Understanding Why the Green New Deal Won’t Really Work

The reasons why the Green New Deal won’t really work are fairly subtle. A person really has to look into the details to see what goes wrong. In this post, I try to explain at least a few of the issues involved.

[1] None of the new renewables can easily be relied upon to produce enough energy in winter. 

The world’s energy needs vary, depending on location. In locations near the poles, there will be a significant need for light and heat during the winter months. Energy needs will be relatively more equal throughout the year near the equator.

Solar energy is particularly a problem in winter. In northern latitudes, if utilities want to use solar energy to provide electricity in winter, they will likely need to build several times the amount of solar generation capacity required for summer to have enough electricity available for winter.

Figure 1. US daily average solar production, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Hydroelectric tends to be a spring-dominated resource. Its quantity tends to vary significantly from year to year, making it difficult to count on.

Figure 2. US daily average hydroelectric production, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Another issue with hydroelectric is the fact that most suitable locations have already been developed. Even if additional hydroelectric might help with winter energy needs, adding more hydroelectric is often not an option.

Wind energy (Figure 3) comes closest to being suitable for matching the winter consumption needs of the economy. In at least some parts of the world, wind energy seems to continue at a reasonable level during winter.

Figure 3. US daily average wind production, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Unfortunately, wind tends to be quite variable from year to year and month to month. This makes it difficult to rely on without considerable overbuilding.

Wind energy is also very dependent upon the continuation of our current economy. With many moving parts, wind turbines need frequent replacement of parts. These parts need to be precisely correct, with virtually no tolerance for change. Sometimes, helicopters are needed to install the new parts. Because of the need for continued high-technology maintenance services, wind energy cannot be expected to continue to operate for very long unless the world economy, with all of its globalization, can continue pretty much as today.

[2] Depending upon burned biomass in winter is an option, but we already know that this path is likely to lead to massive deforestation.

Historically, people burned wood and other biomass to provide heat and light in winter. If biomass is burned for heat and light, it is an easy step to using charcoal for smelting metals for goods such as nails and shovels. But with today’s population of 7.7 billion people, the huge demand for biomass would quickly deforest the whole world. There is already a problem with growing deforestation, especially in tropical areas.

It is my understanding that the Green New Deal is focusing primarily on wind, hydroelectric, and solar rather than biomass, because of these issues.

[3] Battery backup for renewables is very expensive. Because of their high cost, batteries tend to be used only for very short time periods. At a 3-day storage level, batteries do nothing to smooth out season-to-season and year-to-year variation.

The cost of batteries is not simply their purchase price. There seem to be several related costs associated with the use of batteries:

  • The initial cost of the batteries
  • The cost of replacements, because batteries are typically not very long-lived compared to, say, solar panels
  • The cost of recycling the battery components rather than simply leaving the batteries to pollute the nearby surroundings
  • The loss of electric charge that occurs as the battery sits idle for a period of time and the loss related to electricity storage and retrieval

We can get some idea of the cost of batteries from an analysis by Roger Andrews of a Tesla/Solar City system installed on the island of Ta’u. The island is in American Samoa, near the equator. This island received a grant that was used to add solar panels, plus 3-day battery backup, to provide electricity for the tiny island. Any outages longer than the battery capacity would continue to be handled by a diesel generator. The goal was to reduce the quantity of diesel used, not to eliminate its use completely.

Based on Andrews’ analysis, adding a 3-day battery backup more than doubled the cost of the PV-alone system. (It added 1.6 times as much as the cost of the installed PV.) The catch, as I pointed out above, is that the cost doesn’t stop with purchasing the initial batteries. At least one set of replacement batteries is likely to be needed during the lifetime of the system. And there are other costs that are more subtle and difficult to evaluate.

Furthermore, this analysis was for a solar system. There seems to be more variation over longer periods for wind. It is not clear that the relative amount of batteries would be enough for 3-day backup of a wind system, or for a combination of wind, hydroelectric and solar. The long-term cost of a solar panel plus battery system might easily come to four times the cost of a wind or solar system alone.

There is also the issue of necessary overbuilding to make the system work. On Ta’u, near the equator, with diesel power backup, the system is set up in such a way that 40% of the solar generation is in excess of the island’s day-to-day electricity consumption. This constitutes another cost of the system, over and above the cost of the 3-day battery backup.

If we also eliminate the diesel backup, then we start adding more costs because the level of overbuilding would need to be even higher. And, if we were to create a similar system in a location with substantial seasonal temperature variation, even more overbuilding would be required if enough capacity is to be made available to provide sufficient generation in winter.

