Rethinking Renewable Mandates

Powering the world’s economy with wind, water and solar, and perhaps a little wood sounds like a good idea until a person looks at the details. The economy can use small amounts of wind, water and solar, but adding these types of energy in large quantities is not necessarily beneficial to the system.

While a change to renewables may, in theory, help save world ecosystems, it will also tend to make the electric grid increasingly unstable. To prevent grid failure, electrical systems will need to pay substantial subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear electricity providers that can offer backup generation when intermittent generation is not available. Modelers have tended to overlook these difficulties. As a result, the models they provide offer an unrealistically favorable view of the benefit (energy payback) of wind and solar.

If the approach of mandating wind, water, and solar were carried far enough, it might have the unfortunate effect of saving the world’s ecosystem by wiping out most of the people living within the ecosystem. It is almost certain that this was not the intended impact when legislators initially passed the mandates.

[1] History suggests that in the past, wind and water never provided a very large percentage of total energy supply.

Figure 1. Annual energy consumption per person (megajoules) in England and Wales 1561-70 to 1850-9 and in Italy 1861-70. Figure by Tony Wrigley, Cambridge University.

Figure 1 shows that before and during the Industrial Revolution, wind and water energy provided 1% to 3% of total energy consumption.

For an energy source to work well, it needs to be able to produce an adequate “return” for the effort that is put into gathering it and putting it to use. Wind and water seemed to produce an adequate return for a few specialized tasks that could be done intermittently and that didn’t require heat energy.

When I visited Holland a few years ago, I saw windmills from the 17th and 18th centuries. These windmills pumped water out of low areas in Holland, when needed. A family would live inside each windmill. The family would regulate the level of pumping desired by adding or removing cloths over the blades of the windmill. To earn much of their income, they would also till a nearby plot of land.

This overall arrangement seems to have provided adequate income for the family. We might conclude, from the inability of wind and water energy to spread farther than 1% -3% of total energy consumption, that the energy return from the windmills was not very high. It was adequate for the arrangement I described, but it didn’t provide enough extra energy to encourage greatly expanded use of the devices.

[2] At the time of the Industrial Revolution, coal worked vastly better for most tasks of the economy than did wind or water.

Economic historian Tony Wrigley, in his book Energy and the English Industrial Revolution, discusses the differences between an organic economy (one whose energy sources are human labor, energy from draft animals such as oxen and horses, and wind and water energy) and an energy-rich economy (one that also has the benefit of coal and perhaps other energy sources). Wrigley notes the following benefits of a coal-based energy-rich economy during the period shown in Figure 1:

  • Deforestation could be reduced. Before coal was added, there was huge demand for wood for heating homes and businesses, cooking food, and for making charcoal, with which metals could be smelted. When coal became available, it was inexpensive enough that it reduced the use of wood, benefiting the environment.
  • The quantity of metals and tools was greatly increased using coal. As long as the source of heat for making metals was charcoal from trees, the total quantity of metals that could be produced was capped at a very low level.
  • Roads to mines were greatly improved, to accommodate coal movement. These better roads benefitted the rest of the economy as well.
  • Farming became a much more productive endeavor. The crop yield from cereal crops, net of the amount fed to draft animals, nearly tripled between 1600 and 1800.
  • The Malthusian limit on population could be avoided. England’s population grew from 4.2 million to 16.7 million between 1600 and 1850. Without the addition of coal to make the economy energy-rich, the population would have been capped by the low food output from the organic economy.

[3] Today’s wind, water, and solar are not part of what Wrigley called the organic economy. Instead, they are utterly dependent on the fossil fuel system.

The name renewables reflects the fact that wind turbines, solar panels, and hydroelectric dams do not burn fossil fuels in their capture of energy from the environment.

Modern hydroelectric dams are constructed with concrete and steel. They are built and repaired using fossil fuels. Wind turbines and solar panels use somewhat different materials, but these too are available only thanks to the use of fossil fuels. If we have difficulty with the fossil fuel system, we will not be able to maintain and repair any of these devices or the electricity transmission system used for distributing the energy that they capture.

[4] With the 7.7 billion people in the world today, adequate energy supplies are an absolute requirement if we do not want population to fall to a very low level. 

There is a myth that the world can get along without fossil fuels. Wrigley writes that in a purely organic economy, the vast majority of roads were deeply rutted dirt roads that could not be traversed by wheeled vehicles. This made overland transport very difficult. Canals were used to provide water transport at that time, but we have virtually no canals available today that would serve the same purpose.

It is true that buildings for homes and businesses can be built with wood, but such buildings tend to burn down frequently. Buildings of stone or brick can also be used. But with only the use of human and animal labor, and having few roads that would accommodate wheeled carts, brick or stone homes tend to be very labor-intensive. So, except for the very wealthy, most homes will be made of wood or of other locally available materials such as sod.

Wrigley’s analysis shows that before coal was added to the economy, human labor productivity was very low. If, today, we were to try to operate the world economy using only human labor, draft animals, and wind and water energy, we likely could not grow food for very many people. World population in 1650 was only about 550 million, or about 7% of today’s population. It would not be possible to provide for the basic needs of today’s population with an organic economy as described by Wrigley.

(Note that organic here has a different meaning than in “organic agriculture.” Today’s organic agriculture is also powered by fossil fuel energy. Organic agriculture brings soil amendments by truck, irrigates land and makes “organic sprays” for fruit, all using fossil fuels.)

[5] Wind, water and solar only provided about 11% of the world’s total energy consumption for the year 2018. Trying to ramp up the 11% production to come anywhere close to 100% of total energy consumption seems like an impossible task.

Figure 2. World Energy Consumption by Fuel, based on data of 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

Let’s look at what it would take to ramp up the current renewables percentage from 11% to 100%. The average growth rate over the past five years of the combined group that might be considered renewable (Hydro + Biomass etc + Wind&Solar) has been 5.8%. Maintaining such a high growth rate in the future is likely to be difficult because new locations for hydroelectric dams are hard to find and because biomass supply is limited. Let’s suppose that despite these difficulties, this 5.8% growth rate can be maintained going forward.

To increase the quantity from 2018’s low level of renewable supply to the 2018 total energy supply at a 5.8% growth rate would take 39 years. If population grows between 2018 and 2057, even more energy supply would likely be required. Based on this analysis, increasing the use of renewables from a 11% base to close to a 100% level does not look like an approach that has any reasonable chance of fixing our energy problems in a timeframe shorter than “generations.”

The situation is not quite as bad if we look at the task of producing an amount of electricity equal to the world’s current total electricity generation with renewables (Hydro + Biomass etc + Wind&Solar); renewables in this case provided 26% of the world’s electricity supply in 2018.

Figure 3. World electricity production by type, based on data from 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

The catch with replacing electricity (Figure 3) but not energy supplies is the fact that electricity is only a portion of the world’s energy supply. Different calculations give different percentages, with electricity varying between 19% and 43% of total energy consumption.1 Either way, substituting wind, water and solar in electricity production alone does not seem to be sufficient to make the desired reduction in carbon emissions.

[6] A major drawback of wind and solar energy is its variability from hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and season-to-season. Water energy has season-to-season variability as well, with spring or wet seasons providing the most electricity.

Back when modelers first looked at the variability of electricity produced by wind, solar and water, they hoped that as an increasing quantity of these electricity sources were added, the variability would tend to offset. This happens a little, but not nearly as much as one would like. Instead, the variability becomes an increasing problem as more is added to the electric grid.

When an area first adds a small percentage of wind and/or solar electricity to the electric grid (perhaps 10%), the electrical system’s usual operating reserves are able to handle the variability. These were put in place to handle small fluctuations in supply or demand, such as a major coal plant needing to be taken off line for repairs, or a major industrial client reducing its demand.

But once the quantity of wind and/or solar increases materially, different strategies are needed. At times, production of wind and/or solar may need to be curtailed, to prevent overburdening the electric grid. Batteries are likely to be needed to help ease the abrupt transition that occurs when the sun goes down at the end of the day while electricity demand is still high. These same batteries can also help ease abrupt transitions in wind supply during wind storms.

Apart from brief intermittencies, there is an even more serious problem with seasonal fluctuations in supply that do not match up with seasonal fluctuations in demand. For example, in winter, electricity from solar panels is likely to be low. This may not be a problem in a warm country, but if a country is cold and using electricity for heat, it could be a major issue.

The only real way of handling seasonal intermittencies is by having fossil fuel or nuclear plants available for backup. (Battery backup does not seem to be feasible for such huge quantities for such long periods.) These back-up plants cannot sit idle all year to provide these services. They need trained staff who are willing and able to work all year. Unfortunately, the pricing system does not provide enough funds to adequately compensate these backup systems for those times when their services are not specifically required by the grid. Somehow, they need to be paid for the service of standing by, to offset the inevitable seasonal variability of wind, solar and water.

[7] The pricing system for electricity tends to produce rates that are too low for those electricity providers offering backup services to the electric grid.

As a little background, the economy is a self-organizing system that operates through the laws of physics. Under normal conditions (without mandates or subsidies) it sends signals through prices and profitability regarding which types of energy supply will “work” in the economy and which kinds will simply produce too much distortion or create problems for the system.

If legislators mandate that intermittent wind and solar will be allowed to “go first,” this mandate is by itself a substantial subsidy. Allowing wind and solar to go first tends to send prices too low for other producers because it tends to reduce prices below what those producers with high fixed costs require.2

If energy officials decide to add wind and solar to the electric grid when the grid does not really need these supplies, this action will also tend to push other suppliers off the grid through low rates. Nuclear power plants, which have already been built and are adding zero CO2 to the atmosphere, are particularly at risk because of the low rates. The Ohio legislature recently passed a $1.1 billion bailout for two nuclear power plants because of this issue.

If a mandate produces a market distortion, it is quite possible (in fact, likely) that the distortion will get worse and worse, as more wind and solar is added to the grid. With more mandated (inefficient) electricity, customers will find themselves needing to subsidize essentially all electricity providers if they want to continue to have electricity.

The physics-based economic system without mandates and subsidies provides incentives to efficient electricity providers and disincentives to inefficient electricity suppliers. But once legislators start tinkering with the system, they are likely to find a system dominated by very inefficient production. As the costs of handling intermittency explode and the pricing system gets increasingly distorted, customers are likely to become more and more unhappy.

[8] Modelers of how the system might work did not understand how a system with significant wind and solar would work. Instead, they modeled the most benign initial situation, in which the operating reserves would handle variability, and curtailment of supply would not be an issue. 

Various modelers attempted to figure out whether the return from wind and solar would be adequate, to justify all of the costs of supporting it. Their models were very simple: Energy Out compared to Energy In, over the lifetime of a device. Or, they would calculate Energy Payback Periods. But the situation they modeled did not correspond well to the real world. They tended to model a situation that was close to the best possible situation, one in which variability, batteries and backup electricity providers were not considerations. Thus, these models tended to give a far too optimistic estimates of the expected benefit of intermittent wind and solar devices.

Furthermore, another type of model, the Levelized Cost of Electricity model, also provides distorted results because it does not consider the subsidies needed for backup providers if the system is to work. The modelers likely also leave out the need for backup batteries.

In the engineering world, I am told that computer models of expected costs and income are not considered to be nearly enough. Real-world tests of proposed new designs are first tested on a small scale and then at progressively larger scales, to see whether they will work in practice. The idea of pushing “renewables” sounded so good that no one thought about the idea of testing the plan before it was put into practice.

Unfortunately, the real-world tests that Germany and other countries have tried have shown that intermittent renewables are a very expensive way to produce electricity when all costs are considered. Neighboring countries become unhappy when excess electricity is simply dumped on the grid. Total CO2 emissions don’t necessarily go down either.

[9] Long distance transmission lines are part of the problem, not part of the solution. 

Early models suggested that long-distance transmission lines might be used to smooth out variability, but this has not worked well in practice. This happens partly because wind conditions tend to be similar over wide areas, and partly because a broad East-West mixture is needed to even-out the rapid ramp-down problem in the evening, when families are still cooking dinner and the sun goes down.

Also, long distance transmission lines tend to take many years to permit and install, partly because many landowners do not want them crossing their property. In some cases, the lines need to be buried underground. Reports indicate that an underground 230 kV line costs 10 to 15 times what a comparable overhead line costs. The life expectancy of underground cables seems to be shorter, as well.

Once long-distance transmission lines are in place, maintenance is very fossil fuel dependent. If storms are in the area, repairs are often needed. If roads are not available in the area, helicopters may need to be used to help make the repairs.

An issue that most people are not aware of is the fact that above ground long-distance transmission lines often cause fires, especially when they pass through hot, dry areas. The Northern California utility PG&E filed for bankruptcy because of fires caused by its transmission lines. Furthermore, at least one of Venezuela’s major outages seems to have been related to sparks from transmission lines from its largest hydroelectric plant causing fires. These fire costs should also be part of any analysis of whether a transition to renewables makes sense, in terms of either cost or energy returns.

[10] If wind turbines and solar panels are truly providing a major net benefit to the economy, they should not need subsidies, even the subsidy of going first.

To make wind and solar electricity producers able to compete with other electricity providers without the subsidy of going first, these providers need a substantial amount of battery backup. For example, wind turbines and solar panels might be required to provide enough backup batteries (perhaps 8 to 12 hours’ worth) so that they can compete with other grid members, without the subsidy of going first. If it really makes sense to use such intermittent energy, these providers should be able to still make a profit even with battery usage. They should also be able to pay taxes on the income they receive, to pay for the government services that they are receiving and hopefully pay some extra taxes to help out the rest of the system.

In Item [2] above, I mentioned that when coal mines were added in England, roads to the mines were substantially improved, befitting the economy as a whole. A true source of energy (one whose investment cost is not too high relative to its output) is supposed to be generating “surplus energy” that assists the economy as a whole. We can observe an impact of this type in the improved roads that benefited England’s economy as a whole. Any so-called energy provider that cannot even pay its own fair share of taxes acts more like a leech, sucking energy and resources from others, than a provider of surplus energy to the rest of the economy.


In my opinion, it is time to eliminate renewable energy mandates. There will be some instances where renewable energy will make sense, but this will be obvious to everyone involved. For example, an island with its electricity generation from oil may want to use some wind or solar generation to try to reduce its total costs. This cost saving occurs because of the high price of oil as fuel to make electricity.

Regulators, in locations where substantial wind and/or solar has already been installed, need to be aware of the likely need to provide subsidies to backup providers, in order to keep the electrical system operating. Otherwise, the grid will likely fail from lack of adequate backup electricity supply.

Intermittent electricity, because of its tendency to drive other providers to bankruptcy, will tend to make the grid fail more quickly than it would otherwise. The big danger ahead seems to be bankruptcy of electricity providers and of fossil fuel producers, rather than running out of a fuel such as oil or natural gas. For this reason, I see little reason for the belief by many that electricity will “last longer” than oil. It is a question of which group is most affected by bankruptcies first.

I do not see any real reason to use subsidies to encourage the use of electric cars. The problem we have today with oil prices is that they are too low for oil producers. If we want to keep oil production from collapsing, we need to keep oil demand up. We do this by encouraging the production of cars that are as inexpensive as possible. Generally, this will mean producing cars that operate using petroleum products.

(I recognize that my view is the opposite one from what many Peak Oilers have. But I see the limit ahead as being one of too low prices for producers, rather than too high prices for consumers. The CO2 issue tends to disappear as parts of the system collapse.)


[1] BP bases its count on the equivalent fossil fuel energy needed to create the electricity; IEA counts the heat energy of the resulting electrical output. Using BP’s way of counting electricity, electricity worldwide amounts to 43% of total energy consumption. Using the International Energy Agency’s approach to counting electricity, electricity worldwide amounts to only about 19% of world energy consumption.

[2] In some locations, “utility pricing” is used. In these cases, pricing is set in a way needed to provide a fair return to all providers. With utility pricing, intermittent renewables would not be expected to cause low prices for backup producers.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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1,461 Responses to Rethinking Renewable Mandates

  1. Bob Lapsley says:

    The enabler, silent partner, supporting all our environmental concerns, climate change, populations growth, pollution, habitat destruction, mass extinction, resource depletion, looming economic and social collapse etc., etc., the white elephant in the room is our messy morality and ethics.

    In 2007 when I first seriously considered our predicament, it was obvious to me then and remains so today, our problems are rooted much deeper than the oil we burn, and the resulting greenhouse gases we emit. Since then I feel our state of affairs hasn’t changed all that much. What has changed is the amount of published work on the subject environmental ethics. We are awash in persuasive arguments rationalizing our morals and ethics, our relations with the planet, the biosphere, the natural systems, etc. The Pope’s encyclical is the first example to come to my mind. A quick googling of “environmental ethics” yields thousands of published articles, philosophical papers, books, and videos. We have an ocean of related information. Such as they are, our ethics and morals supervene (as they say) on physical systems grounded in the physics.

    Shine a light, look closer and we find the scrappy, ubiquitous, the unyielding and poorly understood, the un-winder of potentials, the under appreciated machinations of… entropy. Our pithy measure of ignorance, and possibilities. What is ignorance if not reservoirs for dreams of what could be. It is bound to all the global challenges we face, and it deserves our attention when planning a future. Together with complexity science we are illuminating important systemic relationships, dynamics previously beyond our ken. We have a new appreciation for and a better understanding of the emergent properties evident in large numbers of actors following their rules for engagement. Our very clamorous numbers dictate this happens, in spite of our perturbations. Through this lens we are but burning blind faith. Any naïve optimism for a better space age future, is burning blind faith.

    We do not have a perfect understanding of the system Earth as an integrated whole; yet, we will continue to push boundaries, innovate in ways that further capture, generate and integrate greater and greater potentials in order to do… what ?

    Gung-ho enthusiasts are gathering behind geo-engineering proposals to mitigate the effects of climate change. We do not have a perfect understanding of the interrelated macro and micro dynamics of climate. The Earth is a complex dynamical system, completely inter connected, integrating natural and social agency, constantly evolving anew emergent global order. The energetic constituents behaviors over time eventually lead to a phase transitions all the while pressing on for greater equilibriums. Geo-engineering sounds like a good strategy to some people, an expedient, but our limited understanding of complex systems dynamics and our history of being forced to deal with the increasing social and physical entropy. The “unintended consequences ” of our interventions should cause us to push pause and reconsider. “First, do no harm”. Interventions at the scale that Global change requires, is something we should dread addressing post cautionary. It is something we should respect before all hell breaks loose. I support policy that respects the cautionary principle, while recognizing the post-cautionary principle has supporters.

    A better understanding of how systemic dynamic evolutions will serve our aims, our information processing, our energy capture and transformations, weather or not these aims are ultimately misguided, entropic forcing can help us explain the tailings of our cultural mores, our hubris, arrogance and anthropocentric moral landscape, and with luck, just might prep us for a radical change of mind.

    • snarf says:

      “The enabler, silent partner, supporting all our environmental concerns, climate change, populations growth, pollution, habitat destruction, mass extinction, resource depletion, looming economic and social collapse etc., etc., the white elephant in the room is our messy morality and ethics.”

      We are like other species. We expand our range and population. Our morality and ethics have always been discarded when they conflict with expanding range and population. In that extent they are just a idea with no substance. Yet they do reflect something real our ability to want to be kind and just. That is the paradox. I don’t think that our kindness should be discarded. I don’t think we could discard it even if we wanted to. Just like we cant discard our consuming nature. Paradox.

    • Xabier says:

      The most sophisticated, and technologically advanced, human intervention in the natural order can only ever be very clumsy, and largely unpredictable in consequences.

      • Bob Lapsley says:

        True enough, little do we know, so pedal to the metal full speed ahead. Mercy.
        Late at night,
        The end user flips on the lamp and fan, then sits comfortably reading High Times, or Wired. Can everyone see how much room we have for improvement? We are using one of our densest energy sources, hydrocarbons to bring light to a task, or move air molecules in or out, here or there…
        This is an particularly egregious example of how inefficient we are when it comes to electric energy use
        I have read various calculations, all close depending on the source burned and the device driven at an outlet. We loose >90% of the energy in the supply chain in order to do the least taxing of work?
        Staggering, sobering. Room for improvement my young engineering students?
        We can do better, we can start by matching the quality of energy to the work to be done.
        I am not an engineer, but I believe they can redesign the coarse clumsy bludgeons we currently have at hand.
        And reminding myself, engineering is first a social science serving an agenda, wittingly or not, the goals, our aims constrain the designs. What are we designing for? More poolside parties, more drunken nights at the punch bowl.

        • Nature builds differently, though. Lots of redundancy. The best adapted survive. High efficiency is not the most important criterion, unless your system can withstand a high failure rate.

          • Bob Lapsley says:

            Yes, yes, yes, efficiency is sometimes over rated. A leaf uses but 10% of sunlights energy bathing it; an electric eel is but 19% efficient. Enough is enough for any success in evolution.
            I was hoping to make two points;
            1) To be mindful of how wasteful we are with our precious high density energies. Use them where appropriate, heavy lifting. I imagine we can use less dense energy sources in most places.
            2) Seed my hope for some review of first principles that guide who, what, where, when and why, we engineer the burning of our resources.

