Why it (sort of) makes sense for the US to impose tariffs

Nearly everyone wonders, “Why is Donald Trump crazy enough to impose tariffs on imports from other countries? How could this possibly make sense?”

As long as the world economy is growing rapidly, it makes sense for countries to cooperate with each other. With the use of cooperation, scarce resources can become part of supply lines that allow the production of complex goods, such as computers, requiring materials from around the world. The downsides of cooperation include:

(a) The use of more oil to transport goods around the world;

(b) The more rapid exhaustion of resources of all kinds around the world; and

(c) Growing wage disparity as workers from high-wage countries compete more directly with workers from low-wages countries.

These issues can be tolerated as long as the world economy is growing fast enough. As the saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

In this post, I will explain what is going wrong and how Donald Trump’s actions fit in with the situation we are facing. Strangely enough, there is a physics aspect to what is happening, even though it is likely that Donald Trump and the voters who elected him would probably not recognize this. In fact, the world economy seems to be on the cusp of a shrinking-back event, with or without the tariffs. Adding tariffs is an indirect way of allowing the US to obtain a better position in the new, shrunken economy, if this is really possible.

The upcoming shrinking-back event is the result of too little energy consumption in relation to total world population. Most researchers have completely missed the possibility that energy limits could manifest themselves as excessive wage disparity. In fact, they have tended to assume that energy limits would manifest themselves as high energy prices, especially for oil.

The world’s networked economy doesn’t work in the simple way that most researchers have assumed. Too much wage disparity tends to lead to low energy prices, rather than high, because of increasing affordability issues. The result is energy prices that are too low for producers, rather than too high for consumers. Producers (such as OPEC nations) willingly cut back on production in an attempt to get prices back up. The resulting shortage can be expected to more closely resemble financial collapse than high prices and a need for rationing. Trump’s tariffs may provide the US a better position, if the world economy should partially collapse.

Let me try to explain some pieces of this story.

1. Energy is needed to power the world economy. This fact has been missed by politicians and most economists. 

Economist Steven Keen recently developed a graphical explanation of the role energy plays in the world economy. In his graphic, he shows that workers need food (an energy product) just as machines need some sort of energy product to operate. In Steve Keen’s words, “Labor without energy is a corpse: capital without energy is a sculpture.”

Figure 1. Graphic by Steven Keen, depicting the role of energy in the economy. Energy in the form of food is necessary for human labor, just as energy (in one of its many forms) is needed for physical transformations that make the activities underlying GDP possible. These physical transformations necessarily lead to both the desired products and multiple types of waste.

In fact, there is a physics reason why energy consumption is needed in the economy. Energy “dissipation” is needed for the physical actions underlying GDP. For example, transportation requires a physical movement of people or objects. This can only happen with the use of energy. Even the use of heat or of electricity requires energy dissipation.

2. China’s huge growth in energy consumption since it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 2001 is truly amazing. It has changed the world order in a few years.

China’s energy consumption ramped up very quickly after joining the WTO in late 2001. At the same time, the energy consumption of the US and the EU stagnated, as manufacturing moved to China and other Emerging Markets.

Figure 2. Energy Consumption for the United States, China, and European Union, based on data from BP’s 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

As the shift in energy consumption occurred, jobs shifted elsewhere. Also, the competition with China and other low-wage countries tended to hold down wages of workers whose jobs could be shifted overseas. When we look at labor force participation rates for the US, we see that these seem to have turned down about the same time that China joined the WTO. This suggests that workers started leaving the workforce about the time competition with China ramped up.

Figure 3. US Labor Force Participation Rate, in chart prepared by the Federal Reserve of St. Louis.

3. China is now facing a problem with Peak Coal. Its level of coal production is barely sustainable because of depletion and low coal prices. 

Figure 4. China energy production by fuel, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 data. “Other Ren” means Other Renewables. This includes wind, solar and other renewables, such as wood burned for fuel.

If China is to manufacture goods and services for the world economy as well as its own people, it needs a growing supply of cheap-to-produce energy. China’s largest source of energy is coal. China’s coal production hit a peak in 2013 and has been on a bumpy plateau, or falling, since. The problem has been a combination of (a) a higher cost of coal production, because existing mines are depleting, combined with (b) coal prices that do not rise high enough to make production from these mines profitable.

Of course, if coal prices were to rise higher, China would have a different, but equally serious problem: The cost of finished goods created for the world marketplace would be quite a bit higher, making it difficult to export them profitably. If customers’ wages rose at the same time coal prices rose, there would be no problem. The problem could be described in some sense as growing mining inefficiency because of coal depletion. Unfortunately, the world economy does not reward a shift toward inefficiency.

4. With Peak Coal occurring in China, it makes little sense for the United States, the European Union and others to depend as heavily on China as in the past.

The economy of every country today is built on debt. If the world economy is growing, this debt pile can rise higher and higher. If interest rates can be brought ever lower, this also helps the pile of debt rise higher and higher.

China’s economy also uses increasing debt to sustain its economic growth. If the economy of China should slow down or start shrinking because of energy limits, debt defaults could start overwhelming the system. Uprisings from laid-off workers might become difficult to quell. The situation could easily spiral out of control.

Economies around the world depend on China for many manufactured goods. In fact, for many minerals, China’s usage amounts to over half of the world’s consumption. This arrangement doesn’t really make sense because (a) China cannot really be depended on for the long term because of coal depletion, (b) jobs that pay well in Advanced Economies are being lost to China and other Emerging Markets, and (c) the level of concentration of manufacturing in China puts the world system at risk if China has any kind of adverse shift in its economy.

5. The whole idea of buying fuels from other countries only works as long as there is enough to go around. 

Many people are of the opinion that if there is not enough fuel of a particular kind, fuel prices will rise, and the market will continue to operate normally. There are at least two reasons why this doesn’t make sense:

Reason #1. The issue underlying rising costs of fossil fuels is nearly always depletion. For example, with coal mines, the coal closest to the surface in the thickest seams is extracted first. As this is depleted, deeper coal in thinner seams can also be extracted, but the cost tends to be higher. When depletion takes place, it is nearly always possible to extract more of the given fuel if some combination of more human labor and more technology (powered by energy) is used. Of course, adding labor and/or technology leads to a higher cost of production. 

But the prices of commodities are not determined based on the cost of production; prices are determined in the marketplace. They reflect the quantity of finished goods and services made with these commodities, that consumers (in the aggregate) can afford. Extracting coal or another fuel in what is essentially a less efficient manner doesn’t add to what consumers can afford. The combination of flat prices and higher costs leads to unprofitable producers–precisely China’s problem. Producers tend to cut back on production.

We can see that higher energy prices don’t lead to higher wages by looking at what happened when oil prices rose a few years ago in the US. We see that higher oil prices led to lower average wages because of recession.

Figure 5. Average wages in 2017$ compared to Brent oil price, also in 2017$. Oil prices in 2017 dollars are from BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018. Average wages are total wages based on BEA data adjusted by the GDP price deflator, divided by total population. Thus, they reflect changes in the proportion of population employed as well as wage levels.

Reason #2. If we look back at the timing of Peak Coal in the UK and in Germany, it looks very much as if depleting coal supply was one of the causes of both World War I and World War II. Governments know that energy supplies are required to operate their economies. If they cannot get enough energy products internally or through trade, they will fight other countries for access to supplies.

Figure 6. Image by author.

Economists, sitting in their ivory towers, have not stopped to think through the obvious. Their standard supply and demand curve does not work for energy because an adequate supply of cheap energy is needed for both the demand for goods and services (coming from wages workers earn) and the supply of goods and services. Once affordability becomes a problem, because too many people have low wages, the prices of fuels stop rising. It is the fact that prices don’t rise high enough that causes the “peaking” of oil, natural gas, and coal production. Extraction stops, even though there seem to be plenty of resources still available with current technology.

6. A major energy issue today is the fact that China and India have run through their own energy supplies and now need to import energy from outside their countries to supplement domestic supplies.

As shown in Figure 4 (above), China’s coal production stopped rising in 2013, keeping the total amount of energy it produces close to flat. To compensate for this shortfall, China has started to import oil, coal and natural gas. The difference between the thick black line and the top of the “stack” of types of energy produced in China (in Figure 7 below) represents the quantity of fuel that it has needed to import. Clearly, this quantity has been increasing.

Figure 7. China energy production by fuel plus its total energy consumption, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data.

India’s coal supply is not yet decreasing, but it is running into a similar problem. It needs to import more and more energy products from abroad, as its energy consumption (thick black line) rises above its energy production “stack.”

Figure 8. India’s total energy consumption compared to its energy production by type, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy. “Other Ren” includes wind, solar, and other commercially traded renewable types of renewable energy, such as geothermal.

7. Worldwide, there is a growing need for imported fuels of many kinds.

Figure 9 shows the imports needed for five major areas of the world. In this analysis, the European Union is treated as a single unit. Thus, in this analysis, the imports it receives are only those from outside the European Union, taken as a whole.

Figure 9. Required energy imports for five major areas of the world, based on the difference of energy consumption and energy production shown in BP’s 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

We can see from Figure 9 that the European Union and Japan have been major importers of fuels for a very long time. India and China have only in recent years become energy importers. At the same time, the US is becoming more and more energy sufficient with its own fuel production.

Figure 10 shows the ratio of imported energy to total energy consumption for these five areas.

Figure 10. Percentage of energy imported in 2017 in Japan, India, the EU, China, and the US. Imports calculated as the difference between Total Energy Consumption and Total Energy Production based on data from BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy. The European Union is treated as a single unit. Thus, energy imports are those from outside the EU.

The US is clearly in a better position than other countries/groups shown, with a smaller share of energy imported in Figure 10 and a declining trend in imported energy in Figure 9. Japan, the EU and India are all subject to substantial risk if available imports should fall.

8. The ramp up of “clean energy” to date has proven to be a major disappointment. The quantities added are far below what the IEA believes is needed.

Partial confirmation of this statement can be seen by observing the tiny orange “Other Ren” bands on Figures 4, 7, and 8 for China and India, which include wind, solar, and other non-hydroelectric renewables. China is the largest user of wind and solar in the world, yet its use of these devices provides only a tiny portion of its total energy consumption.

We have known since the 1950s that fossil fuel supply would eventually become a problem. Academics, with their focus on making models, have been able to come up with hypotheses regarding what might act as substitutes. But these models tend to miss a lot of things, including the following:

  • Adverse events, such as Fukushima for nuclear.
  • The need for electricity storage and extra long distance transmission lines, as wind and solar usage are ramped up. The cost-benefit analysis is much less favorable with these added.
  • Issues that affect only some installations, such as workarounds to keep long-distance transmission lines from starting fires in dry areas, or the high cost of underground transmission lines.
  • The best sites are taken early.