[4] Even in sunny, warm California, it appears that substantial excess capacity needs to be added to avoid the problem of inadequate generation during the winter months, if the electrical system used is based on wind, hydroelectric, solar, and a 3-day backup battery.

Suppose that we want to replace California’s electricity consumption (excluding other energy, including oil products) with a new system using wind, hydro, solar, and 3-day battery backup. Current California renewable generation, compared to current consumption, is as shown on Figure 4, based on EIA data.

Figure 4. California total electricity consumption compared to the sum of California solar, wind, and hydroelectric production, on a monthly average basis. Data used from the US Energy Information Administration through June 30, 2019.

California’s electricity consumption peaks about August, presumably due to all of its air conditioning usage (Figure 5). This is two months after the June peak in the output of solar panels. Also, electricity usage doesn’t drop back nearly as much during winter as solar production does. (Compare Figures 1 and 5.)

Figure 5. California electricity consumption by month, based on US Energy Information Administration data.

We note from Figure 4 that California hydroelectric production is extremely variable. It appears that hydroelectric generation can vary by a factor of five comparing high years to low years. California hydroelectric generation uses all available rivers, so any new energy generation will need to come from wind and solar.

Even with 3-day backup batteries, we need the system to reliably produce enough electricity that it can meet the average electricity generation needs of each separate month. I did a rough estimate of how much wind and solar the system would need to add to bring total generation sufficiently high so as to prevent electricity problems during the winter. In making the analysis, I assumed that the proportion of added wind and solar would be similar to their relative proportions on June 30, 2019.

My analysis suggests that to reliably bridge the gap between production and consumption (see Figure 4), approximately six times as much wind and solar would need to be added (making 7 = 6 +1 times as much generation in total), as was in place on June 30 , 2019. With this arrangement, there would be a huge amount of wind and solar whose production would need to be curtailed during the summer months.

Figure 6. Estimated share of wind and solar production that would need to be curtailed, to provide adequate winter generation. The assumption is made that hydroelectric generation would not be curtailed.

Figure 6 shows the proportion of wind and solar output that would be in excess of the system’s expected consumption. Note that in winter, this drops to close to zero.

[5] None of the researchers studying the usefulness of wind and solar have understood the need for overbuilding, or alternatively, paying backup electricity providers adequately for their services. Instead, they have assumed that the only costs involved relate to the devices themselves, plus the inverters. This approach makes wind and intermittent solar appear far more helpful than they really are.

Wind and solar have been operating in almost a fantasy world. They have been given the subsidy of “going first.” If we change to a renewables-only system, this subsidy of going first disappears. Instead, the system needs to be hugely overbuilt to provide the 24/7/365 generation that backup electricity providers have made possible with either no compensation at all, or with far too little compensation. (This lack of adequate compensation for backup providers is causing problems for the current system, but it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss them here.)

Analysts have not understood that there are substantial costs that are not being reimbursed today, which allow wind and solar to have the subsidy of going first. For example, if natural gas is to be used as backup during winter, there will still need to be underground storage allowing natural gas to be stored for use in winter. There will also need to be pipelines that are not used much of the year. Workers will need to be paid year around if they are to continue to specialize in natural gas work. Annual costs of the natural gas system will not be greatly reduced simply because wind, hydro, and water can replace natural gas usage most months of the year.

Analysts of many types have issued reports indicating that wind and solar have “positive net energy” or other favorable characteristics. These favorable analyses would disappear if either (a) the necessary overbuilding of the system or (b) the real cost of backup services were properly recognized. This problem pervades studies of many types, including Levelized Cost of Energy studies, Energy Returned on Energy Invested studies, and Life Cycle Analyses.

This strange but necessary overbuilding situation also has implications for how much homeowners should be paid for their rooftop solar electricity. Once it is clear that only a small fraction of the electricity provided by the solar panels will actually be used (because it comes in the summer, and the system has been overbuilt in order to produce enough generation in winter), then payments to homeowners for electricity generated by rooftop systems will need to decrease dramatically.

A question arises regarding what to do with all of the electricity production that is in excess of the needs of customers. Many people would suggest using this excess electricity to make liquid fuels. The catch with this approach is that the liquid fuel needs to be very inexpensive to be affordable by consumers. We cannot expect consumers to be able to afford higher prices than they are currently paying for fossil fuel products. Also, the new liquid fuels ideally should power current devices. If consumers need to purchase new devices in order to utilize the new fuels, this further reduces the affordability of a planned changeover to a new fuel.