  2. MG says:

    With the rise of the use of the fossil fuels, the human species increasingly transports resources from hostile environments to the environments that are depleted through the long-term use by the humans. The point is that this is only a temporary solution preventing the inevitable decline of the human populations.

    As regards the renewables, only the stored energy can counteract the natural flows of the energy, thus creating the environments suitable for the human species.

    The key question of the humans is always this: What is the storage that I can draw from independently of other species (i.e plants, animals, microbes etc.)?

    E.g. when the wild plants are more efficient in the use of the energy of the natural elements, then the wild plants defeat the human environments, while the humans seek shelter (i.e. spend energy for protecting themselves against natural elements). Thus a permanent controlled destruction of other species for energy gain (like burning the biomass, hunting animals) is an integral part of the existence of the human species.

    • Tim Groves says:

      Very insightful observations, MG.

      Continuing controlled destruction of other species appears to be essential to successful agriculture. The land has to be cleared and regrowth kept in check in order for crops and livestock to be grown on a large enough scale to create a large enough surplus from nature to support the farmers and the wider community that depends on the surplus food.

      Similarly, wild animals have to be kept in check in order to prevent them from destroying those same crops, or chickens. Unless you happen to be a Jain, agriculture involves controlled destruction of other species on a continuing basis.

      • Interestingly, the largest eco-cide has been performed not on the macro fauna-flora but on the soil web creatures which hold it all together. After that internalized knowledge a lot could be reversed back (at least locally-regionally wise), some already do it..

        • MG says:

          The soil is depleted by the long-time agriculutural use. It needs not only the soil web creatures, but also a lot of minerals put back into it. Unless there are rivers that bring those minerals back in floods.

          • The minerals are brought up from deeper layers by these soil creatures (and fungi etc), plus a lot could/should be added via animal/human compost and wood burning ashes. Last but not least a lot of rare stuff is “miraculously” synthesized-transmuted in the soil in the first place..

            The various rejuvenation agri practices show it clearly, deep rich top soils brought back several inches per decade.. no extra mineral inputs apart from above mentioned. That’s how nature was replenishing enviro disaster stricken places for millions of yrs previously..

            • I think you are right. Collapses, and leaving areas without human population for quite some period, were able to rejuvenate depleted soils. There is still the problem of where soil has washed completely away, but those areas are more limited. Also, salination is a problem in some places.

          • Liebig’s Law of the Minimum makes certain that the plant doesn’t grow, unless it has the basic minerals that it needs for its functioning. But plants seem to be able to grow with suboptimal amounts of many minerals. Also, the needs of humans for minerals is quite different from the needs for plants. Thus, even if the soil is adequate for plants, it quite possibly might not be very good for human nutrition.

            Years of crop rotation won’t really solve this problem, if human and animal waste is sent off to sewage treatment centers, and much of the output ends up downstream. The commercial fertilizer that is used to supplement tends to leave out a lot of important minerals, such as magnesium. So human nutrition goes farther and farther down, over time. This would seem to be especially the case where manure is not used to fertilize crops.

            • Tim Groves says:

              When I moved to the countryside, the old house had a primitive outhouse with a septic tank and we had the dubious pleasure of ladling out the waste, which was disposed of as fertilizer for the veggie field or else to feed the roses and tea bushes.

              However, the wife turned her nose up at the smell, literally, and so we installed a huge tank to purify all household water and waste, which is kept operating by a motorized blower to aerate the thing 24/7/365. The purchase and installation was subsidized to the tune of 100% by the local authority and they also subsidize 50% the cost of the annual “scum” removal and water exchange.

              So for the past 25 years we’ve paid a modest US$400 a year plus the running cost of the motor for the privilege of not having to put up with the smell and reduced our risk of contracting dysentery, and the local river is cleaner, but the land has lost out on a lot of organic fertilizer and the flies and other insects are big losers too, which means the birds and bats and frogs that depend on said bugs have a harder time too.

            • And the state subsidized this “progress.”

            • Artleads says:

              I’ve been reposting your writing in a few places internationally. One part of me thinks it’s just going to pass over people’s heads, but am pleasantly surprised to see a like here and there on Facebook. Tim’s story has a textbook clarity to it, and I included that in today’s sharing.

            • Someone sent me an e-mail saying that a union in South Africa was distributing copies of my current article on Renewables. I know I have readers around the world, pretty much everywhere.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Years of crop rotation won’t really solve this problem, if human and animal waste is sent off to sewage treatment centers, and much of the output ends up downstream.”

              In the long run (assuming people continue eating as biological creatures) the elements taken away in crops have to be returned to the soil. That takes a lot of energy.

            • Indeed that takes a lot of energy UNLESS the people live in the same local of the food production. Otherwise, ideally, the recycling-redistribution of minerals is done manually(+wood ashes), draft animals (manure spreading), as well as most of the composting work itself done by (microbial volunteers) + domesticated animals with natural affinity for it. It’s a small (nearly) closed cycled surplus system for decent human pop and culture not for the techno metastasized overpop..

            • The trick is first, getting population low enough for resources available. Then the problem becomes keeping population from growing to exceed the resources. All of the historical collapses shows that the system has gone through this cycle many time. Once sufficient resources are available, population tends to grow and resources tend to deplete. In a short time, the system is back to the same place it was, with way too many people for resources.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              Gregory Clark makes exactly the same analysis with the exception that he think the industrial revolution broke at least some of the population out of the Malthusian trap. His book has a considerable discussion about the lower birthrate that came along with the industrial revolution.

        • Right, but the crop yield will be lower and the problem with depleted minerals won’t go away by itself. The amount of human labor in the process may prove to be higher as well. In the US, organic food seems to be produced in very dry areas, where the problem of plant pests is lower. But watering needs are higher, and the cost of transport is higher.

          The cheapest food is the food that can be produced with least human labor. In the US, at least, that is what seems to sold in greatest quantity. “Organic food” is always more expensive.

      • ominux says:

        “Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert,” begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And terrifyingly, it’s happening to about two-thirds of the world’s grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes — and his work so far shows — that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert.

        • If I recall correctly, this is one of the ideas put out in videos that doesn’t really work in practice. I don’t have links on this, however.

          • Not sure about greening deserts pronto (even semi arid desert setting takes time) but the basic system of rotational grazing and keeping water in the land works, that has been proven ample times already on many continents in recent decades, obviously the inherited bias is more on northerly/colder biomes. It’s not meant for tropical jungle.. although (even near) there terraced rice paddies and selected domesticated animals could coexist with the wild nature, obviously not in volumes for billions of humans. That’s all known stuff, however “seamless” transformation for everybody is likely not possible at this point.. if that’s too messianic idea put forward by Savory – my/his bad – the basic message is correct though.

      • MG says:

        Yesterday, I have visited a friend, who is a catholic parson in a village in the Carpathian mountains some 40 km from my home. He keeps some sheep around his church for grass mowing. I asked him about the local hunters and he mentioned that they told him that they do not kill all the amount of the game animals allowed per year due to the road that crosses the given valley and the traffic which kills a good portion of the game animals instead of them.

        The control over other species exists in many parts of the world, but people usually do not realize its existence and importance for the maintenance of the human environments.

      • In fact, pre-humans started destroying other species, back when they learned to control fire. The control of fire started over 1 million years ago. I am not sure when pre-humans (or humans) started burning down whole forests, so that the area would become more open (at least temporarily), and thus would support more of the food stuffs that they wanted to hunt and gather. Even at that early date, we were choosing which species we wanted to continue and getting rid of species that seemed to be in our way. Our influence on climate (at least locally) began back then as well.

        • Recently the methods of reconstructing the image of past landscapes/ecosystem matured enough (decade/decade or even y/y seeds-pollen deposit-record etc.) that the levels of biodiversity are known to relatively precise degree. Especially, if we look at the pre extensive tillage period in colder European regions, the agro forestry worked pretty good, it was basically mixed forest with enough opened canopy and partially domesticated animals, yes some megafauna did not survived to this point but it was still very diverse and rich ecosystem kept in balance. Things turned to sh%te only with invasion – incorporation of cultured ME grasses (grains), the surpluses spiked locally, and the resulting whole human competition viscous cycle kick started wider social changes in terms of preference for permanent dwellings and conflicts. That’s basically rehash of the old narrative of “paradise lost” but it’s true – there were such good (interregnum) periods – unfortunately never lasted for ever.

          • Grains allowed people to store calories in a convenient way. Grains also allowed humans to use horses as work animals, instead of oxen that ate grass. Thus, with grains, humans had control of more energy products.

            The use of grains helped world population grow, just as the control of fire was a step forward in giving humans an advantage over other animals. Fossil fuels added to this advantage.

            • Yes I described the peak of idealized form of affluent pastoral [no/low grain] and [no till] system ~2000BC (in the north). You described the more recent “evolutionary steps forward” stages.. which eventually brought the pandemonium multitude of very bad side effects and waste loops..

      • Artleads says:

        So how do the Jains manage?

        • Tim Groves says:

          I looked this up as I had no idea, and I found a response from Ravindra Jain, who is a Jain and an expert on Jainism. It comes down to doing the minimum of harm to living creatures. He writes:

          It is a total misconception to say that agriculture cannot be undertaken by Jains. Jainism does not forbid agriculture as such.

          Jainism expressly mentions 15 type of highly sinful activities (karmadaan) that entail enormous amount of himsa (harm of violence) of Tras Jivas (two sense to five sense living-beings) and should not be taken up by Jain shrawaks. Agriculture is not one of these. A farmer works in the field to feed us. His activity cannot be called sinful.

          The first Tirthankar Lord Rishabhdev himself taught the skill of agriculture to the mankind as the impact of ‘kalpavrikshas’ had started dwindling and people could not get their needs fulfilled from them. If agriculture was such a sin, he would not have taught this skill.

          Many of the staunch followers of Lord Mahavira, including Anand Shrawak, were engaged in agriculture.

          If agriculture is not permitted, the alternate means of food will be primarily meat which is obviously not at all permitted in Jainism.

          The opposition to agriculture mainly comes from the fact that it entails more himsa than many other trades or professions. Therefore, the general perception is that if one has a choice or if it is not a compulsion, then why not avoid it.

          What Jainism says is that we should try to avoid or minimise himsa. Whatever we do, we should use due caution and commonsense to ensure that, to the extent possible, there is minimum himsa. Ultimately it is your intention, your conduct and your object of doing a particular activity that is more important than the activity itself.

          It would, therefore, be wrong to say that Jainism forbids agriculture as such. However, if you want to do farming only for pleasure or as a hobby, then you should consider whether it is worth, as it would certainly involve avoidable himsa.

    • Very much agree1

    Glencore’s Mutanda Mine Closure Could Cripple Or Kill Tesla

    On Aug. 6, Glencore announced plans to close its Mutanda mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the end of this year.

    In Slide 33 for its recent conference call, Glencore explained that Mutanda will produce 25,000 tonnes of cobalt this year, followed by two years in care and maintenance mode.

    In its 2018-2019 Cobalt Market Review, Darton Commodities forecast total global supply of 140,000 tonnes in 2020 vs. total global demand of 132,000 tonnes.

    The Mutanda mine closure will immediately shift the cobalt supply and demand balance from a comfortable 4,000-tonne surplus to a crushing 19,000-tonne deficit.

    Since batteries for electric cars and stationary energy storage products require enormous amounts of cobalt, the Mutanda closure could be a crippling if not fatal blow for Tesla.


    Glencore explained that Mutanda’s economic oxide ore reserves will be exhausted by year-end. . . Since Mutanda produced over 20% of the world’s cobalt in 2018, the mine closure will shift the short-term supply and demand balance from comfortable surpluses in 2020 and 2021 to crushing supply deficits of 19,000 and 23,000 tonnes, respectively.

    • We have been at this several times already, as not every lithium based batt chemistry is using the same amount of cobalt (if at all), on top of it TSLA is retooling for different type of batteries anyway..

      • JesseJames says:

        Typical naive response to a resource limitation. There will always be a newer, more efficient process, technology driven material combination to overcome the shortfall,, and it will all be created with much more complexity. Of course the newer process and material combination is guaranteed to ultimately be exhausted also.

        • We can’t tell when the exhaustion occurs, so we assume that it will never occur, or that a different substitute will happen. We also miss the point that increased complexity leads to increased wage disparity. Increased wage disparity tends to bring commodity prices of all kinds down. It is the low prices that tend to bring the system down.

        • JJ> you might have noticed I said nothing about the realistic volume (maximum) production achievable for the less rare resource consuming batt production, there is a limit to it obviously as well. I merely reminded Gail, we had this discussion in detail before. Instadoom/crash callings serve no purpose.

          If you happen to live near IC hubs of the world, i.e. some degree of dependency(habit) on electric power, any increased production of this stuff has potential benefit to you, it’s a simple extender of this epoch when lights start go blinking and then dark. Nothing more to it from rational-opportunistic observer standpoint.. we can simply watch such muskianic, kianistic or vware mass production efforts from predatory self restrained distance.

      • I think you are right. Prices would spike if there were a problem. I see that in terms of prices, Lithium and Cobalt prices started falling about January 2018. This is the time I think of China’s demand being at its peak. It is the time before it discontinued a lot of its renewables processing. I am sure that there were a lot of layoffs in China at that time, even though we didn’t read about it.

        I imagine that there were other issues as well.

        A lot of nickel is used in batteries as well. Nickel’s prices seem to follow the same general price curve a oil (High in 2008, again in 2012, etc.) I presume that is because nickel is used widely throughout the economy.

        If a person is a cobalt analyst (as the Seeking-Alpha author I linked to was), it is easy to look at the supply side of the equation only.

        • Yes, nickel for car industry is only small portion of the overall industrial demand, besides the manufs of mild hybrids are slowly moving away from these nimh batteries to lithium etc..

        • hkeithhenson says:

          The top three elements in metal asteroids are iron, nickel, and cobalt. But I really doubt cobalt is going to be used much longer in batteries. There is a new kind of lithium battery that uses etched silicon wafers in place of the cobalt. It needs a massive scale-up, but perhaps a bad cobalt shortage would do just that.

    • Xabier says:

      While the Congolese themselves are among the most wretched people on earth – all those resources extracted and run down for nothing. No Green Dream for them.

  4. There is a new Michael Moore documentary that has been produced that documents some of the problems of renewable energy. The film is called Planet of the Humans. The film recently premiered at the Traverse City Film Festival. It reportedly received a standing ovation.

    The film, which does not yet have distribution, is a low-budget but piercing examination of what the filmmakers say are the false promises of the environmental movement and why we’re still “addicted” to fossil fuels. Director Jeff Gibbs takes on electric cars, solar panels, windmills, biomass, biofuel, leading environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club, and even figures from Al Gore and Van Jones, who served as Barack Obama’s special adviser for green jobs, to leader Bill McKibben, a leading environmentalist and advocate for grassroots climate change movements.

    This is a link to an article about the film.

    From the above article:

    “Building out an electric car and solar and wind infrastructure and the biomass, biofuel infrastructure, is going to run us off the cliff faster,” Gibbs declares. “Because it’s an additional round of mining and destruction that does not replace the one [fossil fuels] that’s already destroying the planet!”

    The green energy movement, in fact, has proven counter-productive, Gibbs argues.

    “It’s a giant profit center, unfortunately, for environmental groups [that support these ‘green illusions’], for corporations, for the people mining and destroying the planet,” Gibbs maintains. “The people that produce our fossil fuels love [the green energy movement] because it still uses fossil fuels and it’s not a threat to fossil fuels. All the car companies love the electric car.”

    Ozzie Zehner, author of “Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism,” played a major role in the movie’s production. He has commented on OFW in the past.

    • Chrome Mags says:

      Is it an ABSOLUTE that no other possible technology can conceivably replace FF? Even if we got real imaginative and thought outside the box, would we still say the buck stops no matter what will FF? That would mean any other planet anywhere in the Universe in which evolution led to a species that could manipulate mass to use fossil fuels would end up similarly to ours facing inevitable collapse. If so, that represents a brick wall in which evolution cannot breach. That seems very unfortunate.

      • Pedro says:

        Any species anywhere which relies on a finite resource of their planet is likely to become extinct.
        There must have been thousands of species which evolved relying on an existing animal, vegetable, mineral or climatic condition, only to go extinct when that source of life ceased to exist for whatever reason.
        But if their original emergence as a species occurred by using a resource which still existed,a few survivors of the (current) resource depletion may be able to continue the species by reversion to the old resource.
        In our case, getting ourselves into the FF dead end is typical evolution.
        Works great (multiplication seems always to be the name of the game)until it doesn’t.
        Seems that hunter gatherer existence might still work for a few.
        Some new technology, maybe, but I doubt it (likely to need some of the diminishing resources).
        May be a brick wall for human evolution – Yes very likely.
        Not so sure that is unfortunate.

      • Almost everyone sees/hopes some form of ‘technology’ will replace FFs.

        that fallacy lies in the concept itself.

        It should be easy to grasp, but for some reason the majority of humankind just doesn’t get it

        Fossil fuel is a material object–a lump of coal, a gallon of oil—you can feel it, weigh it, get yourself dirty with it. you can, (by using technology) convert it into a million other useful things.

        Technology on the other hand is an abstract concept

        to ‘make things’ with ‘technology’ you must have material input–I mean ‘physical stuff’.

        You can create an electric charge, and Faraday, when he demonstrated controlled use of it, needed a whole array of ‘material’ to handle and control it.
        It wasn’t of much practical use until Edison made the first lightbulbs and other gizmos by which it could be used to benefit humankind

        Everything that Edison (et al) produced, was produced using the heat input of fossil fuels to convert material into useful objects, using the ‘technology’ available to them at the time, together with the calorific value in the fuel.

        Despite our wishful thinking, it isn’t possible to reverse the process, starting with some kind of abstract technology and winding the process backwards to produce the ‘stuff’ we need to continue our economic/industrial infrastructure (ie BAU–which is what everybody expects)—that is where the wish-science of new technology has arisen.

        We know the elemental makeup of the planet. We have made it our business to extract and recombine those elements in infinite permutations to make the things we need (or think we need).
        Oil coal and gas are the prime means by which we do that.

        There is no aspect of that (finite) business that can be carried out without heat input of some kind. as Faraday discovered, Electricity is almost useless without all the whirry whizzy things by which it can be put to work.

        And apart from oil coal and gas—electricity is all we have.

        There is no ‘alternative technology’ that is going to give us the means by which we can do that elemental reworking on the scale we need it.

        the only use for ‘technology’ in the ultimate sense. has been to give the planet a cash value
        by which we buy and sell bits of it to each other, which we have consistently and endlessly converted into bright shiny toys to amuse ourselves.

        We forget we are merely tenants here, we invented gods to confirm we own the place

        • Tim Groves says:

          “Tenants”? That’s an odd word to use unless there’s also a landlord who is renting the place to us.

          You are a child of the Universe, Norman. No less that the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. 🙂

          • I may have the temporary right to be here. ‘Temporary’ makes me a tenant. No species has permanent residency unless you count the microbial life that keeps us all alive. They might be seen as ‘landlords’, we are certainly here by their grace and favour.

            If we vanished tomorrow–they wouldn’t notice our passing.

            If they died out tomorrow, we wouldn’t survive a week. To them we are merely mines and prairies.

            Which then is the dominant life form.?

            what I do not have is the right to tear the place apart to the detriment of every other living species, though I have no doubt done my share of that in my lifetime. As we all have.

            My right is much less than the trees and stars because they too stabilise the world. Humankind appears to be destabilising it. The equivalent if you like, of burning down our house in order to keep warm.

            A once-only exercise in economic madness.

            • Xabier says:

              Hom. Sap. – the self-preening, deluded life form…….

            • Good points!

            • Tim Groves says:

              Excellent points. Then tenants we are.

              But bear in mind Life on Earth is hierarchical. As destructive as our activities may be to the biosphere, we can only prune the top layers of complexity. Lots of different viruses, bacteria, molds and probably insects are beyond our power to annihilate.

              When a climax ecosystem is degraded by nature or man (including women, transexuals, etc.), it spontaneously rebuilds itself into a climax ecosystem again (although not necessarily the same one) if given the chance and sufficient time.

              Take the Amazon rainforest. If people stop chopping it up and instead abandon the bits they’ve “reclaimed” from it, it regenerates into rainforest again within a century. It is only a continent-wide rainforest during interglacials such as the present period. In the colder glacial periods when Chicago and New York are buried under 2 miles of ice, the Amazon becomes mostly savannah or prairie with small patches of rain forest here and there. What we know as the Amazon is not much more than 10,000 years old and if we don’t cut it down first, it will probably return to mostly grassland over the coming 10,000 years.

              If you could look down at the Americas from Earth orbit like a speeded up movie with one frame every thousand years, you would see the Amazon pulsing into and out of existence like a heartbeat as the Laurentide ice sheet waxed and waned and the sea level rose and fell.