It is not until the actual experience arrives that we see how these substitutes are working in practice. If we think back, the nuclear promise of producing electricity that was hoped to be “too cheap to meter” hasn’t really panned out. In fact, many Advanced Economies are cutting back on their use of nuclear.

With respect to “renewables,” (including hydroelectric, wind, solar, and others) the amount of new generation added each year seems to have hit a plateau. It may be that the additional need for storage and transmission lines are already slowing the growth of renewables.

Figure 11. IEA Renewable Net Capacity Additions as of May 2019. Source: Chart from India Times.

The IEA has started pointing out that far more energy investment is needed if sustainable development goals are to be met–about 300 GW per year, instead of the current 177 per year in additions, on average, between 2018 and 2030.

9. Donald Trump and his advisors have sensed that the current economic system is not working because of too much wage disparity. If the economic system is destined to break in one way or another, Trump can influence which way the break will occur by the imposition of tariffs.

Trump and his advisors no doubt recognize the importance of a cheap, available energy supply. They also realize that energy is an important enough factor of production to fight over. Furthermore, many past wars have been resource wars. Tariffs are, in some sense, a step toward a resource war.

One of the immediate problems at hand is too much wage disparity. Strange as it may seem, excessive wage disparity can be a sign of inadequate energy supply because in a networked economy, high prices of commodities and low wages of workers are almost “mirror images” of each other. High commodity prices tend to cut off consumption of commodities (such as oil or coal) by prices of finished goods that are too high for consumers.

Excessive wage disparity works in reverse: It sends prices of commodities (such as coal and oil) too low, cutting off production because prices fall too low for producers of these commodities. Production falls because producers cannot make a profit. When wage disparity is very high, a large share of workers have very low wages, leaving them unable to purchase more than a small amount of high-priced goods (such as cars and homes) made with commodities. It is this low “demand” that holds down commodity prices.

Figure 10 shows that wide income disparities were issues both at the time of the Great Depression and in recent years. Commodity prices have been relatively low each of these times. The problems didn’t look like shortages; they looked like gluts because of issues related to lack of affordability.

Figure 12. U. S. Income Shares of Top 1% and Top 0.1%, Wikipedia exhibit by Piketty and Saez.

The US has raised tariffs in the past. One time was immediately before the US Civil War. Tariffs were again raised in 1922 and 1930, when wage disparities were at a high level.

Unfortunately, there is a significant chance that major parts of the world economy will start collapsing, with or without Trump’s tariffs and the trade war, because energy supplies worldwide are not growing sufficiently. In fact, some of these energy supplies are purposely being removed by producers, such as Saudi Arabia, because prices are too low.

By putting tariffs on some goods, Trump is providing a substitute for the missing high oil prices needed to slow the growth of globalization, if the issue of ever-increasing wage disparity is to be solved. The tariffs tend to raise the value of the US dollar relative to other currencies, making the cost of commodities (including fossil fuels) cheaper for US consumers than for other consumers around the world. The tariffs tend to encourage new investment in US production of many types, at the same time that they make investment in other countries, such as China, less appealing.

All of these changes indirectly give the US an advantage if there should be a partial collapse of the world economy. With the benefit of the tariffs, perhaps the partial collapse would leave some combination of countries, including the US and Canada, mostly unaffected. There might be other groups remaining as well. Weak economies, such as Venezuela, Cuba, and Haiti, would likely be pushed aside. Even Europe and Japan would likely have major problems.


Most observers have missed the point that excessive wage and wealth disparity can be a sign of serious energy problems, just as high prices can be a sign of short supply. They have also missed the point that coal supply is very important, just as oil supply is very important.

In the real world, when there is not enough to go around, wars are a definite possibility. A trade war is a somewhat reduced version of a war. Trump and his advisors, whether or not they understand the real situation, seem to be trying to guide the US to as good an outcome as possible, in the current situation of excessive wage disparity.

The underlying issue is likely the Limits to Growth problem modeled in the 1972 book, The Limits to Growth, by Donella Meadows, et al.

Figure 13. Base scenario from 1972 Limits to Growth, printed using today’s graphics by Charles Hall and John Day in “Revisiting Limits to Growth After Peak Oil,” with dotted line added corresponding to where I see the world economy to be in 2019.

As resources become depleted, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain economic growth. Industrial output per capita (for example, the number of new cars or number of smartphones per 1000 people) starts falling. The 1972 computer simulations did not consider wages or prices, only physical quantities of various items.

Now, as we can see how the limits are playing out in the real world, it appears that the most prominent manifestation of the world’s low resource problem is excessive wage disparity–an issue most people have never considered as being related to shortages of resource supplies. Few people have stopped to think that goods made with energy products are equally unaffordable whether the problem is prices being too high, or wages of most people being too low.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
This entry was posted in Financial Implications and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1,341 Responses to Why it (sort of) makes sense for the US to impose tariffs

  1. Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

    Bund 10 year rate is minus 0.119%

    something is severely wrong over in Germany…




    Prime Minister, anyone?

    who is it going to be next?

    • SUPERTRAMP says:

      I remember a cool Literature teacher in my High School, Mr. Hall. Kind of looked like Mr. Hand in the Sean Penn movie way back. To mess with our lizard minds he dared us non achievers with a Fast Eddie Challenge. He would give out multiple guess tests and claimed if one of us were able to get every one WRONG on the test he would issue an A grade!
      His reasoning, of course, to do such he were either very lucky or knew all the answers!

      I suppose we ate at that phase in human development…in order to succeed one has to be a total fckup….hence negative interest rates!

    • Well, the fallen PM was quite weepy on the cameras yesterday, fairly unusual for British circles.. One can not wonder was it just personal trait at moment, or rather given the preceding desperate moves (well coordinated with Brussels) she knows her name would be (‘unjustly’) solidified in history as the threshold for further debasement of UK or mere England into way lower in-significance..

      • doomphd says:

        her upper lip was definitely not stiffened. time to go.

      • psile says:

        She was refreshingly human then. I felt compassion for her, for once. Our modern way of life allows no taint of weakness or emotion to flow through. We are all alienated from life, ourselves and each other.

        • Well, even treasonous – treacherous characters may eventually have sincere emotions.
          I’m not sure about the compassion (to her) part though, I gather that’s too much in this case.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      Bund 10 year rate is now minus 0.141%

    • Dan says:

      Dang straight there is something wrong in Germany – they are in a recession and they aren’t coming out of it anytime soon (ever). China has basically been running a cash for clunkers program for 2 years and it is beginning to wind down. China is mandating that they begin transitioning to EV’s https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/12/how-china-raised-stakes-electric-vehicles leaving German auto manufacturers in a bind along with their 800,000 workers.

      The only thing keeping the US afloat is low interest rates (to go lower along with more QE when necessary) and that we pumping 1.3 trillion dollars of debt into the ether each year and growing.

      The head winds are becoming too much to ignore at this point.

      Just saw that the US auto sector isn’t looking so rosy either https://www.marketwatch.com/story/auto-industry-cutting-jobs-at-the-fastest-pace-since-the-financial-crisis-2019-05-21

      Even the low interest rates cannot get people to buy cars / trucks – they’re broke. Historically when the auto companies start laying off then recession and more layoffs are on the horizon.

      Not looking good at all.

      • I agree that car sales are getting to be a problem around the world. In 2008, it seems like there was a big downshift in the building of homes, more than just inside the US. This time, the big downshift that seems to be happening is in automobiles. Also, the new downshift seems to be close to worldwide, not just in “Advanced Economies”

        I read the link to the blog about China’s mandate to transition about from ICE toward electrics. The article made it sound like China’s motive was to save the climate.

        My view is that China’s intent is to make the cars dependent on electricity from China’s coal, rather than from imported oil. There may have also been a desire to hold pollution within China’s cities. A third goal would be for China to become a leader in electric cars, if they are to be used worldwide. I don’t think that the expected impact with respect to climate change ranks highly in their real listing of objectives, except if perhaps it will help sell more cars overseas.

  2. Dennis L. says:

    Back to Farming: the proletariat and keeping things working without bread riots.
    Respectful question, how does permaculture replace farming on this scale which is in large part for wheat our daily bread? Certainly this requires a great deal of diesel.

    To my knowledge we do not farm on this scale in MN, although I have heard a neighbor has perhaps 10K acres in various sites. Apparently one of his dryers which runs off of natural gas cannot be run if the weather gets too cold as it causes supply issues for a neighboring city of about 5K people. I have not checked this directly, knowledge is second hand.

    Dennis L.

    • Firstly, speaking of ‘beyond organic/permaculture/shallow or no till/..’, forget about these gargantuan mono cultures on chem fertilizer lifeline. The farmer of the future is like the one of the distant past, meaning instead of specialization rather doing everything at once: grazier, veggies, orchards.. all intertwined and matched for the particular biome, climate zone. Abrupt transition, steep learning curve indeed, few heritage material to work with, yet not impossible to feed some form and level of civilization, most likely on very distributed pop footprint.

      • artleads says:

        Sounds good. But the abrupt transition might be the rub. I believe that centralized transition is also out of the question. And here’s a devilish paradox. Decentralization into manageable pods that are conducive to cohesion (the local meme) has to be matched by a seeming opposite trend. All the do good single issues fail. I think that’s because they are unaware of how tightly interconnected the global system is. It might be necessary to practice and extreme of localism that is matched by an extreme of “globalism” (the global meme) The latter is what social media enables. That requires large amounts of electricity that must be obtained in some novel way. This “globalism” must also substitute place for race. Places–like, say, all the world’s coasts can be working systematically to ensure better fishing or better wetland regeneration that would, respectively, feed more people and create better climate resilience. Water sheds are a god way to organize the world, as well, and works both locally and globally….

        • The catch is that there are not a whole lot of goods and services that can be made with only the resources in a single water shed. Trying to keep electricity going worldwide seems like it far about what can really happen.

          A world on this basis, with today’s depleted resources, can’t support very many.

        • Dennis L. says:

          If I understand correctly, this farm family in the video has been in business for 117 years, and shows the Welker family helping a neighbor with planting, it has been a tough year to plant. Welkers were done, a neighbor needed help and two very large tractors with planters showed up to join with his two to get the job done. In the beginning the large trucks seen contain seed.

          Those not involved in farming often do not understand how deeply those of us who own the land appreciate its value and the balance between making it work financially and having it there for the next generation. My land is farmed by 4th and 5th generation farmers and metaphorically when they speak my response is “Yes sir.” There is an intensity of fairness among us, getting the best of a neighbor means what goes around will come around.

