How Renewable Energy Models Can Produce Misleading Indications

The energy needs of the world’s economy seem to be easy to model. Energy consumption is measured in a variety of different ways including kilowatt hours, barrels of oil equivalent, British thermal units, kilocalories and joules. Two types of energy are equivalent if they produce the same number of units of energy, right?

For example, xkcd’s modeler Randall Munroe explains the benefit of renewable energy in the video below. He tells us that based on his model, solar, if scaled up to ridiculous levels, can provide enough renewable energy for ourselves and a half-dozen of our neighbors. Wind, if scaled up to absurd levels, can provide enough renewable energy for ourselves and a dozen of our neighbors.

There is a major catch to this analysis, however. The kinds of energy produced by wind and solar are not the kinds of energy that the economy needs. Wind and solar produce intermittent electricity available only at specific times and places. What the world economy needs is a variety of different energy types that match the energy requirements of the many devices in place in the world today. This energy needs to be transported to the right place and saved for the right time of day and the right time of year. There may even be a need to store this energy from year to year, because of possible droughts.

I think of the situation as being analogous to researchers deciding that it would be helpful or more efficient if humans could change their diets to 100% grass in the next 20 years. Grass is a form of energy product, but it is not the energy product that humans normally consume. It doesn’t seem to be toxic to humans in small quantities. It seems to grow quite well. Switching to the use of grass for food would seem to be beneficial from a CO2 perspective. The fact that humans have not evolved to eat grass is similar to the fact that the manufacturing and transport sectors of today’s economy have not developed around the use of intermittent electricity from wind and solar.

Substituting Grass for Food Might “Work,” but It Would Require Whole New Systems 

If we consider other species, we find that animals with four stomachs can, in fact, live quite well on a diet of grass. These animals often have teeth that grow continuously because the silica in grass tends to wear down their teeth. If we could just get around these little details, we might be able to make the change. We would probably need to grow extra stomachs and add continuously growing teeth. Other adjustments might also be needed, such as a smaller brain. This would especially be the case if a grass-only diet is inadequate to support today’s brain growth and activity.

The problem with nearly all energy analyses today is that they use narrow boundaries. They look at only a small piece of the problem–generally the cost (or “energy cost”) of the devices themselves–and assume that this is the only cost involved in a change. In fact, researchers need to recognize that whole new systems may be required, analogous to the extra stomachs and ever-growing teeth. The issue is sometimes described as the need to have “wide boundaries” in analyses.

If the xkcd analysis netted out the indirect energy costs of the system, including energy related to all of the newly required systems, the results of the analysis would likely change considerably. The combined ability of wind and solar to power both one’s own home and those of a dozen and a half neighbors would likely disappear. Way too much of the output of the renewable system would be used to make the equivalent of extra stomachs and ever-growing teeth for the system to work. The world economy might not work as in the past, either, if the equivalent of the brain needs to be smaller.

Is “Energy Used by a Dozen of Our Neighbors” a Proper Metric?

Before I continue with my analysis of what goes wrong in modeling intermittent renewable energy, let me say a few words about the way Munroe quantifies the outcome of his energy analysis. He talks about “energy consumed by a household and a dozen of its neighbors.” We often hear news items about how many households can be served by a new electricity provider or how many households have been taken offline by a storm. The metric used by Munroe is similar. But, does it tell us what we need to know in this case?

Our economy requires energy consumption by many types of users, including governments to make roads and schools, farmers to plant crops and manufacturers to make devices of all kinds. Leaving non-residential energy consumption out of the calculation doesn’t make much sense. (Actually, we are not quite certain what Munroe has included in his calculation. His wording suggests that he included only residential energy consumption.) In the US, my analysis indicates that residential users consume only about a third of total energy.1 The rest is consumed by businesses and governments.

If we want to adjust Munroe’s indications to include energy consumed by businesses and governments, we need to divide the indicated number of residential households provided with energy by about three. Thus, instead of the units being “Energy Consumed by a Dozen of Our Neighbors,” the units would be “Energy Consumed by Four of Our Neighbors, Including Associated Energy Use by Governments and Businesses.” The apparently huge benefit provided by wind and solar becomes much smaller when we divide by three, even before any other adjustments are made.

What Might the Indirect Costs of Wind and Solar Be? 

