The climate change story is half true

The climate change story is true in some respects: The climate is indeed changing. And CO2 emissions do seem to affect climate. Burning fossil fuels does indeed make a difference in CO2 levels.

The problem I have with the climate change story is that it paints a totally inaccurate story of the predicament the world is facing. The world’s predicament arises primarily from too little affordable resources, especially energy resources; climate change models tend to give the illusion that our problem is one of a superabundance of fossil fuels.

Furthermore, the world economy has no real option of using significantly less energy, because the economy tends to collapse when there is not enough energy. Economists have not studied the physics of how a networked economy really works; they rely on an overly simple supply and demand model that seems to suggest that prices can rise endlessly.

Figure 1. Supply and Demand model from Wikipedia.
Attribution: SilverStar at English Wikipedia CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The quantity of energy supply affects both the supply and demand of finished goods and services. History shows that the result of inadequate energy supplies is often collapse or a resource war, in an attempt to obtain more of the necessary resources.

Climate scientists aren’t expected to be economists, but have inadvertently picked up the wrong views of economists and allowed them to affect the climate models they produce. This results in an over-focus on climate issues and an under-focus on the real issues at hand.

Let’s look at a few issues related to the climate change story.

[1] Growth in energy consumption and in world GDP are very closely linked. In fact, energy consumption seems to be the cause of GDP growth.

If we look at the relationship between World GDP and energy consumption growth, we see a close correlation, with energy consumption increases and decreases often preceding GDP growth changes. This implies a causal relationship.

Figure 2. World GDP Growth versus Energy Consumption Growth, based on data of 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy and GDP data in 2010$ amounts, from the World Bank.

The reason why this close relationship exists is because it takes the “magic” of energy consumption to make the physical changes we associate with GDP growth. It takes energy to transport goods. It takes energy to heat goods, whether to refine metals or to cook foods. Refrigeration is similar to heating, except that heat is moved out of the space that is to be cooled. Electricity, of course, depends on energy consumption.

We cannot expect the relationship to be as close at an individual country level as at the world level, because service economies tend to require less energy per capita than manufacturing economies. If a government sees that energy supplies are running short, it can direct the economy to become more services-oriented. This workaround can keep the local economy operating fairly close to normally, at least for a time.

Longer-term, an economy that has been hollowed out by a lack of energy supplies is likely to find that a substantial share of workers are earning only very low wages. With this reduced buying power, many citizens cannot afford to buy expensive goods like homes and cars. This lack of purchasing power tends to hold down commodity prices of all kinds, since finished goods are made with commodities. It is this lack of purchasing power that tends to hold down oil prices and other energy prices.

[2] There are two very different views of our energy future, depending upon whether an analyst believes that oil and other energy prices can rise endlessly, or not.

Figure 3. Two Views of Our Energy Future

There is substantial evidence that the second view is the correct view. Nearly every time the price of oil rises very much, the US economy has tended to head into recession. And forecasters tell us that while some countries (oil exporters) would be winners with higher prices, on average the world economy will tend to shrink. Oil importers, especially, would shrink back in recession. Figure 4 shows a recent chart by Oxford Economics with the conclusion that oil prices cannot rise very much without adversely affecting the world economy.

Figure 4. Chart by Oxford Economics on their view of the impact of oil prices reaching $100 per barrel. Chart shown on WSJ Daily Shot, April 25, 2019.

Climate change modeling has inadvertently incorporated the opposite view: the view that prices can be expected to rise endlessly, allowing a large quantity of fossil fuels to be extracted. Of course, if fossil fuel prices are expected to rise endlessly, then expensive renewables such as wind and solar can become competitive in the future.

[3] To date economists and their policies have had pretty close to zero success in reducing world CO2 fossil fuel emissions.

Figure 5. World Carbon Dioxide Emissions for selected groupings of countries, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data. Growing Asia is my grouping. It is BP’s Asia Pacific grouping, excluding Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. It includes China and India, among other countries.

A popular view of economists is, “If every country limits its own CO2 emissions, certainly world emissions will be reduced.” In practice, this does not work. It simply moves emissions around and, in the process, raises total world emissions. A carbon tax sends high-carbon industries to Emerging Market nations, helping ramp up their economies. The country with the carbon tax on its own citizens then imports manufactured items from the Emerging Market nations with no carbon tax, aiding the Emerging Market countries without a carbon tax at the expense of its own citizens. How reasonable is this approach?

When Advanced Economies transferred a significant share of their industrial production to the Growing Asian nations, the growth rate of industrial production soared in these countries, at the same time that it stagnated in Advanced Economies. (Sorry, data are not available before 2000.)

Figure 6. Percentage increase over prior year for Industrial Production, based on data of CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis. Advanced Economies is as defined by CPB. My Growing Asia grouping seems to be very similar to what it shows as “Emerging Asia.”

This soaring production in the Growing Asian nations led to a need for new roads and new homes for workers, in addition to new factories and new means of transportation for workers. The net result was much more CO2 for the world as a whole–not considerably less.

If we calculate the savings in CO2 between the date of the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and 2017 for the US, EU, and Japan (the bottom grouping on Figure 5), we find that there has indeed been a savings close to 1.0 billion tons of carbon dioxide over this 20-year period. Unfortunately, Figure 5 shows:

  • Growing Asia added 9.0 billion tons of CO2 between 1997 and 2017
  • Middle Eastern oil producing nations added 1.1 billion tons of CO2 in the same period, and
  • The Rest of the World added 1.5 billion tons of CO2.

So, what little CO2 savings took place in the US, EU, and Japan during the 20 year period between 1997 and 2017 were dwarfed by the impact of the ramp up of industrial growth outside the US, EU, and Japan.

[4] Probably the single most stupid thing world leaders could have done, if they were at all concerned about CO2 emissions, was to add China to the World Trade Organization in December 2001.

In looking at world CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, we can see a distinct bend occurring in 2002, the year after China was added to the World Trade Organization.

Figure 7. World CO2 Emissions with Trend Line fitted to 1990-2001 data, based on data from 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

The fitted trend line shows that emissions were growing at about 1.1% per year in the 1990 to 2001 period. Once China, with its huge unused coal reserves, was added to the World Trade Organization, both China’s coal production (Figure 8) and its coal consumption (Figure 9) soared.

Figure 8. China energy production by fuel, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 data.

Figure 9. China’s energy consumption by fuel, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

With the extra “demand” from China for roads, homes, airports, and new factories, oil and other energy prices soared in the 2002 to 2007 period. Energy prices were again high in the 2011 to 2014 period, after the Great Recession was over. These higher energy prices (see Figure 10 below) encouraged drilling for new oil and gas, such as that from shale formations in the United States. This further helped raise world fossil fuel consumption and thus world CO2 emissions.

Figure 10. Historical inflation-adjusted oil prices, based on inflation adjusted Brent-equivalent oil prices shown in BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

[5] One way of seeing the truth of the close tie between the growth in energy consumption and economic growth is to observe the dip in world CO2 emissions at the time of the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

If a person looks at any of Figures 5, 6, 7, or 8, it is easy to see a clear dip in CO2 emissions at the time of the Great Recession. What seems to happen is that high prices lead to recessions in oil importing nations. These recessions lead to lower oil prices. (Note the dip in prices in Figure 10.) It is the fact that high prices lead to recessions in oil importing countries that makes the belief that energy prices can rise endlessly seem absurd.