          It is difficult for me to put into words the feeling I get when driving onto my land, watching the crops grow and then harvested, the land resting until the next year. Even then, there are no guarantees something will come up, wind, hail, pests, weather affecting planting and harvesting are no small matters. A decreasing number of people are remaining who understand the process and among those I speak with they often express of the importance of the life style, there is a closeness to the land which takes a bit of time to appreciate. To successfully farm one needs to be bright, hard working and most importantly lucky. To make it through the hard times takes a team, neighbors and relatives with similar, simple goals without a great number of abstract ideas other than a rare bond between people. I have no idea how it will work with ever smaller plots so favored by many of the current, abstract thinkers, after about ten years of being around this group, I see very little evidence of extremism of any kind. In the end how those who farm the land will determine how many of us eat and how many do not. Moses seems to have understood that idea sometime ago.

          Dennis L.

          • artleads says:

            You shared some encouraging thoughts elsewhere about the more hopeful side of our nature. it suggests being absolutely trusting and truthful. Nothing to lose. Which is why I don’t see why we shouldn’t be sharing Gail’s major points to all and sundry. Just use Facebook as a way to plant (mental) seeds. Then of course people suggest that you do this and do that in order to succeed. But if we’re dealing with a single globally networked system (a self organizing system), then I guess you broadcasts your subliminal messages, not try to “succeed” too much by oneself, and trust that human group sense to kick in if or when it is ready.

      • Xabier says:

        Correct estimate, that is clearly the only workable longer-term future model one can envisage after a few desperate and hopeless attempts have been made to maintain somehow the current high-energy and hi-tech system.

        Hamlets and villages, some small market towns, and constant low-level violence between tribes and clans: think of the endemic feuds and cattle-rustling of Ancient Ireland. Very high mortality too, above all of infants and mothers, and young warriors. Some literacy might just be possible, but not essential.

        And Vegans will have to face the fact that livestock will be necessary for their hides, wool, bones and sinews, hauling and carrying power as well as meat. And most of all for the fertiliser they will provide, which will be the new gold.

        But due to the depredations of the industrial agricultural model, there is almost no heritage to draw upon: old breeds of livestock and draught animals are mostly too small in number to work with, and the craftsmen have all long gone now, in most regions.

        • SuperTramp says:

          Back in the day was into folk crafts and found this series of books
          For over 40 years, high school students in Foxfire programs have helped to gather and publish information about their Southern Appalachian heritage. Best known for the best-selling Foxfire Book series, the series and the other topical titles were all grown from interviews gathered for The Foxfire Magazine. The success of the student-driven program led to professional research that generated the Foxfire Approach to Teaching and Learning and its support materials for use by other educators hoping to achieve similar levels of student involvement and create life-long learners.


          And Roy Underhill of the PBS long running show Woodwrights Shop and he issued a number of great books on the subject.

          We do not give credit to the talent and insight our ancestors in their understanding of local materials to create necessary implements for living.
          Way back attended a week long Windsor Chair workshop in North Carolina by Drew Langser…. unfortunately he is old now and closing down
          And another long timer also retired…Michael Dunbar
          Recommend both for books.
          Don’t know if their knowledge will be past along after BAU

          • artleads says:

            It’s not clear whether the resource (wood, tools), population and time crunches will support a meaningful return to those old crafts. Maybe a triage moment like ours requires discarded materials put together by kids and low-skilled people.

            • Xabier says:

              There are some books showing weird and wonderful things that Russians cobbled together after the collapse of the Soviet Union, pretty inventive.

              I’m making garden furniture out of scrap wood at the moment: if anyone wants to steal that they are welcome to it! It’s amusing watching people trying to be polite about it: ‘That’s er, really,er……… different !’ is the usual comment.

              The joy of only paying for nails and screws!

            • artleads says:

              Xabier, nice to learn about another eccentric designer in the group. Visitors at the art fair yesterday probably thought that about my drawings, all on found cardboard and “framed” with tape, But I’m going to keep working on them till they look good. We need to win people over through aesthetics, I believe.

        • Agreed!

          Without enough of the old breeds of livestock, it is not clear that even this much can be done. The result may look closer to hunter-gathering, or perhaps planting a few seeds hear and there, and coming back later in the year to see what has grown.

        • ssincoski says:

          Your remark about the disappearance of craftsmen/women is the biggest issue with regard to relocalization. Here in Poland and probably in many other European countries people still remember how to farm small scale. Even where I live, I still see guys plowing with draft animals occasionally. The problem is though that nobody know how to make shoes, hand tools, soap, etc. There is at most 1 remaining generation with practical experience in these areas, but they don’t practice anymore and kids aren’t interested in learning the trade. Why bother making soap? We can just go to Tesco and have our choice of 50 brands.

          The transition to local is going to be tough. In a few places it will succeed, most likely in non-first world countries (Sorry kids, but all I ever knew was selling insurance, so we are doomed). Remaining hunter-gatherer societies may have a survival edge as they never depended on commercially produced stuff to live. But even that is a crap-shoot if the environment gets too iffy, too fast.

          I hope I have a few more years left to watch this unfold (getting old).

          • Xabier says:

            Very good to read about the draught animals still in use in Poland: maybe sufficiently healthy genetically to breed from on a larger scale?

            Craft awards simply make me laugh: wonderful people, and well-intentioned, but there are only a handful of them, and they are selling only to the rich on the whole.

            The chain of transmission in crafts is everything, and you really have to start as a boy or girl to establish the right habits.

            I was looking at a 10th-century illuminated book in the museum here the other day, which is quite moving as I’m in a direct line of instruction from those monks. But who am I going to teach? No one. I had to tell a brilliant student to forget about as it, as prospects looked poor and uncertain, and I did them a favour as things turned out. He’s now a house-husband kept by his wife!

            The last hand-forger of axes in the Basque Country can’t find one young man to learn, despite the high unemployment – they want shorter hours and long holidays and, probably, don’t want to get their soft hands dirty and calloused. They don’t want to give themselves to learning how to master something, they can’t see the satisfaction of transforming materials into something that lasts, the best you can make it.

            • I took this photo in China in 2011.

              It is not very long ago that China farmed with water buffalo. In fact, they may still farm with water buffalo in some rural areas.

            • Duncan Idaho says:

              We had water buffalo in Guam in 1970’s.

            • JesseJames says:

              “maybe sufficiently healthy genetically to breed from on a larger scale?”
              Larger scale?….do you realize how long it takes to reproduce one horse?
              The Amish will provide draft stock, and there are smatterings of it left around the US.

            • I believe that we would need different types of draft animals for different parts of the world as well. I saw one presentation saying that in Finland, only the smallest types of draft horses would work in the climate, because others would require too much feed. I imagine the amount of work that such a small horse can do is reduced as well, because of less muscle mass. The bit water buffalo are only for quite warm, wet areas.

          • Within the entire EU it seems Poland has got the one of the smallest acreage plots under cultivation per farmer. Seemingly ‘scale in-efficiency disadvantage’ near the peak output of everything but very useful trait when the megatrend pendulum swings the other way around.. now-soonish..

            That also favorably translates into many related areas, e.g. it implies support-demand for low power machinery and implements (near unobtanium elsewhere), besides obvious enviro benefits stemming from lot of diverse plots in the country not large scale mono-cultures..

            • The problem is that lower power machinery and implements may be just as unobtainable as high power machinery and implements. Also, fuel to operate these will not be available, unless you can supply them yourselves. Just going back a “step” doesn’t work, as far as I can see. Without a financial system, for example, it becomes impossible to purchases anything from a distance. You can perhaps put together a local system (to pay local workers with among other things), but that doesn’t go very far.

            • Going pre crash mode – It’s more like running a parallel process or track (having that option ready) than simply going back a step. For example, If I’m not mistaken US manufs almost non of the low power implements and machines, although they enjoy having animal powered machinery stateside and obviously the conventional big agriculture stuff industries and so on.. In contrast some countries don’t have any options at all on this spectrum available, and yet some others have different combinations of strengths and weaknesses on this plane.

        • artleads says:

          Even before we get into understanding our situation, you have a hellish time online getting neighbors not to go ba.sh.t crazy about little disagreements. One might harbor the dream that we have to get beyond tribal wars in order to survive. (I believe we do.) But you have people behaving tribally NOW, even before getting into the hard stuff. If we can’t change the tribal behavior now, what chance do we have later?

          • Dennis L. says:


            Human beings are very resilient and even though we often talk about only the lesser sides, we are a very communal group; we do help each other out, it is when it is not reciprocated and begins to be seen as unfair that things seem to get nasty. One has to wonder if perhaps the ideas or reciprocation are different among groups and that might cause friction.

            We are at a point where it is not an easy time, many of us here have a foot in two different cultures, the BAU which is truly wonderful, and the end of BAU which promises to be more of a challenge than most of us appreciate.

            We live in interesting times.


            Dennis L.

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      I lived in Big Sky Montana.
      That is not Big Sky.

    • Pintada says:

      “how does permaculture replace farming on this scale which is in large part for wheat our daily bread?”

      It doesn’t. If you have ever been on a farm, (an actual working farm) then its painfully obvious.

      • From everything I have seen, permaculture pretty much skips grains.

        • Yep, or their role is minimized and dealt with differently via NO / (very shallow) till practices.

          Pintada probably meant to visit industrial (outside inputs over-dependent) model farm, prevalent today, non existent in the future..

    • Jan Steinman says:

      how does permaculture replace farming on this scale

      Dennis, have you looked at Restoration Agriculture, by Mark Shepard?

      In his formal comparison, he shows that perennial polyculture can out-perform massive corn/beans monoculture rotation.

      Of course, the devil’s in the details, and I think it took Shepard more than ten years to get to that point, and it is much more labour-intensive.

      But in the face of the rising wage disparity that Gail notes, it may well be that the labour-intensive nature of sustainable agriculture will not be an impediment to those who find it necessary to eat.

      Personally, I’m less worried about corn and beans than I am hay. We use about three times as much land in hay as we use grazing, but that includes the share-cropper’s cut. Still, I’ve hayed an acre entirely by hand; that’s not going to scale up well.

      • Mark had hit (intentionally & luckily) a sweet-spot of climate zone, terrain, depreciated enough land price (previous intensive conventional management), relatively close access to favorable markets etc. This system is indeed somewhat reproducible elsewhere but not with such same level of abundance output or economic viability.. as you can’t stack up so many agriculture tweaked biology with human labor in other harsher climates from his (both hotter/colder varieties) in sustainable manner.

        I agree with your and Gail’s observation that -labor intensity- returns kind of in default, understood way, out of necessity anyway though..

  3. Bruce Steele says:

    Feeding a small household with a couple acres of gardens, a couple pigs, chickens, and some sheep for meat and wool production isn’t that difficult. Foraging skills and a good memory for location and seasonality of wild foods helps. Bad weather conditions, insects and fires make things more difficult but they always have. Learning the skills required takes years however and the knowledge base of what skilled elders can pass along is important. My fears are that those elders and the skills they posses are already in short supply and very little of that knowledge base will be around soon because those generations that lived a rural lifestyle are dying away. Those places in the world where poverty and rural lifestyles persisted into the 21st century are probably better set to making the long step back than any modern civilized society. We are lazy, dumb and too entitled for the most part to survive what is coming.