          • Some of us think that there is a literal Power behind all of the energy flows who is the real landlord. We are just temporary tenants, as are other species on earth.

            • Artleads says:

              Somewhat related, and to narrow down this large concept, lies morality. I’ve been trying to see morality as an energy system of a kind. Whatever service we get from humans, animals, natural forces must be repaid to satisfy the demands of morality. Something like the good of all might be considered, since this all is what has supplied us energetically to get where we are. So we owe something, which, for the system to work, must be repaid. Somehow, I could see this being a law of the “literal Power.”

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “I’ve been trying to see morality as an energy system of a kind.”

              I think you might see it better as selected by human evolution. Try using evolutionary psychology. One of the things you should expect is that morality is context-dependent. Unstressed people tend to be well behaved toward each other. Highly stressed people are another story. You would expect this from selection models. For an example, try

            • I think that human morality varies over time, and is selected by human evolution. At the same time, what the morality selected at a given time depends on the energy consumption level available. Where death rates of babies are very high, and it is difficult to keep population up, morality will tend to encourage rich men to have several wives. When resources are more abundant, “one spouse at a time” will tend to keep population at closer to the right level, because many poor men will not be able to find wives.

              When population is too high, some excuse will come up for killing female babies. Babies are the ones who become mothers. Excess fathers in some sense, “Don’t matter.”

        • doomphd says:

          ++++++++++++++ great post, Norm.

        • Niko B says:

          Great post Norm.
          though how do photons fit into your analogy. Would we describe them as physical things?
          Just looking for where you will get push back on your idea.

          • I guess photons, in the purely scientific sense, are physical things, but my concept of fossil fuel, and our use of it, was as something you can reach out and touch and rework for commercial purpose in some way.

            You can sink another oilwell using the energy from an oilwell, and have a vast surplus left over to use for other things

            A photon, as part of electrical transmission, always needs additional hard physical objects to react with. Those objects must be ‘made’ by human hands. I don’t know anything about the physical makeup of the electric eel, (as an example) but that species cannot use electricity other than to kill prey before eating it, which forms a 1:1 energy conversion ratio.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “we invented gods to confirm we own the place”

          In the past, we invented imaginary gods. In the not so distant future (assuming things hang together) we will either invent gods or raise ourselves to that category. This might be a good idea, or the worst ever considered.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “Fossil fuel is a material object–a lump of coal, a gallon of oil—you can feel it, weigh it, get yourself dirty with it. you can, (by using technology) convert it into a million other useful things.

          Technology on the other hand is an abstract concept”

          Existing technology allows using energy, air, and water to make stuff like coal and synthetic fuels that are exactly the same as what we refine out of oil. Synthetic methane as well. None of the carbon vanished when we burned it.

          • But the complexity tends to lead to wage disparity. Folks without college degrees are not much used in the process of making these synthetic compounds. It is the wage disparity that brings down selling prices of commodities, and makes it impossible for advanced technology to work in the real world.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “wage disparity. Folks without college ”

              I agree that the designers will be educated people. But most of the work on the ground such as installing billion-dollar rectennas will take people of the same level who are now installing solar farms.

            • i like the term rectenna

              it somehow seems very apt

            • hkeithhenson says:

              Rectenna. From rectifying antenna. The term has been around since 1970 or so. Converts the microwave power beam into direct current electricity which is then converted to alternating current electricity for the grid.

            • This is a website detailing the requirements for solar installers.


              According to this:

              Massachusetts, Maine, North Carolina, Texas and quite a few other states – Requires electricians install solar panels

              California, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and some other states – Require specific types of solar contractor licenses

              Quite a few states had no requirements, as of February 2015.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              Poorly done PV installations on roofs can cause fires so there is a fair reason to require electricians. A rectenna build would be more similar to the huge solar farm installations. There would be a fair amount of medium to low skill work building the rectenna, but the running staff would be small. Still, building 300 of them a year for ten years will need a lot of labor.

          • explaining this is almost as painful as banging my head on the desk—but at least the neighbours don’t come round to complain about the noise.

            if, by some chance, humankind was able to move our energy dense era on from what we have now, —-which is a situation where we fulfil most of our energy requirements by digging stuff out of the ground, and setting fire to it

            ——To another situation entirely, where we reconfigure the molecules of all that we consumed over the last 300 years or so, back into the elements we started with.

            Then what we would have, is an industrial society whose prime function would be the acquisition of prime energy as an end in itself. Whereas now, acquisition/conversion of energy sources is a secondary activity.

            Why would we be in that position?

            Because we would be consuming more energy in the acquisition of (reconfigured) energy, than we would have as a return on our energy expended.

            Or—to put it as simply at the lowest level of human understanding, we would be converting the entire world into one giant battery.

            Next time someone offers to sell you a clock that runs backwards, on the promise it will make you younger—buy it.

            It will make more sense than pulling carbon molecules out of the air to build cars and computers. Entropy is a one way ticket. I too wish it had a return half.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Because we would be consuming more energy in the acquisition of (reconfigured) energy, than we would have as a return on our energy expended.”

              That’s simply not true. If it were, I would not work on power satellites. The time to energy repayment for a power satellite is a couple of months. I have run through this calculation several times. I can do it again right here if you want to argue over the details.

            • You’ve already calculated (or accepted somebody else’s calculations) that there are enough stray asteroids out there to build several earth-areas which we can use for ongoing survival.

              any more arithmetic like that and my brain might explode

              so as such workings-out are unlikely to lead to any fruitful conclusions this side of the next millennium, we must agree to leave it at that

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “You’ve already calculated (or accepted somebody else’s calculations) that there are enough stray asteroids out there to build several earth-areas which we can use for ongoing survival.”

              The astronomers have a good number for the mass of the asteroids. The mass of an O’Neill cylinder was worked out in detail around 1970. To get the number (which as a couple of thousand times the land area of the earth) you divide the asteroid mass by the space colony mass.

              “any more arithmetic like that and my brain might explode”

              Are you making the case that one arithmetic division is over your limit? I don’t think that is the case since such a level of numeracy is rare.

            • you lost me

              I think I prefer it that way

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “you lost me”

              When you make comments on subjects that take serious math analysis, I hope the readers understand your limits.

              “I think I prefer it that way”

              Takes all kinds. I could not stand to be that ignorant.

            • Tim Groves says:

              There are people like like Norman, who are problem-oriented, and people like Keith, who are solutions-oriented, and they see the world very differently from each other.

              If we are to discover and implement solutions to our current problems, they can only come from people like Keith, because people like Norman have already convinced themselves that there are no solutions worth implementing. He may be right or he may be proved right by events, but that isn’t the point. Or the solutions implemented by people like Keith may leave us with even bigger problems down the road.


            • hkeithhenson says:

              “even bigger problems down the road”

              That easy to imagine. A couple of high powered AIs duking it out for example.

      • doomphd says:


        Most planets with water have abundant deuterium, which is an important and abundant stock fuel for fusion reactors. He needs a few hundred thousand for a demo reactor. Containment fusion reactors will never provide enough power gain, despite all the money thrown at them. Clock’s ticking…

        • doomphd says:

          here is a link to a fairly recent article on the containment fusion reactor folks, always stating their case for success being “just around the corner”.

          one of the main proponents interviewed had just lost his big government grant, which he states is “absurd” considering the progress the peer reviewers (his think-alike colleagues) acknowledged. we are left to wonder why this happened. could it be that there was actually little progress despite huge funds expended and generous time allotted for the work? hummm…

  5. SteveS says:

    Well, I’ve been posting here for about a week, and it’s been interesting. Some folks give you hope; some don’t. I’d like to say something, as I part.

    A lot of folks around here are very sure of their judgments. It’s really very poor analysis. Strong analysis makes judgments from data, and some measure of certainty/uncertainty is applied to those judgments. If you were to take completely certain judgments to anyone truly serious, in a position to make important decisions, you wouldn’t be taken seriously. Intelligence analysts are trained in this; financial analysts are trained in this. Many of the best analysts actually have the ability to change their minds very quickly based on new data. They also have a healthy respect for the unknown. They know because being too certain in the past in all likelihood burned them. In other words, certain judgments, or even judgments provided without sufficient data to support them, are a red flag for untested analysts.

    Some datasets support the assessment that key points in financial history would seem to be predestined. This is an interpretation of the data. There are other possible interpretations. It does SEEM the laws of physics play a defining, and constraining, role in our energy economy. This itself is a judgment, and that must be recognized. So right off the bat, we have uncertainty. But let’s say we accept that as certain, since pretty much everyone around here does, and it’s very reasonable. It’s a very poor judgment to assess, for instance, events in the energy economy are certainly predestined because of these laws, because there’s not sufficient evidence to support the claim with complete certainty. It would need to be tested, over and over and over, to reduce the likelihood these events don’t come about because of coincidence, or even some other phenomenon. The laws of physics can constrain events—after all, that’s what is meant by “law”—but we cannot say with certainty, given available evidence, they predestine them. We cannot even really be sure of what sufficient evidence would look like to confirm certain predestination of events. It might require omniscience. You can never fully confirm it, only be led strongly to assess it. It’s very important to qualify it as an assessment, for the sake of one’s credibility.

    On the kinds of issues we find on this website, you can pretty much tell if someone is worth listening to or not just based on their adoption of this approach, which is, after all, the approach of analysts and scientists in different professions. Words like “could,” “probably”, and “likely” can flag that a statement is a judgment; they qualify it as something that isn’t a fact but that an analyst believes you should consider to be true, based on supporting evidence. This transparency is a sign of a strong, well-trained analyst. Unfortunately, the extreme doomer types are full of very weak analysis, even the ones with significant background knowledge and data upon which to draw. Some of their assessments will end up being right, in something like the same way a dead clock is right twice a day. Point is, we should be extra skeptical of these people who are so certain, as they are not being skeptical of themselves, and that tends to turn out badly in most fields requiring analysis.

    It would be best to approach these types of issues as a professional analyst and as a scientist does. Gail does this. Assessments take on probabilities and only laws determine real certainties. People will listen to you more with an approach like this, you will get more respect, and it will enrich your analysis and thinking.

    Take care all.

    • I hope you read some of the other articles I have written in the past. Some of them give better background on the issues I am writing about. You might want to read

      You might also want to read the two-part write up of a fairly long talk I gave last September.

    • Jason says:

      I’m sorry. Did you say something?

    • Country Joe says:

      Somehow my faith in our professional analysis is crossed up with the question that if all our professional smart people are so smart, how did we get in the predicament that we’re in? I probably don’t need data sets and models to see that the Earth cannot sustain 7billion humans at or current level of evolution. It seems quite likely that the dissaptive energy system we call life is programmed to correct . We could expect that the system of species extinction that has progressed for the past 4billion years will correct the current imbalance.

      • The book “The Limits to Growth” by Donella Meadows et al. was published in 1972. In that book, the base computer model of infinite growth in a finite world indicated that the world could be expected to hit resource limits about now. What we are seeing now was obvious 46 years ago, using very limited computer capability. No one believed the authors.

        • Rodster says:

          How eerily accurate their calculations were way back then. Those who scoffed at their predictions and analysis back when the book was first written might have a different view today because many of their predictions are coming true. Dennis Meadows has said “there is no solution” to the problem, which most refuse to believe.

          I have not read the book but already in a big city in India of 10 million people, they have run out of water. So they have to transport water to the city each day which turns out to be 1 liter per day per person.

          • Rodster says:

            I was reading on another website which said the city was 10 million but Google links say it’s 4.6 m. The Indian city is Chennai.

          • whenever i write something–I’m often asked about ‘solutions’

            when I say ”there isn’t one” suddenly the whole thing becomes ‘my fault’—as if stating the obvious simply cannot be the truth

            i must be a liar

            can’t win em all I guess

            • This interview is from 2012. I would probably come to the same conclusions, but from a different direction. I see that the physics of the system is causing the huge wage and wealth disparities. We cannot really fix them, even if we wanted to. If we did, we would get population to temporarily surge as poor people had more babies and they lived longer, but then the world economy would “hit the wall” sooner.

            • Duncan Idaho says:

              With 7.7 billion homo sapiens living in a collapsing ecosystem, there are no solutions.
              My only question is complete extinction or not?

            • i dont think complete extinction

              but ultimately reduction to or below the level that the world supported pre 1700

              Because that will happen very quickly of course, (6 bn over less than a century) the trauma of watching it happen, together with the actual denial that what is happening, is happening, might make things far worse than that.

              that level of rapid reduction could i think only be the result of methane release destroying the means of food production

              Denialists will look for ‘reasons’. Idiots are all too ready to blame others, so wars are inevitable as long as the means is available to make wars.

              that could easily trigger nuclear, which might of course be terminal, or close to it when added to the methane thing.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “i must be a liar”

              Just unformed on sciences and engineering.

              For example, liquid transport fuels can be made by F/T using hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Electrolytic hydrogen is made from water, and combined with CO2 from the air makes CO.

              It does take considerable energy, about 2 MWh per bbl. Which is why the power satellite project scales up to 1.5 TW/year installed.

            • Robert Firth says:

              But Norman, with respect, there is a solution.

              When I hear someone say: “We need twice as much water to support our growing population”, my immediate thought is “No, you need half as many people to survive on your supply of water.”

              The problem is, that nobody is even permitted to think about that solution. But Nature is not constrained by our human desires and delusions.

            • you can of course stick stand pipes into asteroids and increase your water supply that way

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          No one believed the authors.
          I did.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “No one believed the authors.”

          I would argue that too many of the ruling class believed the authors. I think it is probably that many high-level politics have been affected by this work

          I followed this work from well before LtG came out. It was based on Forrester’s World Dynamics which came out the previous year. I had read Forrester’s 1969 book Urban Dynamics, It “suggest that the root cause of depressed economic conditions is a significant shortage of job opportunities relative to the population level,” Which sound very much like Gail.

          Peter Vike went through the code for World3. He discovered that the code had an unexplained fudge factor in it.

          The biggest problem LTG had was that it admitted to no resources besides the obviously finite earth. So people talking about power satellites to bring energy in from outside the planet should be driven off. We were nearly thrown out of a LGT conference in the late 70s.

          Relative to those days, with Reaction Engines, SpaceX, and Blue Origin all looking like they could build economical power satellites, and an energy payback time of a couple of months, things are looking better.

          • Yep, I’d also not subscribe to Gail’s conclusion in that particular post.
            TPTB made these atrocious deeds ~20yrs ago exactly at their peaking relative super power status when (Russia bellow down, China still very early hockey stick, EU not fully institutionalized).. Even their own literature admits that time horizon once in life-time oppoerunity.
            To believe this timing was a mere coincidence is nuts, OFW/Peak resources related internet public discourse spiked very soon after that, but the delay was function of many other factors, incl. low internet penetration among the pop at that time.

          • I am very skeptical of using resources from off the planet earth (meteors, for example, or from the moon). It would seem to be less energy intensive to get the resources from some source we are not using now, such as under the ocean or filtered from sea water.

            Mostly, what I hear space solar people talking about is getting solar electricity in a way that eliminates the huge time of day and seasonal intermittency problem. I don’t consider this a new resource as much as a vastly upgraded resource similar to the one we have today.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “I am very skeptical of using resources from off the planet earth”

              So am I at least until technology advances a lot. Eventually, most of the materials we use in space will be local. But that’s a long way out. My work on power satellites has been entirely using material lifted from the earth. Which is why getting the cost to LEO down to $100/kg is so important to the economic model.

            • I think the system has to work in GEO, though, and that would seem to be a tougher requirement. Otherwise, the intermittency problem is still there.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              Right, the power satellites are moved to GEO for $200/kg or less or they don’t work economically. The cost of the entire move using electric propulsion is about twice the cost of mass in LEO. So around $100/kg in LEO looks like it will give us economical electric power.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “eliminates the huge time of day and seasonal intermittency problem”

              That’s one of the obvious features. The not so obvious one is overbuilding the power satellite fleet to pick up the entire human energy load or most of it. That probably includes a lot of synthetic fuel plants. It might include making synthetic methane.

              There are certainly problems. I *think* we have the space junk damage under control, it’s mostly an economic problem. Another problem is damage to the ozone by high flight rates of hydrocarbon rockets. That needs to be studied. Say by Blue Origin and NOAA.

        • Robert Firth says:

          I believed them. First, because they were right; but secondly, because while growing up in sub Saharan Africa, I had seen the problems for myself.

          There was a teacher who said we must voluntarily control our numbers (on a world of 2.5 billion). I knew why that would not work, and when I challenged him, he called me “a fascist”. Later, I studied the “green revolution” and noticed that its main proposal, upon which all the rest depended, was to replace traditional, sustainable agriculture with fossil fuel based, non sustainable agriculture. At that time, the words “overshoot and collapse” were not in my consciousness, but they came along eventually.

          But the main insight I took away was that our predicament was not a set of individually soluble problems, but a system of connected and mutually reinforcing problems. And, therefore, that the only solution was to replace the entire system by another, and let the chips fall where they may.

          And even then, I was painfully aware that this would not happen. So what, as a supposedly moral being, should I do now? Perhaps for another time.

          • “our predicament was not a set of individually soluble problems, but a system of connected and mutually reinforcing problems.”

            That is a very good way of putting the situation.

    • snarf says:

      “It would be best to approach these types of issues as a professional analyst and as a scientist does. Gail does this.”
      You hit a chord Gail. His auto delusion protect kicked in hard. His statement was not really for us. He may have succeeded in convincing himself. There was some truth to his statement. Doomers are predisposed to forcast doom. But how did we become doomers? I didnt choose it or even want it. There is a truth that can not be denied yet it is. Exponential growth can not exist indefinitely on a finite planet. That doesn’t take a whole bunch of analysis. To dismiss in its entirety the issues discussed here by categorizing the psychic of the individuals participating is a effort to disregard that truth IMO. I hope he succeeds. I wish I could. In some regards understanding the truth is a pox. In some ways I think understanding the truth is all there is. It helps one value what is real and away from the way we hide from impermanence. I value compassion. Understanding impermanence is our condition allows me to allow more appropriate actions in that regard.

    • Robert Firth says:

      Dear SteveS

      Thank you for your sojourn in this group, and for the new perspectives you brought. I hope you will decide to continue with us; but if not, go in peace.

      Many of us have strong opinions. I myself strongly believe that all bodies remain in a state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless … And I see no reason to qualify that by “probable”, or “in my considered opinion”. But then, I am a scientist.

      Your opinion of skeptics is one I share. On several newsgroups, I have encountered two flavours of skeptics: those who are skeptical about everything. and those who are skeptical about everything EXCEPT their skepticism. The latter are another tribe of the infuriating dogmatists you have encountered. Climate skeptics and climate believers are, in my view, equally at fault, and equally useless.

      But, as the saying goes, Time is the Mother of Truth. And I wish you enough time to find the truths about which you care so passionately and so admirably.

      Robert Firth

  6. Tim Groves says:

    Aldous Huxley interviewed by Mike Wallace in 1958. This is a fascinating discussion from the good old days of black and white TV.

    At times, Aldous sounds like a conspiracy theorist who has dropped a bit too much acid, but it is remarkable how much of what he foresaw about the evolution of society has come to pass in our own time.

    The thing about this program that I find most shocking is how the host sits there introducing his guest while holding a lit cigarette in one hand and tobacco smoke wafts through the air of the studio like incense at a Buddhist temple. Try exercising your freedom to do that on primetime TV these dystopian days and and see how far you get.

  7. Harry McGibbs says:

    A few *tiny* misunderstandings about the nature of the economy in Labour’s energy manifesto:

    “Heating and electricity will become a “human right” under a [UK] Labour government, the party will announce tomorrow…

    “Publicly owned networks would have connections to parts of the country with high potential for solar, wind and tidal energy generation…

    “Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to hit out at millionaires who “fly about in private jets and heat their empty mansions,” as he and Ms Long Bailey set out their plans tomorrow for a “green industrial revolution.””

    • The world cannot afford heating and electricity for everyone. In fact, now it can afford it for fewer people than it could in the past. The laws of physics are a problem.

    • Tim Groves says:

      This would be absolutely hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic. If Jeremy was really concerned about keeping the British people warm, he would back the burning of more coal and subsidizing hot water bottles.

      “Parts of the country with high potential for solar….” Well,that IS actually quite funny!

    • Well, there is probably another layer to that and that’s the general pendulum swing from the deflation (global banker’s) regime towards inflation (national worker’s) regime, it’s a sort of ~40-60yrs kind of cycle reversal.

      Such policies have nothing to do with OFW key drivers, which will eventually (derail) it later as we suspect here. It’s more like on/off political-social realm reaction/forcing machine.

      The proponent of it the US-Aussie economist Mark Blythe predicted Brexit, Trump, Salvini etc. So, even-though he completely omits discussing the role of energy (+believes in klimate kult) could be right in the short term – political economy trend which would precede the OFW grande finale.

    • Robert Firth says:

      “Heating and electricity will become a ‘human right'”

      i prefer the older version: “By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread”

      Human rights used to mean the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It now means the right to live at somebody else’s expense. An ultimately self destructive creed, because when the main activity of the State is taxing the productive to subsidise the parasites, eventually everybody realises that the only sensible career is as a parasite.