[6] The European Union is an example of a major area that is fighting declines in nearly all of its major types of energy supplies. In practice, energy prices do not rise high enough, and technology does not help sufficiently to provide the energy supplies needed.

Figure 11. European Union energy production versus total energy consumption, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

In the chart above, the colored amounts in the lower part are the amount of energy produced within the European Union, shown in layers, based on BP’s evaluation. The black line at the top is the amount of energy consumed by the European union. The difference between the black line and the colored part is the amount that must be imported from somewhere else.

The problem that the European Union has had is that nearly all of the energy types that the EU has been producing have been declining in spite of higher prices and improving technology. Coal is the EU’s largest source of energy, but it has been declining since before 1965. Oil, natural gas, and nuclear are also declining. Hydroelectric isn’t very significant, but its supply is staying more or less level.

The only category that is rising is “Other Renewables.” This category includes biofuels, wind and solar, and wood and trash burned for fuel. Except for the wood burned as fuel, these are what I would call “fossil fuel extenders.” They are only possible because we have fossil fuels. They help reduce the size of the gap between what is produced and what is required by the economy, but they come nowhere close to filling the gap.

There is controversy regarding how wind and solar should be counted in equivalence to fossil fuels. BP data treats the output of wind and solar as if they replace somewhat less than the price of wholesale electricity (worth about 3 to 5 cents per kWh). The International Energy Agency treats wind and solar as if they only replace the fuel that operates power plants (worth about 2 to 3 cents per kWh).* In practice, the IEA gives less than half as much credit for wind and solar as does BP. In exceptionally sunny places, solar auction prices can be low enough to match its value to grids.

It would make sense to treat wind and solar as replacing electricity, if the systems were set up to include substantial storage capacity. Without at least several days of storage capacity (the situation today), the BP method of counting wind and solar overstates the benefit of wind and solar. Thus, the value of Other Renewables to the EU tends to be overstated by the BP methodology used in Figure 11.

[7] There are huge differences in CO2 growth patterns between (a) countries whose governments have recently collapsed and (b) countries that are growing rapidly.

Government Collapse Related Countries.  Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine are all countries whose central government (the Soviet Union) collapsed in 1991. Romania was “only” a country that was dependent on the Soviet Union for imported oil and other trade. These countries all saw a major fall in industrialization after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has been especially hard hit because it has never been able to replace the industry it lost with new industry.

Figure 12. Selected countries with falling CO2 emissions since 1990, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

As I see the situation, the Central Government of the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 because the Soviet Union was an oil exporter, and the price of oil had fallen too low for an extended period of time, leaving inadequate funding for investment in new productive capacity. Russia was able to recover better than the other countries shown because once the price of oil rose again, it was able to again ramp up its oil production and exports, supporting its economy.

Examples of Rapidly Growing Countries. If we consider the CO2 patterns of a few  growing Asian nations, we see very different patterns than those of the countries attempting to recover from the collapse of the Soviet Union’s central government. The CO2 emissions of the Growing Asian Countries have been rising rapidly, relative to 1990 levels.

Figure 13. CO2 Emissions of Selected Asian Countries, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

China’s flattening CO2 emissions since 2013 are an indication that much of its cheap-to-extract coal has been mined out. It has been difficult for China to maintain its level of coal production (see Figure 8, above), given the low level of coal prices in recent years. This problem of low coal prices seems to be parallel to the problem of inadequate prices for oil producers.

[8] Unfortunately, the real story about economies is that they are governed by the laws of physics. Like plants and animals, and like hurricanes, they are dissipative structures that grow for a time and eventually come to an end. 

We know that over the ages, many, many economies have grown for a time and then collapsed. But the study of how and why this has happened has been divided among many fields of study, including physicists and historians. Economists, who tend to be hired by politicians, seem to be among the last to understand collapse. They simply model the future as if it will reflect a continuation of past patterns. With such models, economic growth will continue forever.

But growth forever isn’t what really happens. Eventually, growth in population outstrips growth in resources. Various workarounds are tried, often requiring growing specialization, bigger businesses and governments, improved technology and more international trade. This additional complexity tends to lead to too much wage disparity. The problem with wage disparity is that it tends to lead to a large number of workers with very low wages.

The low wages caused by increased wage disparity tend to harm the economy. These low-paid workers cut back on their purchases of discretionary goods–for example, they delay buying a new car or visiting restaurants. These cutbacks lead to what look like “gluts” of commodities such as oil and metals used in making finished goods. Commodity prices tend to fall instead of rise, in order to clear the gluts.

As wage disparity grows, low-wage workers become very unhappy. They may elect radical leaders, or they may try to overthrow a king. With the many low-wage workers, it becomes difficult to collect enough tax revenue. Governments may collapse for lack of tax revenue. Sometimes, governments will attack other economies to try to solve their low-resource problem in this way.

[9] Climate change modelers have not understood that one of the things that they should be concerned about is near-term collapse. The rising wealth disparity in recent years is a major indicator that the world economy may be headed toward collapse. 

Economists and politicians model the world as if business as usual will continue forever, but this is not the way the real situation works.

Meteorologists and other climate scientists have closely examined historical climate situations, but when it comes to future patterns of energy consumption, they are far outside of their field. They miss the likelihood of near-term collapse. With the assumption of economic growth forever, it is easy to arrive at projections of growth in fossil fuel consumption almost forever. This, of course, leads to growth in CO2 pollution and a very concerning rise in temperature.

In fact, with the story of economic growth forever, climate change becomes the most serious problem the world is facing. People believe that 100 or 500 years from now, the economy can be expected to operate as in the past. One of our biggest problems will be rising oceans and the need to move our cities back from them. Also, weather changes will be of huge concern.

[10] If the world economy is headed toward near-term collapse, climate change shrinks back in the list of things we should be worried about.

Most of us remember what happened in the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009. Collapse of the world economy would likely be far, far worse than this recession. It would involve debt defaults as the economy stops growing fast enough to repay debt with interest. It could perhaps involve collapses of governments, similar to the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union in 1991. If low oil prices are again a problem, collapses could especially affect oil exporting nations. In some cases, the use of fossil fuels could fall as quickly as the decline in CO2 emissions for Ukraine (Figure 12).

I often think that the concern about climate change comes from the fact that it can be modeled as if nothing else changes in the future. Surely, if researchers were modeling the overfishing in the sea, they would come to a correspondingly bleak view of how the sea might operate 50 to 100 or 1000 years from now. Similarly, if researchers were modeling our problems with soil erosion, they would come to a correspondingly bleak view about soil conditions, 50 or 100 or 1000 years from now.

One of the problems with the climate change model is that it overlooks the huge number of limits we are reaching simultaneously. These issues will surely change how the economy functions in the future, in ways that are not reflected in today’s climate models.

[11] The great draw of wind and solar is that they seem to solve problems of any type: either too much fossil fuels or too little.

Very few dare talk about the real problem we are facing–a huge number of limits coming at us from many directions at once. World population has risen too much relative to resources. Wage disparity is too great. Aquifer levels are being drawn down, far more quickly than they are being replaced. Pollution of many types (not just CO2) is becoming a problem. Microbes are mutating more quickly than we can find new antibiotics to fight them.

There seem to be plenty of fossil fuels in the ground, but there is a mismatch between the prices consumers can afford and the prices producers need in order to be profitable. It is not just the price of gasoline used at the pump that is important; the prices of finished goods made with energy products (such as homes and automobiles) are just as important. Young people are especially being squeezed with all of their educational loans.

