The true feasibility of moving away from fossil fuels

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

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

There are a number of issues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example 1. Spain and Greece Between 2007-2014

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

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

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

Example 2: France and the UK, 2004 – 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example 4: Venezuela (2008-2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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1,253 Responses to The true feasibility of moving away from fossil fuels

  1. Dan says:

    I’m firmly Gen X at nearly 50 yrs old. My 1st memories are sitting in gas lines with my mother in a big green Pontiac while watching my Dad ride a bicycle to work during the oil embargo. I joined the Marine Corps in 1991 prior to the Gulf War knowing it was for oil and not the BS lies about incubator babies.
    By 9/11 I know longer believed and certainly after 2008/2009 I’ve lost hope.
    I understand probably better than most this is a finite world with 8 billion people. My question was rhetorical because with the current moves being made I believe we’re sucking buttermilk out of a straw.

    • Our problem is that we don’t really have solutions. This is not something that any politician can face up to.

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

      • Dan says:

        I’m afraid you’re right. I hope everyone enjoys the last sips of that buttermilk. Eventually throwing debt at it is not going to work. The only solution is to resource grab with force.
        I always thought collapse would be stair stepped and I believe it has been doing just that for about 40 years now. I’m of the belief at this point that things are about to pick up some speed.

        • Rodster says:

          Its been blatantly obvious who follow this stuff that we are the point where this whole Ponzi Scheme could go up in smoke around the world. People are starting to catch on such as with the Yellow Vest Movement in France.

          Here in the US, the markets are no longer allowed to go down for too long. If that happens The Fed steps in and reverses that trend by juicing the markets. Little by little the pressure is building that shows how flawed our banking, monetary and financial systems are that started right around the time that the Federal Reserve was created. As Gail says, we are at a point in time where DEBT needs to continuously GROW or it all collapses. That’s why the US will never have a balanced budget because it’s not allowed with the monetary and banking system that we have in place.

          Collapse is not an event but a process and eventually something will trigger it. I have 10 yrs on you so hopefully i’ll be long gone when this thing blows sky high and keep in mind that our problems are NOW 8-10 times worse than in 2008.

          • DJ says:

            “I have 10 yrs on you so hopefully i’ll be long gone when this thing blows sky high”

            Wouldnt it be great being 65+, in good health, and experiencing the collapse?

            • Dan says:

              I think Fast Eddy is alive and well. He probably read the tea leaves and figured time is getting short and is knocking down his bucket list.
              You’re right of course the doors have been closed and locked and we’re trapped.

            • GBV says:

              “He probably read the tea leaves and figured time is getting short and is knocking down his bucket list”

              Perhaps he is incarcerated?
              I know that kept me from posting here on OFW for 16 months…

              Cheers,
              -GBV

            • Harry McGibbs says:

              That is quite a carrot to dangle, GBV. What did you do?!

            • SUPERTRAMP says:

              Perhaps he is incarcerated?

              Fast forward 20 years from now after the bottleneck

              So funny Exile on Main Street
              No, Think I found him doing a NEW GIG…yep, that’s him all right…gollie…

              Perfect….now that’s more like it! Go Eddie, GO…pedal to the metal…BAU

            • GBV says:

              I committed a thoughtcrime and said something that polite society today finds vile. I’ll leave it at that.

              Cheers,
              -GBV

            • DJ says:

              I think you are still allowed to think it.

    • Denial says:

      I have a friend who is a big Trumper with blinders on so I don’t know why I discuss anything with him but…. he is touting this big oil find in Texas and New Mexico and saying there is so much oil in this country “God Bless America!” I told him about the economics of getting said oil out of the ground etc… but can anyone tell me what “discovery” he is talking about? And what is the argument against this being a panacea? I’m all for finding more oil but I want it to be truth based. Just like the economy doing so well but we still have added 2 trillion to the debt load under Trump! It doesn’t add up…

      • The Permian Basin is in Texas and New Mexico. I suppose that could be what he is talking about.

        The Permian Basin is producing a lot of oil and gas.