    • ssincoski says:

      Exactly. See my comment to Xavier above. If I could upvote you, I would.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      “Those places in the world where poverty and rural lifestyles persisted into the 21st century are probably better set to making the long step back than any modern civilized society.”

      the more “uncivilized” tribes of humans do not have long steps back if and when the BAU of IC collapses, so yes, they have a long term advantage, though I wouldn’t trade my BAU for their BAU right now…

      “We are lazy, dumb and too entitled for the most part to survive what is coming.”

      yes, it’s great… running hot/cold water, heat/AC, refrigeration…

      but no one, even in the most isolated tribes, will survive…

      it’s too solid of a fact to even discuss, thus it is quite uninteresting, but nevertheless, we’re all dead relatively soon, even the preppers and the uncivilized isolated peoples…

      I just don’t get the angst about any looming collapse…

      • Certainly, none of us live forever. But it humans and prehumans made it through ice ages, I don’t see a reason why humans might not make it through the next bottleneck.

        Of course, over the ages, the vast majority of species have gone extinct. It could be our turn at some point as well.

    • doomphd says:

      Bruce, your approach and assumptions remind me of “Little House on the Prairie” and Kunstler’s “World Made By Hand” novels. They might work, after the coming bottleneck is cleared, and assuming not too much of the remaining resources get trashed or are out of reach.

      • Tsubion says:

        Noone talks about the spent fuels pools anymore.

        I kinda miss them.

        • Dan says:

          Well the good news is everyone is in the same boat – the bad news is we are all going to die.

        • Perhaps it was not a well thought out threat in terms of probabilities.

          Since as long as there is some form of ‘oppressive gov’ – meaning ability to force security-emergency matter type of decision on general pop the situation would be dealt firstly by allocating top priority – resources of the grid to cool these ponds and at the first day of possible movement out just dump them raw even without sealed containers in the nearest deep enough old granite mining site. Problem and case closed.

          Obviously there are tail ends when this is not feasible or possible at all, various hard large scale day-to-day insta crashes of natural of human made origins, but these are small %prob, especially if we are talking about all such sites at single moment.

  4. Duncan Idaho says:

    Weaker Car Sales in the USA in 2019 (Q1)
    In March 2019, light vehicle sales in the USA were down 2,2% while sales contracted by 2% to just over four million cars for the first quarter of the year. As before, traditional passenger car sales were the weaker with sales down 7% while light trucks (including SUV and crossover) sales increased by 1%.

    Weaker Car Sales in India in 2019 (Q1)
    New passenger vehicle registrations in India contracted by 3% in March 2019 to drag the market down by 2% during the first quarter of 2019. This was the fifth consecutive contraction in the Indian new car market. The election cycle in India is also likely to weigh against a stronger market in the next few months.

    Weaker Car Sales in Japan in 2019 (Q1)
    After a solid start to the year, new passenger vehicle registrations in Japan contracted by 5.3% in March 2019 to just over half a million cars. For the first three months of 2019, new car sales in Japan were 2.1% weaker than during the first quarter of 2018.

    Weaker Car Sales in Europe in 2019 (Q1)
    In March 2019, new passenger vehicle registrations in the European Union (EU) and EFTA countries contracted by 3.6% to 1,770,800 cars. All five largest car markets contracted: Germany -1%, France -2%, Britain -3%, Spain -4% and Italy -10%. Somewhat worrying for April figures is that Easter weekend was partly in March in 2018 and that may put additional pressure on April 2019 numbers.

    During the first three months of 2019, new car sales in Europe contracted by 3.2% to 4,146,200 cars.

    Weak Car Sales in China in 2019 (Q1)
    Car sales in China, the world’s largest single country market by far, contracted by another 7.3% in March 2019 – the ninth consecutive month of lower car sales.

    However, the contraction in March was less severe than in January and February meaning the decline in new car sales during the first quarter of 2019 were down 13.8% to 5,164,100 – over 800,000 cars fewer than at the start of 2018.

    Anyone see the trend?

  5. Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

    the EU weakens:


    “The EU Parliament will be much more fragmented over the next five years with the established centrist bloc failing to gain a majority at this week’s election, early results and projections show.”

    of course, that assumes the EU will remain intact for the next 5 years…

    I’d guess a 25% or so chance it falls apart…

    • Lastcall says:

      Que será, será
      Whatever will be, will be
      The future’s not ours to see
      Que será, será
      What will be, will be

    • The election results are creepy and revealing in some sense.
      What TPTB lost (old coalition) they gained by successes of other related parties: Liberals, Greens etc..

      Don’t forget the most pervert form of gov is not tyranny, duopoly or what have you but coalition daily hell form of gov where at mature point of the system (~now) usually the smallest actor could force itself in and drag much bigger parties within broader coalition to act in certain way..

      Hence, these EU – Parliament elections are merely a little ‘flash wound’ indeed stressing the wobbling zombie body but not yet meant as fatal final blow.

      • that’s what i tried to explain here—just so obvious

        View at Medium.com

      • Well, according to latest news: the Greens are just officially announcing intent to enter the old ruling coalition in EU Parliament, therefore securing the majority rule of this coalition into the next cycle again.. lolz.. So, basically nothing happened in these elections.

        Nevertheless, these greenie quasi BAU lackeys would now push for more batteries/EVs, and that’s a ‘good thing’ for us older selfish guys, as there will be parts for self produced juice in another few more decades.

        • Few more decades? How long do you folks think international trade in its current form is going to hold up? Will you have funds to pay for repairs to the whole system? If the financial system crashes, how is this going to work? I think you are being optimistic.

          • Duncan Idaho says:

            Can you say delusional?

            • Tsubion says:

              To be fair…

              Worldof has been using “a few more decades” as his outro for as long as I’ve been reading here.

              For a longest time, he was the counter argument to Fast Eddy’s “Noone is gonna eat turkey this christmas!”

              Only one of them has been utterly wrong so far. As far as timing goes.

              Personally, I think that when it goes it goes. There’s not a lot you can do to hold things together and keep things going. At least not anything resembling industrial civ.

              Broken supply chains, tipping / breaking points, structural weakness in the system, leads to irreversable events and relatively sudden collapse of BAU with most people standing around scratching their heads wondering what just happened.

              That’s when the alien gods decloak and roll on the floor laughing, pointing at the gullible humans that fell for their latest planetary reality tv prank.

            • Tsubion, thanks for your durable memory in keeping score for these exciting sport activities over here.. In fact, the stubbornness of FE/TM character to reject other scenarios – time lines – sequencing into discussion was after a while not to his advantage. Yet, the writing was on the wall as triage seemed to intensify in Central/South America, ME/Syria, .. that there are still more places to be sacrificed on the altar of BAU extension. Now, since then the time worm turned a bit further and as the examples of France and Italy, possibly UK, show that the situation even within IC hubs seems deteriorating relatively fast nevertheless.

              So, if there was any serious bet to be taken he might lost only by few years or decade+ eventually..

              For me though, was most puzzling (if legit) his claimed and chosen bolt hole in NZ, which he to his credit openly regretted as very rushed and completely stupid idea, as there are much better places in the northern hemisphere for large spectrum of activities. And he was not of the upper upper caste anyway to have funds for the ‘complete protection’ package meaning: get away private jet/ocean vessel, mercenary army, gov grade bunker and supplies, etc.. for theoretically weathering the worst scenarios there, lacking these that destination is a nice tiny trap island only, full stop.

            • Tsubion says:

              Worldof… have always enjoyed your comments!

          • Projected time window for braking serious global threshold ~2025-35 within at least some of the IC hubs, plus ~15yrs sort of guaranteed longevity of the gear since date of purchase during that envelope, hence this equals bordering on ~2050 upper limit for the most optimistic (lunatic) case. Obviously, one has to count more on the opposite — sooner – side of the spectrum as the default realistic scenario, so perhaps a decade or two from now depending on other intervening factors (war-chaos, forced expropriation, ..). It’s a sheer lottery as in some regions-countries baseload grid might work on domestic coal for some extra time as large part of the frivolous output economy (demand for energy) folds down, coal would be enough.. although sporadic blackouts inevitable before the final and last one. In such cascade of sequencing different modes of spending would more desirable than on said batteries.

            • I think that the economy works on the something that I would call the average EROI of the mix. (For renewables, it is a lot lower than the published EROEI, because the calculations for renewables are not right.) Once this average EROI gets too low, the system tends to crash. It is not possible to get out what looks like the rest of the coal. It is only an illusion that it is available.

              I don’t think that there is anything we realistically can do about CO2.

          • Mark says:

            I hope your right, but I think your dismissing the current danger. There are Damocles’ swords everywhere, or that Jenga stick that no one knows that causes cascade and contagion. Anything that causes mass absenteeism in a major economy(s), and it’s over.

            Also, I googled Tad, and he has a vid on that same channel that fits well with that farming thread.

      • Xabier says:

        Political structures and institutions can go on for far longer than anyone actually believes in them anymore – countless empires prove this, as will the EU and its Potemkin-facade parliament.

        • Tsubion says:

          Nah. That was before Da Internet!

          The EU’s goose is cooked. Charred even.

          It’s one building in Brussels. And a bank in Germany.

          European nation states will be Russo-Chinese serfs soon.

          Half of China (and India) would move to Africa tomorrow if they could just find a way to brush aside the local residents…

          Reminds me of europeans replacing the natives in North and South America not so long ago.

          Disease appears to do the trick without the need for too much hand to hand messiness.

    • It would seem to make it more difficult to find a common “middle ground.”

      • Grant says:

        The European ‘Project’ is not really dependent on national or supranational politics.

        But we are encouraged to think that it is and is therefore a democratic process. Whatever that really means.

  6. SuperTramp says:

    Do we really know what we are doing!!??
    Frankenfood can already been killing us!
    After Reading This Article About The Danger Of GMOs, You Will Probably Never Want To Eat Genetically-Modified Food Again

    In the end, it all comes down to greed. Four giant corporations have a virtual monopoly on the seed market today, and billions of dollars are at stake. So an enormous amount of time and energy is spent trying to convince the American public that there is nothing to be concerned about, and massive amounts of money is poured into the campaigns of politicians that support GMO food

    BAU BABY….Permmie Preppies think they can isolate themselves in a bubble to shield themselves from harm!! HAHAHA….I DONT THINK SO.

    Genetic drift will seek you out and we all know from FE about Mister and Misses DNA…

    • Except that all of our food has been genetically modified from the original, by selecting the plants that deviate in the desired direction from others, if not more modern techniques. Some of the modifications, such as resistance to certain diseases, seem to be very helpful.