There are a number of indirect costs:

(1) Transmission costs are much higher than those of other types of electricity, but they are not charged back to wind and solar in most studies.

A 2014 study by the International Energy Agency indicates that transmission costs for wind are approximately three times the cost of transmission costs for coal or nuclear. The amount of excess costs tends to increase as intermittent renewables become a larger share of the total. Some of the reason for higher transmission costs for both wind and solar are the following:

(a) Disproportionately more lines need to be built for wind and solar because transmission lines need to be scaled to the maximum output, rather than the average output. Wind output is typically available 25% to 35% of the time; solar is typically available 10% to 25% of the time.

(b) There tend to be longer distances between where renewable energy is captured and where it is consumed, compared to traditional generation.

(c) Renewable electricity is not created in a fossil fuel power plant, with the same controls over the many aspects of grid electricity. The transmission system must therefore make corrections which would not be needed for other types of electricity.

(2) With increased long distance electricity transmission, there is a need for increased maintenance of transmission lines. If this is not performed adequately, fires are likely, especially in dry, windy areas.

There is recent evidence that inadequate maintenance of transmission lines is a major fire hazard.

In California, inadequate electricity line maintenance has led to the bankruptcy of the Northern California utility PG&E. In recent weeks, PG&E has initiated two preventative cut-offs of power, one affecting as many as two million individuals.

The Texas Wildfire Mitigation Project reports, “Power lines have caused more than 4,000 wildfires in Texas in the past three and a half years.”

Venezuela has a long distance transmission line from its major hydroelectric plant to Caracas. One of the outages experienced in that country seems to be related to fires close to this transmission line.

There are things that can be done to prevent these fires, such as burying the lines underground. Even using insulated wire, instead of ordinary transmission wire, seems to help. But any solution has a cost involved. These costs need to be recognized in modeling the indirect cost of adding a huge amount of renewables.

(3) A huge investment in charging stations will be needed, if anyone other than the very wealthy are to use electric vehicles.

Clearly, the wealthy can afford electric vehicles. They generally have garages with connections to electrical power. With this arrangement, they can easily charge a vehicle that is powered by electricity when it is convenient.

The catch is that the less wealthy often do not have similar opportunities for charging electric vehicles. They also cannot afford to spend hours waiting for their vehicles to charge. They will need inexpensive rapid-charging stations, located in many, many places, if electric vehicles are to be a suitable choice. The cost of rapid-charging will likely need to include a fee for road maintenance, since this is one of the costs that today is included in fuel prices.

(4) Intermittency adds a very substantial layer of costs. 

A common belief is that intermittency can be handled by rather small changes, such as time-of-day pricing, smart grids and cutting off power to a few selected industrial customers if there isn’t enough electricity to go around. This belief is more or less true if the system is basically a fossil fuel and nuclear system, with a small percentage of renewables. The situation changes as more intermittent renewables are added.

Once more than a small percentage of solar is added to the electric grid, batteries are needed to smooth out the rapid transition that occurs at the end of the day when workers are returning home and would like to eat their dinners, even though the sun has set. There are also problems with electricity from wind cutting off during storms; batteries can help smooth out these transitions.

There are also longer-term problems. Major storms can disrupt electricity for several days, at any time of the year. For this reason, if a system is to run on renewables alone, it would be desirable to have battery backup for at least three days. In the short video below, Bill Gates expresses dismay at the idea of trying to provide a three-day battery backup for the quantity of electricity used by the city of Tokyo.

We do not at this point have nearly enough batteries to provide a three-day battery backup for the world’s electricity supply. If the world economy is to run on renewables, electricity consumption would need to rise from today’s level, making it even more difficult to store a three-day supply.

A much more difficult problem than three-day storage of electricity is the need for seasonal storage, if renewable energy is to be used to any significant extent. Figure 1 shows the seasonal pattern of energy consumption in the United States.

Figure 1. US energy consumption by month of year, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration. “All Other” is total energy, less electricity and transportation energy. It includes natural gas used for home heating. It also includes oil products used for farming, as well as fossil fuels of all kinds used for industrial purposes.

In contrast with this pattern, the production of solar energy tends to peak in June; it falls to a low level in December to February. Hydroelectric power tends to peak in spring, but its quantity is often quite variable from year to year. Wind power is quite variable, both from year to year and month to month.