If our problem can be framed as a problem of “too much,” rather than “too little,” we have a situation that is much more salable to the average consumer. People can easily believe that prices will rise endlessly, and that the economy will continue to grow forever. If economists have faith that this can happen, why not believe them? In this context, potential solutions such as wind and solar seem to make sense, even though, with adequate storage, they tend to be high-cost.

[12] Wind and solar, when analyzed without the need for energy storage, seem to help reduce CO2 emissions. But if substantial electricity storage needs to be included, this CO2 benefit tends to disappear.

Most analysts (such as those doing Energy Returned on Energy Investments calculations) have overlooked the need for electricity storage, if penetration is to ramp up. If the direct and indirect energy costs of storage are considered, the expected climate benefit of wind and solar tends to disappear.

Figure 14. Slide by author referencing Graham Palmer’s chart of Dynamic Energy Returned on Energy Invested from “Energy in Australia.”

This is only one estimate. More extensive calculations are needed, but the indications of this example are concerning.

Conclusion: Ultimately, the climate story, as it tends to be quoted in the news media, is misleading.

The climate story we hear tends to give the impression that climate change is a huge problem compared to all the other resource and environmental problems we are encountering. Furthermore, a person gets the impression that simple solutions, such as wind, solar, carbon taxes and voluntary cutbacks in fossil fuel use, are available.

This is a false picture of the situation at hand. Climate change is one of many problems the world economy is facing, and the solutions we have for climate change at this time are totally inadequate. Because an increase in energy consumption is required for GDP growth worldwide, even voluntary cutbacks in fossil fuel usage tend to harm the economies making the reductions. If climate change is to be addressed, totally different approaches are needed. We may even need to talk about adapting to climate change that is largely out of our ability to control.

The benefits of wind and solar have been greatly exaggerated. Partly, this may be because politicians have needed a solution to the energy and climate problems. It may also be partly because “renewable” sounds like it is a synonym for “sustainable,” even though it is not. Adding electricity storage looks like it would be a solution to the intermittency of wind and solar, but it tends to add costs and to defeat the CO2 benefit of these devices.

Finally, IPCC modelers need to develop their models more in the context of the wider range of limits that the world is facing. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to model the expected impact of all limits combined, rather than limiting the analysis to climate change. In particular, there is a need to consider the physics of how an economy really operates: Energy consumption cannot be reduced significantly at the world level without increasing the probability of collapse or a major war.

Footnote:

*Island economies and other remote economies sometimes burn oil to produce electricity. In this case, the cost of fuel consumption for electricity generation will be much higher than the $0.02 to $.03 cents per kWh quoted in the text, so the economics will be different. For example, if diesel is selling for $3.00 per gallon, the cost per kWh of fuel for electricity from diesel will be $0.24 per kWh, based on EIA efficiency estimates. With this high cost of fuel, substituting wind or solar for part of the diesel generally makes economic sense.

The “catch” is that whether the remote economy powers its electricity with oil or with oil plus wind/solar, the price of electricity will remain high. If the remote economy is primarily operating a tourist trade, high electricity prices may not be a major issue. But if the remote economy wants to sell goods in the world economy, its cost of finished goods can be expected to be high compared to the cost of goods made elsewhere, because of its high electricity cost. The high cost of electricity is one of the reasons for the economic problems of Puerto Rico, for example.

 

 

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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1,529 Responses to The climate change story is half true

  1. kesar0 says:

    Despite the increase in spending on new oil projects, “today’s investment trends are misaligned with where the world appears to be heading,” the IEA said. “Notably, approvals of new conventional oil and gas projects fall short of what would be needed to meet continued robust demand growth.”

    https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/The-IEAs-Dire-Warning-For-Energy-Markets.html

    • Or perhaps IEA’s goals are not aligned with reality.

    • Sven Røgeberg says:

      In the same article about the forecasts from IEA:
      «But in the next breath, the IEA warned that the world is on an unsustainable path in terms of carbon emissions. “There are few signs in the data of a major reallocation of capital required to bring investment in line with the Paris Agreement and other sustainable development goals,” the agency said. “Even as costs fall in some areas, investment activity in low-carbon supply and demand is stalling, in part due to insufficient policy focus to address persistent risks.”

      These goals are at odds with each other – investing in new sources of oil and gas to ensure supply growth for years to come, while at the same time reallocating capital to renewable energy to accelerate an energy transition away from fossil fuels.

      In fact, the IEA acknowledges as much. Despite oil and gas spending standing at a fraction of pre-2014 levels, the agency said that spending on fossil fuels “would need to taper further to be consistent with” the Paris Climate Agreement. “However, investment levels fall well short of what would be needed in a world of continued strong oil demand.”

      In other words, on a business-as-usual trajectory, the world could find itself short on oil in the next decade absent a major increase in spending on developing new reserves. However, if there is any hope of reaching climate goals, spending on oil, gas and coal needs to fall. It’s largely a zero-sum equation, one that many governments have failed to reckon with.»

      • The other detail is that the renewables don’t really work, without a huge amount more spending on battery backup and transmission. In fact, they also don’t work with the huge amount of spending on battery backup and transmission, because then they are using as much or more fossil fuels than before, and they are terribly expensive.

        We don’t really have a fix, no matter what IEA claims. It is not just “insufficient policy focus.”

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “We don’t really have a fix”

          Yep. Due to scale, there are not many potential fixes either. SBSP, nuclear reactors, possibly molten salt reactors, StratoSolar maybe. I don’t understand but for some reason, people will not work the math.

          • doomphd says:

            David Goodstein did the math in his book, published in 2004. “To make up for the coming depletion [of fossil fuels, oil in particular], a one gigawatt nuclear power plant needs to be built every day for the next 30 years”. Of course, that will not happen.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out_of_Gas:_The_End_of_the_Age_of_Oil

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “a one-gigawatt nuclear power plant needs to be built every day for the next 30 years”

              That sounds about right. The SBSP proposed business plan constructs around 1500 GW per year of power satellites for at least ten years.

            • Sheila chambers says:

              I think what people continue to overlook is that oil is not just a “fuel”, it’s an essential RESOURCE!
              It supports every aspect of our lives from the food we eat to the cloths we wear & electricity, no matter how it’s generated, produces NO RESOURCES & it’s RESOURCES not just electricity we will come up short on soon.
              I think I’m going to need to post more links to this site.

            • i keep banging away at the weird idea that somehow “renewables” are going to let us have BAU with only minor inconveniences

              it just isn’t going to be like that

              David Mackay’s book:

              https://icax.co.uk/Sustainable_Energy.html

              is the best source, free to download

            • This Sustainable Energy seems to be fairly narrow in scope. It is looking at replacing energy for heating in the UK without using fossil fuels. He seems to conclude that air source heat pumps and inter-seasonal heat transfer are the way to go. Somehow, these can replace fossil fuels, perhaps with the assistance of greater availability of electricity.

              First, there needs to be a whole system in place, in order to have air source heat pumps. Electric transmission lines will be needed; industry and international trade are needed. An international financial system is needed. Transportation is needed.

              Second, it is not clear where all of the electricity for this system will come from. This is simply a way of trying to use the electricity that the UK has, efficiently.