Alternatively, owners of solar panels might be encouraged to use the summer overproduction themselves. They might set the temperatures of their air conditioners to a lower setting or heat a swimming pool. It is unlikely that the excess could be profitably sold to nearby utilities because they are likely encounter the same problem in summer, if they are using a similar generation mix.

[6] As appealing as an all-electric economy would seem to be, the transition to such an economy can be expected to take 150 years, based on the speed of the transition since 1985.

Clearly, the economy uses a lot of energy products that are not electricity. We are familiar with oil products burned in many vehicles, for example. Oil is also used in many ways that do not require burning (for example, lubricating oils and asphalt). Natural gas and propane are used to heat homes and cook food, among other uses. Coal is sometimes burned in making pig iron and cement in China.

Figure 7. Electricity as a share of total energy use for selected areas, based on BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Electricity’s share of total energy consumption has gradually been rising (Figure 7).* We can make a rough estimate of how quickly the changeover has been taking place since 1985. For the world as a whole, electricity consumption amounted to 43.4% of energy consumption in 2018, rising from 31.2% in 1985. On average, the increase has been 0.37%, over the 33-year period shown. If we assume this same linear growth pattern holds going forward, it will take 153 years (until 2171) until the world economy can operate using only electricity. This is not a quick change!

[7] While moving away from fossil fuels sounds appealing, pretty much everything in today’s economy is made and transported to its final destination using fossil fuels. If a misstep takes place and leaves the world with too little total energy consumption, the world could be left without an operating financial system and with way too little food. 

Over 80% of today’s energy consumption is from fossil fuels. In fact, the other types of energy shown on Figure 8 would not be possible without the use of fossil fuels.

Figure 8. World Energy Consumption by Fuel, based on data of 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

With over 80% of energy consumption coming from fossil fuels, pretty much everything we have in our economy today is available thanks to fossil fuels. We wouldn’t have today’s homes, schools or grocery stores without fossil fuels. Even solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and modern hydroelectric dams would not be possible without fossil fuels. In fact, for the foreseeable future, we cannot make any of these devices with electricity alone.

In Figure 8, the little notch in world energy consumption corresponds to the Great Recession of 2008-2009. The connection between low energy consumption and poor economic outcomes goes back to many earlier periods. Energy consumption growth was unusually low about the time of the Great Depression of the 1930s and about the time of the US Civil War. The vulnerability of the financial system and the possibility of major wars are two reasons why a person should be concerned about the possibility of an energy changeover that doesn’t provide the economic system with adequate energy to operate. The laws of physics require energy dissipation for essentially every activity that is part of GDP. Without adequate energy, an economy tends to collapse. Economists are generally not aware of this important point.

Agriculture is dependent upon fossil fuels, particularly oil. Petrochemicals are used directly to make herbicides, pesticides, medications for animals and nitrogen fertilizer. Huge quantities of energy are necessary to make metals of all kinds, such as the steel in agricultural equipment and in irrigation pumps. Refrigerated vehicles transport produce to market, using mostly oil-based fuel. If the transition does not go as favorably as hoped, food supplies could prove to be hopelessly inadequate.

[8] The scale of the transition to hydroelectric, wind, and solar would be unimaginably large.

Today, wind, hydroelectric, and solar amount to about 10% of world energy production. Hydroelectric amounts to about 7% of energy consumption, wind about 2%, and solar about 1%. This can be seen on Figure 8 above. A different way of seeing this same relationship is shown in Figure 9, below.

Figure 9. World hydroelectric, wind and solar production as share of world energy supply, based on BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Figure 9 shows that hydroelectric power is pretty well maxed out, as a percentage of energy supply. This is especially the case in advanced economies. This means that any increases that are made in the future will likely have to come from wind and solar. If hydroelectric, wind and solar are together to produce 100% of the world’s energy supply, then wind and solar, which today comprise 3% of today’s energy supply, will need to ramp up to 93% of energy supply. This amounts to a 30-fold increase in wind and solar between 2018 and 2030, based on one version of the Green New Deal’s planned timing. We would need to be building wind and solar absolutely everywhere, very quickly, to accomplish this.

[9] Moving to electric vehicles (EVs) for private passenger autos is not likely to be as helpful as many people hope.