      One way to ensure collapse, but alas only one way of many.

  8. Yoshua says:


    The mother of all triangles of doom.

    Nothing is technically broken yet. Looks as if have until the summer of 2021 until this mother breaks down.

    • The intersection of the WTI lines seems to be about $55 per barrel. I find it hard to believe that prices will stay that high, that long.

      • Yoshua says:

        Maybe they can keep the price high enough for another 2 years with negative yields?

        The 2 year treasury yield looks as if it will hit -4 in 2021.

        • Doesn’t sound good for pension plans!

          • Aubrey Enoch says:

            The pension plans are the last frontier. BAU will last until they confiscate the pension plans and then it ‘s the Zombie Apapocalypse.

            • The pension plans, whether supposedly funded or not, really depend on the continuing operation of the governments that guarantee them. I suppose issuing more currency, and diluting the worth of everyone else’s currency could be an option. Or the pension plans could be handed over to smaller subdivisions to handle, as I mentioned earlier. Or the top governmental layer holding the system together could fail completely. None of these are very good options.

  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    “South Africa’s public finances are in a perilous state. There are four main reasons for this. First, economic growth is low or non-existent. Second, tax revenue collection is repeatedly below forecasts.

    “Third, debt levels have risen rapidly and are now at their highest levels in the post-apartheid era. Fourth, the poor performance of state-owned enterprises is necessitating large-scale government support.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Recent figures released by Stats SA show that the unemployment rate increased by 1.4% of the second quarter of 2019 to 29%  -  the highest it has been since 2008. However, some economists say that a closer look at the numbers paints an even bleaker picture. This is because these statistics do not count people who are not actively looking for work.”

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “More than five million people in Zimbabwe – about a third of the population – need food aid, with many coming close to starving, the UN says. The World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a $331m (£270m) appeal as the country battles the effects of drought, a cyclone and an economic crisis. David Beasley, head of the WFP, said many were “in crisis emergency mode… marching towards starvation”.”

        • Harry McGibbs says:

          “The Kariba dam that straddles Zambia and Zimbabwe, the world’s biggest man-made reservoir, is emptying fast, sparking fears the countries may have to cut hydropower production there completely. For the two southern African nations already suffering daily blackouts and growing economic pressures… a total shutdown at Kariba would be crippling. Zambia gets about a third of its supply from the dam, Zimbabwe almost half.”

        • Robert Firth says:

          Zimbabwe was once called Rhodesia, and it fed much of Central Africa. Since independence, it has been deluged with “foreign aid”, almost all of which has been stolen. People don’t seem to grasp that most of the world’s basket cases have woven their own baskets.

          • Also, donations of food from outside the country tend to plunge local producers into bankruptcy. Even selling industrially produced food from outside at lower prices than local producers can match is a recipe for disaster.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Gail, you are so right! I saw exactly that growing up in Nigeria, thanks to Oxfam. Dump free food on a million starving people, drive whole villages of farmers into bankruptcy, and next year face two million starving people.

            • you are quite right of course

              a million people who do not have the resources to grow or buy food at any price.

              Their own farmers cannot grow it for nothing, neither can they employ a million people as labour on the farms (supposing they exist).
              those 1m have to support themselves between planting and harvest somehow. They have no means whatsoever to buy food

              Overpopulation has destroyed their land probably, fossil fuels have helped wipe out the diseases that kept their—and our—numbers under control. (all well meaning of course)

              Africa now has 7x the people it should have. Just like the rest of the world.
              What we see there is our future as destitution creeps up our ladder of prosperity.
              this situation has been multiplied many times over

              but then we must consider the alternative—turn our backs on one million starving people completely, then come back in 5 years when only the strongest are left alive?

              No doubt the Trumpsters of this world do that. but would you be prepared to do that—if you were in a position of power?

              If there’s a third option, then OF Worldsters will no doubt update me on it

            • My father grew up in Madagascar. I have aunts and one uncle who lived there, and many cousins who have visited. So I have some connections, even though I have never been there myself.

        • Zanbar Miller says:

          We tried to feed them Now it is China’s turn…They will get nothing from me

      • Xabier says:

        But actively looking for people to rob and murder……

    • they pretend to have solutions for the problems there

      but the reality is that there are no solutions

      They have no means by which a modern industrial society can be supported, yet they try to run the country as a modern first world society while maintaining tribal affiliations.

      There is also a minority white tribe, which was ultimately responsible for the mess they are in. The results of that are highly predictable.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “minority white tribe, which was ultimately responsible”

        Isn’t that both racist and untrue? It’s been a long time since the white tribe lost power.

        • the white tribes showed up at the cape in the 16/1700s and proceeded to take the land as their own.

          Now the resources there cannot support the population, but the black peoples there think that they can. Any instability there is put down to the years of apartheid, and the predations of the white man, rather than general incompetence and overpopulation and resource depletion by all races.

          The USA has the same basic problems, but with a different racial balance

          nothing racist about it–just statement of facts as they are

    • Not mentioned in So. Africa’s problems: Peak Coal. Coal prices aren’t high enough to get more out. Electricity prices rise too high.

  10. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Saudi Arabia has phoned other oil producers to discuss possible policy responses as oil prices fell to a seven-month low, a Saudi official said. The kingdom won’t tolerate a continued slide in prices and is considering all options, the official said, asking not to be identified discussing private talks. He didn’t say what measures were being discussed.”

  11. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The global economy is probably in recession, with most cyclical indicators showing business activity is flat or falling.

    “Recessions become obvious only once they are well established given the lagging nature of most economic data…

    “Policymakers are reluctant to announce a recession for fear of harming consumer and business confidence and worsening the downturn (“Business cycles: theory, history, indicators and forecasting”, Zarnowitz, 1992).

    “But almost all the main economic and industrial indicators that provide a reliable guide to the business cycle confirm the economy has already slowed severely… By most measures, the global economy is in the midst of the deepest slowdown since 2015, and in many cases since 2009.”

  12. If PLA attacks HK, it will be a trap

    On 1804, the Duc d’Enghien, a minor Bourbon nobleman, was arrested in a castle facing the French border and was killed on Napoleon’s orders. It was a dirty thing, but the kings of Europe used it as an excuse to fight Napoleon for the next 10 years.

    The playbook looks the same.

    • adonis says:

      endless wars to reduce the population and aid growth that should get the energy per capita rising ultimately it all comes down to population reduction and it does seem to be heading that way the only thing we can hope for is this is all part of the plan and their is a captain steering the ship through these treacherous waters unless there is not.

      • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

        many centuries of endless wars have not stopped the human population from going into overshoot…

        should we hope for WW3?

        ps: there is no Captain… the earth is a sailing ship to nowhere (at least Jon Anderson says so)…

        the human race is sailing for a while, until inevitable human extinction…

        but hey, have a nice day!

        pps: Dove dark chocolate bar 3.30 oz… or Cadbury Royal Dark…


  13. Shawn says:

    Another item of possible interest.

    “Wells, Wires, and Wheels” — on the economics of renewables in tandem with EVs versus oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles. Our EROCI analysis shows that for the same capital outlay today renewables with EVs will yield 6-7x as much useful energy as gasoline with oil at $60/bbl, and 3-4x as much useful energy as diesel.

    New Research led by Mark Lewis ( , our Global Head of our Sustainability Research, shows that oil needs a long-term breakeven price of USD 10 – 20/barrel to remain competitive in mobility.”

    Well….I only scanned the research summary paper, but for all the reasons Gail has pointed out in her essays, I am skeptical of the implied conclusion that we can move to renewable energy as replacement for fossil fuels in general or for mobility in particular. Millions of years of accumulated sunlight then processed in the earth for millions of years, and then removed from the ground at relatively little cost, is going to be hard to replace. Fossil fuel burning provides a vast and relatively free energy subsidy to all aspects of our global society that generally remains unaccounted for in economic studies.

    That said, the study does point out the enormous waste of energy that results from burning fossil fuels in combustion engines. Maybe in the short term, it would make sense to use the remaining fossil fuel resources to manufacture non-renewable renewable energy harvesters. However, our income/purchasing power to make such harvesters will diminish as conventional fossil resources deplete and the energy costs of fossil fuels continue to rise

    • I wonder where the roads to operate these vehicles on will come from, among other things.

    • SteveS says:

      If nuclear could become part of the all-hands-on-deck renewable effort (I know it takes long to scale up), it might be more hopeful. Uranium is finite, and there is also a waste problem (though we once had what seemed like a pretty viable plan once for storing that waste under mountains), but conceivably it could stave off the worst effects of our pollution and climate problems. It’d be a large source of relatively free energy. It’s high-risk, but now’s about the time to consider those kinds of options. Maybe we should just build nuclear power plants like crazy.

      • Uranium has the same “too low price for producers” problem as other types of energy supply. I suppose, if more of the demand were focused on uranium, maybe the price would rise. But we couldn’t be certain of it.

        There also seems to be a problem with spent fuel pools, when we can no longer keep them cool. In fact, there is a problem with storing or reprocessing spent uranium. With all of the spent fuel pools we have today, this issue may not matter. We already may have enough of a problem to kill off most of the population. If that is the case, adding some more nuclear power plants won’t really make the situation worse, except for the possibility of future generations.

        • SteveS says:

          Good info. There may be no truly good energy options. Perhaps the mindset should be to find and act on the “least bad”, realistic option. If under some options we would certainly experience unprecedented death and human suffering, the options under which we just might experience unprecedented death and human suffering begin to make some sense.

      • Because of the principle of nuclear decay, spent nuclear fuels still contain a lot of untapped potential energy, so if there is any sort of nuclear future the old fuel can’t be just stored away, but rather reprocessed. For that specific facilities are needed as well as an additional smaller fleet of breeder reactors (burning different revamped fuel mix)..

        This has been all known since at least 1950-60s, US abandoned this field first, only RU managed the full cycle and to some extent FR (EU) have any capability in this area left. Plus India and China can attempt something in idealized future outlooks. Koreans are to my limited knowledge doing only the ordinary NPP stuff..

        The expenses on educated staff and facilities (+upgraded safety standards/expenses) are enormous, it would take decades to revamp this industry (not even incl. the more complex spent fuel recycling angle of it) globally or specifically in the West.

        Most likely, the history just forked away at some past junction already, it could not be turned around realistically speaking. The resources (incl. time) were blown instead on frivolous merchandise and services, wars, and other fluff.. most recently the klimate kult objects of worship-renewables..

        • I expect it is too late now to start down the recycling route. My impression is that recycling is more expensive than mining additional uranium. If it were a whole lot cheaper, it would have caught on quickly. Also, I believe that there were some issues with the US objecting because recycling might be used to make bombs.

          • For them it makes sense because (economies of scale) they are global supplier of pellets for conventional NPPs both of their own as well foreign designs, the extra spent material brought home could be reprocessed and burned further. Also it is income in hard currency leveraged for domestic projects.

            This won’t make sense for smaller economy with fewer no. of reactors as you rightly suspect – and I’m not advocating for it. Perhaps in idealized case only ~3-4x countries in the world would have similar complex industries serving clients home and around the region.. The US failed long time ago, France is stuck in some unfinished phase and others considering it..

            Mining of the new raw stuff is problematic, logistics-geopolitics, it’s not only trading parlor price-tag question. If you have a fleet of baseload NPPs you have to feed it reliably as any other hungry beast, that’s large part of the reasoning behind such large investment – industrial complex.

    • The fellow in charge of the project is Mark Lewis. He is a fellow I remember from ASPO meetings as previously working at Deutsche Bank. Speaking at ASPO, he has been involved with peak oil.

      Mark Lewis does try to expand boundaries somewhat in his analysis. But he still misses the seasonal intermittency problem, and the need to somehow support fossil fuel/nuclear providers that provide electricity when solar is not available. I don’t look at the write up closely. He has some battery use, but the more solar an area uses, the more battery use is needed. Even then, there is a huge “over the top” problem, so that much of the energy isn’t really usable. So I expect his analysis, like all of the others, is very optimistic.

  14. Tim Groves says:

    “India expects coal-fired power capacity to grow by 22% in three years.

    That’s according to the Chief Engineer at the country’s Federal Power Ministry, Ghanshyam Prasad, who Reuters reported as stating coal capacity is likely to reach 238GW by 2022.

    India’s Coal Minister, Pralhad Joshi previously said annual coal demand rose by 9.1% during the year ending March 2019, noting the figure hit 991.35 million tonnes, driven primarily by utilities, which accounted for three-quarters of total demand.

    The anticipated growth is likely to affect efforts to cut emissions and could risk worsening already poor air quality.

    India’s electricity demand rose by 36% in the seven years up to April 2019, while coal-fired generation capacity during the period rose by three-quarters to 194.44GW.

    Pralhad Joshi said despite the growth rate in thermal capacity outpacing electricity consumption in the last few years, more coal-fired plants will still be needed in the future to meet growth.”

    • The IEA writes about a future in which people in India and Africa can afford air conditioning. Sounds, in theory, like a good way of keeping world electricity demand rising. I can’t imagine it happening.

  15. Harry McGibbs says:

    “German industrial output fell more than expected in June, driven by weaker production of intermediate and capital goods, data showed on Wednesday, adding to signs that Europe’s biggest economy contracted in the second quarter.

    “Industrial output dropped by 1.5% on the month – a far steeper decline than the 0.4% fall that had been forecast, figures released by the Statistics Office showed… “The continued plunge in production is scary,” Bankhaus Lampe economist Alexander Krueger said.”

  16. Tim Groves says:

    Sounds like an ominous warning, particularly when you remember the way the PLA broke up that picnic in the Square of Heavenly Peace.

    China warned it will be “only a matter of time” before it punishes those behind two months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that have increasingly devolved into violent clashes with law enforcement.

    The comments by Yang Guang, spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, are a further indication that Beijing will take a hard line against the demonstrators and has no plans to negotiate over their demands for political reforms.

    “We would like to make it clear to the very small group of unscrupulous and violent criminals and the dirty forces behind them: Those who play with fire will perish by it,” Yang said. “Don’t ever misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness.”

    Singling out “brazen, violent and criminal actors” and the “meddling hands behind the scenes” as the focus law enforcement efforts, Yang said, “As for their punishment, it’s only a matter of time.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      China’s government seems to be in a bit of a no-win situation here. On the one hand, they cannot let these protests continue for fear of looking weak and because of the economic damage they are causing but, on the other, a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown would also be hugely damaging economically and reputationally.

      They must be hoping their scary sabre-rattling will cause the protesters to climb down but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

      • Isn’t it bit in the line of the old joke about scorpions (or snakes?), when the bitten victim is complaining the predator only answered all smiles style: you knew all about me so you should not have had believed me in the first place..

        So, in the same vein, the mainland Chinese assumption that the UK/US are somehow in gentlemanly fashion going to more or less stick to the peaceful (and no meddling) transition time from the old colonial hub to Chinese hands was very naive..
        Nope, the whole issue was again re-weaponized ala other ongoing color revolutions handbook or at least as perennial poking stick on the bad Panda..

        One additional illustrative example, the young guys from yt channel Asian Capitalist (having also US/CAN passports), who occasionally discuss some good doom related topics toyed with the same silly idea and now are in panic mode quickly packing their bags and getting out of there..

        ps I’m not adoring the Chinese regime and I’m not Asian..

      • Robert Firth says:

        Harry, I tend to agree. If China moves the troops into Hong Kong there will certainly be bloodshed, and if she closes her only trusted and reliable window on the world, she is risking the fall of the dynasty.

        As the Empress Dowager discovered in 1900.

      • Yoshua says:

        Hong Kong is China’s financial center.

        The PLA can’t just go in there and crack down on the protesters. China would be cut off from global financing?

        You Brits left a nice little ticking time bomb in HK.

        • Yep, what an expertly bunch of treacherous pirates, and that’s ~100+ yrs after their domestic coal peak and ~20yrs after their shelf oil / natgas peak..

          Long cycles, short memory spans, yet third/fourth turnings aficionados have it always right, +/- a decade or so, lolz..

          • Yoshua says:

            Britain started the industrial civilization. You rule the world. The city Is the financial center of the world.

            • Yes, that’s highly probable as it “curiously” enjoys the highest possible int law autonomy out of all of the tax and fin heavens be it on the continent or offshore. That being said, it’s highly probable there must be some sort of fall back decentralized infrastructure in place should they fall for what ever man made or enviro reason, it’s a tiny place.. The rumor has it at least these three hubs are likely on such list: NY, Luxembourg, Switzerland.

        • “Hong Kong is China’s financial center.” This is sort of a problem. Oops!

  17. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Investor anxiety is visible just about everywhere in Hong Kong’s markets as recession warnings and escalating protests strain sentiment to breaking point. While most of the world recovered Tuesday from a yuan-induced meltdown, Hong Kong saw the biggest spike in interbank rates in more than a decade, the longest stretch of equity declines since 1984 and the wildest stock swings in four years.”

  18. Yoshua says:

    The WTI must bounce…currently at USD 53.70

    • Right now, WTI is at $51.53. No bounce so far.

      • Yoshua says:

        WTI USD 50.77

        Well…this trend line broke.

        Technical charts are a bit weird…”everything” is breaking down right now…yuan…European Banks…S&P 500…WTI…Iron Ore…

        I don’t know how they line up everything simultaneously.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          it almost seems like declining net (surplus) energy is directing the entire world economy…

          no, that would be preposterous!

  19. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Investors are pricing in a 100% chance the Fed cuts rates at its next meeting in September after Monday’s market carnage, joining central banks around the globe that are providing more stimulus to their respective economies…

    “Initially seen as a cautionary pause, the world’s central banks have clearly returned to a path of lower interest rates that has not been seen since the global financial crisis.

    “More than half of the world’s central banks are expected to cut interest rates in the third quarter, while 0% of central banks are expected to raise rates in the third or fourth quarters, data compiled by Goldman Sachs shows.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Rates are crashing around the world, and this does not bode well for the global economy. Signals being sent by the global bond markets [are glaringly negative].

      “Given the precipitous plunge in rates over the last 48 hours, it is likely that over $15 trillion in sovereign debt carries negative interest rates … quite possibly even more.”

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “After the Dow shed almost 1,000 points on Monday, stock market futures point to a slight recovery on Wall Street this morning. Tuesday’s bounce, however, is tainted by the Treasury’s recession indicator which plunged to a level not seen since before the 2008 financial crisis. As the trade war between China and the US escalates, the recession alarm is screaming.”

      • Negative interest rates really don’t work. Also, banks have problems with these low rates. The low rates really reflect a low rate of return on investment. It is this low rate of return on investment that is the true problem.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          Japan was lowest but now:

          Japan 10 year minus 0.197%
          France 10 year minus 0.308%

          and the winner is:


          10 year Bund is now minus 0.573%

          how low can they go?

          “I have a bad feeling about this”…

          2019 should limp to 12/31…

          2020 looks nearly certain to have major disruptions…

        • Harry McGibbs says:

          “For Europe’s lenders, the hits keep on coming.

          “Banks in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands warned Wednesday that making money and improving their operations are becoming more challenging as already-low interest rates look set to tick lower. Shares of Commerzbank AG, UniCredit SpA and ABN Amro Bank NV fell sharply as they struck a gloomy tone.”

  20. Shawn says:

    Of possible interest. “Crude-quality issues are hitting all segments of the oil market and heading to one conclusion: Slower shale-production growth and shortages of heavier crudes. In this case, it is possible that we might end up in energy oil shortages while we are awash in oil! ”

    My translation: diesel shortages coming even as total oil production (in barrels) grows or plateaus.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:


      this quote:

      “By some sell-side estimations, the realized pricing on a boe basis for some Permian producers are in the low $40s and that’s not including any potential crude quality discounts in the future.”

      just another aspect to the idea that the better quality crudes are becoming tapped out and the world must turn to lesser quality crudes…

      perhaps the heavy oil producers will increase production and bring some balance…

      Canada perhaps…

      Venezuela perhaps… maybe in a few years…

      so there is great hope! 😉

        • It's different this time around....NO says:

          Way too late for that, Greta, I m afraid. Best you and everyone else enjoy the little time we all have left of BAU and let the show unfold. As Gail has pointed out, and I may confirm, we THINK we are in charge, but the system is self regulating, and based on natural laws.
          We may not like it, but that’s just the way it is.
          But we are just human and the human condition reverts back to endless drama we see now.

          Empty spaces, what are we living for?
          Abandoned places, I guess we know the score
          On and on, does anybody know what we are looking for?
          Another hero, another mindless crime
          Behind the curtain, in the pantomime
          Hold the line, does anybody want to take it anymore?
          …My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
          Fairy tales of yesterday will grow but never die
          I can fly my friends
          The show must go on, yeah
          The show must go on

          • SteveS says:

            We need our smartest people to try harder. Find ways to extend the trend. They would be real heroes.

            People who are already resigned about the situation and just keep reiterating they are destined to die when it dies are not helpful. Literally that is not a message worth delivering.