              David Mackay was a clear thinker, but he died in 2016 from cancer at age 48. His writings have not been updated to reflect what we have been learning since 2016 on the impracticalities of renewables. And they don’t seem to address more than a fraction of the problem, in one particular small area of the world.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “David Mackay’s book: https://icax.co.uk/Sustainable_Energy.html is the best source, free to download”

              I corresponded with David MacKay for 5 years. One of the brightest people I ever ran into, an utter shame when cancer got him at a young age.

              https://withouthotair.blogspot.com/2014/09/solar-power-from-space.html

              “I dismissed that idea on the grounds that “the advantage of space over the deserts of Libya and Nevada as a location for solar panels is only roughly a factor of 4, and surely that’s outweighed by the difficulty and cost of getting panels (and associated power-re-transmission systems) into space, compared with just plopping them on the ground in a desert?” However, Keith Henson has for some time been working out the details of a scheme that might prove me wrong.”

              Worth reading if you appreciate Dave MacKay.

            • great that you knew David Mackay

              we went to one of his lectures once—, basically the one on youtube now
              I saw an article about him that called him the cleverest man in Britain, which I could only agree with

              a truly staggering intellect

              A real loss to everyone that he died so young

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “cleverest man in Britain”

              His main characteristic was objectively evaluating proposals in the light of physics and economics, something I do my best to emulate. In all the cases he looked at, sustainable (renewable) energy just didn’t make sense–for some of the same reasons Gail find that it comes up short.

              But MacKay found that power satellites (as I had proposed them) didn’t have the obvious problems of other energy sources and *might* be a solution. His saying this meant a lot to me.

            • it must have been a great encouragement when David Mackay said that about your thinking.

              However, I still see the problem as one of materials as much as energy—-it isn’t possible to make synthetic everything

              And we seem to be about to run out of most things.

              Wheels do not create wealth—wealth allows you to have wheels. That is something that most people simply cannot grasp. (As long as I can drive to work/shops, all will be well.)
              **********
              you can have a primary industrial infrastructure with energy production as a supporting activity.

              What you can’t have is energy production as the primary infrastructure, with industry as a supporting activity.
              ***********

              If when copper or phosphates become critical, the disruption to our existence will become critical

              Also—no matter how much power is delivered, we cannot run an infrastructure based on universal mobility outside a fossil fuel based environment.

              And as far as I can see, reserving mineral oils for uses other than transport would make it too expensive to use at all—our economic system is based on cheap surplus oil
              the reason it’s cracking up is that we have no cheap surplus oil left

              Oil is the one commodity that fuels its own usage.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “-it isn’t possible to make synthetic everything”

              That’s true or close enough. Indium would be very useful if it could be made, but nuclear changes are too difficult. But take any organic chemical you like, and it can be made from CO2, water and other elements.

              “What you can’t have is energy production as the primary infrastructure, with industry as a supporting activity.”

              Why not? MacKay didn’t have a problem with this.

              “If when copper or phosphates become critical, the disruption to our existence will become critical”

              Aluminum can be substituted for copper. For a lot of uses, it already is. And there is no lack of aluminum in the crust. Phosphates *are* a problem. Eventually, they will have to be sorted out of the sewage and sent back to the farms. This will take a great deal of energy, but that problem has to be solved anyway.

              “Also—no matter how much power is delivered, we cannot run an infrastructure based on universal mobility outside a fossil fuel based environment.”

              That’s not the case. Besides the obvious, such as electric trains and battery powered local delivery, you can *make* all the hydrocarbon fuel you want from water and CO2. This is already done on a large scale making diesel from natural gas via H2 and carbon monoxide. It’s straightforward and well-understood chemistry. I am not the only one who has looked into this; there is a discussion on the subject at http://www.stratosolar.com

              “Oil is the one commodity that fuels its own usage.”

              The cost of synthetic hydrocarbons per bbl is 2 MWh of power and a capital cost of around $10/bbl. At $30/MWh, the cost of a bbl of synthetic fuel would be $70. We can afford that.

            • the main thread of your comment is debatable—either way

              but the affordability of fuel I think you see in today’s terms–$70 bbl

              But that $70 is underpinned by today’s infrastructure—in a future where we are involved in making our energy, as a prime activity, that $70 is likely to be 3-4 times that in real terms

              remember our prime function has to be food production/delivery.

              We have plenty of food right now because we still have energy surpluses, we cannot pull that surplus out of the air and make food with it.

              look to countries where there are no energy surpluses and you will find empty supermarkets

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” that $70 is likely to be 3-4 times that in real terms”

              Can’t happen. That would imply a much higher price for energy. Can’t be because if the cost is that high for power from space, we will not develop this resource. It’s a case of design to cost. If you can’t hit the cost target, the design has failed and you don’t do it.

              If the cost of power falls to 2 cents/kWh, then the cost of synthetic fuel would be $50/bbl. And at one cent it would be $30/bbl.

              “remember our prime function has to be food production/delivery. ”

              That has been front and center in my concerns for many years. Perception of a bleak future turns on psychological mechanisms that eventually takes a group of people into war. We have been wired up to take this path by evolution and have little or no choice.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              you can *make* all the hydrocarbon fuel you want from water and CO2. This is already done on a large scale making diesel from natural gas via H2 and carbon monoxide

              Uhm… “making diesel from natural gas” does not sound at all like making diesel from “water and CO2.”

              The devil’s in the details.

              For one thing, there already exists a huge natgas production/delivery infrastructure. There is no equivalent CO2 capture infrastructure, even if one could actually make diesel fuel out of CO2 and water in any practical manner.

              Them’s covalent bonds. They don’t give each other up simply or easily.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” “water and CO2.”

              Do you want me to spell out every detail? Or do you remember a little chemistry from long ago?

              F/T reactions take place combining high-pressure hydrogen and carbon monoxide using a catalyst. In the existing plants, those gases are made by reforming natural gas with high-temperature steam.

              A plant using electricity from space would make hydrogen from water and pull the carbon it needed out of the atmosphere.

              “There is no equivalent CO2 capture infrastructure,”

              Look up direct air capture David Keith Big test systems have been constructed at Harvard. The engineering and energy consumption is well understood. The capital cost and energy consumption is about 2% of the energy to make hydrogen so for a first pass economic analysis you can ignore them.

              “Them’s covalent bonds.”

              This is a technology that dates back to before WW II. If you have the energy to electrolyze water and make hydrogen and the simple ability to capture CO2 out of the air, you can make all the synthetic fuel you want. You do have to convert the CO2 into CO, which uses more hydrogen, but the reaction, reverse water gas shift, is done on a huge scale today. It’s one of the ways they make hydrogen for nitrogen fertilizers.

              If you want to say this will never be done, that’s ok because it might not. But please don’t make a mystery out of simple chemistry.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              please don’t make a mystery out of simple chemistry.

              Then you’ll have to refrain from painting things as simpler than they actually are. Because while you might see “A” and “Z” and imagine all the steps in-between are a simple matter, many of us are skeptical that “B” through “Y” are actually ready to roll, or that the end result will actually have a positive energy balance.

              You still haven’t shown me how “water and CO2” produces diesel fuel, instead slyly segueing into talking about natgas while berating someone who points out that natgas is not water. Yea, you can electrolyze water to produce hydrogen, but that’s not as convenient a building block as the methane that makes up most of natgas.

              Yea, with a lot of effort, energy, civilization-spanning-scale infrastructure, and productization of technology that is only in university laboratories now, you could run civilization by turning natgas into diesel fuel. But natgas is still not “water and CO2.”