One issue is that it is possible to mandate the use of EVs, but if the automobiles cost more than citizens can afford, many citizens will simply stop buying cars at all. At least part of the worldwide reduction in automobile sales seems to be related to changes in rules that are intended to reduce auto emissions. The slowdown in auto sales is part of what is pushing the world into recession.

Another issue is that private passenger autos represent a smaller share of oil consumption than many people would expect. BP data indicate that 26% of worldwide oil consumption is gasoline. Gasoline powers the vast majority of the world’s private passenger automobiles today. While an oil savings of 26% would be good, there would still be a very long way to go.

One study of EV sales in Norway suggests that, with large subsidies, these cars are disproportionately sold to high-income families as a second vehicle. The new second vehicles are often used for commuting to work, when prior to the EV ownership, the owner had been taking public transportation. When this pattern is followed, the savings in oil use from the adoption of EVs becomes very small because building and transporting EVs also requires oil use.

Figure 10. Source: Holtsmark and Skonhoft The Norwegian support and subsidy policy of electric cars. Should it be adopted by other countries?

If one of the goals of the Green New Deal is to level out differences between the rich and the poor, mandating EVs would seem to be a step in the wrong direction. It would make more sense to mandate walking or the use of pedal bicycles, rather than EVs.

[10] Wind, solar, and hydroelectric have pollution problems themselves.

With respect to solar panels, a major concern is that if the panels are broken (for example, by a storm or near the end of their lives), water alone can leach toxic substances into the water supply. Another issue is that recycling needs to be subsidized, to be economic. The price of solar panels needs to be surcharged at the front end, if adequate funds are to be collected to cover recycling costs. This is not being done in the US.

Wind turbines are better in terms of not being made of toxic substances, but they disturb bird, bat, and marine life in their vicinity. Humans also complain about their vibrations, if the devices are close to homes. The fiberglass blades of wind turbines are not recyclable, and many of them are too big to fit into standard crushing machines. They need to be chopped into pieces, in order to fit into landfills.

Adding huge amounts of 3-day battery backup for wind turbines and solar panels will create a new set of recycling issues. The extent of the recycling issues will depend on the battery materials used.

Of course, if we try to ramp up wind and solar by a huge factor, pollution problems will rise accordingly. The chance that raw materials will prove to be scarce will increase as well.

There will also be an increasing problem with finding suitable sites to install all of the devices and batteries. There are limits on how densely wind turbines can be spaced before the output of one wind turbine interferes with the output of other nearby turbines. This problem is not too different from the problem of declining per-well oil production caused by too closely spaced shale wells.  

Afterword

I could explain further, but that would make this post too long. For example, using an overbuilt renewables system, there is not enough net energy to provide the high salaries almost everyone would like to see.

Also, the new renewable energy systems are likely to be more local than many have hoped. For example, I think it is highly unlikely that the people of North Africa would allow contractors to build a solar system in North Africa for the benefit of Europeans.

Note

*There are two different ways of comparing electricity’s value to that of total energy. Figure 7 uses the more generous approach. In it, the value of electricity is based on the amount of fossil fuels that would need to be burned to produce the electricity amounts shown. In the case of electricity types that do not involve the burning of fossil fuels, these amounts are estimated amounts. The less generous approach compares the heat value of the electricity produced to the total heat value of primary energy sources. Using the less generous approach, electricity corresponds to only about 20% of primary energy supply. The transition to an all-electric economy would be much farther away using the heat value approach.

About Gail Tverberg

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

1,326 Responses to Understanding Why the Green New Deal Won’t Really Work

  1. Dennis L. says:

    Gail mentions often there being no way back. I can attest that in my part of the farming country there is very little old scrap left, it is all gone, salvaged. Again, a quote from Ecosophia:

    “Abandoning a farm from an energy standpoint requires leaving capital behind. The machinery is useless except for those tasks. And the energy to move it was unprofitable in a situation of despair.
    It is like the soul leaving the body behind. It is purpose built for a task. Energy is infinite but locally configured so to say. You can play a bit but must return the toys afterwards.”

    A second quote, same source: “Many, many once prosperous family farms left lots of abandoned farming machinery, old steel tractors, haying cutters and drying rigs etc…. in the fields surrounding the old ghost farmsteads.

    My friend said there was a whole industry starting back when the collapse of the family farm took off, of people stealing these old farm tools, usually at night, to sell as scrap steel. The entire mid-west has been ‘mined’ for for the last several decades of any metal objects not nailed down and sent to China.

    Old railroad track pulled up and cut up, corrugated steel roofs, metal fence, you name it, it’s all gone.