      • Very Far Frank says:

        • Denial says:

          First of all I am not yelling about politicians; just setting the stage… Team players republican will only see things through their party paradigm. Democrats- liberals see wind mills and solar panels solving our problems. Republicans see oil discoveries as far as the eye can see and some even see abiotic oil. it’s just how it is in many countries…easier to compartmentalize I guess. The Debt load was a big problem with a lot of my republican friends when Obama was in office..now it is not and the economy is doing great and problems have all been solved and the reverse is true with democrats. But I am always open to new discoveries of oil and possibly new discoveries of energy…I am just skeptical and going to tell it like it is…

        • Tim Groves says:

          Michael Lynch has examined oil reserves and resources and he concludes we have centuries worth of the stuff at current extraction rates—as long as we can avoid the mother of all economic collapses that sweeps away our capability to keep pumping the stuff. Of course, he could be wrong–who am I to be the judge?–but he seems to know what he’s talking about. Having said that, there’s a lot in this 26-minute video that should calm the fears of anyone who is having nightmares about all the oil wells running dry in our lifetime.

          Indeed, it could be argued that the Bushian, Obamian and Trumpian game plan calls for limiting current production by knocking out the competition such as Iraq, Libya, Iran and Venezuela in order to keep the price of the black stuff high enough to make it worthwhile for Western oil companies to produce it, and particularly to produce it from US wells, because the competition to produce and sell oil is currently close to being a zero sum game.

          • If we can keep prices high enough, there is indeed plenty of oil. The problem is keeping prices high enough.

            • money in terms of value is underpinned by (mainly oil) energy

              so oil exploration/production must underpin itself. (through its own surpluses)

              Money per se is irrelevant. If there isn’t enough surplus, then there can be no oil production.

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    “It has been a decade since the Federal Reserve and other central banks began cutting interest rates to zero — or even below — and injecting unprecedented amounts of cash into the global financial system via quantitative easing. And while global stocks are at or near record highs, central banks around the world are increasingly abandoning their hopes of normalizing policy with economic growth slowing. On top of that, public and private debt levels are higher than ever.

    “Some central banks are prepared to take drastic measures. In February, the staff at the International Monetary Fund published a guide to make even more negative interest rates work. Meanwhile, proponents of “modern monetary theory” argue that governments should generate money and distribute it across the economy, until it reaches full employment.

    “It’s clear that central bank growth models are broken and the fix isn’t more money printing. While saving our economy from a deeper crisis, central bank liquidity injections only delayed this inevitable reckoning.”

    https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-04-26/capitalism-is-broken-because-of-central-banks

  3. Harry McGibbs says:

    And here’s Wolf Richter with more on that fall in global trade:

    ““World trade volume… started turning down in November, and by February — according to the Merchandise World Trade Monitor, released today by CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis — it was down 3.4% from the peak in October and down 1.1% from February a year earlier.

    “The less volatile three-month moving average sank for the fourth month in a row, and is down 2.4% from the October peak and down about 1% from a year earlier. This kind of decline in world trade just hasn’t happened since the Global Financial Crisis.”

    https://wolfstreet.com/2019/04/25/world-trade-falls-most-since-financial-crisis-hit-by-china-other-emerging-asia/

    • Harry Mcgibbs says:

      “In March, Japan industrial production dropped -0.9% mom, below expectation of 0.0% mom. For the whole of Q1, industrial production contracted -2.6% yoy. The overall contraction in industrial production in Q1 was the largest in nearly five years, since Q2 2014. The data suggested that Japanese economy could have suffered a mild recession…”

      https://www.actionforex.com/live-comments/193068-japan-large-contraction-in-industrial-production-raises-recession-risk/

      • Make interest rates even more negative?

        • DJ says:

          Yes, reward whoever try to maintain and own whatever will be worthless long before estimated lifespan.

        • Hubbs says:

          If they get too negative, and there has been a vast store of cash accumulated by investors, then a sudden torrent of soon to be worthless (your savings are “worthless” if they are “accumulating” negative interest) money floods the market, looking to buy up tangibles. This sounds like the gateway to hyperinflation.

          • DJ says:

            Tangibles like building are associated with maintainance costs, land is expensive and taxable, arts and stuff spekulation.

            True, useful, tangibles are limited how much you can buy.

            Meanwhile tech will make progress, health care (for those who can afford it).

            We can fall a long way before all realise it.