              You have a serious case of “I’ve thought about it, therefore it can easily and simply scale up to civilization-spanning quantities.” I don’t see anything you’ve talked about that is ready to roll out on a planetary scale.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              reverse water gas shift, is done on a huge scale today. It’s one of the ways they make hydrogen for nitrogen fertilizers.

              Reference, please?

              Because I came up with no use whatsoever of “reverse water gas shift” for making nitrogen fertilizer. Virtually all synthetic nitrogen fertilizer comes from natgas.

              I won’t deny that some university lab somewhere has done this. But you need to come up with something better that Google does to support your “huge scale today” assertion.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Reference, please?”

              “The Coffeyville plant started up in 2000 and, until 2016, was the newest ammonia plant in the US. It is currently the only ammonia plant in the US to use petroleum coke feedstock.”

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffeyville_Resources

              The Wikipedia article says there are two of them that don’t use natural gas.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water-gas_shift_reaction#Reverse_water-gas_shift

              Back before natural gas was widely installed, local gas companies made town gas by heating coke and blowing steam into it. This made a mix of hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

              If you really want to know about the chemistry, I can go into it at great depth.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              “Petroleum coke” is not the “water and CO2” that you allege can make diesel.

              You’ve grown pretty comfortable with cheating at arguments. You are indulging in what David Fleming describes as “shifting ground:” making an assertion, then repeatedly backing it up with unrelated examples.

              I can do the molar math to see how water and CO2 can produce long-chain hydrocarbons that average out to nonane, including how much energy it would take. That is theory. We can agree that, in theory, water and CO2 and some fairly large quantity of energy can produce something that could be combusted in a diesel engine.

              What I have yet to see from you is how that happens in practice. You’ve mentioned using natgas and using petroleum coke. You have not yet documented an actual, industrial-level practice of turning “water and CO2” into diesel fuel.

              A confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished. — Göthe

            • Actually, China uses coal to make synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. It is only where natural gas is plentiful that natural gas is used.

              http://www.transgasdevelopment.com/about/fertilizers.php

              Nitrogenous fertilizers can be only produced through burning and reforming natural gas or by gasifying coal.

              Also China changes expected to hike fertilizer prices – May 2018

              Twenty years ago, the world laughed when China announced it was going to become self-sufficient in urea production.

              Not only did China attain that goal, it became the world’s largest urea exporter. Just a few years ago it shipped out 14 million tonnes of the product, accounting for nearly one-third of global trade.

              However, most countries have not been producing more fertilizers because they do not have low-cost natural gas and have not had access – up to this moment – to the technology to cleanly transform its coal reserves into urea.

              TransGas develops projects that employ German gasification technology to allow countries to utilize their coal reserves as feedstock to produce urea of the highest international quality standards in a clean and extremely cost-effective manner.

              But a lot of China’s urea production plants are coal-fired and a government crackdown on pollution, including the elimination of subsidies, is forcing some fertilizer plants to temporarilyidle production or shut down altogether.

              A country that was once the lowest cost producer of urea has become the highest cost producer and the highest priced market for urea in the world, said Frost in a webcast of his presentation.

              China’s annual exports have plummeted to two to three million tonnes and he doesn’t see them recovering from that level.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Nitrogenous fertilizers can be only produced”

              You can also make them using electrolytic hydrogen from water. Right now that’s not the best use of electric power, but if power got cheap enough it would make economic sense.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              You can also make them using electrolytic hydrogen from water.

              Perhaps in theory, but when asked for documentation for this fallacious claim, all you’ve come up with is natgas and petroleum coke as feedstocks.

              Repeating a falsehood over and oven does not make it true.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “fallacious claim”

              I am sorry that you never electrolyzed water in a grade school science class or you would know what I said was true. But beyond that, hydrogen _was_ made from water and used to make ammonia on an industrial scale.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian_heavy_water_sabotage

              “As a result, Norsk Hydro became the heavy water supplier for the world’s scientific community, as a by-product of fertilizer production, for which the ammonia was used.”

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norsk_Hydro

              “By the 1920s, Norsk Hydro’s electric arc-based technology for manufacturing artificial fertilizer was no longer able to compete with the newly developed Haber-Bosch process, and in 1927 the company formed a partnership with the German company IG Farben in order to gain access to this process.”

            • Jan Steinman says:

              I am sorry that you never electrolyzed water in a grade school science class or you would know what I said was true.

              I’m sorry that, not only can you not come up with a single contemporaneous industrial example of making diesel fuel from “water and CO2,” but I’m more sorry that you simply can’t admit that you were talking through your hat, and that all the examples you provided depend on fossil sunlight.

              hydrogen was made from water and used to make ammonia on an industrial scale.

              What, gave up on future-tense verbs, and decided to switch to past-tense verbs?

              Norsk Hydro’s electric arc-based technology for manufacturing artificial fertilizer was no longer able to compete with the newly developed Haber-Bosch process

              There you go.

              I know you claim your satellites can make electricity for two cents a kilowatt-hour. But you’re going to have to do better than that, because that is what electricity cost when Norsk Hydro said electrolysed ammonia was not cost-competitive with natgas.

              I don’t have a problem with dreamers. I certainly don’t have a problem with people who cite past examples as a possible future. I just get annoyed when someone talks about the future or the past as though they exist right now.

              It’s going to be a tough journey — either to your techno-cornucopian future, or to my low-energy past. Trivializing either doesn’t win people over.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “contemporaneous industrial example of making diesel fuel from “water and CO2,” ”

              Of course not. This is a solution for when we have vast amounts of cheap electrical power and it makes economic sense to convert some of that energy to liquid fuels.

              To find lab/pilot scale examples, put “diesel from water and CO2” in Google or substitute jet fuel for diesel and see what you get. Here is one of them.

              “The first step in the process involves harnessing renewable energy through solar, wind or hydropower. This energy is then used to heat water to temperatures in excess of 800oC (1472oF). The steam is then broken down into oxygen and hydrogen through high temperature electrolysis, a process where an electric current is passed through a solution.

              “The hydrogen is then removed and mixed with carbon monoxide under high heat and pressure, creating a hydrocarbon product they’re calling “blue crude.” Sunfire claim that the synthetic fuel is not only more environmentally friendly than fossil fuel, but that the efficiency of the overall process—from renewable power to liquid hydrocarbon—is very high at around 70%.”

              https://www.captain-planet.net/audi-has-made-diesel-from-water-and-carbon-dioxide/

              “two cents a kilowatt-hour

              Two cents would require an installed cost for power satellites of about $1600/kW. Might get down that low, but the best I now think possible is around 3 cents per kWh.

              ” because that is what electricity cost when Norsk Hydro said electrolyzed ammonia was not cost-competitive with natgas.”

              Do you have a source for what the power cost Norsk Hydro? It seems unlikely to be as high as 2 cents/kWh because the hydropower they were using was very low cost. Also, before WW II, I don’t think natural gas in Norway was an option for making hydrogen.

              “someone talks about the future or the past as though they exist right now.”

              Past, present or future, the chemistry is the same. All the pieces needed to make synthetic fuel exist, all have been deployed at scale. The only thing needed for this to become a huge industrial operation is the low-cost power.

              “Trivializing either”

              The whole project is not trivial. Involves an increase in the aerospace sector that has not been seen since WW II and developing robots/teleoperators since humans can’t work in the required places is space. But making synthetic fuel from electric power, that is (by comparison) trivial.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Nitrogenous fertilizers can be only produced through burning and reforming natural gas or by gasifying coal.