    Now pause a moment and consider the EROEI of strip mining the entire mid west of pretty much all metal. The steel that was once in that entire region represents an enormous historic energy investment, from mining the iron ore in the Upper Minnesota iron range, transporting it in iron boats across the Great Lake to steel smelters, to steel fabricators (I-beams, railroad rail etc…) to transporting the finished steel to manufacturers to then selling it to the now long gone farmers.”

    There is very little old, easily maintained equipment left. The fields are meticulous, rows straight to fractions of an inch, but there is no old equipment left to speak of, it has already been salvaged.

    Modern farm equipment is driven by joy stick not unlike Airbus and the displays are not gauges but touch screens with linkage to multiple combines and grain carts pulled by 400 hp tractors which weigh the grain as it is added from the combine while moving down the field at 5 mph. On the latest machines the cart tractor can position itself without operator assistance next to the combine for off loading. Think of salvaging a modern computer and one gets the idea of recycling current farm equipment.

    Dennis L.

    • Xabier says:

      Fine post, thank you. I’ve never been very convinced about post-Collapse scavenging.

      There are a few poems from the early 20th century about the ploughman and his team, seeing out the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires in a life determined by the seasons: they are long gone, and with them the only durable foundation for civilization.

      Absorbing agriculture fully into the techno-industrial complex was one of the last nails in our coffin, but we were too distracted by all the fun going on in the cities to hear the banging of the hammer.

      Having said that, I hope everyone has a pleasant and peaceful Sunday! Every day this hangs together is a cause for relief and celebration…….

      • scavenging an object and reworking it into another object requires heat in proportion to its purpose.

        a universal law that is almost universally ignored

        • Dennis L. says:

          Norman,

          There needs to be something to scavenge, modern machines appear to be incredibly efficient hence fewer of them. Without electronics I suspect it would be impossible to make them run. The metal is gone off the farms, we cleaned some that had been discarded on site and it is going in a dumpster for recycling. There are few if any barns, there are few if any old machines sitting in the few remaining barns, the country side is dark at night as there are fewer and fewer people in the country. In our area the railroad was turned into a bike trail, the road bed is still there as are some of the bridges but all the infrastructure, rails, signals, etc. is gone. To quote Gail, “There are no ladders back down.”

          Dennis L.

      • GeT HaPpY says:

        Fine observations, on a personal note took a trip to southern Minnesota along the the Mississippi River bluff region several years ago. The reason was to recheck the area sustainability and a small property being sold by a Lady outside of Winona that was certified organic and her self constructed owner built tiny house.
        The Seed Savers Exchange organization is nearby and State College and private University.
        I can verify that the surrounding fields are void of houses and an array of large machinery line the property. Furthermore, along the edge of farmland witness creeping housing developments gobbling large tracts of acres.
        No way that this landscape will be resettled anytime soon by independent Family Farmers.
        Did see a number of Amish or Mennonite horse and buggy trotting the roadways.
        Perhaps these folks will have a better chance.
        Beautiful region, but was COLD, even in early Springtime. Doubt there is enough of biomass to keep oneself from freezing with the population levels there now.
        Visited the City museum in Winona, Mn and the nice local gave me a tour of it.
        Remember him pointing to a wagon and telling me that families would give the youngest Son one to venture out West to find their own homestead, if he couldn’t get employment in the Lumber company there.
        Yes, we should be grateful for everyday that is BAU…..afterward ain’t going to be pretty!😍

        • Dennis L. says:

          My uncle during the depression left the family farm in WI and headed west on the train, he traveled in style, in a boxcar; he ended in CA. Picture you and your wife saying good bye to your son, knowing he will be out of touch for some time, not knowing if he is safe, not knowing where or how he will land, not knowing how he will feed himself and horror of horrors, no smart phone with which to tweet. In La Crosse, WI, where he caught the train, my aunt who had a factory job gave him money she had saved for a new coat, $10-20 for the journey, there was no money on the farm. Tough Norwegians. This is now happening all over the world and for many this is BAU.

          Dennis L.

          • Xabier says:

            In a way the best and most hardy people emigrated from Old Europe to the US (with a smattering of desperate failures and ‘black sheep’ of course) and so were best placed to deal with the awful events of the Great Depression. Breeding always counts…….

            ‘He either fears his Fate too much
            Or his deserts are small;
            Who puts it not unto the touch
            To win, or lose it all. ‘

        • Xabier says:

          Reminds me of the Vikings giving a sword to a son , saying ‘This is all I have to give you: use it well!’