Our economy cannot handle many starts and stops of electricity supply. For example, temperatures need to stay high for melting metals. Elevators should not stop between floors when the electricity stops. Refrigeration needs to continue when fresh meat is being kept cold.

There are two approaches that can be used to work around seasonal energy problems:

  1. Greatly overbuild the renewables-based energy system, to provide enough electricity when total energy is most needed, which tends to be in winter.
  2. Add a huge amount of storage, such as battery storage, to store electricity for months or even years, to mitigate the intermittency.

Either of these approaches is extremely high cost. These costs are like adding extra stomachs to the human system. They have not been included in any model to date, as far as I know. The cost of one of these approaches needs to be included in any model analyzing the costs and benefits of renewables, if there is any intention of using renewables as more than a tiny share of total energy consumption.

Figure 2 illustrates the high energy cost that can occur by adding substantial battery backup to an electrical system. In this example, the “net energy” that the system provides is essentially eliminated by the battery backup. In this analysis, Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) compares energy output to energy input. It is one of many metrics used to estimate whether a device is providing adequate energy output to justify the front-end energy inputs.

Figure 2. Graham Palmer’s chart of Dynamic Energy Returned on Energy Invested from “Energy in Australia.”

The example in Figure 2 is based on the electricity usage pattern in Melbourne, Australia, which has a relatively mild climate. The example uses a combination of solar panels, batteries and diesel backup generation. Solar panels and backup batteries provide electricity for the 95% of annual electricity usage that is easiest to cover with these devices; diesel generation is used for the remaining 5%.

The Figure 2 example could be adjusted to be “renewable only” by adding significantly more batteries, a large number of solar panels, or some combination of these. These additional batteries and solar panels would be very lightly used, bringing the EROEI of the system down to an even lower level.

To date, a major reason that the electricity system has been able to avoid the costs of overbuilding or of adding major battery backup is the small share they represent of electricity production. In 2018, wind amounted to 5% of world electricity; solar amounted to 2%. As percentages of world energy supply, they represented 2% and 1% respectively.

A second reason that the electricity system has been able to avoid addressing the intermittency issue is because backup electricity providers (coal, natural gas, and nuclear) have been forced to provide backup services without adequate compensation for the value of services that they are providing. The way that this happens is by giving wind and solar the subsidy of “going first.” This practice creates a problem because backup providers have substantial fixed costs, and they often are not being adequately compensated for these fixed costs.

If there is any plan to cease using fossil fuels, all of these backup electricity providers, including nuclear, will disappear. (Nuclear also depends on fossil fuels.) Renewables will need to stand on their own. This is when the intermittency problem will become overwhelming. Fossil fuels can be stored relatively inexpensively; electricity storage costs are huge. They include both the cost of the storage system and the loss of energy that takes place when storage is used.

In fact, the underfunding issue associated with allowing intermittent renewables to go first is already becoming an overwhelming problem in a few places. Ohio has recently chosen to provide subsidies to coal and nuclear providers as a way of working around this issue. Ohio is also reducing funding for renewables.

 (5) The cost of recycling wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries needs to be reflected in cost estimates. 

A common assumption in energy analyses seems to be that somehow, at the end of the design lifetime of wind turbines, solar panels and batteries, all of these devices will somehow disappear at no cost. If recycling is done, the assumption is made that the cost of recycling will be less than the value of the materials made available from the recycling.

We are discovering now that recycling isn’t free. Very often, the energy cost of recycling materials is greater than the energy used in mining them fresh. This problem needs to be considered in analyzing the real cost of renewables.

 (6) Renewables don’t directly substitute for many of the devices/processes we have today. This could lead to a major step-down in how the economy operates and a much longer transition. 

There is a long list of things that renewables don’t substitute for. Today, we cannot make wind turbines, solar panels, or today’s hydroelectric dams without fossil fuels. This, by itself, makes it clear that the fossil fuel system will need to be maintained for at least the next twenty years.

There are many other things that we cannot make with renewables alone. Steel, fertilizer, cement and plastics are some examples that Bill Gates mentions in his video above. Asphalt and many of today’s drugs are other examples of goods that cannot be made with renewables alone. We would need to change how we live without these goods. We could not pave roads (except with stone) or build many of today’s buildings with renewables alone.