              I would argue for the word “synthesized” rather than “produced.”

              Many natural processes can produce nitrogenous fertilizers, although arguably not in vast enough quantities to feed our current population.

              Human excreta produces a considerable amount of bioavailable nitrogen, albeit with a high “yuk factor” for most industrialized nation residents. In theory, the amount of plant nutrients present in human excreta equals the amount needed by the next generation of food crops. But as they say, the devil’s in the details. Some of them are applied to the wrong plants (weeds), some are leached out into water courses, bio-available nitrogen exposed to sunlight can re-form into noble N3, which is not bioavailable.

              The survivors of the coming bottleneck event may well be the ones who understand and employ human excreta to grow food.

            • TIm Groves says:

              I would argue for the word “synthesized” rather than “produced.”

              Yes, Jan, you are allowed to argue that.

              Just for fun, I put “synthesize Nitrogenous fertilizers” into a Google search box and got 5 hits. Then I put “produce Nitrogenous fertilizers” into the same box and got just over 500 hits.

              Similarly “nitrogenous fertilizer synthesis” got 4 hits while “nitrogenous fertilizer synthesis” got 19,500 hits.

              So you would be arguing against vox populi there.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              you would be arguing against vox populi there

              Why, thank you! I didn’t think I’d ever hear you pay me such a compliment! 🙂

              (If vox populi got us into this mess, surely they will get us out!)

              (BTW: “nature” is “producing” more nitrogen fertilizer than industrial processes of any sort produces. How would you clarify that essential difference?)

            • TIm Groves says:

              Sorry!!! That should have read “nitrogenous fertilizer production” got 19,500 hits.

            • TIm Groves says:

              BTW: “nature” is “producing” more nitrogen fertilizer than industrial processes of any sort produces. How would you clarify that essential difference?

              I see your point. “Synthesizing” does it admirably.

              “Fertilizer manufacturing” also gets a lot of hits, but I personally don’t particularly like that turn of phrase because it is not really a “hands on” process like making widgets.

              On the other hand, I can’t see the the fertilizer production (or manufacturing) industry referring to themselves as the fertilizer synthesis industry any time soon.

        • artleads says:

          I’m saying simple coal mining technology for regional supply might work. If you run perforated exhaust conduits over long areas of open land and cover it with carbon absorptive plants, it might be clean enough for humans. The trouble and expense would be in the new machinery and technology to replace the old ones that were thrown away. The anti-coal-at-all-costs lobby, public normalcy bias, horticultural planning, and technology costs could also be stumbling blocks.

          • where I’m sitting right now, I can see the remains of 5 local coalmines, left from 1/200 years ago. They served the local communities within a few miles radius

            Now they look like grassy hills, with trees n stuff, but the sheer size of the spoilmounds necessary to extract coal from only 60ft down is truly colossal. (100ft high) It was all burned in iron furnaces and homes.

            I dont know what the spoil rate is for every ton, but it must be x4 at least

            then it was utterly filthy— but now it’s become a country park and is rather pretty, no trace of what it used to be

            try and do the coal thing again though and you will be back to the spoil heaps

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Argentina’s hope of fast-tracking production from its vast Vaca Muerta shale play, the world’s second largest by output, could be delayed as the country adapts to recession. Last year, Argentina was forced to seek a $57bn bailout package from the IMF — the largest-ever sum issued by the fund — after the peso lost over 60pc of its value and inflation surged.”

    https://www.petroleum-economist.com/articles/upstream/exploration-production/2019/economic-crisis-threatens-to-stall-vaca-muerta

    • Harry Mcgibbs says:

      “Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in December vowing to revive state-owned energy company Pemex and put the brakes on foreign investment to give the public a bigger cut of the country’s oil wealth. The leftist oil nationalist’s ambitions include building a new $8 billion refinery, refurbishing existing refineries and reversing a steady decline in crude production.

      “The problem is that such expensive plans – for the world’s most indebted oil company – have alarmed credit rating agencies, which are threatening to downgrade Pemex bonds to “junk” status. A downgrade could cripple the president’s bold energy agenda, along with his plans to use new oil revenue to help finance social welfare programs. It could also imperil Mexico’s sovereign creditworthiness.”

      https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-pemex-insight/mexicos-rising-oil-nationalism-faces-debt-rating-crisis-idUKKCN1SK1TE

  3. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The current narrative is that the US economy is buzzing. No major indicator is flashing red. However, by looking at major indicators in aggregate a clear peak can be made out in October 2018 and we are on a downward trend.”

    https://seekingalpha.com/article/4263782-economic-indicators-show-declines-ahead

  4. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Anti-immigrant parties, often with roots in fascist and neo-Nazi organisations, have encroached on the mainstream in pretty much every European country. Ultra-nationalists are the main opposition in Germany; in Austria they are in coalition government. Democracy in Poland and Hungary has been twisted out of shape by authoritarian regimes that suffocate political opposition, vilify dissent and foment racism, Islamophobia, homophobia and antisemitism.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/15/brexit-nationalism-politicians-liberal-europe

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini sent ripples through financial markets on Tuesday, saying Italy could be ready to break European Union fiscal rules, on the same day his coalition partner called on him to stop “fanning the flames” with critical comments about the government.

      ““If we need to break some limits, like the 3% or the 130-140%, we’ll go ahead,” League party chief Salvini told reporters in Verona…”

      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-14/salvini-says-italy-could-break-eu-debt-rules-to-boost-employment

    • Sheila chambers says:

      I suspect the working class sees all those immigrants as competitors for limited jobs & housing & their right. More people = lower wages, higher rents, higher food prices, higher utility costs, more gridlock & a lower quality of life.
      The wealthy politicians live away from all that in nice, clean, gated communities, “they” don’t have to breath dirty air, struggle to find work, pay the rent or buy food, they have no idea how the working class struggles to exist & many don’t care.
      It’s the immigrant that pays the price for worker anger over immigration not the politicians who allowed open borders & unlimited immigration, they need GROWTH to profit, who cares if it hurts their working class, their EXPENDABLE!

  5. Under Flowerpot says:

    The assertion to reduce meat-intake needs to be analyzed independently. The imperatives of the civilized food chain to 1) market agriculture products as healthy (for digestion and biosphere) or 2) market skipped procedure steps (for digestion and biosphere) as sustainable, overshadows whats going on with sun-to-gut energy paths.

    Peter Ballerstedt, PhD. Forage Agronomist. Argues directly and forcefully with the assertions and narratives about reducing meat-intake by increasing plant-intake. Gail, he desires and seeks engagement.

    (One of his slides has a calculation error redacted in the comments, approx 28:30)

    The energy which plants receive when it comes to positive or negative nutrition is about comparative gut-biomes and not about which vertebrates ingest vertebrates. This requires a bottom-up energy balance across gut performance. For those unaware, one of the observations about the obesity epidemic encompassing the world can be phrased as “fat people are fat because they are starving”, that is, what they eat is not satisfying what their organism requires but their organism is evolutionarily programmed to transform the accessible or affordable or addictive unneeded input into fat.

    As a stark example of comparative gut performance, the quantity of feed supplied to a RUMINANT versus same the quantity of feed supplied to a human omnivore are not equivalent. No vertebrate other than a RUMINANT can ingest grass. The earth is covered with lots of grasslands and only a ruminant can ingest the stuff and the grasslands need the ruminants to survive. The carbon cycle between grass and ruminant is rather incredible.