          Maybe it’s well to remember that we are descended from people like that.

          • Robert Firth says:

            Reminds me of the Spartan women, sending their sons into battle: “Come back with your shield, or on it”.

            Bellum est ultima ratio regum.

    • I am afraid you are right. Old farm houses have been removed, too.

    • info says:

      Plenty of cities of suburbs with plenty of metal left. Currently. Also hid in many buildings too.

      • have you tried getting the rebar out of concrete?

        By hand?

        • DJ says:

          I suspect you’re both right. You’d be able to find more metal than wood to rework it.

        • Dennis L. says:

          Ah, not by hand, Norman, but it looks pretty easy using 50 ton excavators with claws and large machines to separate the concrete from the steel. On reflection JMG missed this in his Ruinmen series, he assumed there would be something to salvage, we have gotten pretty good and efficient at recycling, until this thread I never really thought about that.
          Dennis L.

          • doomphd says:

            if you look at high-res. photos of the Collosium, there are evenly-spaced holes in the rock where scavengers removed the steel plates used by the Romans to hold the pieces together. they took a lot of them, but the structure remains. i think it was over-engineered.

            • not quite that simple

              if you fix iron into stone, you have to make an oversized hole, then fill around the hole and iron with lead otherwise you get rapid corrosion. They wouldnt have used steel plates, too expensive at that scale

              when the building falls into disuse, its easy to remove the soft lead, then the iron is loosened and can be removed without trouble.

              Also, back then they didnt have mixed uses for ferrous products—ie you didnt have a food can as a mixture of steel and tin, or a soft steel motor panel which wasn’t much use for anything else.

              also the blacksmiths forge was more or less the only source of metal goods, no we expect metal goods in infinite variety which can’t be produced that way

        • namkyahai says:

          Not lol. smiling out loud. Guess im SOL 🙂 pun intended.

          Steel is like a witch who has used sorcery to make herself a beautiful girl but the spell wears off.

          Steel always returns to iron oxide. Ore. well sort of. hey im on a roll… 316 excluded. sort of…

          Steel is a classic example of fossil fuel sorcery. we think its forever but then, im melting.

    • Xabier says:

      One of the tragedies of Europe is that one can now visit any number of abandoned villages and hamlets, which supported life for literally thousands of years, but which no longer made economic sense in the 20th century (and which governments actually wanted to empty to provide a workforce for industry).

      I can’t get over the sense of waste standing in a farmhouse some 300 years old, above all by the great stone fireplaces. All the wasted effort, the craftsmanship……

      They were, unlike the shoddy real estate which counts towards GDP, built to last – for centuries – and were just tossed aside.

      They should have been the places some people, fit and strong, could have retreated to from the cities as they collapsed.

      Even those who have clung on to their family farms are now being destroyed, as subsidies which kept them going are being reduced significantly in the EU.

      • all settlements of whatever size establish and grow through commercial/military purpose

        ie london was the lowest point on the thames that could be bridged

        Stoke on Trent grew because clay and coal were available in the same place—harbours followed the same rule—usually fish and or shipbuilding

        same applies to individual farmsteads

        uk has lots of wool-towns. they are now viable only because they are within commuting distance of, say, London

        remove the core reasons, and settlements die unless artificial subsidy supports them (eg cheap transport to and from London or wherever)

        that subsidy cannot last indefinietly

      • That is a good point!

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Barely noticed in a corner of the financial markets, leveraged loans originally worth about $40 billion are staging their own private meltdown…

    “Energy is the hardest-hit sector on the list, with more than $12 billion of loans falling more than 10 cents on the dollar.”

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-09/a-40-billion-pile-of-leveraged-loans-is-battered-by-big-losses

    • As ratings fall, some owners are forced to sell these stocks, because of requirements regarding the ratings of the bonds they hold. This adds to the problems.

  3. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Growth, even the modest levels of growth seen over the past decade, can only be achieved through the accumulation of dangerous amounts of debt and a reckless disregard for the future of the planet…

    “If ever there was a time to give helicopter money a whirl then this is it.”

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/13/with-growth-this-tepid-is-it-time-to-give-helicopter-money-a-whirl

    • Xabier says:

      He might resign as an economics columnist at The Guardian, as there are, as far as one can see, no sensible economics to discuss anymore……

      I’m seeking the intercession of the Virgin Mary (invoked officially by the last conservative government in Spain to solve unemployment!) which makes quite as much sense as ‘helicopter money’……

    • It does seem like helicopter money might be helpful. We are running out of alternatives.