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              “We need our smartest people to try harder. Find ways to extend the trend. They would be real heroes.”

              there are many people around the world who are working to extend economic growth and aid people with food and health care to give them longer and better lives…

              are they really heroes?

              the result is that the world population, which already is in overshoot, continues to increase…

              personally, I welcome any attempt to keep BAU wobbling along in my corner (northeast USA) of the world for as long as possible…

              but any extension of BAU brings about a higher world population and therefore the potential for greater human suffering than if population decrease started now…

              so what should we do?

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “so what should we do?”

              The Clinic Seed story unfolds in a world where a side effect of providing really good health care has the side effect of biologically wiping out the human race.

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              and the abundant energy from power satellites?

              what would that do to the human race?

              double or triple the population which is already in overshoot?

              hasten the depletion of all other resources?

              arable land, fresh water, minerals, metals etc…

              oh, whatever…

              BAU FULL THROTTLE tonight, baby!

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “what would that do to the human race?”

              Bezos wants a trillion people living in space habitats throughout the solar system. The earth would be mostly depopulated.

            • wish I was a genius like Bezos

              Space travel on that scale requires technology not yet invented

              New technology always requires old technology to build on. At current rates of consumption, our current technology can’t last more than 20 years or so, so any ‘new technology’ must be created within that timespan

              We know of no habitable planets

              If habitable planets exist, they will be ‘inhabited’ already, they will not be sitting there waiting for us to arrive. (Of course they could be inhabited by dead Mormons or Scientologists or whatever)

              If by chance we found another planet, our purpose and intention would be to fill it with ‘us’
              (refer to the Americas after 1492)

              Hiring clever people to spend your money on your daft projects does not make you clever
              it just makes you poorer

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Space travel on that scale requires technology not yet invented”

              I don’t think so. Rockets of the kind SpaceX and Blue Origin make look like they will get down into the cost range required. The alternative is Reaction Engines pre-cooled engines. They are far advanced in testing.

              ” must be created within that timespan”

              Looks like it could be done that fast.

              “We know of no habitable planets”

              You miss the point O’Neill made in the early 70s. What he and his students figured out is that planetary surfaces are not a good place to grow an industrial civilization relative to free space. There is enough material out there in the asteroids to build a few thousand times the land area of the earth.

            • in the interests of maintaining polite and civilised dialogue on OFW I will restrain my reply, particularly to the last paragraph, to eye rolling and banging head on keyboard

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              Bezos should become a science fiction writer…

            • Tim Groves says:

              We could start by colonizing the Moon and Mars, and then build a Ringworld, and then go on to turn it into a Dyson sphere using the asteroid belt as the raw materials and utilizing a large fraction of the Sun’s energy to power the endeavor. Amazon drones would of course deliver goodies to people throughout the zone of habitation providing, of course, that they had an Amazon Prime account.

              Build it, and they will come!


          • SteveS says:

            Gail is being heroic by bringing attention to issues we must keep in mind. If we are ever to come up with real solutions that extend the trend, we first need to have an accurate picture of the energy problem. But if the message is lazy, a kind of “let’s do nothing,” it really isn’t worth delivering. While it’s likely much is pre-destined in the financial-energy boom of the past couple hundred years, there is probably some room to make the outfall of its popping less catastrophic. It may even be possible to extend the trend. For instance, we didn’t know we could harness nuclear energy until we exploded a bomb in 1945. A lot of smart people working very hard on a problem in a short time can achieve very surprising things.

            If you believe entirely in predestination, there isn’t much point in saying or doing anything at this point, even saying we can’t do anything.

            • Gusher of not warranted optimism.. ?

              Predestination is one thing.
              (Over)mature system (perhaps) nearing thermodynamic collapse another one..
              And too live in such times is simply an occurrence, though luck, so what..
              You can still mitigate but not on macro societal level for everybody and everything.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “still mitigate but not on macro societal level”

              There is a good chance the future will go very badly. But it’s not a sure thing and there *are* approaches such as power satellites that could be grown large enough to pick up the entire human energy demand.

            • Well, anything can happen with some probability.

              I was surprised that these muskadian reusable rockets worked at all.. but given the large money burn rate, why not. Not sure he will ever get the top notch reliability factor out of it for such desired regular cargo service though.

              Now if you compare-contrast the whole industrial chain needed for say such power sat on one hand and all the myriad of industries and installations for “recycled-extended” nuclear power fuel alternative, who comes on top? The first is seemingly easier but doesn’t yet fully exist, the second one exist today but is confined to one beyond peculiar country at the times the industry is globally unloved (well hated) to say the least.

              So, perhaps the day for powersat to flourish could be around the corner.

            • Tim Groves says:

              If we did manage to do something to avoid collapse, save the day, and all live happily ever after, it would be because we were predestined to do so.

            • SteveS says:

              You actually don’t have evidence to support that strong of a judgment. It could be; it could not be. The bubble can blow bigger, but it can also fall apart prematurely. There are data to support the assessments that key points in financial history would seem to be predestined. This is an interpretation of the data. There are other possible interpretations. It does seem the laws of physics play a defining role in our energy economy. But it’s a very poor judgment to assess they definitely predestine everything, because there’s not sufficient evidence to support the claim. We cannot even really be sure of what sufficient evidence would look like. It might require omniscience. You can never fully confirm it; only be led strongly to assess it.

              A lot of folks around here are so sure of their judgments. It’s really very poor analysis. Strong analysis makes judgments from data, and some measure of certainty/uncertainty is put on those judgments. If you were to take completely certain judgments to anyone truly serious, you wouldn’t be taken seriously. Intelligence analysts are trained in this; financial analysts are trained in this. Many of the best analysts actually have the ability to change their minds very quickly based on new data. They also have a healthy respect for the unknown.

              On the kinds of issues we find on this website, you can pretty much tell if someone is worth listening to or not just based on their approach. Unfortunately, the doomer types are full of very weak analysis. Some of it will end up being right, in about the same way a dead clock is right twice a day.

            • Not because some of us were “better” or “worse” people according to some standards.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              The only standard that has been consistent for the whole time life has been on the planet is natural selection. It is what Clark thinks shaped the psychological traits that led to the industrial revolution. But it is really harsh. Depends on an excess number of children and early death or failure to reproduce for a lot of them.

            • species either adapt to changing conditions or they die out

              dinosaurs adapted to become chickens, and we eat them

              had they stayed 30ft tall, and we’d stayed the size of rodents they would have eaten us—all a matter of food/energy resources, and physical situations on the resource tree.

              a big asteroid dice threw down in our favour in the gaming table of evolution.

              i think we are about to lose our winnings

            • Natural selection is the way the system works for every other species. We have a huge medical establishment, for the purpose of working around natural selection. Also, relocation works against natural selection. A person needs to grow up with, and intermarry with, others in the same climate zone.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” working around natural selection”

              The medical profession so far has had little effect on the average genetics. That may change when we have widespread designer babies.

            • But it has managed to keep at least a few people with cancer and other diseases alive long enough to get back in the gene pool for another round.

              I think sanitation advances plus a few antibiotics have done more to increase lifespan than the vast majority of medicine.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” a few people”

              Certainly, but the effect is like a drop of ink in a lake in terms of the whole gene pool. On cancer, there are only a few genes such as BCRA that contribute. Those genes are not selected out so much because the effect is usually after childbearing.

              ” sanitation advances”

              Perhaps. Transporting food reduced the famines too.

            • Tim Groves says:

              A person needs to grow up with, and intermarry with, others in the same climate zone.

              Gail, the above comment could (and to a contemporary SJW certainly would) be considered racist or miscegenistic, and might even get its author kicked out of academia, deplatformed, and lumped in with the deplorables.

              If we were to get real picky, it could also be considered supportive of forced non-monogamous marriage arrangements. Your detractors may start accusing you of being a closet traditional Mormon.

            • Sorry, I don’t try to write politically correct ideas. I am trying to describe what happens in practice.

              When I grew up, quite a few of my classmates in a small town in Wisconsin married other classmates from elementary and secondary school. Or they married neighbors. They tended to get jobs in the area, often in farming or in support for farming. So they stayed put.

              A few of us relatively rich kids (high energy consumption) with high grades went off to other states to college and later graduate school. We met our spouses later, in the mix of people we rubbed shoulders with later. My grandparents all came from Norway, or their parents came from Norway. My husbands’ background is more mixed European, from farther south in Europe. Sort are sort of close, but not the same. We now live in Georgia, USA, which is farther south than either Norway or Europe, so we are not in the right climate zone, for either of us.

              The people who stayed around where I grew up married others from the same community. Quite a few of Norwegian heritage married others with similar Norwegian heritage. There were quite a few people of Polish descent in that part of Wisconsin, too, but parents of that time discouraged dating people that different. (I know even when my mother lived in a nursing home near the end of her life, she wanted to talk to women of Norwegian background, not Polish. Different religions were a big part of the issue.)

              So traditional customs tended to keep people together with their own group. Once people got wealthier (more energy consumption per capita), and could travel more, a great deal more mixing and movement away from the “correct” geographical area that we were biologically adapted to started taking place. If “selection of the best adapted” is to work based on climate in a particular area, people need to stay put. Other things would probably help too, such as wearing a lot less clothing, so we are truly exposed to the climate of the area.

            • there is a tendency—just a tendency—for people to marry/pair up on the same intellectual level.

              You do, after all, need to converse between times.

              physical attractiveness also has a degree of commonality.

              Thus kids tend to get those attributes from both parents if they are lucky. I seem to have a gift for art, 4 of my 7 grandkids have that to a far higher degree than I ever did. Which I am immensely proud of. They got other traits from other grandparents as well

              So things flow down the generations, get diluted or accentuated according to chance.

              Nothing racist about it it, you select a partner, or the partner selects you based on the unconscious intention of providing offspring with the best start in life.
              That’s the way nature works, “racism” or whatever is the label we stick on it.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Gail, the above comment could (and to a contemporary SJW certainly would) be considered racist or miscegenistic,”

              Gregory Clark and I get into the same mess by making the case that certain groups of humans have been heavily selected for traits conducive to starting the industrial revolution. Clark also makes a case for the Chinese being similarly selected.

      • Except you need all of the infrastructure in place to handle a growing supply of heavy crude. I don’t think that this has been happening. The infrastructure is too costly; the returns on the selling the heavy crude have been too low. I know that Saudi Arabia has some potential heavy oil as well. None of this has really been worth developing at the world’s low oil prices.

        IEA was counting on oil prices rising indefinitely ($300 barrel) and the heavy oil coming out. This is one of the IEA’s charts from a few years ago:

        EHOB on the above chart is “Extra heavy oil and bitumen.” Tight oil is oil from shale formations.

        IEA was expecting that there were continue to be a huge amount of conventional oil left, plus lots of shale oil and lots of EHOB, thanks to high prices. This is not happening. The same issue occurs with coal and natural gas. There is a lot in the ground, but we cannot get it out.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          “The infrastructure is too costly; the returns on the selling the heavy crude have been too low.”

          then that is the other side of the coin…

          “… the realized pricing on a boe basis for some Permian producers are in the low $40s…”

          if light oil production is unprofitable and heavy is also unprofitable…

          then that is an endgame for the oil industry…

          prices will always be too low for producers…

          countries will have to step in and keep the industry working even without profits…

          the USA seems to be doing that now with LTO…

          perhaps Canada too with its tar sands…

          several countries (USA Russia China) seem to want to “help” Venezuela with its heavy oil…

          the endgame…

          this could go on for as long as the countries are able to keep unprofitable oil industries working…

          5 or 10 months… or 5 or 10 years…

          it must end someday, so it will…

          • SteveS says:

            How those kinds of government interventions work and for how long, is really interesting. All modern militaries are incredibly dependent on fossil fuels. If a government of a great power is still standing, it’s probably a good bet it will try anything and everything to secure those resources for military, if nothing else. Having any shortage of those resources would drive military and intelligence circles crazy. It’d probably make Wall St. temper tantrums look very mild.

    • Heavy oil, which is what produces the highest percentage of diesel, is expensive to extract. Oil producers stopped building new infrastructure for it, earlier than for tight oil from shale. So we should not be surprised if its production falls first.

      The EU made what, in retrospect, looks like a very poor decision to encourage the use of private passenger automobiles that operated using diesel. This made the EU especially vulnerable to problems as shortages arise. They EU has no choice but to try to find something else. Hence all of the new rules regarding moving away from diesel.

      • Robert Firth says:

        The decision to move to diesel was not made by the EU: it was created by lobbying and bribery by he car makers, especially German, and by German government pressure. They also capitalised on the Kyoto protocol by claiming that diesel cars produced a lot less CO2, a claim that any chemist will tell you was a flat lie.

        The EU industrial policy is run fro the benefit of Germany, just as its agricultural policy is run for the benefit of France. And the whole house of cards is collapsing, as the other countries begin to wake up to that truth, and stirring performances of “An die Freude” will not send them back to sleep.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          Diesel is more energy dense than gasoline–
          The world runs on diesel.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “that diesel cars produced a lot less CO2, a claim that any chemist will tell you was a flat lie.”

          Diesel engines are around 10% more efficient than gasoline ones. So for a given power output, they do make somewhat less CO2.

        • True, but it was less sinister (in the origins at least) – diesel spec/optioned cars were more expensive (profitable) and they were really just sipping fuels when on high speed autobahn in contrast to equal power gasoline – wasteful options. So it made sense for a while (few decades) when availability of diesel products was not questioned, and especially before inner cities clogged up by traffic.

          Now, compare contrast with US situation of low highway speeds, long stretches of stop and go traffic (batt regen), gasoline, and lot of smog-sunshine (Cali market).. Voila in such peculiar settings the mild hybrids like Prius made a lot of sense. Similarly, there are niche markets where natgas cars shine..

  21. any thoughts on why gold has jumped $70 an ounce in a week?

    • First, the situation is scary with the tariffs against China, the weak yuan, and less cooperation among countries.

      Second, the 10-year treasuries are even further below short term yields than they were previously. This is a very likely sign of “recession ahead.”

      Also, banks are in tough shape right now. It looks like they will need to do a lot of trading in the near future that will make stock markets very volatile, and quite possibly head downward. The big debt bubble may possibly begin its long unwind. Gold is a safe harbor, at least for individuals, against such volatility.

      Banks are in what a friend of mine called “a negative gamma situation,” in another comment I made. There are many mutual funds that follow indices, plus ETFs that track some particular commodity, plus derivatives with requirements. Banks are the ones holding funds for these accounts. Banks need to rebalance their portfolios so that their portfolios will match what was targeted, even if this results in trading losses. Thus, we are in for choppy trading in the weeks/months ahead.

      Furthermore, the banks themselves are trying to make money on some funds they hold. They have put in place “stop loss” requirements and other requirements to try to keep the volatility of their own book down. Trying to fulfill these requirements also is difficult for banks.

      • and gold has gone up another $14 oz today which confirms your comments

      • Once in the post ~2008 upheaval days I’ve seen “insider” analysis about the theoretical restoration or hard crash induced reversal to past economic settings, and simply because of the debt-credit overhang of our current civilization the metal appreciation would have to be not in mere multiples but of even way higher order to clear the legacy nonsense. That’s obviously not going to happen as this would destroy-instant freeze everything and everybody in our complex interdependent structures. Hence what is more likely the guys at the upper echelons again put together another refreshed bastard multi-tier model where for example only the gov/CB accounts level would see closer value to reality (+perhaps in next round upgraded – cross linked to energy as well), while the lower ranks of trade and society interactions (individuals, small companies and banks) would be under embargo to trade these things openly in such volumes which could potentially brake the house again one day.. A clever system if you could keep it. So, these reported recent minuscule $$moves are approved channel bound and mean exactly nothing..

        It’s all speculative logic, moreover, in times when the major powers issue openly via msm channels warnings he who, why and when is going to evaporate which dooms day bunker on the other side etc. these grand theme economic debates are kind of useless anyway.. as the -button- would be pushed eventually..

    • SteveS says:

      Gold does well in times of unstable geopolitics, and when central banks are challenged. When Trump initiated this recent round of tariffs, one interpretation is that he challenged the independence of the Federal Reserve. He probably sought a larger rate cut, and the promise for more, which the Fed opposed. Not just the Fed chair but also past Fed chairs and the NY Fed chair are pushing back against the administration.

      The new tariffs against China are apparently much more serious than the prior round of tariffs, to the extent that geopolitical relationships are beginning to become very strained.

      Gold actually tends to perform poorly in deflationary conditions (recession), like other assets. But it can act like a safehaven in the meantime. And it’s possible that unstable geopolitics and a central bank in doubt could trump some of the effect of recession on it in coming years. Of course, the need to pay huge government debts can also cause gold to rise. A Green New Deal and Medicare-For-All would require a lot of new debt.

      • Plans that require more debt are not all bad. Debt is what keeps the system going. It can even temporarily be helpful even if the debt is for “bridges to nowhere” and other useless causes.

        • SteveS says:


          As long as interest rates are going down, US debt is desirable; investors want the debt, therefore the yield goes down. When interest rates finally rise, that would imply US debt has become less desirable, and it could really put a hard stop to many of the government’s efforts, because all else equal it will have to pay higher interest payments instead of providing services. Still, trying to run the debt machine as hard as it can go without provoking hyperinflation, might be the best course of action. Stopping it or slowing it certainly would be a terrible idea. Keep it usable as long as possible, until people laugh it off the stage. Japan’s debt machine is laughable now, and yet it still works.

          • As several authors and commentators here and other places alluded numerous times already, the game will simply shift into different paradigm yet again at some threshold in the near future. Rules will change. The system would be rewritten for more naked printing/swaps. And so what.. it was an emergency everybody understood.. At some point this won’t work any more but is it really now or delayed till ~2028, who knows..

      • snarf says:

        Your statement is parroting what investment banks tell us about gold. Its nice.Its reassuring. Lots of impressive words grouped together. All with the assumption of infinite resources. ” A Green New Deal and Medicare-For-All would require a lot of new debt.”
        A Green New Deal and Medicare-For-All would require a lot of resource consumption. Those resources are mostly gone. A stack of bills or gold bars or piece of paper that says debt does not change that.

  22. Just of overheard somewhere on the msm that the financial shark Kyle Bass jovially recommends kicking biggest Chinese banks out of SWIFT (ASAP) during this tariff and devaluation game. If you recall he was one of the few lesser pirates supposedly betting successfully against the house prior ~2008 but reportedly lost a lot in recent decade on other gambling ventures, incl. against China..

    Perhaps it means just nothing, being a relative little fish even among the pirates (not mentioning bigger private players and various SWF), or he might be eventually correct that China is going into meltdown way before the US, claiming much higher leverage to debt and not freely floating currency. The latter is part of the grand scenario in which the quasi BAU soldiers on and the bulldozer of mortal triage is decimating only the contenders to the throne like China or previously EU.

    • SWIFT, as I understand it, is the “Global Provider of Secure Messaging Services.” For Banking, the site says, “Our Messaging, standards and service connect you to your counterparties worldwide, so you can transact securely and reliably.”

      Kicking Chinese banks out of SWIFT would mean that they could not play in world markets. In fact, they would have a hard time managing loans already in place.

      If the Yuan devalues very much relative to the dollar, the many dollar loans currently outstanding will become unpayable, among other things.

      • SteveS says:

        Russia has been trying to develop an alternative to SWIFT, for fear it will get locked out at some point. I believe China may also be. The use of SWIFT competitors would probably greatly accelerate de-adoption of the US dollar as world reserve currency.

        • We end up with a China – Russia SWIFT and perhaps a rest of the world SWIFT. Or maybe other countries increasingly get left out of SWIFT as well.

          • SteveS says:

            Historically China and Russia don’t get along at all, but there’s evidence in recent years they are more and more aligning to offset the power of the US. Cooperation on the New Silk Road is one example. I believe they recently agreed to trade in each other’s currencies as well.

            The two combined could actually pose as a reasonable counterweight to the US financially and, increasingly, militarily. It’s something to really keep and eye on.

    • Xabier says:

      I looked him up and was surprised by how little money Kyle Bass manages now in his fund – small fish as you say.

  23. Pingback: Rethinking Renewable Mandates –

  24. The US print edition of the WSJ has a very hard-hitting anti-renewables article today titled “If you want “Renewable Energy,” get ready to dig. You can perhaps find it by searching for the title.

    A few things it says:

    Building one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of plastic.

    “Renewable energy” is a misnomer. Wind and solar machines and batteries are built from nonrenewable materials. And they wear out. Old equipment must be decommissioned, generating millions of tons of waste. The International Renewable Energy Agency calculates that solar goals for 2050 consistent with the Paris Accords will result in old-panel disposal constituting more than double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste. Consider some other sobering numbers:

    A single electric-car battery weighs about 1,000 pounds. Fabricating one requires digging up, moving and processing more than 500,000 pounds of raw materials somewhere on the planet.
    . . .
    Last year a Dutch government-sponsored study concluded that the Netherlands’ green ambitions alone would consume a major share of global minerals. “Exponential growth in [global] renewable energy production capacity is not possible with present-day technologies and annual metal production,” it concluded.