      For example, we might be able to have bananas that are resistant to the virus that is a problem now.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        all of our food has been genetically modified from the original, by selecting the plants that deviate in the desired direction from others

        The problem is both the rate at which we introduce changes, and the fact that traditional “genetic modification” was always within within species, or between closely related species.

        The things modern technology allows us to do have never occurred, such as putting the genes for spider silk into a goat, or firefly genes into tobacco, or insecticidal bacteria genes into corn.

        Under traditional “genetic modification,” achieving such things (should they be doable at all) would have required a huge number of generations to accomplish, and many of them would have “self-selected out” due to co-incident changes.

        we might be able to have bananas that are resistant to the virus that is a problem now.

        Scary thing: essentially all bananas of commercial value are clones with the same genetic information! This means that, should some pathogen evolve to exploit the Cavendish Banana, the entire world banana production could be eliminated in a fairly short time! (Well, there are a small number of different cultivars, but they all are reproduced asexually, and thus are subject to attack of entire populations.)

    • After reading the article, I can see the point that some genetic modifications are problematic. But aren’t there plant species that are naturally resistant to a particular plant problem, which can be encouraged? I think the term “genetic modification” perhaps needs to be defined a little more specifically. Simple cross breeding should not be a problem, for example.

      • SuperTramp says:

        Gail, thank you for taking a second look. Maybe much worse than we could imagine.
        Once out in the ecosystem cant put back in the lab. Not the first time new technology hazards were downplayed as exposed by author Jerry Mander

        BAU demands it..Growth at any price

        • I once went to a presentation saying that the various additives to food (coloring especially) have not been tested in large enough quantities, over a long enough period, to say that they are safe. Supposedly, the testing was done before the rise in very bright colored frostings and even ketchup. The chemistry of humans is a little too close to that of all of the chemicals we are using in our foods.

      • Grant says:

        So what are we to be allowed to die from?

        Perhaps not eating rather than eating?

        Or before that perhaps dehydration rather than drinking untreated sewage in supplies as around 8 billion people in a collapsed social system discover that their water supplies are more at risk than ever before?

        The ‘developed’ world would likely be at special risk having little or no resistance to the rapidly extending problems of tainted natural supplies and inoperative water treatment plants.

        Reducing the population significantly should not take very long.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “Reducing the population significantly should not take very long.”

          That depends on how poor the government involved and other governments respond. You would think water treatment plants and the power to run them would be high on the list. But that does not seem to always be the case.

          There are some places where things may get amazingly bad. Venezuela and South Africa are countries where water and energy problems could kill a high fraction of the population.

          • Venezuela – cost of oil extraction and of needed taxes way too high, relative to what the market will bear

            South Africa – experiencing peak coal

          • Grant says:

            Any country is susceptible to water supply problems.

            I would suggest that the higher the current water quality standards are the harder any problems will hit.

            Social dissatisfaction related to water or energy supply problems might turn out to be more of a challenge than the apparent shortage.

            If the scale of the problem covered many countries the social response would be more difficult to contain than seems to be the case in Venezuela so far.

            How long Venezuela takes to either collapse or recover may be a good basis for planning.

    • Hideaway says:

      With human population of 7.7B and in massive overshoot of resource use, exactly how is this ‘bad’ if effecting humans in the same way??…………

      “When GM soy was fed to female rats, most of their babies died within three weeks”

      “The GM-fed babies were also smaller, and later had problems getting pregnant.”

      “Mice fed GM corn in an Austrian government study had fewer babies, which were also smaller than normal.”

      “Cows and bulls also became infertile when fed the same corn.”

      Sounds like a solid plan to me.

  7. hkeithhenson says:

    I don’t think any future is a sure thing. There are long-range developments that could really surprise people. For example, a bunch of AIs that are a lot smarter than we are. It might be worth considering under what circumstances the human race would do OK in addition to the idea that we are doomed.

    • Niko B says:

      There is not a single AI on the planet that is smarter than the average intelligent human.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “AI on the planet that is smarter”

        For the sake of argument, let’s stipulate this.

        Is AI getting better? I think it would be hard to argue against this. If that is the case, then at some point in the future AI will be smarter than we are, assuming continued progress.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          diminishing returns on almost all human economic activities guarantee that any AI progress will collapse in the next decade or so…

          • hkeithhenson says:

            I wonder how you know this?

            • Tsubion says:

              Because all the techno tech technicians will down their techy tools and go home to sharpen machetes when they realise there’s no food in the shops and no gas trucks making deliveries.

              That’s how he knows Keith.

              When the SHTF… playing with your latest tech toys will be the last thing on peoples minds.

              I am at least mentally prepared for what happens next if things go south. Could be more physically prepared but better than the average self propelled stomach waddling around.

              At the moment, things appear to be quickening towards collapse. There’s always a big “if” question mark hanging over the future but all we have to go on is what we see in front of us now. Extrapolating along some extremely thin thread decades or centuries ahead is equivalent to wishing for aliens to “save us” or praying to the gods to whisk us off to another realm.

              But yeah… anything could theoretically happen.

              I have often suggested here that a branching off could occur from human activity leading to a completely new species if low cost energy was guaranteed. Of course you get boooed back into oblivion because we’re not allowed to be positive here. Apparantly it’s not realistic.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “That’s how he knows Keith.”

              That implies certainty about the timing of future events. If the AI breakthrough happens before the collapse, there is a good chance the collapse will not happen at all. (Assuming intelligence is useful that is.)

              “we’re not allowed to be positive here”

              I am not certain about the future and freely state that things could go very bad indeed. We have historical examples, Easter Island is my favorite. There an ecological crisis took down a society with as high as 95% of the population dying off and then, with the much lower population, they recovered somewhat (before the disaster of European contact got them).

              But none of us know how the future will unfold. There seem to be paths that will take humans beyond the fossil fuel era, tapping the sun and even moving off the planet.

              I am not the only one who thinks about such a future. https://youtu.be/GQ98hGUe6FM

            • the entire industrial complex that now envelops our planet, and makes it run, is the peak of 250 years of industrial combustion.

              All other ‘inventions” are subject to that single word—combustion

              Remove our means of combustion and we have literally nothing other than muscle power, either from animals or ourselves.

              We have at best 20 years worth of combustible materials left—yes yes–I know theres a Trumps worth of oil still down there.

              That is irrelevant. We are already fighting over that. 60 years ago we were not fighting over it.
              Why?—because everyone had enough for their needs.

              Now our oilbelt is tightening, just at the point where China is wanting to get fat.

              So conflict is inevitable.

              Irrespective of whether sun-energy is a feasible proposition, remember the industrial complex to do it has not yet been invented, let alone constructed.

              as oilwars intensify, there will be no industrial capacity to construct any new complex industry at all—we will not be able to sustain the industries we have already, feeding ourselves will be difficult enough

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “single word—combustion”

              Come on, that’s not realistic. Hydro is not combustion, neither is nuclear fission. Solar power from space (if we build it) is not combustion. There are future problems with resources, but please try to keep the story accurate and don’t oversimplify.

            • think
              then think some more

              (I am genuinely amazed at having to explain this btw)

              you cannot deliver any of the ”alternatives” mentioned without equipment of various kinds that is the creation of the process of combustion in one way or another

              my stock in trade has always been simplification—strip away all that is superfluous until you are left with a core factor that cannot be further reduced.

              when that has been properly done, then explanations are minimal and easy to understand—unless the blankets of complexity are pulled back up to explain stuff that has no business there.
              I used to work to a golden rule—allowing 50 words to explain core subjects—100 words at a push if some things had to be spelled out as a legal requirement

              Try to imagine constructing a dam without machinery running on combustion

              then fit it out on the same basis.

              When you’ve managed that—try to think of a single use for the electricity delivered that does not utilise machines that are themselves the products of combustion.

              You mentioned being realistic I think?????

            • Tsubion says:

              Norman is right on this and absolutely grounded in reality.

              Chinese solar satellite by 2050. That’s a long way off Keith. Even fusion has better prospects than that. Commercial fusion now only perpetually five years away instead of twenty. We’re getting somewhere.

              And still in 2020 we mostly power the world with combustion of coal, gas, and oil. It would take another twenty years at least to make a dent in that equation with something like evs.

              And coal, gas and oil are having lots of problems right now, not in twenty years time. The most powerful nations may struggle within years to keep afloat. How on earth are they going to continue with extravagant space projects?

      • Tim Groves says:

        How intelligent is the average human?

        I hear the average has been going down recently.

    • we couldn’t produce an AI smarter than a honey bee or an ant (for instance)

      get born from a universal mother, go out, find resources, bring it back to a central point, convert it into food

      Use no resources other than renewables. maintain the species for 50 m years or so.

      maintain the colony for the good of the colony.

      no ambition other than that, collective concentration on the universal good of all
      die off when required

      • Pretty miraculous, when we think about it. The whole self-organizing way the universe operates is pretty miraculous, in my view.

        • the entire universe—has nothing to do with miracles, just the self organisation of elements based on physical basic laws.
          Sprinkle iron filings on a piece of paper, pass a magnet under it and the iron filings self-organise.

          humankind thinks it’s totally different

          we have organised ourselves (or tried to) into a self-belief system that says those laws do not apply to us.
          We invented gods to agree with us, then wrote down what those gods said to men we appointed as god listeners.

          Just like economists, the god listeners told us what we wanted to hear, which was that the universe was constructed just to bring us joy and plenty, and we could take from it what we wanted—forever.

          which is exactly what we did.

          So that right now, we are engaged in a struggle to prove those god listeners were right, and the doomsayers are wrong.
          The struggle is real and it is messy.

          We know it as a resource war—in which people get killed or starve to death on the one hand, while those with the means to grab resources thrive and prosper on the other.

          This is just the transition phase of course.

          Eventually, resources will run out for everyone, and the planet will go on spinning without us.

          • Somehow, these basic physical laws came into being. So did all of the energy and flows of energy. An awfully lot of coincidences have to take place to get to where the universe is now.

            • the “coincidence” is a construct of advanced thought processes —ie ourselves.

              The concept of physical laws is also an abstract process of our thinking

              gods are a process of abstract thought.

              We are the only species engaged in the process of abstract thought—though, for example, migrating animals use the actual result of those processes without knowing about or caring about them.

              They just “are”.
              A migrating swallow or whale isn’t concerned with ‘why’

              So in the last few centuries, we became aware of such things, and because we became aware, it became essential to find reasons.—usually to “prove/disprove something”.

              500 years ago it was certain that the sun went round the earth, to say otherwise was blasphemous. Millenia of gods had cemented the certainties of our “why”. Doubters were executed, because god decreed it so.

              It’s only been 100 years or so since we proved the universe was 14 bn years old, so now we must ‘prove’ beyond that.—

              At 14 bn years we seem to have run out of proofs for the moment, but we cannot self-inflict that which constrained Galileos mind in the 15th c

            • Tim Groves says:

              So we’ve “proved” the Universe is 14 billion years old, have we?