  4. jupiviv says:

    Fish scraps could power some cruise ships by 2021

    The cruise industry is booming, thanks to its promise of spectacular views, exotic locales and floating luxury. But as the appetite for ocean travel rapidly grows, there’s been growing concern about its environmental impact.

    Fish scraps might be part of the solution, according to a Norwegian cruise operator.

    Hurtigruten, known for its trips through Norway’s fjords and to the Arctic, will power a fleet of ships partly through liquified biogas — which is produced as dead fish and other organic waste decompose, the company said in a press release.

    https://q13fox.com/2018/11/20/fish-scraps-could-power-some-cruise-ships-by-2021/

    This is very necessary and significant for human progress, because it’s not like those people going on cruises can just have a nice picnic instead.

  5. ZZR600 says:

    I think the global crisis is already here. When you consider the populations of countries living in war, or warlike conditions (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mexico, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen; 297M) and countries on the verge of huge crisis (Egypt, Gaza, Greece, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, Turkey; 327M) there are 625M people living in very difficult conditions. This is a very large proportion of the world already living in crisis like conditions, I’ve omitted large parts of sub-Saharan Africa that are probably struggling as well. This does not paint a picture of long term global prosperity; quite the opposite, is demonstrate a world in decline.

    In comparison, if you take the populations of countries heavy affected by WWII in 1939 (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, Turkey, UK) you have about 450M people, so fewer in criris in 1939 than there are now.

  6. Duncan Idaho says:

    1986 — Ukraine, USSR: Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurs.

  7. Artleads says:

    DOING WITH LESS

    Seeing doing with less as deferring gratification doesn’t seem to explain everything. In the visual arts, very broadly speaking, less is generally more. I think it was said first by Mies van der Rohe: Less is more.

    https://search.aol.com/aol/search?s_it=webmail-hawaii1-basicaol&q=Mies%20van%20der%20Rhoe%20(sp):%20Less%20is%20more.

    More can simply be junk that reduces effectiveness, and less can weed out the unnecessary and increase effectiveness. So doing with less can produce better, more economical form, while being pleasant and compelling to deal with. (If beauty and elegance didn’t serve some human purpose, there wouldn’t be so much of it in history.) While beauty can often require more, it seems that elegance, by definition, requires less.

    • Artleads says:

      e. e. cummings

      “nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
      the power of your intense fragility: “

      • doomphd says:

        if Cummings was referring to how easily you as a being (sentient or not) can unravel, i would agree with that statement.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          i like the lower case–
          it is so cummings

        • SUPERTRAMP says:

          Artleads already provided a poignant example for all of us…
          Baby dolphin dies after tourists yank it out of ocean for selfie
          Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2016/02/18/baby-dolphin-dies-after-tourists-yank-it-out-of-ocean-for-selfies-5703179/?ito=article.mweb.share.top.facebook&fbclid=IwAR0R3E4CYlJRNujfsW4YgcFAd6JrPZxWrKtTp9xAJTYNFcoC_LhTG2VT6KE?ito=cbshare

          ‘The Franciscan, like other dolphins, cannot remain above water for long,’ they wrote on their website. ‘It has a very thick and greasy skin that provides warmth, so the weather quickly causes dehydration and death.’ A spokesperson for Peta added: ‘In their efforts to get a novelty “selfie”, these holidaymakers showed a naïve – and ultimately fatal – disregard for life by hauling this baby dolphin out of the sea, where he or she belonged. ‘One can only imagine the trauma suffered not only by this baby, who was passed around like a toy by marauding tourists, but also his or her grieving mother.

          We, Humans, as Oscar Wilde once lamented, “Man always destroys what he loves.”

          In this case, I agree with Fast Eddie, can’t be fast enough humans meet their own demise.

          • Tim Groves says:

            And yet if I were to storm that beach with a machine gun/flame thrower combination and exterminate the horde, I WOULD BE THE ONE TO GO TO PRISON!!

            • doomphd says:

              Tim, there’s a better way to punish them. Let them see what they have done. Let them live with the guilt of what they have done. Anything else is just pearls before swine.

            • SuperTramp says:

              No way. Tim, if you ever need a character witness, call me!😊

        • a says:

          Wish I hadn’t posted it, since I know so little about him. Came across it by accident just after posting about less. If he’s saying how powerful fragility is, that seems to support the notion of “less” possibly being “more.” Our culture gives undue deference to more in any form, putting quantity over quality.