It seems likely that manufacturers would try to substitute wood for fossil fuels, but the quantity of wood available would be far too low for this purpose. The world would encounter deforestation issues within a few years.

(7) It is likely that the transition to renewables will take 50 or more years. During this time, wind and solar will act more like add-ons to the fossil fuel system than they will act like substitutes for it. This also increases costs.

In order for the fossil fuel industries to continue, a large share of their costs will need to continue. The people working in fossil fuel industries need to be paid year around, not just when electrical utilities need backup electrical power. Fossil fuels will need pipelines, refineries and trained people. Companies using fossil fuels will need to pay their debts related to existing facilities. If natural gas is used as backup for renewables, it will need reservoirs to hold natural gas for winter, besides pipelines. Even if natural gas usage is reduced by, say, 90%, its costs are likely to fall by a much smaller percentage, say 30%, because a large share of costs are fixed.

One reason that a very long transition will be needed is because there is not even a path to transition away from fossil fuels in many cases. If a change is to be made, inventions to facilitate these changes are a prerequisite. Then these inventions need to be tested in actual situations. Next, new factories are needed to make the new devices. It is likely that some way will be needed to pay existing owners for the loss of value of their existing fossil fuel powered devices; if not, there are likely to be huge debt defaults. It is only after all of these steps have taken place that the transition can actually take place.

These indirect costs lead to a huge question mark regarding whether it even makes sense to encourage the widespread use of wind and solar. Renewables can reduce CO2 emissions if they really substitute for fossil fuels in making electricity. If they are mostly high cost add-ons to the system, there is a real question: Does it even make sense to mandate a transition to wind and solar?

Do Wind and Solar Really Offer a Longer-Term Future than Fossil Fuels?

At the end of the xkcd video shown above, Munroe makes the observation that wind and solar are available indefinitely, but fossil fuel supplies are quite limited.

I agree with Munroe that fossil fuel supplies are quite limited. This occurs because energy prices do not rise high enough for us to extract very much of them. The prices of finished products made with fossil fuels need to be low enough for customers to be able to afford them. If this is not the case, purchases of discretionary goods (for example cars and smart phones) will fall. Since cars and smart phones are made with commodities, including fossil fuels, the lower “demand” for these finished goods will lead to falling prices of commodities, including oil. In fact, we seem to have experienced falling oil prices most of the time since 2008.

Figure 3. Inflation adjusted weekly average Brent Oil price, based on EIA oil spot prices and US CPI-urban inflation.

It is hard to see why renewables would last any longer than fossil fuels. If their unsubsidized cost is any higher than fossil fuels, this would be one strike against them. They are also very dependent on fossil fuels for making spare parts and for repairing transmission lines.

It is interesting that climate change modelers seem to be convinced that very high amounts of fossil fuels can be extracted in the future. The question of how much fossil fuels can really be extracted is another modeling issue that needs to be examined closely. The amount of future extraction seems to be highly dependent on how well the current economic system holds together, including the extent of globalization. Without globalization, fossil fuel extraction seems likely to decline quickly.

Do We Have Too Much Faith in Models? 

The idea of using renewables certainly sounds appealing, but the name is deceiving. Most renewables, except for wood and dung, aren’t very renewable. In fact, they depend on fossil fuels.

The whole issue of whether wind and solar are worthwhile needs to be carefully analyzed. The usual hallmark of an energy product that is of substantial benefit to the economy is that its production tends to be very profitable. With these high profits, governments can tax the owners heavily. Thus, the profits can be used to aid the rest of the economy. This is one of the physical manifestations of the “net energy” that the energy product provides.

If wind and solar were really providing substantial net energy, they would not need subsidies, not even the subsidy of going first. They would be casting off profits to benefit the rest of the economy. Perhaps renewables aren’t as beneficial as many people think they are. Perhaps researchers have put too much faith in distorted models.


[1] This is my estimate, based on EIA and BP data. With respect to electricity, EIA data shows that in the US, residential users consume about 38% of the total. With respect to fuels that are not used for transportation and not used for electricity, US residential users consume about 19% of these fuels. Combining these two categories, US households use about 31% of non-transportation fuels.