    None of the above is at odds with Gail’s analyses, rather, civilized agriculture and debt-burden require us to feel stress and keep eating cheap non-sustaining food multiple times a day. Much changes if we all had a lifestyle permitting a sustaining, satisfying, single meal a day.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      No vertebrate other than a RUMINANT can ingest grass.

      There are lots of non-ruminant grass eating vertebrates out there! Camelids, equines, lagomorphs, brantas, ailuropoda, and many more families and genera subsist on grass.

      I’m not quite sure what point you’re trying to make with the rest of your comment.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      “Much changes if we all had a lifestyle permitting a sustaining, satisfying, single meal a day.”

      I like eating about 5 small meals per day…

      I find that more enjoyable… and enjoying food is perhaps the second best thing in life…

      grilled red meat is one of the best… especially meat with a high proportion of fat…

      (just to say, I’m a decently low weight for my average height…)

      dark chocolate… yum! lately, it’s been more chocolate cake… yum!

      carbs, sweets, meats…

      so what if I die a few years sooner?

      The Bottleneck is coming and 99% of us are doomed!

      well… 100%, but please don’t tell anyone!

      as the Wise Man on the mountaintop said:

      eat whatever…

      • adonis says:

        we will be starving to death in thenear future soeat anything i say being obese may get u thru the bottleneck or worst case scenario on the menu

        • neil riley says:

          Indeed. The obese will still be here long after the fit and athletic have lost the race.

    • neil riley says:

      Wrong. The horse is not a ruminant.

      • TIm Groves says:

        Two ruminants—a sheep and a goat—were chewing the cud in a bar.
        It was a salad bar.

        Said the sheep to the goat, “why is it that some grass eaters such as cows, deer and giraffes are ruminants and others such as as horses and camels aren’t?”

        “Oh, that’s a difficult question,” replied the goat. “I’ll have to chew that over. Pass me another carrot!”

        After ruminating on the subject for a few minutes, the Goat’s eyes lit up, and he declared triumphantly to the sheep, “I’ve got it! The reason why some grass eaters aren’t ruminants is because they haven’t got the stomach for it!”

        • Sheila chambers says:

          Ha ha ha, right, their REAR GUT FERMENTORS, less efficient that ruminants who ferment their chew in a multichambered stomach which is more efficient. That’s why horses need a more nutritious fodder than cows, sheep or goats.
          A large horse can plow faster than a ox but a ox is easier to feed, it’s hardier & easier to eat in the end.
          In my area, if we survive the bottle neck, I expect there will be oxen hauling the plow not a horse, we have poor fodder here because of all our RAIN.

          • Tsubion says:

            All the four legged creatures will be dead and eaten by then.

            Some two legged ones too.

    • Humans seem to be able to adapt to a fairly wide range of diets.

      In very warm climates, the usual pattern seems to be to eat mostly plant food, with only a little animal products. Near the sea and rivers, fish are eaten too. When plant food is available year around, storage never becomes an issue.

      As climates get cooler, it becomes ever more difficult to get enough plant food. In fact, the return on human labor seems to be high enough to justify adding quite a bit of animal products to the diet. Animals and their products don’t present the same storage problem that plant foods have. They can be killed as needed, or milk and eggs can be obtained as needed.

      Now we have industrial agriculture. Producers can add more beef by providing grain-fed cattle and using lots of antibiotics. Other animals can also be grown in close quarters with lots of antibiotics. Any pesticides used in grain-growing concentrate up in the meats and diary products. All these changes make the food that is produced have more questionable characteristics.

      Part of my reduced use of meat has to do with the US industrial agricultural system. I buy cheese from Europe, hoping that it has a higher chance of being from grass fed cows. I buy lamb (for flavoring in soups) from Australia, hoping that it has a chance of being from grass fed animals, with less pesticide use.

      I have also discovered that eating a lot of produce and a reduced amount of meat/dairy seems to have health benefits, at least in middle age. My impression is

      (1) At a young age, more meat, eggs and dairy produces bigger, taller children. (Adding lots of sweets and fruit juice produces plumper children.) In hand-to-hand combat, being bigger than a competitor is helpful. But being taller also tends to have drawbacks, such as more back problems for very tall men. I don’t know what impact a change of diets has on intelligence; clearly having wealthier parents changes both diet and parenting, and it is hard to separate these in studies.

      (2) Once we reach adult age, we don’t have a need for as much meat, eggs, and diary products. We never have a need for lots of sweets and highly processed food. People (especially men) who eat more vegetable products and less meat and dairy and sweets seem to have better health outcomes, and less chance of death. Exercise helps, too.

      (3) In people over age 65, underweight is as much of a risk as overweight for higher risk of death. (For example, see this Japanese study. Also, this American study.) The strategy may need to change again, slightly.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        Part of my reduced use of meat has to do with the US industrial agricultural system. I buy cheese from Europe, hoping that it has a higher chance of being from grass fed cows. I buy lamb (for flavoring in soups) from Australia, hoping that it has a chance of being from grass fed animals, with less pesticide use.

        Surely, Atlanta has farmers markets, no?

        I think they are the best bet for getting healthy food. If nothing else, you can actually talk to the producer. “Is this cheese from grazed animals?” “Do you use pesticides or artificial fertilizers?” etc.

        Most farmers will answer such questions quickly and accurately, without hemming or hawing. If they start out with, “Well, pesticides aren’t really that bad for you,” just move on to the next one.

        Or perhaps I’m just spoiled by our local farmers market, where 99% of the food is produced in a low-impact manner.

        • I looked up to see were there are farmers’ markets near me. The closest one that seems to have cheese in addition to vegetables seems to be the Marietta Farmers Market, which is open on Saturday mornings from 9:00 – 12:00. It is about 8 miles away. I may check it out sometime. Thanks for the idea.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            … the Marietta Farmers Market, which is open on Saturday mornings from 9:00 – 12:00. It is about 5 miles away. I may check it out sometime.

            In some future scenarios, having a relationship with a grower may determine if you get to eat or not!

            Some have the impression that farmers markets are expensive. Our Tuesday Market association purchased a shopping cart of food of comparable quality from both the local grocer, and from the farmers market. The cost was essentially the same.

            The key is of comparable quality. Supermarkets can beat farmers markets on highly-processed food made from corn, soy, wheat, and sugar — the high-calorie, low-nutrition crap you find in the “centre aisles” of the supermarket.

            But the farmers markets are more likely to have higher-quality food, comparable to that found in the organic section of the supermarket, although many small producers cannot afford the time and money it takes to be “certified organic.”

            Gail, I’d be interested to find out what your experience with the Marietta Farmers Market is like.

    • Chrome Mags says:

      “…one of the observations about the obesity epidemic encompassing the world can be phrased as “fat people are fat because they are starving”, that is, what they eat is not satisfying what their organism requires…”

      That seems rather obvious. Think of it this way; let’s suppose someone got hooked on eating cream filled chocolate eclairs. That person would get heavier and heavier yet feel sick all the time. Lots of nutrition in a salad. It’s not that hard to eat. The trouble with the US at this point is everything is about cheese and meat. There are ads now running on TV that show people walking with a pizza box like they just discovered gold. No, it’s not a healthy food. Sure, sometimes but not exclusively anymore than a chocolate éclair.

      • I wonder if the trend toward single living and couples with two wage earners is fueling the obesity epidemic.