  8. Artleads says:

    Britain’s Second Empire

    • Can you give a little summary of what the video says?

      • Artleads says:

        I jumped around like crazy, so I can only say that it explains how postwar Britain switched from the old version of empire to one where they dominated international banking/finance by offshoring money to many of its former colonies. Peter Underwood, can you save us some research here?

      • Artleads says:

        The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire
        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        Jump to navigationJump to search
        The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire is a documentary released in Mexico in 2017 which details the transformation of the UK as a colonial super power to a global financial power. It suggests that the City of London Corporation and its banks have done tremendous damage to the world economy since the 1960s and that up to half of all offshore wealth (globally) is hidden in one of many British offshore jurisdictions. With contributions from leading experts, academics, former insiders and campaigners for social justice, the film claims to highlight how in the world of international finance, corruption and secrecy have prevailed over regulation and transparency, and the UK is right at the heart of this.[1][2]

        The film was co-produced by Tax Justice Network[3] founder John Christensen, and is based in part on the book, Treasure Islands, by expert on British offshore havens Nicholas Shaxson; an interview with Shaxson is one of its major elements. Christensen was an advisor to the Queen’s government of the island of Jersey for a number of years.[4]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spider%27s_Web:_Britain%27s_Second_Empire

        • Offshore Expatriot says:

          Artleads, I have almost all my wealth parked in “offshore” locations. It is the result of saving half my income for 20 years, income on which I paid tax in full.

          But if I leave it out in the open, the UK government will seize 40% of it when I die, leaving my children and grandchildren that much poorer. No way!

          If the world wants to get rid of abusive tax shelters, let it begin by getting rid of abusive taxes.

          • There is an even better way of solving the problem: change the world so that there is nothing to purchase with all of this supposed wealth. If there are food supplies, it stays with those growing the food, because there won’t be enough to go around, and they need food or they will stop producing it. Basically, there will be nothing else either. Governments will collapse.

            The promises, in terms of saved wealth, that we have been given are empty promises. People do not realize this.

  9. SUPERTRAMP says:

    Trump Batting 1.000, this should make some HaPpY😊
    Trump Admin Undoes Another Obama Policy, Blocks MLB from Paying Cuba’s Baseball Federation

    The Trump administration has reversed an Obama-era policy which stated Cuba’s baseball federation was separate from the country’s government, and has blocked Major League Baseball from signing players directly from the Communist nation to play in the United States.

    The administration’s decision abrogates a deal MLB and Cuba’s baseball federation agreed to in December, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Obama administration’s policy had paved the way for the deal, which dictated that the baseball federation would get a fee for each player signed.
    Can’t share the wealth in any manner with those evil socialists!

    • Chrome Mags says:

      Now if cuba would change to capitalism and immediately institute a massive tax cut for the super wealthy, then well, maybe other policies towards Cuba could be changed as long as trickle down was part & parcel along with business mergers to reduce competition amongst their top corporations.

      • SUPERTRAMP says:

        Exactly, that prevents collapse….pedal to the metal, Baby!!😝😮
        At least that’s what those that have control push us to believe.
        Just a matter of time before the “entitlements” are stripped away here in the USA for the middle class. Already they upper crust are whining Social Security and Medicare are putting a drain on the growth of the economy per Alan Greenspan!
        Funny, when how the Financial Industry does not hesitate to use entitlements to bail itself out time and time again when, by it’s own intentional bad behavior, causes a crisis!

        “Acting quickly, Greenspan met with top Fed officials and mapped a strategy for easing the cash crunch, using the Fed’s virtually unlimited reserves to bolster the troubled financial institutions. Before the market opened on Tuesday, October 20, 1987 Greenspan announced the Fed’s “readiness to serve as a source of liquidity to support the economic and financial systems.” With the full force and power of the Fed backing these institutions, fear of a general collapse receded and the Dow-Jones industrial average rebounded with a rally of over 100 points on that day.”
        https://biography.yourdictionary.com/alan-greenspan

        Privatize the PROFITS, Socialize the losses! Rinse and repeat…circa 2008…ect, ect
        Works for the “Capitalists”…but we’ll place the blame on welfare mothers!😛

        • Chrome Mags says:

          Pedal to the metal is the number 1 credo of homo colossus and there will never be a collective effort to reduce pressure, except if it is forced by conditions out of our control. That previous sentence defines our species attitude and approach to anything and everything that can be exploited.