With respect to transportation fuels, the closest approximation we can get is by looking at petroleum use, divided between gasoline and other products. According to BP data, on a worldwide basis, 26% of petroleum is burned as gasoline. In the United States, about 46% of petroleum consumption is burned as gasoline. Of course, some of this gasoline usage is for non-residential use. For example, cars used by police and sales representatives are typically powered by gasoline, as are small trucks used by businesses.

Furthermore, the US is a major importer of manufactured goods from China and other parts of the world. The embodied energy in these imported goods never gets into US energy consumption statistics. In theory, we should add a little energy consumption by foreign manufacturers to supplement total reported US energy consumption.

The selection of “about a third” is based on these considerations.










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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1,605 Responses to How Renewable Energy Models Can Produce Misleading Indications

  1. MG says:

    The school system in Italy is forced to accept another green propaganda:

    Exclusive: Italy to make climate change study compulsory in schools

    “ROME (Reuters) – Italy will next year become the world’s first country to make it compulsory for schoolchildren to study climate change and sustainable development, Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti said.”

    It is no wonder, that, during the last decades, the Italian cabinets last only a few months… Just another funny idea that, with a very high probability, will be cancelled by the next cabinet.

    • Get HaPpY says:

      On the flip side….

      The Science is based on basic Physics and Chemistry; backed up by decades on ongoing research, data and record collecting, on the ground observations and paleoclimatology. The IPCC, which represents the world Scientific Community, supports such in it’s conclusions. Unfortunately, there will always be a segment of those that will refuse to accept reality and currently it’s those that run society. Behind closed doors, they themselves privately must think otherwise, but can’t let go of profiting from business as usual. Sad state of affairs. Perhaps a teenager may change that, the Science and the Scientists could not.
      Yes, I wrote this….and I agree, MG, there is no Green solution, but that does change the Science and the academic evidence.

      • The sad state of affairs is that the model in the IPCC report uses a combination of what we think of as science and what we think of as economics. The science part may indeed be correct. The economics part is most definitely wrong. In fact, the economics part misses the point that physics requires energy to operate the economy. Thus, the economics part makes a serious science error. The so-called scientists are not aware enough of the physics part of the problem that they only look at their part of the story. They endorse the output of an incredibly poor model that fails because of physics errors that they never considered important enough to look at.

        • Get HaPpY says:

          Well, Gail what can I write? Oh, here is something…
          Despite 40 years of major global negotiations, we have generally conducted business as usual and are essentially failing to address this crisis,” said William Ripple, a professor of ecology at Oregon State University and co-lead author of the paper. “Climate change has arrived and is accelerating faster than many scientists expected.”

          And there it is, Everyone and Anyone has their stance. Personally, I’m done “debating” on this topic because, frankly, it’s rather a thankless task. I learned from past experience.
          I disagree with your statement regarding Science and the term “so-called Scientists”.
          That still does not alter the vast body of evidence nor natural laws.
          Economics is another matter, having taken a graduate level course in Public Economics and foolishly pointing out perhaps minimizing would be optimal rather than maximizing.
          Did not go over too well on the topic of Business as Usual😁.
          Thanks for your opinion, and realize this blog tends to point to and will try to refrain further comment.

        • Robert Firth says:

          The IPCC material had many reviewers. But over 80% of them were not climate scientist, who were outnumbered even by social scientists. Some 60% of the reviewers’ comments were dismissed without explanation.

          Of the supposed hundreds of reviewers, exactly ONE reviewed everything, Nobel laureate Vincent Gray. The following direct quote is his considered conclusion, after seventeen years as a reviewer.

          “I have been forced to the conclusion that for significant parts of the work of the IPCC, the data collection and scientific methods employed are unsound. Resistance to all efforts to try and discuss or rectify these problems has convinced me that normal scientific procedures are not only rejected by the IPCC, but that this practice is endemic, and was part of the organization from the very beginning. I therefore consider that the IPCC is fundamentally corrupt. The only ‘reform’ I could envisage, would be its abolition….Yes, we have to face it. The whole process is a swindle, The IPCC from the beginning was given the license to use whatever methods would be necessary to provide ‘evidence’ that carbon dioxide increases are harming the climate, even if this involves manipulation of dubious data and using peoples’ opinions instead of science to ‘prove’ their case…. The disappearance of the IPCC in disgrace is not only desirable but inevitable….Sooner or later all of us will come to realize that this organization, and the thinking behind it, is phony. Unfortunately severe economic damage is likely to be done by its influence before that happens.”