        Instead of “Mom” cooking healthy food at home for the family, the time stretched family opts for fast food or meals that can be prepared from mostly-prepared items on the center isles of grocery stores. Singles feel like the time put into cooking isn’t worth the bother either, especially when they end up eating the same thing for a week straight.

        I don’t think that the trend toward “energy dense” rather than “nutrient dense” cooking is helping either. Fast food places want people to feel like they are getting a lot for their money. They may get a lot of calories, but nutrient-wise, they are not getting much.

  6. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The yield curve isn’t the only sign recession is coming. Rising corporate misconduct says the same. Business scandals seem to peak at the end of every growth cycle. I think that’s because CEOs are human, and humans get overconfident when everything is going well.”

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickwwatson/2019/05/15/this-is-a-recession-indicator-no-one-is-talking-about-and-its-flashing-red/#556eaadf1e6b

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Serious auto-loan delinquencies – 90 days or more past due – jumped to 4.69% of outstanding auto loans and leases in the first quarter of 2019, according to New York Fed data. This put the auto-loan delinquency rate at the highest level since Q4 2010 and merely 58 basis points below the peak during the Great Recession in Q4 2010 (5.27%). These souring auto loans are going to impact banks and specialized lenders and the real economy…”

      https://wolfstreet.com/2019/05/15/subprime-bites-serious-auto-loan-delinquencies-spike-to-q3-2009-level-despite-strongest-labor-market-in-years/

      • I think that part of the problem relates to prices of cars rising faster than wages of typical workers. These higher prices are partly because of mandated increased efficiency and partly because of new features (backup cameras, better bumpers, audio equipment, air conditioning, anti-lock breaks, etc.) CPI calculations say that the prices are close to flat, considering the additional features. But if buyers can’t really afford the new features, the higher cost is a problem.

        In some ways, this reminds me of the healthcare system. The cost keeps going up because the healthcare system finds more tests and more higher-cost treatments that are supposedly, in some marginal way, a little better than the previous approach. Buyers cannot really afford the higher-cost treatments. I was reminded of this when I recently heard about a 9 ounce premature baby that doctors were trying to save. This is a way to spend lots of the healthcare system’s money and fairly often ends up with an adult with problems. I would wonder if a female child, raised to maturity from being extra small, would have an elevated possibility of giving birth to another extra small child in the next generation as well.

  7. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Huawei has hit back at the Trump administration after it declared a national emergency to ban technology from “foreign adversaries” and subjected the Chinese telecommunications company to strict export controls.

    “An executive order issued by the US president, Donald Trump, on Wednesday declared a national economic emergency that empowers the government to ban the technology and services of “foreign adversaries” deemed to pose “unacceptable risks” to national security, including from cyber-espionage and sabotage.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/15/donald-trump-national-emergency-telecoms-threats-huawei

  8. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Global luxury home prices stagnated in the first quarter of 2019, rising a meager 1.3% across 45 of the world’s priciest housing markets, according to a quarterly index released Wednesday from brokerage Knight Frank. 

    “It marked the slowest annual price growth the index has recorded since 2009, when world markets were in the throes of the financial crisis. Cooling home prices have largely been the byproduct of broad economic skittishness paired with a slew of local governmental reforms.”

    https://www.mansionglobal.com/articles/global-luxury-home-prices-rise-at-slowest-rate-since-financial-crisis-202167

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “In Greater Vancouver, BC, Canada, house prices fell 0.4% in April from March, the ninth month in a row of month-to-month declines, according to the Teranet-National Bank House Price Index. The index is down 4.7% from the peak in July 2018, the sharpest nine-month decline since July 2009. And it’s down 2.8% from April last year. One of the most splendid housing bubbles in the world is now deflating before our very eyes…”

      https://wolfstreet.com/2019/05/15/the-most-splendid-housing-bubbles-in-canada-deflate-further/

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “The British Columbia government commissioned independent investigator Peter German to produce a report on the role of laundered criminal money in the province’s white-hot real-estate bubble, centred on the city of Vancouver; German’s report found that last year alone, CAD7b was laundered through BC, with much of that money going into property (as well as luxury cars and casino gambling).”

        https://boingboing.net/2019/05/13/5b-per-year.html

      • Evidently their oil sands area is not as booming as in the past. Housing prices were ridiculous at one point. What goes up has a tendency to come back down.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        In Greater Vancouver, BC, Canada, house prices fell 0.4% in April from March, the ninth month in a row of month-to-month declines

        I would not take this as any sort of generalized indicator of the economy.

        Vancouver has had one of the hottest housing markets in the world, to the point that both foreign-ownership taxes and vacant housing taxes have been imposed. Plus, a recent commission has found that housing has been used to launder billions of dollars of crooked money.

        So the recent housing declines are part over-due correction, and part government control — not an indicator that even the hot Vancouver employment market is faltering.

    • What really pumps up mansion prices is falling interest rates. Interest rates weren’t generally falling in the first quarter, so I am sure that that contributed to the lack of growth in prices. The cut-off in purchases from foreigners has come from two directions: taxes such as ones Vancouver has on homes bought by foreigners, and capital controls of China (and perhaps other countries), I expect.

      The real market for homes today is young people with modest incomes. They would like inexpensive homes, not mansions. In the US, it seems like builders are mostly interested in building higher-priced homes, perhaps because of the high fixed costs associated with building (for example, fees that governments charge regarding need for new roads, schools, etc.).

  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Iran is on the “cusp of a full-scale confrontation with the enemy”, an Iranian military commander has claimed, as sabre-rattling between Washington and Tehran intensified.”

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-iran-trump-latest-conflict-revolutionary-guard-irgc-twitter-a8915831.html

  10. SuperTramp says:

    A prime example of what I pointed out recently…
    “Trump administration opens up Minnesota wilderness area to copper mining
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday renewed two long-mothballed leases near the Boundary Waters Wilderness area in Minnesota, a key step in opening up the popular wilderness and recreation area to copper mining despite heavy opposition from local and national conservation groups.
    The department’s Bureau of Land Management granted the hardrock mineral leases inside the Superior National Forest to Twin Metals Minnesota LLC, a subsidiary of Chile’s Antofagasta, with the aim of expanding domestic mining of “critical minerals” used in common appliances and products, saying it is beneficial to national security because it reduces foreign imports.”
    Nothing is protected from BAU…NOTHING…by a stroke of a pen it’s gobbled up to feed the FULL
    THROTTLE, pedal to the metal, whatever it takes, flat out pace we need to keep it from collapsing.
    Oh , another bites the dust…great going Donald!
    …”The Obama administration in 2016 had implemented a moratorium on new mineral development in the area while it would conduct an extensive environmental impact statement (EIS) analysis to determine whether 234,000 acres of the watershed around Boundary Waters should be withdrawn from mining for up to 20 years.
    But after President Donald Trump took office in 2017, he reversed course, cancelling the EIS in favor of a less-demanding and faster environmental assessment last January.
    The BLM said it got more than 39,000 comments during the 41 day EA review, which informed its decision, although the majority of those comments were in opposition to allowing mining..
    The site attracts more visitors than any other U.S. wilderness area.”

    By Valerie VolcoviciWASHINGTON (Reuters)

    • If we don’t exploit our own resources, we have more international trade, also using quite a bit of fossil fuels as well as ramping up the economies of the countries we import from. The CO2 effect of importing resources is likely greater.

      If we expect to have goods and services, we need to be a able to provide them for ourselves.

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