          • SuperTramp says:

            Right ON, Chrome Mags; not just a coincidence the number one marketing sales feature the car companies stress is SPEED and ACCELERATION!!
            Mister and Mrs. DNA are programmed to burn out in a blaze….

            Nature doesn’t care how the “job” gets done….as long as the mission gets “accomplished”

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          It is obvious that teen age welfare mothers on drugs is our major problem.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          Fidel died of old age—-
          He was young when the revolution started.

          • SuperTramp says:

            Duncan, I know only too well! Actually, took a read about Fidel and his exploits.
            Unfortunately, can’t recall the title and vaguely remember the details.
            What I do recall is the author point of view of the desperate state the commoner was held in Cuba and that includes destitution, malnutrition and even starvation.
            From the website American Experience
            Inequalities
            There were, however, profound inequalities in Cuban society — between city and countryside and between whites and blacks. In the countryside, some Cubans lived in abysmal poverty. Sugar production was seasonal, and the macheteros — sugarcane cutters who only worked four months out of the year — were an army of unemployed, perpetually in debt and living on the margins of survival. Many poor peasants were seriously malnourished and hungry. Neither health care nor education reached those rural Cubans at the bottom of society. Illiteracy was widespread, and those lucky enough to attend school seldom made it past the first or second grades. Clusters of graveyards dotted the main highway along the foothills of the Sierra Maestra, marking the spots where people died waiting for transportation to the nearest hospitals and clinics in Santiago de Cuba.

            http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/comandante-pre-castro-cuba/

            No doubt, Castro and his regime made many errors, but had much success.
            Remarkable that even under an embargo from the West and United States was able to improve the lot of the masses.
            Let’s flip flop and see how well the United States would fair under an economic blockade!

  10. Tim Groves says:

    I’ve been absorbed in The Energy Skeptic Alice Friedman’s recent review of A. Wrigley’s 2010 history book Energy and the English Industrial Revolution.

    There are lots of fascinating observations and “factoids” in this that will either greatly change or else greatly expand almost anyone’s perspective on how coal transformed first England and then the rest of the World from “organic” wood-fueled and land-based agrarian to the groovy funky and digitalized u/distopia we all love and hate.

    Indeed, there is so much quotable stuff in this article that its hard to pick out my favorite bits. So I’ll just copy a slice of it to give an idea of the flavor.

    In his pioneering study of migration during the industrial revolution period, Redford laid stress upon the evidence that agricultural wages were highest near the new concentrations of industry and declined steadily with distance from these centers. In rural areas close to manufacturing, mining, or commercial centers people moved to the town from the country to better their lot. The increase in the prevailing wage level in agriculture which resulted in turn attracted agricultural laborers to move from more distant parishes to replace them. He insisted that ‘the motive force controlling the migration was the positive attraction of industry rather than the negative repulsion of agriculture’. As Chaloner remarked in his preface to the third edition of Labor migration, Redford insisted that ‘The rural population was attracted into the towns by the prospect of higher wages and better opportunities for employment, rather than expelled from the countryside by the enclosure movement.’

    Expectation of life at birth declined substantially during the 17th century, reaching a nadir in the period 1661–90 when, for the sexes combined, it averaged only 33.8 years. By the beginning of the nineteenth century there had been a major change. In 1801–30 it averaged 40.8 years.

    Although overall levels of mortality improved markedly, the improvement was not evenly spread among the different age groups. In the 17th century adult mortality had been very severe; infant and child mortality, in contrast, though crippling by the standards of the 21st century, had been relatively mild. During the ensuing century adult mortality improved sharply. Expectation of life at age 25 for the sexes combined rose by five years from 30 to 35 years between the end of the 17th and the end of the 18th century. At younger ages any improvement was very limited, with one exception. Mortality within the first month of life, often termed endogenous mortality, fell dramatically due to falling rates in maternal mortality and the rate of stillbirths. Deaths later in the first year of life were mainly caused by infectious disease, and were as high in the early 19th century as the past century