    . . .
    What’s more, mining and fabrication require the consumption of hydrocarbons. Building enough wind turbines to supply half the world’s electricity would require nearly two billion tons of coal to produce the concrete and steel, along with two billion barrels of oil to make the composite blades. More than 90% of the world’s solar panels are built in Asia on coal-heavy electric grids.

    Engineers joke about discovering “unobtanium,” a magical energy-producing element that appears out of nowhere, requires no land, weighs nothing, and emits nothing. Absent the realization of that impossible dream, hydrocarbons remain a far better alternative than today’s green dreams.

    • Artleads says:


    • A few thoughts:

      1. I don’t think the WSJ dared print this post in European editions or the regular online paper. The US print edition was a far as the WSJ was willing to share this.

      2. I think that a big part of the net energy analysis is a “boundary problem.” The focus of a big share of the folks doing net energy, EROI, and life cycle analysis has been consistency. The reason for the need for consistency is because these analyses have been used to try to sell the devices, and consistency is needed if the primary purpose is to compare Device A to Device B.

      The catch is that consistency means “narrow boundaries.” Battery use is not considered. The wind turbines, as modeled, never get hit by lightening and need to be repaired. It is assumed that the grid can use 100% of the electricity the devices produce, at the time it is available. The energy going into making the transformer is considered, but the ongoing energy need of the transformer to use part of the electricity generated is not considered in the calculation (as far as I know). On home installations, the supporting structures needed for the solar panels are not considered.

      There are certainly a few attempts to figure out on a broader basis how much energy is really being used. I know Charlie Hall and Pedro Prieto have been particularly interested this. But even this cannot get to all of the supporting roads and other infrastructure that is needed. I know that in Ida Kubiszewski’s much quoted wind EROI meta-analysis, quite a number of the analyses were model estimates, without any consideration of actual output in real world placement situations. Of course, her meta-analysis and other meta-analyses leave out attempted broader based studies, such as those by Hall and Prieto. They are simply compilations of very narrow base studies.

      3. EROI and similar analyses suffer from the problem of figuring out a realistic lower bound, before net energy should be counted. Even with the best of analyses, no one will be able to figure out how much energy is required for roads and schools and electricity transmission lines. I don’t think anything 10:1 should be counted as net energy. Maybe it should be higher than this. I think “Ability to pay taxes and pay electricity backup providers for their services” should be part of the analysis of whether there is truly any net energy from electricity generating devices.

      4. Life Cycle Analyses are used to try to tell whether electric batteries for cars make sense. I am almost certain that the boundaries that they look at never get to the 500,000 pounds of raw materials that need to be moved to create the 1,000 pound batteries. As resources deplete, the quantity of raw materials required is likely to rise.

    • SteveS says:

      It would be interesting to see what public opinion would be if you set out all the true pros and cons of wind and solar against the pros and cons of nuclear. Maybe it would’ve been a better idea to just beef up nuclear. It of course suffers from a bad image, with good reason, but you can also make the case that that bad image is a little irrational. The argument would be that the tragedies have an outsized effect on its image, especially if they’re recent (or if HBO makes a miniseries about it). If you can control it, it would seem to be worth the risk. If you can’t control it, it’s not worth the risk. Evidently, sometimes we can’t control it, but we are able to mitigate the fallout. It’s all iffy.

      Any argument like this would really first have to recognize we’re approaching energy limits. That mindset is important to make a good decision. So what kind of compromises or deals should we make to try to prevent energy decline and/or climate change?

      • Nuclear renaissance could have gone a long way as you can then leverage the electricity by fast trains, cargo trains as well EVs or even various geothermal/heat pump schemes for residential heating – but it likely can’t replace much on short notice, as of now the past dependency on legacy system fueled by fossil energy carriers is just enormous. The world simply stumbled at wrong junction and went into different direction since the ~1980s.. incl. the wasted money on renewables.

        To turn this around from now on doesn’t seem realistic, especially, when you consider the industry is moribund within all old core IC hubs and thrives only in Russia, S Korea and perhaps China, which so far mostly evaluated all the various imported designs. Apart from the few brave countries (clients of the above) like Finland, Hungary, some of the Gulfies..

        • SteveS says:

          You are right. It takes a lot of time to scale up. One thing though is that there is an all-hands-on-deck movement growing to change the energy system. If it were directed toward nuclear instead of wind/solar, this perhaps could stem that problem some. Of course, it wouldn’t be likely to emerge unless wind and solar were truly in practice shown not to work, and maybe not even then. The issue is very political and you’d need coordination and cooperation.

          • What’s a bit unfortunate is that the Russians (nor French) did not have the whole chain closed enough by the ~1980s, that would be a major threshold and springboard reached if you will, as for that effort you also need dedicated breeder reactors and spent fuel reprocessing facilities and, all on industrial scale in order to move all the stuff within the chain with needed volumes.. back then it was only pre-pilot small scale proof of concept type of thing. Now Russians have it all working, and the French (+EU) could perhaps follow in mid-term future.

          • I think China problems could also negatively affect wind/solar.

            China is a big player in wind and solar. If China were to stop manufacturing these devices and parts of devices, world consumption of these devices would fall. China has recently been the biggest buyer as well as the biggest manufacturer of these devices.

            China also provides quite a few minerals. If China should stop providing rare earth minerals, it would negatively affect wind turbines and electric car production.

    • Xabier says:

      Over to you, Greta……..

      • SteveS says:

        She wins the moral argument, and that may be all that matters. That is extremely powerful and may completely eclipse any facts. Welcome to the left-wing variety of Trumpism, which has its own set of delusions.

        If you think nothing should be done, and you are informed of the science, you must not think you are good for the world. And if you think that, most people would probably say there’s not much point in living. Most people must feel like they’re doing something positive with their lives.

        It’d be better if we tried to be productive, have some understanding, and didn’t have divisive attitudes. At the very least, we can refrain from picking on 16-year-olds that lack hope for their futures.

        • Hm, there is plethora of much (potentially) useful activities she might engage instead.
          For example, planting trees, volunteering-interning at rejuvenation farms.
          I’ve zero tolerance for such exalted -gretenism-, albeit she is to a degree misused victim of older pipers..

          • SteveS says:

            If people don’t like her, they should just try to ignore her. It makes no sense to spend time disliking some 16-year-old kid so much.

            • Country Joe says:

              it’s really hard to watch this little girl stand up to the lying psychopath politicians and tell them to their faces, what low lifes they are. Anyone outside of Delusastan can see that there’s not going to be a world for these kids to inherit. Little girl child standing up to big strong men just don’t set right with us big strong men who just whine about solar panels and Elon Muck. I got my wine on the screened-in porch, under the Oak tree. Tough life.
              Better hope these kids don’t look up from their phones and start listening to Greta.

            • Tim Groves says:

              I do not dislike her. What’s not to like? She’s as cute as a kitten. They’s precisely why she’s being used at a poster child—literally—for the CAGW psy-op. Do you think she would be spearheading this campaign if she looked and sounded like Gina Rinehart?

              But I do try to ignore her, just as I try to ignore almost everything the mass media and social media tries to force feed us.

              Greta is a psy-op, just as Malia is. We all know the story. One little girl wanted to go to school and the other little girl wanted to play hooky. Both when to Parliament and everybody clapped. Both met the Pope. Both had books published. Both are real people but at the same time their public personas are no more real than those of characters in a soap opera or an animation. AOC and Donald Trump on the other hand are different. They are characters in a reality TV show. If you take any of these people at face value you are gullible.

              Moreover, I am too old for this sh*t the mass media dishes out. I’m sick to death of it. I am psychologically numb. I am no longer coping with it. It isn’t remotely credible as information and it isn’t even amusing. Nowadays I now much prefer the company of “simple” people who admit they are uninformed and ignorant about everything and are content to live modest lives in which they seldom look beyond their local horizon.

              Incidentally, twelve years ago, Greepeace put out a video of another klimate kult kid, much less cute than Greta, but saying much the same thing.

              The scientific community released a report that proves, beyond a doubt, that the Earth is getting warmer. This global warming is caused by things you grown-ups do and by the things you don’t.
              if drastic measures aren’t taken soon, by the time I grow up there won’t be any fish left in the sea, rainforests and clean air will be a thing of the past. The polar ice caps will be gone, oceans will rise, entire countries will disappear. Life will change, in ways you can’t even imagine. It could be famine, wide epidemics, life expectancy will be lower, And we’re not just talking about the future. we’re world talking about MY future.
              But this is no surprise, you adults have known about this for years. You know you could have done something about it, but you haven’t. You can say: “It’s not my problem”, you can say: “I won’t be around in fifty years”, but from now on, you can’t say: “I didn’t know.” Starting today, the lines are drawn. You have the two sides. Either you’re for my future, or you’re against it. You’re a friend, or you’re an enemy. I may just be a kid today, but tomorrow will be different. This is the last time I’ll be talking to you, adults. You’ve had your chance to fix this problem, now we have ours. We won’t be cute, we won’t be patronized, and we will not be denied our future.”

              This kid was an actor, but also a prototype, a role model of sorts for aspiring young eco-warriors. Perhaps this Angry Kid was a Greta who didn’t make the grade due to lack of cuteness more than anything else. I’m posting this to give everyone an idea of how the manipulators choreograph these things.


            • Xabier says:

              Why do you think I dislike her? I rather pity her, she is mentally troubled and also being manipulated, and I would give her parents a good talking to for allowing this.

              But I do object to the propagation among the young of the demonstrably false notion that a full Green Transition (TM) is possible today, is just being held up by fossil fuel interests and wicked older people, and that if it is not done there is ‘no hope’ and they ‘will all be dead in 13 years’.

              Greta has been fed a false narrative and simply regurgitates it, and it is being implanted in the minds of very young children as an absolute truth.

              This is all nothing less than the psychological abuse of immature minds. Just part of the irrationality which will accompany the end of our civilization, of course, but avoidable. The young should be prepared for a hard reality, not indoctrinated in fantasy.

              What are teachers thinking of ,telling tiny children they have only 13 years to live and lining them up in demonstrations? !

            • SteveS says:

              You folks are too heavy on conspiracy theories. Western democracies are open enough societies to allow the rise of figures like Greta Thunberg. If you have the opportunity to participate in decision-making within out political, military, or financial systems, or if you are just analytical, you learn our system is actually very porous and in many areas much less “controlled” than you’d think. The truth tends to find its way out. You can see this, for instance, in the progressive leaking of information that points to the Saudi government having a very significant support role in 9/11. Conspiracy theories can be true in our societies, but it’s probably very rare.

              It’s a great strength of our societies that figures can rise from obscurity and challenge the existing power structure. It’s possible in some situations it could also be an Achilles Heel. Divisions within the society may be able to grow and break the whole more easily. But in reality, that might be better than staying miserable in the whole.

              Older generations will most likely increasingly be seen as morally illegitimate and incompetent as leaders and to be brushed aside or ignored. They’ll be seen as having led us to catastrophe, as having the chance to do something and instead doing nothing, and younger generations will pay for it. Adding that younger generations just need “to face it” is not likely to go down well with them. Be prepared for that. It’s a rational emotional response. Of course, in reality, older generations made the same decisions any generation would in their position in history. But most people, and especially Americans, don’t believe in that type of thinking. They believe we have more control over our destiny.

            • The only “open” thing here is the “Open Society Fund” .. sorry could not resist.

              Perennial power structures are undeniable historical reality to anybody seriously attempting to study the “most dangerous social animal (us) ” – they are not monolithic/static but they are able by their definition (generational surplus resources vs. daily bread yoke drafted population) to operate through several innings of third/fourth turnings time-scale plenum as opposed to mere short term political cycles with individual people drives and desires.. They nudge, influence, paint vectors-directives, delegate, certainly not micromanage everything on the lower level, ~90% of “dirty work 24/365” is simply done in freewheeling mode by the culture of peer pressure, self / auto-censorship, and drive for greed across the entire ladder of society..

            • Tim Groves says:

              I for one am deeply and unapologetically into conspiracy theories, not as a conspiracy theorist but as a conspiracy analyst—a difference that Gore Vidal used to like to emphasize. In any case, without considering potential and obvious conspiracies, I would be as clueless about what is going on in the world I see around me as my best mate George is. Like the average Walmart shopper, he has absolutely no idea where his next meal comes from or what is going into it, and nor does he care. He’s just happy to be able to eat. George is a labrador, by the way.

              Whether I am “too much” into conspiracy theories or not is a vexed question, Steve. How far in do you think we should be? Should we just sit back and reassure myself that the world is a scaled up version of Sesame Street and that top-level bureaucrats, politicians, corporations, bankers, investors, televangelists and other assorted chancers and grifters are all good honest people who just doing there best to help their fellow men and would never stoop to collective lying, cheating, evasion and deception in pursuit of clandestine agendas. That’s a too large an assumption even for you to swallow, surely?

              And if Vidal is too nutty for you, these are the words of one of history’s most respected establishment conspiracy theorists.


    • HDUK says:

      The more I think and read about renewables, don’t you think they are a hoax, just an elaborate way to keep up the demand for industry and fossil fuels and therefore support their extraction? At the same time warning the public that we need to reduce fossil fuel consumption but not being totally honest why, making it appear it is ‘our’ choice? We don’t want to panic anyone after all, we had a taste of that in the 70’s. We have to keep humans employed and productive and complexity bumbling along, it keeps most of us out of mischief, you know rioting and killing each other and fossil fuels certainly improve our productivity no end, even as the surplus declines. As yet there is no replacement on the horizon for them in some vital sectors so we have to keep demand up to support the industry eg Combine Harvesting, where timing also matters hugely and vast acreages are covered in short order.

      Renewables are not a total energy sink either, they do give a little back unlike say a car, that never stops burning energy, perhaps too much, so switching to manufacturing say renewables from cars does make a little sense. Renewables kind of soften the energy curve down, in one way or another, we don’t after all want a Seneca cliff. I think it was in ‘Twilight in the Desert’ that I read we needed to find 4 Ghawars before 2040 to maintain our current way of life (2005 written??) which was like a bucket of iced water over the head because they don’t exist.

      Governments and the financial hocus pocus industry can keep producing claims for some time yet, whilst there is still something to claim, no matter if we degrade our nests and we all know the claims won’t be paid back in their current form, but so far the claims are being managed amazingly, although Central Bankers seem to look paler by the day. Billions of unemployed starving people would probably be far more destructive than an organised fake ‘renewables’ industry or climate ‘schemes’ but at some point the numbers of us will have to be managed, perhaps the soiling of our nests is already doing that. I am disturbed by the numbers of people in their 50’s and younger who have incurable cancers and here in the UK life expectancy is falling and fertility has fallen over the years to 1.7. Although we are still importing 300k people per year, a city the size of Coventry which seems crazy, especially when you consider the loss of productive land that is now being consumed. Again this may be being managed with changes in demographics, we can’t suddenly shift to having lots of old people for obvious reasons.

      I was talking to an elderly relative recently who is as sharp as a pin and in his 90’s he has worked at a high level in all kinds of industry and he made an interesting comment. He said throughout his lifetime there had been a few disruptive innovations BUT they would have laid waste to far too many jobs and thus were shelved (that’s the impression he got anyway), which got me thinking about renewables which don’t seem to make much sense. He also said when he worked on the North Sea oil rigs he had been told by a Geologist there was a lot of oil on the US west coast but they were saving it and using everyone else’s first, or is it just too costly now to extract, does anyone know anything? Perhaps he was trying to allay my fears, interesting idea anyway, that some decent stuff might be being saved.

      Thank you Gail for correcting my last comment, it went on rather longer than I had intended, (like this one) work intervened and I had to hit post before it disappeared.

      • I am not sure that renewables are a hoax. They are more like the ridiculous situation that can result when people think they understand the current situation, but really don’t. Also, there was a need for a story to tell the public, other than “We have a terrible problem folks, and we have no idea how to fix it.”

        There seemed to be an easy story available:

        1. Energy prices can rise endlessly. With these endlessly rising energy prices, any amount of fossil fuels can be extracted. This gives us a huge future climate change problem.

        2. If fossil fuel prices rise endlessly, then the high price of renewables will not be a problem (in theory).

        3. Renewables will save us from needing to use fossil fuels. They will fix our climate change problem.

        Of course, the economists did not realize that high-priced renewables would never be affordable, and they would always need the support of a fossil fuel system providing backup support. They also did not realize that our problem would not be fossil fuel prices that rise too high; our problem would be commodity prices of many kinds (including oil and other fossil fuels) that fall too low for producers.

        With the false understanding about oil and other energy prices rising higher and higher, the government offered grants to look at little pieces of the renewables will save us story. People who wanted government funding found themselves needing to prove what the government wanted them to prove. With each grant covering only a small piece of the overall problem, and no need to really look at costs, many researchers found it possible to “prove” pieces of this story.

        What helped pull the renewables story along was all of the money to be made by those getting into this area. Professors looking for grant money could get the funding universities were looking for. Subsidies on all of the devices helped, as well as payments to land owners allowing their land to buy used. There were tax credits, too, that could be sold to companies that could use these tax credits. All of the carbon taxes, and credits for things like planting trees elsewhere, proved to be another bonanza, for adding to this complexity chain. Whether it made any sense at all was not a concern.

        • Xabier says:

          I think that’s very true about academics: they need a narrative to justify their posts, get grants for themselves and for their institutions, increase publication rate, etc.

          A perverted system, which encourages following a fashionable narrative and often leads away from objective research.

          And who would ever want to blow the whistle if they realised it is all hokum? Out of a job straight away.

          • Needless to say, the whole system revolves around the fashionable narrative. The peer review system is put in place to make certain that everyone sticks to the standard story. Text book publishers look for people who will provide texts following the standard beliefs. Authors are counseled on the types of books that the publisher is looking for. Anyone who points out that the climate change model reflects economic scenarios that cannot possibly happen (an economy that can continue to grow, with far less energy consumption; a forecast of way too much fossil fuel energy supply in the future) is a heretic. We start dealing with something that is close to a state religion.

            • Don Stewart nicely wrote about you recently from similar angle you just painted. I’ll only add that the few break through authors of correct analysis will be always remembered despite the level of status achieved (allowed) inside the officialdom structures of the bygone era.. Nevertheless it’s usually a lonely walk.. that’s how it rolls on this planet.

        • Sven Røgeberg says:

          A very good summary of the RE- story, Gail. BTW i had the possibilty to write a new, short article in this summmers hot debate about RE in the norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten. As you see i make some points which are familiar to readers here with a link to one of Gails blogposts.

          • Thanks for the link! This is another good post.

            It is hard to believe that a newspaper would have enough interested readers to want to print such a long series of exchanges, some of them on fairly academic topics. Perhaps readers are starting to consider the fact that renewables don’t really live up to the rosy picture painted of them.

  25. Jarle says:

    Gail: “It is true that buildings for homes and businesses can be built with wood, but such buildings tend to burn down frequently.”

    Wouldn’t a bigger problem be lack of wood? Not in countries like Norway with many trees and few people but in the UK etc.

    • You are right.

      Lack of trees not only in highly populated areas without many treed, but in many other areas as well. Saudi Arabia likely has few trees. Even parts of the US are fairly treeless. When I visited a natural gas extraction site in Wyoming, all of the buildings were metal, partly because of lack of wood and of carpenters, skilled with working with wood. Prebuilt mobile homes were preferred.

      I think that overuse of wood as a fuel would be a further constraint on use of wood for homes.

      Trying to use wood for commercial buildings would be fraught with peril. They, too, would tend to burn down.

      • Artleads says:

        Where I come from, there are still an impressive number of 19th century wooden buildings that never burned down. (A huge stone church burned to ashes, leaving just the stone wall shell, but somehow old abandoned wooden houses still stood,)

        What has been destroying wooden houses is not nearly fire so much as it is a) Chinese investment to build bigger structures made from energy-expensive concrete; b) a prevailing cultural idea that wooden building cause fire (even in the face of the many that don’t); c) the religion of modernism that says buildings must be hard concrete; d) absolutely zero application of commonsense measures like sprinklers (including any effort whatsoever to prioritize their funding,) These are only some of the reasons for the destruction of wooden buildings other than that “they catch fire.”

        The destruction of historic wooden buildings is a detriment to historical tourism (not to mention more esoteric cultural, spiritual and aesthetic values).

        Simply insisting that wooden buildings catch fire may be leaving out important other considerations.

        • Xabier says:

          Wooden buildings + open hearth fires + careless/drunk/senile human beings, catch fire.

          Quite interesting are the prehistoric cultures which seem to have burned their houses down every 80 years or so, and built anew.

          • Artleads says:

            Lots of careless drunks, especially among the somewhat privileged, A fair share of senile human beings, but the advantage where the Tropics are concerned: no open hearth fires. As to burning wooden buildings down–unthinkable! 🙂 They have enough problems already.

            • Xabier says:

              I imagine the regular burning of those neolithic settlements had a religious/hygiene basis, and perhaps the structures usually just wore out by then.