              Some of you atheists are as dogmatic in your certainty as the most fanatical of Bible bashers.

              I think Jacob Bronowski said it best, even though he did so in a Polish accent and rolled his “R”s.

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              “all” the sciences seem to cohere pretty well in giving us a timetable of the evolution of the universe…

              astrophysics, geology, paleontology, biology, genetics… as far as I know, their theories fit together well…

              though in a real sense, we have to “believe” these scientists who propose that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, since most of us can’t verify the data ourselves…

            • Tim Groves says:

              Estimates of the age of the Universe are still being made by scientists based on wide ranging data (and the occasional bishop looking at passages from the Old Testament). That isn’t at all the same thing as the age of the Universe having been “proved”.

              A proof is a logical argument that establishes, beyond any doubt, that something is true. It’s possible to “prove” mathematical propositions because numbers and other mathematical objects are precisely defined concepts, and not objects in the physical world, and the entire foundation is grounded on axioms that are assumed to be written in stone.

              There is no such precision and precious few such unquestionable axioms in the physical Universe. For one thing, we can’t know whether the laws of physics are constant over the aeons. We can’t even be sure that time ran at the same speed back then as it does now or that the gravity was the same strength. But we need to make certain assumptions in order to be able to make estimates.

              Moreover, the origin or the Universe was so long ago that nobody was around to observe it and leave behind an unambiguous clock signal to let us know how much time has passed since the beginning. The best that even the best scientists can do is to try to calculate the probable age by making use of observations, ingenuity and assumptions.

              A century and a half ago,Lord Kelvin, who has a temperature unit named in his honor, was upset when Darwin suggested that the Earth must be at least 300 million years old based on certain assumptions about the speed at which chalk erodes, and started feud. He insisted the planet was no more than 100 million years old based on assumptions that it began in a hot liquid state and had been cooling ever since. Later, in 1897, based on new measurements of rocks, His Lordship insisted the Earth was no more than 20 million years old. And the older he got, the more confident he grew that he KNEW.

              In December 1941, Edwin Hubble, who had earlier discovered the famous “red shift” of distant galaxies, reported that results from a six-year survey with the Mt. Wilson telescope did not support the expanding universe theory. According to an LA Times article reporting on Hubble’s remarks, “The nebulae could not be uniformly distributed, as the telescope shows they are, and still fit the explosion idea. Explanations which try to get around what the great telescope sees, he said, fail to stand up. The explosion, for example, would have had to start long after the earth was created, and possibly even after the first life appeared here.” Hubble’s estimate of what we now call the Hubble constant would put the Big Bang only 2 billion years ago.

              As recently as 1977, researchers at the University of Chicago, making assumptions about the radioactive decay rate of Ruthenium, estimated the time since the Big Bang as up to 20 billion years. As far as I know, they didn’t claim to KNOW, but were just having fun trying solve part of the crossword puzzle the Universe is setting us.

            • we think that humankind has evolved the power of reason, above and beyond that of other species

              we can reason that the earth is round, reason that it is one of billions of earths and suns, all interlinked by forces which are part of our collective evolution. We know how most of those forces work and interact. We know the elements of which we are made, and know that those elements are constant throughout the universe.

              From this it can be assumed that forces that govern us must govern the universe. Debating the age of it by a billion or two years seems irrelevant. One of those things it’s good to know I guess.

              we have ‘reasoned’ that all this must be due to a higher power—because we have the ability to look upwards and call that higher power into our own unquestionable reality.

              Arguments rage on for and against this reason—some say god–others say no god.

              Only the godfollowers seem willing to kill for their beliefs. Such is the place that reason has delivered us. To rip apart the only home that can shelter us in the name of certainty and infinite progress and the instructions of a higher power we know not of.

              Which is a weird kind of reasoning and intellect—if that is what we must call it.

              The swallow can reason its way from here to Africa and back—spawning salmon can do the same thing. Bees can reason where nectar is without destroying the source of the nectar.

              Only humankind seems to have to urge to destroy. So, as we have the power of reason, we can only conclude that our particular gift of reason has evolved itself so that humankind must end its tenancy of the Earth, to make room for a species that will take better care of it.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Only the godfollowers seem willing to kill for their beliefs.

              Do I have to remind you that Mao, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, and Joe Stalin were all professed atheists? And than none of them were godfollowers and all of them killed on an industrial scale for their beliefs?

              Well clearly I do. Because clearly you have a huge blind spot that prevents you from either seeing or else acknowledging that fact. Not that I blame you. It probably comes from overdosing on the skwarkings of Dawkins and the bitchings of Hitchens.

              And if I were you I would be much more worried about being killed by young gangsters getting turfed out of a pub at closing time than by a bunch of vicars stepping off the platform after taking the last train home from a a trip to Canterbury or York Minister

              Actually, I shouldn’t be too hard on Dawkins. He moderated his stance against Christianity when his allies were damning it to hell along with Islam for causing all the world’s problems. I agree with the sentiment he expresses below.

            • I wrote what I wrote in expectation of the Stalin-Pol- pot –Mao reply. It came back right on cue.

              They did not kill in the NAME of atheism, they killed in furtherance of their own twisted doctrine, and to keep themselves in positions of misguided authority. It had nothing to do with religion per se. Though religious faiths were swept up in the general mayhem obviously

              Throughout the Judeo Christian/Islamic era however, religion has been the motivating force behind numerous homicidal episodes—crusades, inquisitions, witch/heretic burnings–all with the central mantra of being told by god to do –whatever–.

              even now, millions of people do as the bible/torah/koran tells them to do.

              Millions send money to outright swindlers to buy favours with god—just what Martin Luther tried to put a stop to. They are blatant charlatans, yet their adherents choose not to see it.
              There are no atheists asking for money to promote atheism to the godly.

              It might be wrong or right, but we don’t blame misfortune on a higher being or look to a higher being to provide good fortune.
              We sinners try not to sin too much, or at least not get caught sinning. We don’t think there’s anyone watching our sins other than ourselves.

            • Tim Groves says:

              500 years ago it was certain that the sun went round the earth, to say otherwise was blasphemous. Millenia of gods had cemented the certainties of our “why”. Doubters were executed, because god decreed it so.

              Have you any “proof” that anyone was ever executed for saying the earth went round the sun, Norman? Well, bring it on, man. I hope you have more success than Lot did finding a good man in Sodom.

              There were plenty of ancient Greeks and medieval Arab scholars who proposed heliocentric universes. And the man who came up with the Copernican system was a priest. And while Galileo was being tried for all the naughtiness he was accused of, Jesuit priests—officials of the Catholic Church no—were teaching heliocentrism in China.

              they were all wrong of course. The sun isn’t the center of the Universe either, and the earth doesn’t go around the sun, but around the barycenter of the solar system, which gives it a helical motion around the the barycenter of the milky way galaxy, which gives it a who-knows-what-course around the next level up barycenter.

            • https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno

              posted this once but it vanished–apologies if it appears twice

            • Tim Groves says:

              Only humankind seems to have to urge to destroy.

              Have you never witnessed a fox in a henhouse? Or a cat hunting birds or mice? A pair of orcas playing catchball with a seal? A group of polar bears driving a herd of walruses off a cliff? Or a boar digging up a vegetable patch? The latter will destroy every last cabbage plant in an urge to find out if there’s a juicy worm wriggling around in the soil below. No etiquette, no delicacy, and no consideration for us poor farmers whatsoever!

            • I made the (wrong) assumption that my take on the subject would be seen to go beyond the instinct that all species have in order to eat

            • Tim Groves says:

              Norman, when I posted that challenge, I expected you would come back with Bruno. And I had to chuckle when you did so with almost Pavlovian consistency.

              Let’s have a quick look at his case. Starting in 1593, Bruno was tried for heresy by the Roman Inquisition on charges of denial of several core Catholic doctrines, including eternal damnation, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and transubstantiation. Bruno’s pantheism was also a matter of grave concern, as was his teaching of the transmigration of the soul. The Inquisition found him guilty, and he was burned at the stake in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori in 1600. After his death, he gained considerable fame, being particularly celebrated by 19th- and early 20th-century commentators who regarded him as a martyr for science, although historians agree that his heresy trial was not a response to his astronomical views but rather a response to his philosophy and religious views.

              Got Anyone else? Just one person burned by Our holy Roman Church specifically for saying the Earth goes around the Sun?

              Michael J. Crowe, The Extraterrestrial Life Debate 1750–1900, Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. 10, “[Bruno’s] sources… seem to have been more numerous than his followers, at least until the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century revival of interest in Bruno as a supposed ‘martyr for science.’ It is true that he was burned at the stake in Rome in 1600, but the church authorities guilty of this action were almost certainly more distressed at his denial of Christ’s divinity and alleged diabolism than at his cosmological doctrines.”
              ^ Adam Frank (2009). The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate, University of California Press, p. 24, “Though Bruno may have been a brilliant thinker whose work stands as a bridge between ancient and modern thought, his persecution cannot be seen solely in light of the war between science and religion.”
              ^ White, Michael (2002). The Pope and the Heretic: The True Story of Giordano Bruno, the Man who Dared to Defy the Roman Inquisition, p. 7. Perennial, New York. “This was perhaps the most dangerous notion of all… If other worlds existed with intelligent beings living there, did they too have their visitations? The idea was quite unthinkable.”
              ^ Shackelford, Joel (2009). “Myth 7 That Giordano Bruno was the first martyr of modern science”. In Numbers, Ronald L. (ed.). Galileo goes to jail and other myths about science and religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 66. “Yet the fact remains that cosmological matters, notably the plurality of worlds, were an identifiable concern all along and appear in the summary document: Bruno was repeatedly questioned on these matters, and he apparently refused to recant them at the end. So, Bruno probably was burned alive for resolutely maintaining a series of heresies, among which his teaching of the plurality of worlds was prominent but by no means singular.”

            • you asked for one

              i provided one—I had never heard of him.

              If the godbotherers burned one for heresies, there were many many more
              researching them all for 21st c argument is a waste of thinking time.

              Next you’ll be insisting that the inquisition was a branch of freemasonry in different coloured clothes

            • Tim Groves says:

              I made the (wrong) assumption that my take on the subject would be seen to go beyond the instinct that all species have in order to eat.

              Humans are predators, and humans have an instinct to eat, and there are plenty of predator species that kill for sport. In what sense do our habits “go beyond the instinct to eat” in a way that the similar habits of other predators don’t?