    From the mid-16th century onwards England’s chance of escaping the Ricardian curse gradually improved as its dependence on the land as the prime source of energy was reduced by the steadily increasing use of coal. This in itself, however, was no guarantee of ultimate success. Put simply, coal use could overcome a barrier which had long appeared insuperable on the supply side, but without a matching change in demand a breakthrough might have proved elusive. Coal was mined and consumed on a substantial scale in parts of China from the 4th century onwards and may have reached a peak in the eleventh century, but it did not lead to a transformation of the economy. It is in this context that the demographic characteristics of a country assume importance.

    http://energyskeptic.com/2019/book-review-of-wrigleys-energy-and-the-english-industrial-revolution/

    • This is a chart of Wrigley’s that I keep showing. I found it quite a few years ago.

      I should read Wrigley’s book.

      His book “Energy and the English Industrial Revolution” was published in 2010 both in hard cover and paperback.

    • I recently created a document outlining the links between ironworking, canal building and transport of essential materials into foundries and forges at the start of the industrial revolution (1780s), how the whole thing kicked off back then

      Highly localised because this was exactly where it all started
      might be of passing interest to fellow doomsters

      /Users/norman/Library/Containers/com.apple.mail/Data/Library/Mail Downloads/63182E68-026C-4560-91E6-DB86F3E9150F/KCan.KN1.pdf

      • Can you upload the PDF somewhere? Or email it to me and I can upload it at OurFiniteWorld.com?

        This link won’t work.

      • This should be a better link to Norman’s PDF:

        The History of the Ketley Canal

      • Artleads says:

        Norm, thanks for this most impressive presentation. It certainly belongs in a curriculum. I shared it liberally around on Facebook.

        https://gailtheactuary.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/pagett-history-of-the-ketley-canal.pdf

        • I took time to look at the presentation; it is very impressive, I agree. This link should be good as long as I keep paying WordPress my fees, if anyone wants to post a link to it.

        • thank you for your kind words Art and Gail

          I produced it for my local history society, but thought it might have some relevance to the global energy thing because it was part of what started it all 200+ years ago

          • SuperTramp says:

            Fantastic presentation and well explained the whole transition of the canal evolution and engineering challenges faced in those times. We are indeed a product of out times, how we react is the defining judgement. Like the PBS a long, long while ago by an Englishman named James Burke called “Connections”. Very popular when it aired and a book was placed out based on the series.
            The Technology Trap clip..when diaster strikes

            • glad you liked it Supertramp

              It wasn’t till I’d finished it that I realized it might have a much wider application because
              the business of modern civilisation is really only based on shifting stuff from A to B then altering its composition so that it can be bought and sold elsewhere.

              the faster that can be done, the more money is made, those guys back in 1700s didn’t know what they were starting!!

        • Tim Groves says:

          I agree. This presentation was very well put together. Norman has brought the industrial revolution to life. Also, the ingenuity of the builders in using the lowering of a full incoming top raise an empty outgoing barge without the need for mechanical or muscle power is impressive.

          I wonder if the mine + canal + ironworks enterprise paid for itself in the short time it was in use?

          • Thanks Tim

            It is a most fascinating construction

            it functioned more or less for the era of the Napoleonic wars, and warfare is the driving consumer of iron. It was the prototype and 4 more were built by 1793

            the war ended in 1815, and the system closed in part in 1816, and had finished as a complete entity by 1818, so it had run for about 28 years. So it must have been profitable for that period.

            They were Quakers, so pacifists, but had no problems in making cannon for everyone else to use.
            The overall canal system (of which that was just one section) ran until the 1920s, and the last mine working the coalfield closed in 1976

            It was the only inclined plane that used the counterweight system, They built 4 more, but added steam engines so that full boats could be moved up or down as necessary

            The Hay inclined plane (you can google that, it’s still there) was the one that took loaded barges down to the river Severn for transfer to river boats

            If anyone is into science fiction, this is a good related book to read:
            https://www.amazon.com/Iron-Bridge-David-Morse/dp/0151002592

            Written on the basis of time travel, where someone is sent back in time to here in 1773 (from our screwed up future) to try to prevent it all happening.

            A really good book if only for the staggering amount of research on ironworking and production the author (an American) put into it.

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