              There is just one survival in this village of the style of cottage built of big blocks of clay mixed with straw,and roofed with thatch – good insulation. Probably dates from about 1800.

          • Artleads says:

            I do feel strongly about the subject. Colonial wooden buildings are what I’ve been trying to save, with remarkable lack of success, for the past 50 years. They are probably what I care most about. Sorry is I get jumpy about the subject.

            • Xabier says:

              I’m surprised they aren’t valued more, as they give America some charm. Keep up the fight, Artleads!

  26. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The Indian rupee on Monday crashed by 113 paise — the biggest single-day drop in past six years — to close at a five-month low of 70.73 due to heavy capital outflows by investors anxious over the US-China trade tension, a sharp devaluation in yuan and uncertainty over Kashmir issue.

    “This was the third straight session of fall for the rupee, during which it lost a massive 194 paise.”

  27. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Growth in the Eurozone economy softened in July as German output fell to a six-year low and the manufacturing sector continued to struggle, a closely-watched survey has shown.”

    “Eurozone investors were at their gloomiest since October 2014 in August, according to a survey from finance data firm Sentix, which called a German recession “inevitable”.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “The British economy is showing the greatest signs of strain for seven years amid a continued decline in car sales and as the service sector struggles to grow with Brexit looming… New car registrations fell by 4.1% to 157,198, the weakest sales in July since 2012…”

      British retailers have recorded the worst month for sales in July since records began [in 1996], as consumers tighten their belts with Brexit approaching…”

      • To put it in perspective, you also have to take into account that euro car sales are still boosted by somewhat wider spectrum of price thresholds vs say US market. Until recently the cheapest euro land cars available were ~45% bellow of that the US market situation, this gap has been closing somewhat to ~35% and lower recently.. So, it’s expected with new incoming wave of eco mandates that lower income peoplez on the old continent will be eventually stripped of this advantage, therefore only ~25k and up priced entry level hybrid – EVs will be available to the general public.. To compensate for the sticker shock they already pilot various lease/gov credit programs, which obviously disappear at some volume point further on the road.

  28. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Global chip sales plunged 16.8% in June from June last year, to $32.7 billion, on a three-month moving average basis, and are down 22% from the peak in October 2018, according to the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics today. As deepest and most relentless plunge in semiconductor sales since the Financial Crisis continues, any hopes for a V-shaped recovery, such as during the Financial Crisis, have been shelved.”

  29. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The US-China trade war has always been serious. Now it’s starting to get scary… The trade conflict has reached a new level of seriousness that will be difficult to reverse.”

  30. Yoshua says:

    World Stocks

    Everything is about to break down.

  31. Yoshua says:

    Oil service companies are breaking down.

  32. adonis says:

    looks like the currency war between the US and China will be the “black swan trigger” to bring on GFC part 2 dow has dropped over 400 points remember my prediction that it would all begin in December 2018 and that a very secret Plan B had been devised by the “powers that be “

  33. Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

    oh yeah, 2019 is wobbling like crazy… I’m fairly sure we won’t crash this year, but…

    the reference is to Charles Hugh Smith…

    “Soon enough, Smith says, the Federal Reserve, at the behest of President Trump, will attempt to save the market but will ultimately fail.”

    “In either an inflationary spiral or deflationary collapse of self-reinforcing defaults, Smith warned that the Fed’s “save” would destroy the economy.”

    a major step down in 2020 or 2021?

    coming soon to a theatre near you…

    • I have been corresponding with a friend of mine who is a lot closer to the stock market trading situation. He is also concerned about our situation today possibly being the beginning of the big deleveraging. He tells me:

      The unraveling this week has been fairly dramatic. This has to be putting a lot of pressure on banks.

      The dealers have been plunged into a market level where they have pretty severe negative-gamma (gamma means forced rebalancing to maintain their trading targets, negative means they lose money executing those trades when volatlity is high). It will take a market recovery or several weeks of time-passage to get out of this negative gamma situation. So expect the bumpy ride to persist.

      When I asked for examples of what trading targets he is talking about. He told me this:

      The targets wagging the dog right now take two forms.

      First there are a lot of algorithmic mutual funds, ETFs, and derivative indices that require forced rebalancing to meet the fund/index targets. (Think of the portfolio insurance schemes that lead to the 87 crash, only less transparent.) These have exploded into a large share of market volume during big moves. Insurance companies easily have several hundred billion of this on the books, although i do not have an accurate number. Marco Kolanovic at Morgan Stanley follows this pretty closely.

      Another is dealers’ active trading books. They have been retaining more risk to keep their returns up, but have to execute stop loss trades to keep their books within their risk limits. Adding to the problem, much of their book exposure is not on market direction, but on market volatility. Add to that the Fed is using large scale volatility trades to manage the market – in response to market direction. Things get tricky fast for trading desks and they can get caught flat-footed, leading to more dramatic trading action. McElligot from Nomura Bank uses market data to estimate what the aggregate market required trade profile looks like, and the market levels that will trigger further events.

      • This is an article by Charlie McElligott from Namura called, Nomura Warns A “25bps & Dovish” Move Today Will Spark August Turmoil

        This article says:

        The issue is that late-August / September is where we could see a further escalation risk of a US Dollar upside breakout IF September then becomes a “hold” month because the economy holds steady, while the rest of the world (particularly the ECB) really “kicks-off” the easing and begins competitively devaluing their own currencies in a race to the bottom

        I can see that everyone else easing, while the US stays level, could start pushing the dollar even higher and increasing the risk that those who have borrowed in US$ cannot really pay back their loans.

      • SteveS says:

        It is amazing how small spikes in volatility now can have seemingly disproportionate effects, based on past similar market events. We are talking about a 5-6% decline in the major American stock indices. Stocks were at the same levels two months ago.

        If you look at very long-term logarithmic charts of US and western stock markets, the trend since WWII is very nearly vertical. If this is what the financial system needed, then it may now need to go pretty much vertical to stay alive.

        • And even with this nearly vertical stock market movement, pension plans are very much underfunded. It is pretty easy to see that this is an unfixable problem, especially since bond interest rates are very low as well. The ten-year Treasury is now 1.634%.

          • SteveS says:

            You’re right. They promised too much. They mistook those nearly vertical trends for normal.

            Will haircuts come, or will we need to reissue a depreciated currency? Pension haircuts are a big legal battle, if not outright illegal for many state pensions, I believe. A wholesale depreciation of the currency where all ships fall would seem more likely in the end, to satisfy obligations and still provide some government services. After the dust settles, everyone just becomes poorer.

            • I can’t imagine wholesale depreciation of the currency to solve pension problems. Pensions are a problem worldwide. Unfunded pensions are a problem as well as funded ones.

              There are basically not enough goods and services for all of the following: (a) all of those promised to older people and (b) what younger people need to support themselves, (c) businesses and government.

              There needs to be a way to make an equitable distribution. This would be to give the funds mostly to the younger people and cut back the shares to older people and to businesses and government. I think that this is the kind of thing that pushes the system toward balkanization. That is the only way to cut the shares to the privileged groups.

            • pensions are a political promise for an uncertain future

              The future used to be reasonably secure when there were 20/30 taxpayers for every pensioner

              now there are about 6 taxpayers–probably less if you count government employees, who are paying taxes to fund their own pensions–nurses, policemen and so on.

              So pensioner support can ultimately only come from funds borrowed from our own future, and those borrowed funds cannot possibly be repaid.—there will not be enough surplus energy in the system to allow it 25 years hence.

            • The idea that these pensions are “borrowed from the future” is not quite true. Government pensions are pretty much “pay as you go.” And even private pensions very often don’t have a plan for future funding. They are funded by unions or some such organization. They can’t collect a whole lot more from younger union members. If the funding isn’t there, it isn’t there, unless a government program can come up with money.

              The issue is fundamentally, “How should current goods and services be divided up?” The system may crash, and there may be no future goods and services.

              Even if the system goes on, the only one that might possibly might have an obligation is the government, to the extent that it has chosen to take on this obligation. In the US, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (supposedly) provides coverage for 37 million Americans in single employer and multi employer pension plans. I doubt that that is all pension plans.

              But the PBGC has virtually no money. It has to get handouts from the federal government in order to pay what it has guaranteed. And what it has guaranteed has specified maximums, which are likely to be less than the regular pension amount. So the government keeps working on fixes. More loans to the pensions, perhaps.


            • i should have been more specific about borrowing from the future

              in the sense that pensions are a promise of future ongoing prosperity, in say 25 years, —which of course means the availabilty of the same or greater level of cheap surplus energy that we have now.

              which will not be there

              So governments are forced to ”promise” that it will be, knowing that it will not, so they strive to maintain a level of BAU for as long as possible. The only way to do that will be to top up the pension pot with borrowed money which can never be paid back

            • SteveS says:

              Depreciation may not solve the problem, but it might be tried, just for governments to stay legal and to kinda-sorta continue to operate in some capacity. I suppose that’s why I really mentioned those options. If we’re thinking of the future people typically think about around here, we wouldn’t really imagine this problem actually getting solved, right? 😉 We’re not really imagining a scenario where things ever really re-balance in favor of younger people. We’re not considering another boom.

            • I could see the federal government handing over Social Security and Medicare to the states to handle.

              It could almost do the same thing for guaranteeing pensions. The Federal Government would soon exist, for few real purposes.

            • SteveS says:

              Yeah, or they might be sinking ships themselves. States like Illinois probably wouldn’t go looking for that additional expense.

  34. Ed says:

    James Kunstler is in fine form today. Worth a read.

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      his conclusion:

      “The people may have to be dragged kicking and screaming into that new disposition of things, just because it’s so hard to let go of what you’re used to. Something like this appears to be underway now in global business and markets. For a while, it will only add to the confusion. Clarity is a lagging effect.”

      I’m not so sure that “the people” will eventually find “clarity”…

      it’s a certainty that the global economy will shrink because of the declining net (surplus) energy available to the world system…

      we know this…

      but that reality may never reach to an understanding by the people…

      if mainstream economists can’t understand it, then it won’t reach the people…

      • Artleads says:

        It could help if those who know spend day and night trying to spread the word. People won’t panic and go any more crazy than they are now; they’re going crazy now because they know something is dreadfully wrong, but they don’t know quite what, and no one is helping them to understand what. I think that applies to businesses as well. Some of the better adaptations are coming out of business, but no one is talking to them in an inclusive way.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          ” trying to spread the word.”

          The problem is *which* word?

          The point Gail makes is that none of the current plans looks like it will solve the problems.

          I would offer power satellites. We just came up with a solution (build at 2000 km) for avoiding the space junk. But this work has not been reviewed.

          • Artleads says:

            Thanks, Keith. I hope we figure out how or whether such ideas can fly (literally). I simply am on a very different track. But if people know that BAU can’t work, they have the possibility of not wasting their energies on it. My view centers not on technology (about which I know little) but on human organizing, and humanist prospects (whatever that means).

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “But if people know that BAU can’t work,”

              Power satellites and spilling out into the solar system is not BAU. It is a lot better than BAU, a much richer and much larger world. Will it happen? I don’t know.

            • “spilling out into the solar system” implies travel

              travel must have purpose otherwise no one would do it

              We make journeys for the purpose of productive employment. (the distance is irrelevant) Productive employment must consume energy, so in any journey, there must be more surplus energy available at the end of the journey than was consumed in the act of travelling,

              We call that ‘profit’.

              If you travel to Mars, sustaining a Martian colony will consume far more energy than any profit that can be made from the journey there and back. (breathing is critical)

              If we find a habitable planet, then we must consume that planet in the name of commerce and profit, because it will be too far away to return any profit back to Earth.

            • Good points!

            • Artleads says:

              gOT IT. i WASN’T THINKING of solar rockets as BAU. It’s out there in the marketplace of ideas. You have to persuade people with power to act on it. Otherwise, one contents oneself with putting the ideas out there like throwing seeds along the roadway as one passes by. That’s how i approach things. I’m my own think tank, and I try to persuade others to act on my ideas, but if they don’t they don’t, and I don’t worry about it.

            • Artleads says:

              I once questioned whether gravity was a kind of energy, and someone suggested that it is something called “potential energy.” I find the idea of using potential energy appealing. Any form of “energy” that nature provides on its own. So, in terms of cost benefit, I wonder, how space-to-move-products” might work. Shipping and air freight have their costs. They can move very heavy and somewhat less heavy products around. Given the energy required to put a “payload” into orbit and down from orbit, what calculations would we need? Payload would be light enough to make it pencil out. The incredible speed of transmission would be a factor. They pay a lot of people big bucks to figure out stuff like this, so why aren’t they doing it?

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “so why aren’t they doing it?”

              Why didn’t we have smartphones in 1980? Same reason.

            • Hydroelectric uses gravity to collect the water needed.

  35. Everything we need to know about the upper class, F. Scott Fitzgerald already wrote in “The Rich Boy”, about a real top out of sight acquaintance he knew as a young person (and naturally became estranged since their circles differ).

    The woman who became Daisy in the Great Gatsby was the daughter of a Chicago millionaire, who of course married someone of her class. She later asked Fitzgerald, who had become famous, whether Daisy was her. Fitzgerald answered, “Did you have to ask?”

    We don’t know what happened to her and her progeny, like we don’t really hear too much about the really rich people. Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, an ‘easy’ woman, fell into a life of hedonism and pleasure, knowing they would never join the ranks of elites so they would enjoy life as much as they could. When they died their only child Scottie was left with nothing, although her coffers were filled by the popularity of Gatsby after WW2.

    The very rich and the elites have their own networks and loyal retainers. I know that because I served someone who was a notch below the elites. The elites have their own survival strategy, and frankly speaking, even if they revert to a 19th century lifestyle, they will probably enjosy it.

    • hkeithhenson says:

      “Everything we need to know about the upper class”

      Except where they came from. For that, you need to read Gregory Clark’s work. Clark and his students examined some thousands of UK probated wills. It turned out that over about 400 years, the rich produced far more surviving children than the poor. The selection intensity was as strong as that which produced the Russian tame foxes. Google Genetically capitalist.

      If you wonder where the people with high levels of drive and acquisitiveness come from, it is this selection. The psychological traits of these people are as far removed from tribal people as the tame foxes are from wild ones.

      BTW, F. Scott Fitzgerald died of the effects of alcohol. Alcohol addiction is another genetic trait which has been subjected to selection. The “wild state” of humans is something like 95% alcoholics. The ancestors of peoples with much lower rates have been exposed to alcohol (and it’s strong selection effects) for many generations. Irish and Russians (to name just two) have less historical exposure (and higher rates). They are not close to Greenland Inuit who are close to the “wild state.”

      Genetic selection is not the whole story, but it sure helps understand a lot.

      • Xabier says:

        The distinction is surely not between tribal and civilized peoples.

        Competition in civilized, commercial societies with exchange governed by money certainly leads to selection for ruthless acquisitiveness where those qualities can be deployed (a peasant can’t do much, but a craftsman, innkeeper or trader can); but if one looks at the behaviour of the tribal peoples who beset the Romans/Byzantines – Germans, Normans, Arabs, Turks, Huns, etc, they were all highly acquisitive and very determined.

        Every warrior, not just the chiefs, wanted land, gold, silver and slaves for himself and would kill, torture and betray to get them. These are the people most of us are descended from (although to be fair to the Arabs, it was said that they would kill people quickly rather than torture them, unlike say the Tuareg and Moors who were known for a love of cruelty).

        ‘Capitalism and damn the consequences’, ‘all’s fair in business’, etc, is jreally just an extension of that attitude.

        It is, surely, more or less hard-wired into us, by existing as we do in a world of seasonal scarcity, and in consequence of our primate self-organisation into hierarchies, which means that he who has more succeeds best in competition and in reproduction – our only goal as organisms, however we pretend otherwise.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “The distinction is surely not between tribal and civilized peoples.”

          Clark makes the argument that there is a difference due to selection. Read the article. It’s over ten years old now, but it’s been a lot of influence on my thinking.

          Evolutionary psychology is mostly concerned with the psychological traits selected way back in the stone age. But more recent strong selection can change the psychological traits of a human population just like selection made those tame Russian foxes.

          • DJ says:

            Yes, but is this still valid? Since end of 1800s, 4-5 generations, very little natural selection and overbreeding of poor (that DO survive to reproductive age).

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Yes, but is this still valid?”

              No. There is much less to no selection against the poor after about 1800. Various reasons, but mainly the industrial revolution ended famines in the UK. Ireland was another story.

              “Since end of 1800s, 4-5 generations, very little natural selection and overbreeding of poor (that DO survive to reproductive age).”

              If you work the numbers on regression to the mean, 4-5 generations are not enough to make that much of a population effect built up by 20 generations of strong selection.

            • Perhaps fossil fuels did indeed “lift all boats,” at least in the parts of the world that had access to their use.

          • Artleads says:

            I actually think being human is not about anything that divides species, and rather a way to make them survive together. There are a lot of ideas and memes that deal with something less than human. I think Sartre would have agreed that a human was not just a lump of flesh.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” being human is not about anything that divides species”

              Consider those tame Russian foxes. They are a highly selected group from wild foxes. If there is enough variation in the gene pool you are working with, it is possible to massively change the average psychological characteristics of the selected animals. They are still the same species although do this long enough and you would get a new species like dogs splitting off wolves.

              Saying more would get me accused of racism. But race is a concept that will not last much longer as humans get full control over their genes.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              Incidentally, humans are concerned with the well being of other humans. At least when they are not trying to kill them. The question of why is, of course, rooted in the genes. So how did this concern for others get selected? I think I know and it involves the critical need for outbreeding–which makes other humans valuable by default (but not more valuable than you would expect from considering genetics).

    • Xabier says:

      They do have their own networks, but history shows that they can lose their positions and disappear utterly: for example, the great nobles families of the 9th century in Europe were all entirely new dynasties, as the older nobles had all been wiped out in wars, all of them.

      Profound economic dislocations, wars, plagues, etc, can destroy them as easily as you or I. Look at what happened to the great nobles of Russia after the Revolution, the great Polish families, etc. A friend of mine comes from one of those families, and all he has left are beautiful manners, a tiny amount of money compared to what his grandfather had, and obviously no power at all.

      The Romans noted that ‘There is not a noble who is not descended from a slave, and not a slave who is not also the descendant of a noble or king.’

      There is a tiny tribe in, I think, Iran who are the last descendants of the merchants who actually ran the Silk Road: once immensely wealthy, traders in silks, luxuries and slaves, now they are just poor and very inbred nobodies: history moved away from them……

      • Artleads says:

        Xavier, this was fun to read and brought up related thoughts. Some time back–and I wish I could say this guilt complex was entirely expunged–I had experiences where I just opened up my house for a stranger to move in. Someone considerably lower down the privilege line than me. Guilt. A sense that I didn’t deserve my privilege, and had no right to protect it. By extension, I suppose, I didn’t consider those better off than me as being entitled to THEIR privilege. But if they have a right to privilege, relative to mine, then I have a right to my privilege, relative to others. So it behooves me to join forces with the higher ups, and not contribute to lowering them any more than I’d welcome being lowered. It’s sort of a new concept, actually.

        So the resulting question is how do we preserve class privilege equitably. One answer, I think, is to make habitat of the lowest rung of society, rock bottom sparing in resources though it be, beautiful and wholesome enough that those at the top could beart to spend a night there. That is where the power of art could prevail.

        • SteveS says:

          Yes, a social safety net is actually in the interest of the well-off. It would tend to pre-empt events like revolution or just high rise in crime.

  36. Artleads says:


    Full Disclosure: Having suggested that affixing paper to roadbeds with discarded paint might be a way to stabilize paving and repel cracks, I recently tested my theory.

    I went up to what had seemed like a tarry surface, a shiny residue from a previous paper layer that cars ran over and ground down. I tried digging it up, only to find that it was dry, and flaked off readily.

    So there goes the theory of paper to maintain roads.

    Meanwhile, however, nearly-dry-latex paint, the layer like cream that forms on top in the can, works in cracks like magic. Cars compress it. I filled a narrow, deepish pothole with it three years ago (deep is good), and the fill is still there, hard as rock.

    • Artleads says:

      If latex paint does indeed work to maintain roads, then miscolored latex paints (tons of which are discarded to heaven knows where) could be mixed to match the color of the roadbeds. Just pour it on the road and let cars run over and spread it. The color being a match for the original roadbet, that approach, with some luck, shouldn’t cause unsightliness.

      • Chrome Mags says:

        What about trying to get control of your vehicle in heavy rain, while your tires fail to get traction on the latex? Maybe they can mix in sand or something to give it a gritty surface. Of course the sand is needed for fracking, so maybe a bit expensive to use too extensively on road surfaces.

        • Artleads says:

          Thanks CM. Never considered adding grit. And I agree that sand (or anything from the earth) is too precious for such things. I did think about the slipping (skidding) later, then hit my forehead against the wall a few times. Silly me! As I see it now, the paint would be distributed with giant-size paint rollers and left to dry. It could be an inefficient process that put a lot of people to work. No doubt, there are also existing vehicles that could be retrofitted to do the work, although I think Gail’s energy analysis would rule that out to some extent.

