too many things will go wrong:

      -Too many airlines will fail because they cannot get enough customers with the higher oil prices.
      -Countries with big foreign tourism markets will experience huge problems (Greece, Spain, Cuba, island nations in general)
      -Food prices will need to rise, or farmers will be in even worse shape financially than they are now. If food prices rise, this will tend to “squeeze” consumers.
      -Fuel prices for commuters will rise, forcing a cutback in discretionary expenditure (restaurants, churches and other charities, vacation travel), leading to cutbacks in these ares.

      Eventually layoffs will result from the high prices. But there is a time-lag involved. Employment seems to “lag” recession indicators, in general.

      • Dan says:

        Absolutely, the 2008 / 2009 GFC was finally ushered in with the sky high oil prices. I’m curious if they can stop the contagion once it gets rolling. I believe there are enough people aware of the hubris and the theft that have been inflicted on them from these massive bubbles and then “saving the economy” after they burst. How many more trillions are they going to shovel to the elites next time?

        I see that oil is up 3% since we have received our morning tweets from dear leader.

        I swear it is like watching a monkey play with a loaded revolver sometimes. I don’t see how we kick the can much further with so many swans circling.

      • Brendon Crook says:

        -Too many airlines will fail because they cannot get enough customers with the higher oil prices.

        Speaking of airlines, Air India now close to defaulting on loans

        • This sounds quite possible. There was an article about Jet Airways ceasing operations last week.

          I found an article at that time saying that Air India had been losing both money and market share for quite a while. Air India is government owned. Jet Airways isn’t. The earlier article said that India wanted to privatize Air India; this article said they could not get any bids for privatizing the company.

          Now India wants to sell and office building, to try to pay down Air India’s debts. It doesn’t sound good. We have had our eyes on China, Italy, Venezuela, and a few other vulnerable countries. Maybe India is pushing limits as well. These problems can’t help orders for new planes.

          • Brendon Crook says:

            These problems can’t help orders for new planes.

            I believe Air India is looking at using some of Jet Airways aircraft. May be this is the future as airlines hit walls other airlines will take the leases over of the grounded aircraft?

  10. A new report from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia has some data relevant to this discussion.

    “Report: Going 100% renewable power means a lot of dirty mining”

    “Take cobalt. Each electric vehicle needs between five to ten kilograms of the bluish-white metal for its lithium-ion batteries. The authors consider cobalt a “metal of most concern for supply risks,” because nearly 60 percent of its production takes place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with a dismal record of child labor and human rights abuses. Should the world’s transportation and electricity sectors ever switch to running entirely on renewables, demand for the metal would soar to more than four times the amount available in reserves, according to the researchers.”

    “Payal Sampat, the mining director at Earthworks, said recycling and technological innovation could go a long way toward reducing the demand for rare metals, but cautioned that still more needs to be done. “We’re not going to tech fix our way out of this,” she said. “It’s going to require more meaningful policy changes that fundamentally reduce the overall demand.””

    As Gail has shown, reducing demand will have its own effects, which few seem to anticipate.

    • Thanks! That is interesting. There are certainly limits on minerals of various kinds, including cobalt.

      What is disturbing is that I posted a link to another article today, saying that humans and other animals need cobalt in our diets, in order to make B12. The cobalt has mostly been “mined” out of the soil, by farming and not supplementing the soil with cobalt to replace what has been taken out. Also, water sources are now “purer.” So now we need to supplement the diets of farm animals with B12. Thus, the B12 problem is no longer a vegan problem.

      There are multiple uses for cobalt, including to replace the cobalt that has been mined out of the soil with farming. The electric vehicles cannot use all of the cobalt, or the world has a problem.

    • There is an interesting 58 page study linked at the (rather short) Grist article that says a whole lot more. It can be accessed directly at this link.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Interesting, yes, but flawed I fear. Mining is an intrinsically unsustainable effort, because what is mind is never replaced. And the current practice of mining the highest concentration first, then the next, then the next, … is a Red Queen’s Race we shall inevitably lose.

        The only sustainable source of these important elements or compounds is the most dilute source: the ocean. Not a new idea: my Viking ancestors didn’t mine iron, they picked it out of rivers as “bog iron”, sequestered from the running water by helpful bacteria. Surely we could genetically engineer small creatures able to concentrate almost anything we want to extract.

        • I don’t think that we can genetically engineer small creatures to concentrate almost anything we want to extract in the timeframe needed, however. That is the big catch.

          • Robert Firth says:

            Thank you again, Gail. On balance, I agree. We can do it, certainly, but in time to sustain a necessary green revolution, no way. Perhaps a task for the next civilisation?

Comments are closed.