      • Chrome Mags says:

        I bet a lot of people could use some super low interest helicopter, long term loan money to pay off existing debt at high interest rates. Would probably give the economy a jolt in the right direction.

        • Robert Firth says:

          Good point, Chrome. The problem is that what is being proposed isn’t really “helicopter money” given away to all. As always, it is given to those already nominally rich, in the hope it will trickle down or through.

          What then happens is that the rich use this fake money to steal items of real value from the poor, their labour for instance. Which feeds the inequality and simply makes the overall problem worse.

          My suggestion? Not gold this time; not even the intercession of the Virgin Mary. Rather, a debt jubilee: cancel 5% of all outstanding debts every month, until the national finances are sound again.

          • Thinkstoomuch says:

            Not always given to the rich. President Bush’s 2003 “tax rebate”, went to all tax payers. Not that the result was any better.

            https://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Bush-signs-1-3-trillion-tax-cut-bill-300-600-2913184.php

            “For Republicans, the most politically beneficial moment may come this summer, when most of those who paid income taxes for last year begin to receive their rebate checks: up to $300 for single filers, $500 for single parents and $600 for joint filers.”

            T2M

          • DJ says:

            Why not $x to everyone each month, for those in debt (almost everyone here) automatically to pay of debts.

            I think thats fairer, of course depending on what people have become indebted over.

          • What does cancelling all of this debt do to banks? Insurance companies? Pension funds? Government receipts?

            Money is a form of debt of governments. Do governments cancel their outstanding money, the way India called in all of its larger denomination bills? How about payments for Social Security and Medicare? These aren’t considered debt, but they are sort of obligations of the government. Insurance of bank accounts is another obligation of governments, but there is virtually nothing backing it up, other than the ability of governments to tax citizens more. It is not like the FDIC or the FPGC (for pensions) has a big pile of anything to make payments with.

            I think you mean something like, “Debts of private citizens must be cancelled, and be offset with more government debt.” I don’t think that this works.

      • namkyahai says:

        Helicopter $ is like a medicine that kills you in the long run. They will use. They cant let things plunge. But they will use it with discretion. Unless a bernie type gets in.

        If we increase our debt at a faster rate to provide a standard of living. I cant think at some point there will be a spontaneous move from reserve currency. So far as our precarious situation becomes clear there has only been a move to $ . The rock of Gibraltar.

        When things dissolve how do you sell off if the medium of exchange is dissolving too?

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      “If ever there was a time to give helicopter money a whirl then this is it.”

      then these are desperate times…

      it’s crazy enough to have negative interest rates…

      helicopter money would be crazier…

      I occasionally try to imagine what the next (crazier) stage of the economic endgame will be, and helicopter money could be the winner…

      but who knows, when CBs get desperate…

  4. Clare says:

    There are some companies, one with their HQ in Bothell WA for instance, who claim to be recycling fiberglass and specifically include wind turbine blades so yo may need to adjust your comments regarding that issue.

    • Do you have any links?

      • DB says:

        This is a page that describes the supposed benefits of the company’s fiberglass recycling: https://www.global-fiberglass.com/benefits. There is no mention on the site that I could see of a cost advantage in using recycled vs. virgin fiberglass. This suggests to me that recycling fiberglass is more energy intensive than producing virgin material. More than anything, this company’s business model seems to rely on customers’ desire for greenwashing virtue signaling.

        • I think you are right. Recycling fiberglass is for those who wish to greenwash their use of fiberglass.

          People have getting the idea that recycling is cheaper, but a large share of the time, it is more expensive. It tends to use more resources, including fossil fuel resources, than mining new resources.

  5. Yoshua says:

    German car production has now dipped to GFC levels.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EGrErvDWwAIav4j?format=jpg&name=large

  6. Artleads says:

    UN AGENDA 21

    • One world government is one of the goals of Agenda 21. I can see that this won’t work, without infinite energy.

      • beidawei says:

        One world government?! Well good luck with that. Let them start by establishing a single government for, say, Syria.

      • Artleads says:

        My response to the post (which was on Facebook)

        Although my information has it that energy will be in crisis by 2030, and that will limit the control of central governments. It would strengthen the control of the local don or strongman, however. In that case, we might need to hold on to as much government as we can? And if you make your living by being on a scenic route, having a do-as-you-please land use could work against your local economy?