              Surplus killing, also known as excessive killing and henhouse syndrome,is a common behavior exhibited by predators, in which they kill more prey than they can immediately eat and then they either cache or they abandon the remainder. The term was invented by Dutch biologist Hans Kruuk after studying spotted hyenas in Africa and red foxes in England. Some of the animals which have been observed engaging in surplus killing include zooplankton, damselfly naiads, predaceous mites, martens, weasels, honey badgers, wolves, orcas, red foxes, leopards, lions, spotted hyenas, spiders, brown bears,American black bears, polar bears, coyotes, lynx, mink, raccoons, dogs, house cats, and humans.

              In other words, we are in good company as natural born killers.

              Look out little furry folk
              He’s the all night working cat
              Eats but one in every ten
              Leaves the others on the mat

              And the mouse police never sleeps
              Waiting by the cellar door
              Window box town crier
              Birth and death registrar

          • Tsubion says:

            Nicely put Norman.

            I will add… The God Listeners of the Ages were doing copious amounts of halucanegenic drugs which would certainly explain so much of the whacky creative writing.

            And it’s not getting any better…

            Many geo-political decisions are based on this or that interpretaion of said whacky creative writing to this day to the amazement of standers by.

            Evolution – imagination – mind altering substances – True Believers. What an explosive combo!

            The Horned Beast Cometh

            The Magical Prince that was Promised

            Angels and Virgins in Paradise with Daddy Issues – Season 2985

            Who writes this stuff? It’s Game of Thrones level.

        • Brendon Crook says:

          “Pretty miraculous, when we think about it. The whole self-organizing way the universe operates is pretty miraculous, in my view”


          You said volumes there Gail. I so agree

          • psile says:

            It’s all rules based, even the stuff we don’t understand, and never will. You don’t need a supreme being in the mix to complicate things.

            But whatever gives people comfort, at this stage, its’ all good.

            • Tsubion says:

              How did the rules form or unfold from a single point?

              I prefer to see everything emerging from an informational field that exists beyond space and time. It’s always there so no need for the argument for something emerging from nothingness which doesn’t make any sense.

              The “nothingness” is informational and eternal. No need to attach a name to such a thing as many have attempted to do. Just accept that it’s the only logical explanation for why there is something (whatever this is) rather than nothing. The state of nothing cannot exist, has never existed. The something (whatever it is) is always there.

              Time for a lollipop!

            • psile says:

              Why do you suppose there was just this universe? I’m sure there were plenty of false starts, before the right set of rules formed.

            • Tsubion says:

              Yep, I like that.

              The Multiverse Testing Ground bubbles up from the Informational Field.

              An infinite amount of testing can take place with an infinite number of results.

              The Informational Field – if it is conscious in any way – may view this iteration as a mistake and delete it tomorrow.

              If consciousness is an emergent property of this iteration then maybe you can breathe a sigh of relief. We can relax until it naturally implodes back to its resting state.

      • Xabier says:

        Ironic that those humans who claim to represent the good of all and to have special insight into it are mostly mass murderers directly or indirectly…..

        • Tsubion says:

          And we hand over all our power to those people after a few photo ops and some boxes full of paper get counted.

          What a truly funny species we are.

          I was sat on an election table the other day. So I’m a bit sore still.

    • Humans and pre-humans continued through the ice ages, so we should expect that at least some small percentage of humans can continue through quite adverse conditions.

      At 7.7 billion humans, however, the planet is seriously overloaded with humans and that animals that they raise for food and companionship. The number of humans on earth would seem to need to be seriously reduced for the earth’s ecosystem to stay in balance.

      • Chrome Mags says:

        “Humans and pre-humans continued through the ice ages, so we should expect that at least some small percentage of humans can continue through quite adverse conditions.”

        Absolutely. People are tenacious, aggressive, relentless.

      • DJ says:

        5 months of all cannibal diet and we’re below 500M.

        • Tsubion says:

          Sound of sharpening machetes…

          Now that we have an actionable solution, when do we officially get the ball rolling?

          And which end do we start at?

      • Ed says:

        “The number of humans on earth would seem to need to be seriously reduced” I do love the dry understated Norwegian.

      • Tim Groves says:

        When we imagine the earth’s ecosystem in balance, we shouldn’t imagine that it is static and unchanging. There is arguably a certain amount of homeostasis going on (with living things collectively working to perpetuate their biosphere like what goes on inside individual organisms but to a lesser extent) as Lovelock argued; but there is also a dynamic equilibrium in which living things respond to changes in the environment and either have to get tough or die. I call this the Boy Named Sue hypothesis. 🙂

        During glacial periods (up to 90% of the past million years), the land biosphere may have been only 50 to 70% as active as it is now. I’m just guessing at the figure because I’ve never seen it calculated. And before the Northern Hemisphere glaciations began around 3 million years ago, there may have been 20 – 40% more biological activity than now in terms of the sheer biomass of plants, animals, fungi and bacteria doing their thing. These aren’t even ballpark figures. I have no idea of the true percentages. But in general there is more activity when it’s warmer and wetter and there’s more CO2 in the air and less when its colder and drier.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          Burn More Coal…

        • Yes, the (temporary) cycles within cycles are fascinating.

          The (inter)glaciations in the North evidently worked like giant terra forming agent on the upper (sub) soil levels, our development and acquired leverage (namely farming) would be impossible or not developed in the scale and way it did. Also in coastal areas the swings where pretty profound sea level oscillating +/- many dozens (or more) meters.

          Now lets imagine the glaciation cycle never ever returns, the Earth cascades into another path with other type of inner cycles from then on and so on.

          • Tsubion says:

            Change is necessary to prevent stagnation.

            Embrace the chaos!

            • SuperTramp says:

              Yes, I believe the citizens of the City of Rome were changing that line
              Embrace the Chaos….as the Barbarians were at the Gates of the Eternal City!

              Can’t wait for our turn….

    • Tsubion says:

      Imagination is a powerful drug.

      A bunch of AIs that are a lot smarter than we are… don’t exist.

      Unless you’re referring to the ancient alien tech in the deep underground Antarctica base? That’s been there for millions of years? And is set to be revealed to the whole world as part of The Disclosure Project?

      And then we’ll all be floating around in anti-grav pants waving zero point light sabres at each other?

      Where is the evidence for these long range developments?

      For the past fifty years, the global suicidal death cult of environmentalism has been pushing windmills and solar panels to their gullible base as the way to Save the Planet.

      Why? Because it will most definitely lead to die off, but in the meantime keeps people from getting depressed so they can continue to buy useless junk.

      It’s a living. Until it’s not.

      My policy is… I will believe in the “miraculous” solution when I see it.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        ” don’t exist.”


        There are a lot of very smart people working on AI. It is possible they will fail, but I would not count on it.

        • Old Joe says:

          All they got to do is figure out how to program imagination.
          Someone told today,”it’s all good”.

        • Tsubion says:

          I don’t see how AI can solve our energy and economic problems any more than the “very smart people” working on solving the problem of AI.

          Why don’t the “very smart people” work on the energy problem directly? Surely that would be the smarter thing to do.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “I don’t see ”

            I don’t either. But we are talking about AI systems that are a lot smarter than the people who made them. If people were smart enough to figure out what they can do, there would be little point in AI.

            “work on the energy problem directly?”

            AI people seldom have the skills needed to work on energy problems. What they are doing is making a general purpose tool for solving problems.

            It would be really interesting to see if an AI system would come to the same conclusions Gail has about the economic effects of intermittent energy.

        • Grant says:

          The smart people will need to be smart enough to make the AI device smarter than them AND have enough ability to think through the creation of new things for purposes it may consider unnecessary. So it would need to be A-logical.

          It would need to be able to ensure that all of its decisions clearly protected the task of creating electricity until it found a substitute. If it failed to do that it would itself fail.

  8. Dennis L. says:

    Yet more farming, AI and a very long extension cord. Connect to solar panels and farm when the sun shines. JD probably is aware of the issues.
    It would seem I need to install a great number of solar panels, convert solar into row crops and continue the process. Not sure of the efficiency, the main issue is the short window of time for so many farm operations. A plus for this system would be use of grid tie electricity in off hours as well as being able to use the tractor 24 hours/day. Today it is raining, fields were sprayed yesterday, now the fields will need to dry for three days before they could be sprayed.
    I never knew the importance of getting things done in the relatively short window required to achieve a long enough growing season in the northern latitudes.
    Yes, another complex solution, but power plants are local and transporting electrons seems much less problematic than transporting oil from the ME, etc. Now, someone is going to ruin my day by telling me coal is past peak and one can’t eat coal.
    Somewhere there must be a ray of hope.

    Dennis L.

    • Tsubion says:

      Better batteries!

      Seriously, why is anyone talking about ev farm vehicles.

      Think people. Farm vehicles and other industrial vehicles are at the very end of the line. At the other end of the spectrum when it comes to electrification of vehicles.

      For the sake of argument, you start by attempting to electrify or hybridise personal use vehicles since they are by far the largest number of vehicles and the heaviest users of liquid fuels.

      You do not attempt this gig by starting with farmer Joe’s tractor for heavens sake. Or shipping. You can plan for those at some point if you really wish but start with the cars and at the same time try to implement more efficient ways of moving people back and forth.

      • I would point out that gasoline is from a different part of the barrel than diesel, lubricant oils, and many other products we need and use.

        Even if the batteries could remove 100% of the private passenger auto use of gasoline (which they certainly cannot), our problem with keeping commercial operations going much more relates to diesel fuel, lubricants, and the heavier part of the oil barrel. We can make lighter products, but we can’t make heavier products. So even if ethanol and batteries fixes the private passenger auto usage, we still needed diesel for maintaining roads and electrical transmissions. Also, we use diesel in today’s farm equipment.

        At this point, diesel seems to be in shorter supply than gasoline. Europe make the bad decision a few years ago to encourage the sale of private passenger autos using diesel. Commercial vehicles, which tend to be heavier, use diesel around the world. While diesel is efficient, there is not enough of it for very many to make such profligate use of diesel fuel as Europe has encouraged. Now European leaders realize that cannot ramp up diesel usage; they must cut back. What they are advocating is electric, but I can’t imagine that it will be available in the future either.

        • just my take on the oil supply problem

          but if you removed the petrol diesel kerosene volumes from the oil market, wouldn’t that make the rest of the oil based system non viable?

        • ‘European leaders’ bastardized the auto industry consumer already.
          Effectively, nowadays, there are mandates in place for small displacement 3cylinder turbo engines and other “efficiency” crap, which would average american never considered even for a lawn mower..

          That being said diesels are still on offer across the various car segments but slowly yet surely moved up the scale to heavier/luxurious/low-er volume market segment only..

          • Grant says:

            I’m reading these mails several days behind and this may already have been mentioned …

            Diesel was v good because people only thought about CO2 but now the regulators think NOX and nasty pollutants for the city dwellers so diesel bad.

            Small 3 cylinder engines can provide remarkable power but not match new emissions regulations.