    • I am afraid we are talking about a five-year, maximum fix for roads. After that, the latex paint is gone and the roads are too far gone.

  37. It's different this time around....NO says:

    If you are “poor” now with BAU…what will you be afterwards!?
    We Lost the War on Poverty: Why Welfare Keeps Poor People Poor
    Genevieve Wood
    The National InterestAugust 5, 2019,
    We Lost the War on Poverty: Why Welfare Keeps Poor People Poor
    When President Lyndon Johnson launched his War on Poverty in the 1960s, he pledged to eliminate poverty in America.
    More than five decades, several welfare programs, and $25 trillion later, the welfare system has utterly failed the poor.
    The poverty rate remains mostly unchanged, and tens of millions of Americans are dependent on government assistance.
    Currently, the United States spends about a trillion dollars a year on 80 different federal, state, and local welfare programs.
    About 40 million Americans are considered poor. If we divided that $1 trillion among those 40 million people, we could give each person approximately $25,000 a year, or $100,000 a year for a family of four.
    We’re clearly spending a lot of money, so why have we not ended poverty?

    Maybe a tax cut will help them?

    • Maybe the system is operated by physics. It doesn’t behave the way we would like it too.

      • It's different this time....No says:

        Like this statistic!
        The fee to cover the average cost of incarceration for Federal inmates was $34,704.12 ($94.82 per day) in FY 2016 and $36,299.25 ($99.45 per day) in FY 2017.Apr 30, 2018

        Wow, inmates are somewhat Middle Class citizens!

    • Denial says:

      I’m not sure you get it….What is poor in you view? The poor I know have a lot of skills and can do a lot to survive. It may be the “rich” that will be in a lot of trouble when BAU falls. ‘THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST AND THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST!!” I can see the wealthy people being scapegoated as the problem for the crash. I am already hearing grumblings…..buckle up…

      • It's different this time....No says:

        Bumper Sticker….”Happiness is Positive Cash Flow”
        The Gods only laugh when people pray for riches!

      • Xabier says:

        Who gets hit first with house invasions, kidnappings, etc? Those known to be wealthier.

        I can imagine we might see the inhabitants of those suburban streets in London full of £6-10 million houses having a rough time at the hands of the professional criminals, and their amateur neighbours.

        Many rich families had to more or less leave Italy in the ‘years of lead’ to escape the kidnapping/torture. assassination threat, and one who stayed had his house adapted with tunnels and escape rooms -whata way to live!

        • Sorry, to play the role of “the great relativisator” for this post but £6-10M London houses are as of today the domain of the lesser rank service elite at best.. These people tend to blow their money off in silly pleasure socialite activities..

          There is very little to loot inside: pop art crap, signed memoirs by that great Maggie, Tony, Cameron etc.. Perhaps a good stereo set in the inner mencave studio and few in between specimen of older furniture could be found..

  38. It's different this time around....NO says:

    Boy, this is getting rather Interesting
    Trump jabs Fed, calls China’s currency move ‘major violation
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump slammed China’s decision to let its yuan currency breach the key seven-per-dollar level for the first time in more than a decade, calling it “a major violation” and jabbing the U.S. central bank.
    “China dropped the price of their currency to an almost a historic low. It’s called ‘currency manipulation.’ Are you listening Federal Reserve? This is a major violation which will greatly weaken China over time!” Trump tweeted.
    China’s action signals it may be willing to tolerate more currency weakness, which could further inflame an ongoing trade conflict with the United States that sparked anew last week after Trump said he would impose additional tariffs on Chinese imports

    Trump should read The Buyer of Last Resort and look in the mirror!

    • Chrome Mags says:

      I find myself really liking China over the trade war. Here in the West he’s had his say so over everything, but China refuses to acquiesce. Got to give them a thumbs up for having guts.

    • Tim Groves says:

      China has always “manipulated” it’s currency’s exchange rate and that was always fine by the US.

      If they were to let it float, it would probably sink by a third or more.

  39. Yoshua says:

    The WTI bounced off the 200 weekly moving average.

    • cassandraclub says:

      The 200 weekly-moving-average isn’t a constant; it tends to go down over time 🙂

    • Strange painting of approaching thermodynamic death somewhere before ~2030..

      • Yoshua says:

        I see the falling trend line of resistance as the net energy cliff. Right or wrong…but it’s falling by USD 6.66 annually. We are plunging into darkness.

    • Nothing makes it look like oil prices will be approaching $200 or $300 per barrel very soon.

      • Chrome Mags says:

        “Nothing makes it look like oil prices will be approaching $200 or $300 per barrel very soon.”

        Yeah, the idea of that being possible has never materialized nor will it ever, because the people that can afford oil at that price are too few and far between. The result would quickly translate into very little volume selling with price subsequently plunging in short order.

    • SteveS says:

      The crossing of the 200- and 400-day exponential moving averages on $WTIC and $BRENT have confirmed change in trend fairly well. For the past eight months for $WTIC, the two have been nearly coincident. For $BRENT, they are now just about touching. I wouldn’t be surprised when the 200- crosses down over the 400- the new trend down is confirmed.

  40. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The major parts of the yield curve remains inverted and the countdown to recession has begun.

    “Federal Reserve is cutting interest rates to support the stock market and asset prices.

    “Leverage loans, junk bonds and BBB debt are about $5.4 trillion today, mortgage debt that crashed the financial by comparison was only $1.5 trillion.”

  41. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Even before the body of coffee-chain tycoon V.G. Siddhartha was recovered from a river in southern India this week, the financial strains that appear to have led him to take his own life were beginning to emerge.

    “A letter purportedly written and signed by Siddhartha and sent to senior management of Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd. laid out in stark words his struggles with a “serious liquidity crunch” that in turn had led to “tremendous pressure” from lenders and an unnamed private-equity investor.”

    “…Siddhartha struggled with a mounting financial burden. A review of the public disclosures of Siddhartha’s personal debt reveals how he spent much of the two years before his death putting up ever more of his Coffee Day shares to refinance loans for ever shorter periods, at ever higher rates of interest.

    “At Coffee Day itself, short-term debt more than doubled in the financial year ended March. Siddhartha spent most of his last two weeks in Mumbai trying to raise funds to pay down debt, according to a person familiar with the matter. He had payments due in July and August, the person said.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Across India dealerships are being pushed out of business and the Indian auto sector is going through its biggest slump in nearly two decades. Passenger vehicle sales fell for eight straight months until June, and in May sales dropped 20.55% – the sharpest recorded fall in 18 years.

      “Preliminary data indicates passenger vehicle sales may have plunged as much as 30 percent in July. The slump in India, along with a simultaneous slide in Chinese auto sales, is a blow for automakers…”

      • Rodster says:

        Just goes to show how “important auto sales” are to economies. The auto sector creates a large branching industry from bank loans to parts and service both for dealers and independents, and car care which includes the car wash business.

        • But again it all evolved from that suburban daily commuting mutation pattern..
          As reasonably short distance driven car inside tempered garage lasts at least 15+ yrs in fantastic condition.. hence way longer cycle for replacement and or few/none major repair expenses, which obviously doesn’t convene with the gargantuan size of today’s auto industries as well as attached debt/financing side of the thing..

    • Xabier says:

      I always feel it’s the creditors who should kill themselves, not the debtors.

      I suppose very rich men can’t stand the thought of impoverishment, for the very reasons that drove them, irrationally, to make so much money.

      The great problem with wealth is that it makes you see all lower economic levels as despicable, when we know they are not.

      • “Assets” of very rich people disappear. The debts of the poor, and of governments, just become unpayable.

        • That’s debatable. Setting aside the virtual wealth question..

          While tangible-trophy and yielding (natural world) assets of Rich people certainly won’t disappear in total, what usually happens (historically) speaking is that their security lieutenants take over that hide out retreat complex (or join the family) settling in the area as the new owner-commanding class..

          Ideally, some tiny fraction out of the initial group of the elite with genuine down to earth skilz finishes resettling maneuver with flying colors as well.

          So “only”, the in between pesky ~majority of the “rich” gets the proverbial shaft from the grand historical realignment wave..

          • SteveS says:

            There is evidence to suggest that US capitalism tends to go through long periods when the elite class grows, eventually becomes too large, starts to fight amongst itself, and over a couple decades dwindles its numbers, as members fall out of the elite. Peter Turchin noted this tendency in his book Ages of Discord. The elite end up going after each other, for instance suing the wealth out of each other.

            Someone should make a video game of this. Each billionaire could have a special fatality. Warren Buffett could throw deadly Coke cans. Jeff Bezos will distract you with all the data he has on you, then put you in a box and ship you away. The Kochs will just cut off your supply lines.

            • It is too bad that Peter Turchin does not seem to be much concerned about energy constraints. I met him at a conference last year, and heard him speak and interact with the other speakers, all of whom were from a very standard belief system regarding how the economy works. He was not much interested in talking to me. I also tried to correspond with him.

              In Turchin’s view, elites become more numerous and fight among themselves. But how important is this to the whole picture? It seems to me that this is just one aspect of the story of the lower class being frozen out and the wealth rising up, like steam, to the upper class. This does indeed make for an inflated upper class. But isn’t the role of energy critical to understanding what happens?

              Turchin at the time he spoke was undertaking a project of making a very large database describing many collapses throughout history. I got the impression that he planned to use the database to develop theories that will fit in with standard economic theory, if he can.

              Of course, I may not have gotten the right impression. At a conference filled with standard economists, he may have wanted to impress those who were there.

            • In fact to a smaller degree we can already witness the dynamics you (Turchin) describe.
              The (smaller) elite faction behind Trump seems to be of a slightly different kind we have seen traditionally, the permanent deep state circles obviously could have come out more forcefully out of the swamp and crush all these newly coming insignificant bugs, but likely there is some sort of power re-balancing ongoing instead behind the curtain.. the situation is likely very precarious after ~2008 and the Obama – Clinton debacle, perhaps lots of instability and volatility seeping in from the rise of China/European meltdown and Russian resiliency, old structures not liking this spot light in which they have to operate now all these fronts on fire..

              That apart and in general, the issue is that first generation mega rich tend to lack the experience of bouncing their post accumulation wealth DNA against the long series of rough seasons of multi generational wealth preservation-keep per given local. In other words, lets try to imagine landed aristocracy-capitalist, known family in the region (for good and bad) for some time, which in profound crisis cunningly or otherwise incorporates into family strong local personality and authority like rescue, police or military lower rank officer. Compare contrast that with Cali-tech or Wall St billionaires android types trying to relocate suddenly into their well prepared hideouts with only hired goons..

              Evidently very different scenarios for local-regional community would develop from such diverse settings..

              / soap opera off

            • SteveS says:

              It is interesting that energy had no place in Turchin’s book. At minimum, it’d be something to strongly consider. From what I recall, overproduction of elites disrupts the homogeneity of the class and its tendency to cooperate. Elites can be overproduced only when times are good. At some point, they stop cooperating as much. In his analysis, I believe this began occurring right around when labor movements began to strengthen against the owner class in the late 19th century. Following the Gilded Age and heading into the Progressive Era.

              Perhaps in that case, it could have been a first sign of an energy trend reaching full maturity and getting close to a “local” peak, coming about around 1920, like you’ve noted in other posts. Enough pressure from labor movements found its way into politics, opportunities in politics came about (politicians sense they have popular cover for espousing certain policies and pushing back against the owner class), and suddenly there’s friction again between government/regulators and business tycoons. Monopolies got broken up, for instance.

              The rigging of our political and legal systems to keep the well-off in place seems to have been very effective over the last 20 years. One wonders actually if elite infighting doesn’t really give a decade or multi-decade warning of a mature energy trend this time around. On the other hand, we have a bull in a China shop with Trump.

              It’s a bummer Turchin didn’t want to talk to you.

            • I’d be very skeptical about Turchin’s argument here, interpretations of it or at least its overall weight in the grand scheme of historical time.

              The elites do cooperate throughout the historical process, known thing for ever, full stop.
              Yes, their engagement to cooperation could increase at heightened, exalted intersections of history, typically when legacy authority of the system wanes, e.g. post war (or other catastrophe) realignments and worker’s right movement rising, well that materialized into such “nasty things” as modest land reforms, tax hikes and monopoly busting even in the top tier capitalist countries as we know. But it was usually sort of on/off process (later partially reversible), a spiral of varying strength through time..

              Now, where I’d like to see more distinction made would be the sort of zoology of the elite-rich, distinction on the perennial elites core, most notably the clans owning (co-chairing) the global central banking system since roughly late 17th century on one hand. And the lesser new coming elites of the day, e.g. in today’s context notably various new frontier explorers (IT, tech, ..) on the other hand. Simplistic analysis of elite-rich aggregate numbers going down and up leads likely nowhere (of new scientific discovery ) – it could be just echo channel out of the overall prosperity graph profile. And it’s entirely possible even Turchin suspects that himself, but already committed large resources to such pet project envisaged way in the past, hence no interest in other insights.

              So, I’d argue the interplay of these various elite factions and their pecking order tribal war is far more important to dissect (as oppose to mere aggregate number), because this particular “ecosystem” further affects the action level of mere political governance (the visible layer to us)..

            • Artleads says:

              I’m not getting this, but glad to see the discussion. My simple minded concern is to see if there’s a way t get the elites and the educated middle to cooperate and create a floor for the poor. But maybe the reality is far too complicated for such simple ideas to work.

  42. Harry McGibbs says:

    “By 2018, 40 percent of sub-Saharan African countries were at high risk of debt distress – double the proportion recorded just five years earlier.

    “With a growing share of these debts being owed to China – a country critics have accused of extending unsustainable loans – fears are mounting that a new debt crisis could be just around the corner.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Zimbabwe’s finance minister responded to the country’s worsening economic crisis last week by blacking out inflation statistics for the next six months, boosting the price of the little power that’s available five-fold and admitting what the International Monetary Fund told him in April: the economy will contract for the first time since 2008…

      ““The wheels are falling off. There is no way out of a Ponzi scheme other than a massive infusion of cash to pay off your creditors.””

    • Xabier says:

      In the early stages, the British Empire lent local rulers the use of troops, so long as they paid up handsomely – then they took over when the rulers went bust. Same pattern for China, only with infrastructure and loans, not military forces.

    • Wait until all this debt starts defaulting!

  43. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The bond market’s economic canary in the coal mine looks poised to hit Japan.

    “The country’s benchmark 10-year yield is on track to fall below its two-year equivalent for the first time since the collapse of the Japanese economic bubble in 1991. Known as an inverted yield curve, longer-term yields below shorter ones are unusual in developed markets and often interpreted as a harbinger of recession.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Sales of Japanese cars in South Korea fell sharply last month as a bitter trade row been the two countries provoked a consumer backlash. Industry data showed Toyota sales plunged 32% from a year earlier, while Honda’s sales slid 34%.

      “South Koreans have been boycotting Japanese goods after Tokyo tightened export curbs on the country in July. The dispute escalated last week when Japan said it would drop South Korea from its trusted trade partner list.”

  44. Harry McGibbs says:

    “China’s currency the renminbi has fallen to its lowest level against the dollar since the financial crisis, crashing through the seven-per-dollar threshold after an escalation in the US-China trade war… The drop prompted investors to sell so-called risk assets such as shares in Asian markets and buy up assets considered safe havens.

    “Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at foreign exchange broker FXTM:

    ““The People’s Bank of China has spent hundreds of billions of dollars over the past couple of years to prevent their currency from breaching this key level, but now that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

    ““In fact, the currency tool may be very effective as it significantly offsets the impact of US tariffs. If the Chinese currency falls by another eight per cent from the current level, the 10 per cent tariffs paid by US importers will be offset by the renminbi’s weakness.””

  45. Chrome Mags says:

    “Less than 18 months ago, his fund launched an exchange-traded fund tracking stocks of companies expected to benefit from any increase in Brent crude oil prices. But soon, BOON — the ticker of the NYSE Pickens Oil Response ETF — will be no more. Instead, it will be relaunched as RENW, offering exposure to stocks benefiting from the transition to toward “a low-carbon economy.”

    If you read the article, it’s rather obvious Boone isn’t a green philanthropist, but rather his fund just wasn’t make money for him and investors, so for him oil isn’t the money maker anymore like he thought it would be. Which of course goes to Gail’s point, that energy is priced too low for producers/investors. It caught my eye because as we all know Boone Pickens is long time oil man. For him to fall out of investment interest in oil is a big deal.

  46. Bob Lapsley says:

    “It also starts to seem that all the industrial stuff we must deal with are part of our evolution. We find a way to keep it all running, or perish. Maybe it’s not too fanciful to say that we are now part machine–but only the machine elements that now exist. We can’t make it over.“

    Ring that bell! A resonant understanding of evolution, how integral, sensitive and responsive, it unwinds wily and artful. Refreshing to hear.
    And I’d say no; not too fanciful. We works with what we gots here and now;
    We “evolve” by incorporating what is adjacent and accessible, exploiting energy reserves where ever we find them. “we cant make it over”. We cant rewind.
    Still not all humans participate in this economy of ours. Not all ride that train.
    Some number of us will make it through the bottle neck, and fair well enough to carry on.
    Contrary to common misconception, hunters and gatherers are mostly well fed, rather than starving.

    • Artleads says:

      Thanks. Given that industrial detritus (paper, cardboard, etc.) are far more available to most people than are so called natural materials, I’ve been seeing (very broadly speaking) the reuse/upcycling “economy” as a form of hunter gathering. Having been just about eliminated, thinking of hunting/gathering in terms of wild animals seems to be at odds with current reality. Someone on another blog used to point to coppicing and pollarding as ways to use wood products without destroying forestry. But very major use of forests in this way requires a level of reorganization that seems distant.

      • Yes, the science is now clear on this, as pollarding was definitively used way before bronze age, albeit on more specific (easier) wood canopies in more moist and lower altitude environments.. a bit later (meaning closer to present time) very fine system of pollarding-coppicing of soft/hardwoods and overall lesser dense forest agri-pastoral management with temporary site dwellings had been developed. It’s still basically the best approach (nature conforming) humankind ever came with.. The whole thing of advanced civilization and permanent cities has been a disaster with too many ricocheting side effects and waste/pathogen/.. loops..

        • Xabier says:

          There is evidence in Britain of a very sophisticated and minutely-planned neolithic organisation of fields, which would have been combined with such elaborate long-term woodland management.

          It shows that humans have not always been so short-sighted a species as we are today, and that agriculture itself is not the greatest error as some like to say.

          Civilization is such a powerful force for domination, however – look at the steady expansion of Rome – that it was necessary for more primitive peoples, if within striking distance, to civilize in their turn in order to stand any chance of survival or, like the great nomad tribes of the Steppes and Iran, to move away when threatened and make plundering incursions to get the gold and silver, etc accumulated by the civilized. Teheran, for instance, was actually occupied by nomads as late as the 1920’s.

          Phillip of Macedon put it well when he stated that he saved the frontier peoples of his kingdom by teaching them ‘to build forts, cities and train as soldiers’; before that they had led a miserable tribal life fighting off ferocious raiders.

          I still can’t help admiring the barbarians who committed suicide rather than be absorbed in the Roman system. But whose genes survived? By and large, those who submitted although they did as nations….

          • Well, according to the “eyewitness accounts” a lot of the invading tribes at the time of the final fall of empire either completely overwhelmed dwindling local legacy roman populations or in specific spots quickly in-mixed into them by high %% – albeit by this time most of the incoming peoplez were heavily romanized already in this culture anyway as they previously lived for centuries on the line of contact (trade-tribute, war-skirmish, ) etc..

            In the earlier phases, say before ~AD, the Barbarians were indeed very different breed by all accounts: physiology, psychology, material culture.. I guess Cesar in his time got to write-report about somewhat early third or half way of such assimilation process.. at least for the nearest tribes, while the end story many centuries after that being described by the monks and proto feudals and such..

            • Xabier says:

              Many of the later barbarian invaders were half-Romanised after centuries of contact, certainly.

              I suspect that mountain peoples within the Empire, such as the Basques, got away with minimal Romanisation even though occupied for centuries: they just had to pay their taxes in kind and go back up to the mountains to carry on living as they always had.

    • Today, we don’t have the skills of hunters and gatherers. Most of us can’t carve rock into useful tools. We can’t start a fire with sticks and other materials we find close at hand. We don’t know which plants are poisonous and which are not. The supply of wild animals is badly depleted; we could not kill many of them with the simple tools we could construct. We could not find enough edible food to feed very many of us, year around, in most parts of the world. There are so many of us that streams tend to be polluted.

      If there were very many fewer of us and we had more skills, hunter-gathering would work well.

      • Bob Lapsley says:

        Thank you Gail. Quite right. Although not very helpful to those of us evolving into creatures with critical ties to the power grid writ large, I only want to point out there exists a large number of humans not yet wed to tech and may end up relatively untouched by our looming doom. They exist in Brazil, Peru, Africa, Papua NG, etc. pockets that yet may be ruined by the hoards fleeing our megalopolises if or when the things unravel.