        • Xabier says:

          I suspect you are right, Artleads: loss of control by central or regional governments invariably leads to rule by mafias, a corrupt alliance of gangsters, army, police and politicians.

          Total collapse would be far better than waking up one day to find oneself in a kind of Afghanistan, Pakistan, or the wilder reaches of the Eastern Bloc after the collapse of the Soviet empire……

          Extortion and kidnapping would run riot, Nice house? A gangster might want it for himself, his mistress, or just as part of his ‘legitimate’ property empire, etc.

          Living in high densities, human beings need firm government, which is why certain kings were praised in their day as ‘Just’ or ‘Good’ : people knew the reality of anarchy then and how vulnerable they could be without a strong government that kept criminals down and literally hanged them up or cut them to pieces.

          People in the West who want government to disappear simply don’t know what they are wishing for.

          Even today, with severe cuts in funding and the withdrawal of local police units, life is pretty nasty in some suburbs of London and elsewhere as the African, Asian, E.European, Irish, gangs struggle for power, mostly at night but increasingly during the day. Even in this small city the police can’t control the drug and robbery problem in one suburb. Criminal gangs own legitimate businesses throughout the city: hairdressers, barbers, cafes, restaurants, 24/7 shops, etc.

          In effect, every well-organised criminal gang, prepared to kill, is just waiting to become the local government if official authority weakens.

      • I see today that there is an article about the United Nations possibly running out of money because countries (including the US) are not paying their dues.

        https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/struggling-with-230-million-deficit-un-may-run-out-of-money-by-end-of-month-antonio-guterres-1607132-2019-10-08

        I can’t say I feel too bad.

  7. GeT HaPpY says:

    Don’t worry Old folks…BAUalive and well for the foreseeable future!😆
    The world’s largest investment banks have provided more than $700bn of financing for the fossil fuel companies most aggressively expanding in new coal, oil and gas projects since the Paris climate change agreement, figures show.
    The financing has been led by the Wall Street giant JPMorgan Chase, which has provided $75bn (£61bn) to companies expanding in sectors such as fracking and Arctic oil and gas exploration, according to the analysis.
    The New York bank is one of 33 powerful financial institutions to have provided an estimated total of $1.9tn to the fossil fuel sector between 2016 and 2018.
    The data shows the most aggressively expanding coal-mining operations, oil and gas companies, fracking firms and pipeline companies have received $713.3bn in loans, equity issuances and debt underwriting services from 2016 to mid-2019.
    Other top financiers of fossil fuel companies include Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

    So, regardless of the little girl Greta and the Scientific Community….
    BAU FULL Throttle BABY….the only way.is up or a crash to the ground…
    BURN MORE COAL…as our former Fast Eddie would chant.

    https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/top-investment-banks-lending-billions-extract-fossil-fuels

  8. Kowalainen says:

    Change comes from within.

    “The universe is not like a puzzle-box that you can take apart and put back together again and so solve its secrets. It is a shifting uncertain thing which changes as you consider it, which is changed by the very act of observation. A powerful man is not a man who dissect the universe like a puzzle-box, examining it piece by piece and measuring each piece with scientific precision.

    A powerful man has only to look upon the universe to change it.”

    — Technomagos Gaelos, Warhammer 40,000

    • namkyahai says:

      Change comes from the physical world. All species are puppets for what it provides. Words are imaginary.

      “Let us repeat the two crucial negative premises as established firmly by all human experience: (1) Words are not the things we are speaking about; and (2) There is no such thing as an object in absolute isolation.”
      ― Alfred Korzybski

  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The global economy has entered a period of “synchronised stagnation” with weak growth in some countries and no growth or a mild contraction in others, according to research by the Brookings Institution think-tank and the Financial Times.

    “Headline economic indicators have slipped to their lowest levels since the spring of 2016, with real activity in both advanced and emerging economies losing momentum, compounded by falling economic confidence, the latest update of the tracking index has found.

    “Only relatively strong performance in financial markets stopped the index from falling further into negative territory.”

    https://www.ft.com/content/7e412720-ec3a-11e9-85f4-d00e5018f061

  10. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Global authorities gathering in Washington this week must stand ready to address emerging risks including a global economic downturn and Brexit, the leading body for global financial stability has warned.

    “The Financial Stability Board – which was formed after the 2008 banking crisis that brought the financial system to its knees – said that while much has been achieved in the past decade, its job was “far from complete”.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/13/financial-leaders-must-prepare-for-risks-such-as-brexit-says-regulator

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