            In effect the car market in the EU and likely China and India is being regulated to go electric. Indeed everything is being regulated to go electric for new products within 10 years.

            It’s likely to be interesting watching the so called ‘law makers’ trying to best each other every day in the race to be most ‘planet saving’.

            Virtue signalling seems to completely out of control.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “a different part of the barrel ”

          That’s less true than it was pre-WW II before catalytic crackers and all the related processes in refineries.

          “can’t make heavier products.”

          Usually, the demand is for molecularly lighter products. Sasol’s plant in Qatar makes long chain wax which is then cracked into diesel range products.

          • You may think the demand is for molecularly lighter products, but the big complaints I have been hearing recently have to do with diesel. Will Europe be able to get enough of it.

            Years ago, in the United States, diesel was a much cheaper fuel than gasoline. I imagine that was the result of so much of our fuel use being gasoline. I understand that in the early days, more of the farm equipment ran on gasoline, for example. It is now diesel.

            One of my sons bought a diesel car in 2001, thinking that was the cheaper fuel option, because (1) it was quite fuel efficient and (2) diesel at that point was not much more expensive than than gasoline, and had historically been cheaper.

            So you are probably right, going back to about the 1995 and prior period. But once everyone got on the diesel bandwagon, and ethanol production ramped up, gasoline was cheaper.

    • JesseJames says:

      This cord powered tractor is absolutely silly. The voltage loss on the cable must be tremendous! The lifetime of the cord could be measured in a year or two before requiring replacement. The infrastructure cost of all the plug in crap out the roof. The limitations on what the tractor can be used for are enormous.
      Really, this kind of development is a bone thrown out for the green religion.
      Completely laughable concept.

      • this has got to be a windup in every sense of the word

        the heat in that cable coil must be enough to self combust!!

        • hkeithhenson says:

          Many years ago I worked at one of the John Deere plants programming and installing computers, interface gear to coordinate measuring machines and the like. I got to know a number of JD engineers. I am certain that they kept the power loss in the cable reel low enough so it would not get hot enough to catch on fire.

          Whether or not electric tractors make sense is another question. Probably for some crops.

  9. Chrome Mags says:


    ‘European elections 2019: Power blocs lose grip on parliament’

    “The big centre-right and centre-left blocs in the European Parliament have lost their combined majority amid an increase in support for liberals, the Greens and nationalists.”

    That exactly fits with ideas of peak oil, as surplus energy declines, with a resulting move away from globalization to localization. If the process continues unabated, people will end up concerned about what happens in their post collapse commune; just one of many tiny specks on a future world map. Imagine how disappointed the generation will be that are born just after the oil age ended.

    “Ok kid, grab a shovel and pick. It’s your turn to help prepare the soil for planting.”
    “Don’t we have a better way of doing this?”
    “Not anymore, and remember, no hard labor, no food for you.”

    • Tsubion says:

      It’s difficult to know exactly what happens next. Do we get more centralisation for a while at least until things start to fall apart? Or are we already decentralising in many ways?

      What people usually refer to when they point to decentralisation more than often still requires a fully functioning centralised national and international infrastructure.

      Sure, more people have moved to cities in search of this and that. But I also see many city dwellers escaping to the countryside to live a better life.

      In the end, I don’t think it matters where you happen to be when things go south. Food and oil trucks have to deliver to all of these people wherever they are and the trucks can stop running at any time.

      • It seems like in Argentina, the stories we heard when they were undergoing a sort of collapse a few years ago was that the countryside was worse, because there was no law and order.

  10. Ed says:

    Kunstler was calm and to the point today. ” Alt-energy just doesn’t pencil out money-wise or physics-wise. ”

    I prefer his over the top polemics.

    • Yep, and back to the main theme of Gail’s article, this trade war might get even more serious, as the top Chinese signaled – clearly hinted at the rare earth metals embargo possibility, that’s basically a nudge nudge to the techie-Davos folk you better dethrone – derail him ASAP or your biz ends momentarily..

      For kicks I just replayed some of the recent Bannon’s msm circuit appearances, and the whole situation is really puzzling. So, it’s either about some crazy underdog faction splinter group getting Trump into office in 2016 against all odds to topple the dominant Davos clique or it’s something more sinister and ‘6th dimension chess’ like en-devour.. using this opportunity just as a plausible decoy vehicle to turn around the multi-decade US policy..

      Well, knowing the actors and the real vitriol gushing everywhere it’s most likely the former. Simply an underdog faction realized now it’s the opportunity to go ahead, it’s better to be king in soon to be balkanized world (and the US), then just some also ran ~rich class prisoner of lower pecking order.

      • John Doyle says:

        There are rare earths here in Australia. Right now we chose not to mine them as China is wearing the environmental consequences, But if China takes itself out of consideration no doubt mining here would start.

        • But only if the cost of extraction, including whatever pollution control steps are taken, is low enough. High-cost rare earth minerals don’t work any more than high-cost fossil fuel extraction. The prices don’t rise high enough so the producers can make money.

          • John Doyle says:

            Sure, but when the time comes, if it does, the costs will be factored in to see if it flies. I’m sure a premium will be added on. A friend of mine told me he doesn’t care how much petrol/gas costs, he will pay it, [just use it less].

            • The catch is that whether it is fossil fuels or it is rare earth elements, these elements and compounds are used so widely in so many applications that “how much petrol/gas costs” is not the issue. The question is how much the machines your employer uses will cost, and whether you will have a job. The question is how much housing will cost, and indirectly, how much rent you will pay. These costs get buried so deeply in everything we buy, and in fact, in our paychecks, that there is nothing we can do to avoid them.

            • John Doyle says:

              We cannot tell if any work arounds for these questions will be able to come on line. It depends on whether the next crash is something like the last one and therefore manageable or whether it is to be a much worse. Anything that depends on money, like debt, is manageable, as money is just a token and debt is numbers in red ink. What really matters is if the crash is due to some physical event, some resource that is unavailable suddenly, some disease like the 1918 flu where money cannot help.

            • I think that you are confused about (1) where the lack of buying power exists that causes the crashes and (2) the extent to which government money printing of money can fix this lack of buying power.

              In the 2008 crash, the lack of buying power was primarily in the “rich” world. High prices of energy products were too much for consumers of many types, including workers living on their paychecks, individuals getting retirement funds from governments and others, businesses whose sales were being cut back, and local governments that could not afford to build roads, schools, and other infrastructure. Also, banks and insurance companies had sold debt and derivatives that would lead to large “paper” losses.

              These rich countries could indeed hide the large paper losses with printed money. They also could use their printed money to buy up bonds, and thereby lower interest rates. These lower interest rates were the big thing that got the system going again, because then monthly payments for homes, cars, and theoretically factories, and industrial development were lower. Spending could be higher, because of the great debt the system as a whole incurred.

              The next time around, the big difference is that in addition to the same losers, we will have a lot of losers that are not from what we think of as the rich world. Venezuela is clearly a loser. Iran is a loser. Syria is a loser. Saudi Arabia is a loser, and will be more of a loser if oil prices drop even lower. Furthermore, China will have a lot of debt to bail out, including a lot of very flakey peer-to-peer lenders who should never have been in business previously.

              The questions is, “Who is going to bail out all of these countries?” Will the world allow each of these countries to print unlimited money to get more of the resources of the world? Or will the fall in their currencies more than offset?

              I think that your money printing view is at most a very limited solution of a few very rich nations. What really needs to happen is that buying power needs to get to the hands of all of the consumers (including business consumers) of the world. This generally happens through lower interest rates. But governments around the world cannot get their local interest rates down, without their currencies falling greatly relative to other currencies. India, for example, cannot lend to their citizens at a 2% rate, without their credit rating going even lower than it already is, and their relativity to the US dollar falling lower. Bangladesh and Pakistan are in a similar or worse position.

              Your thinking is too “US centric.” And it misses the real role of lowered interest rates. These cannot be implemented further (to any significant extent) because we are reaching negative interest rates in too many places in the world.

            • John Doyle says:

              Yes, probably a bit too US centric, but I believe it is the key country. I don’t think “printing money” is an answer, [it has to buy debt to exist in the first place]. What is more likely is the “debt jubilee” option. I’m not alone in thinking this, BTW. Steve Keen and David Graeber both think this. Michael Hudson says often that debts that cannot be repaid will not be paid. There is an unknown sum in shadow banking circles. Estimates go from 800Trillion to 1.4 Quadrillion dollars all in derivatives and insurances. That will be entirely “jubilee-d”. It’s all “in house’ anyway.
              As I mentioned before there are two possible basic scenarios; 1], a manageable crash like 2008 and 2] a chaotic destructive crash. In so far as money can be a cause it pales into insignificance compared to possible real events and as you say, every nation will suffer. There will be no bailing out. it will be every one for themselves.
              If there is space for 1], a reset then deficit spending will answer most issues. Nations that are not monetary sovereign will find that difficult, such as members of the Eurozone. It will have to give way on spending. Deficit spending is where the currency comes from, [you cannot just print money as the currency has no value without a debt base] Steve Keen thinks a bonus to compensate those who have already paid down their loans is an option. House values will be reset at half [?] their current value, even less. Banks can write down their books, but will survive. It all depends on resources.
              We’ve been through this money stuff before. You don’t yet understand it. MMT explains it if you care to read up [only use source material!!] but mostly it is common sense accounting. Governments of monetary sovereign nations don’t have real debt, only bank speak debt. [i.e., your deposit in your bank is the bank’s debt, etc]. Deficit spending eliminates its debts while simultaneously creating the currency. Non MS nations are users of foreign currency and only a write down will solve it. There are still myriad problems you could write a book on, so I cannot answer all of them here, not even guess at.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      JHK today also:

      “That current is the one telling nations quite literally to mind their own business, to prepare to go their own ways, to strive somehow to become self-sufficient, to finally face the limits to growth, to simplify and downscale all their operations.
      Alas, the US and China — and everybody else — will apparently be dragged kicking and screaming to those transformational recognitions. (Thus, the agonies of Brexit.)”

      sounds like the past couple of days in the EU…

      he begins it all with:

      “The race to economic collapse is an international competition sparking threats and tensions summoning the specter of war. The imploding center of this collapse is that of industrial technocracy based on fossil fuels. All the nations will go through it on differing schedules. It has been playing out slowly, painfully, and deceptively — hence, my term for it: the long emergency.”

      key word there is “long”…

      collapse could be in 10 days or 10 weeks… but more likely in a 10 year range, give or take a few…

    • This is a link to Kunstler’s post today.

      I like this blog post. There are very definite echos of my recent post. But he has a lot of fancier ways of saying things than I do.

      I liked this analogy of JHK’s:

      The US and China are actually more like two passengers of a sinking ship racing to swim to a single lifebuoy — which is drifting ever-beyond the reach of both desperate parties on a powerful current of history.

Comments are closed.