            • Robert Firth says:

              Thank you, Gail. It amplifies substantially the quote I found. His remarks on “average temperatures” were amusing. One obvious problem is that the average is computed as the arithmetic mean of lowest and highest. But the graph of temperature against time is not a straight line, so this procedure cannot be correct.

              An even more amusing example comes from Canada, which had temperature sensors covering almost all of the country. Until the government ordered about one third of them turned off: the northern third. Overnight, Canada became the latest victim of global warming.

              However, it seems the entire thesis is about to be put to the test; the unimpeachable test of Nature. We are entering another Grand Solar Minimum. The last one (1790 to 1830) created a 2C overall drop in temperature in the first 20 years. If the same happens again, the planet will be cooler than it was in 1850.

          • Sven Røgeberg says:

            «Nobel laureate Vincent Gray»?

          • Mike Roberts says:

            The IPCC doesn’t carry out scientific research.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Capitalizing “the Science”, “Scientists”, “Scientific Community”, “Physics”, “Chemistry” and “Green” is reminiscent of practice of the One True Church, whose members capitalize “God”, “the Virgin Mary”, “”the Holy Trinity”—also known as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost”, etc.

        Our Holy Roman Church has traditionally be held by orthodox practitioners to be infallible. Practitioners of science (which is not capitalized unless it begins a sentence), by contrast, have always held science to be fallible, a candle in the dark, a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible, the belief in the ignorance of the experts, etc.

        When people capitalize common nouns to the extent you have done above—to emphasize how special or important or sacred these nouns are—they are signaling loudly and clearly that they are members of a church, a sect or a cult.

        Let’s not forget that the IPCC was chaired Rajendra Pachauri for over a decade, a man who stated without irony that “For me, the protection of Planet Earth… is more than a mission. It is my religion.”

    • Xabier says:

      Italian cabinets last such a short time so that the career politicians can pick up extra perks and pensions. Passing through every revolving door, something sticks….. They aren’t really that incompetent. 🙂

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      “… compulsory for schoolchildren to study climate change and sustainable development…”

      please do not miss the more abbsurd part about “sustainable development”…

      no modern development is sustainable, but of course I’m just stating the obvious…

      • Xabier says:

        Exactly: ‘sustainable’ is a word which has been so cynically abused by developers, corporations, and governments that it has become empty of meaning, which is a shame.

        A few solar panels, heat pumps and some fancy bike racks don’t make a huge pile of steel, concrete and tarmac dumped on a field – as happens here – ‘sustainable’.

        We are just lying to ourselves. The reality is too awful, too daunting I suppose.

        And there is continuing profit in the lies – ‘development’ can go on just as before, only now ‘Green’ and ‘clean’…..

        Funny if it weren’t a tragedy.

      • Mike Roberts says:

        Well, yes, sustainable development would be propaganda, but not climate change.

        • The models for climate change assume continuous development.

          • Mike Roberts says:

            The models for climate change assume continuous development.

            Are you saying continuous development is explicit in the climate models? Can you point to some reference which shows that? As I understand them, they are simply modelling how the climate reacts to certain physical stimuli.Scenarios plugged in try to tease out how different emissions trajectories will affect the climate.

            • The physical stimuli include a whole lot of fossil fuels burned. You have to have the world economy growing a whole lot, pretty much continuously, to get all of these fossil fuels burned. The story that the world economy can continue to grow to use the expected amount of fossil fuels until 2100 is absurd, in my opinion.

              I don’t think that the modelers are taking into account the problems the world has with coal that burns underground, but which we can never get at to stop. This would be a problem, with or without coal extraction. In fact, it would be a problem, with or without people on earth.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              The physical stimuli include a whole lot of fossil fuels burned

              The models don’t include this assumption. They are modelling the effect of injected CO2 (from fossil fuel burning, currently) but the amounts and rates are injected as external inputs to the model, with various runs of the model taking varying inputs.

              I agree, though, that some of the assumptions in the scenarios are absurd. However, I also used to think that it was absurd that the world could produce any more than about 90 million barrels per day or that increases could continue for much longer than the conventional peak.

              That’s the problem with the future, it’s difficult to predict.

            • You cannot really separate the model from the assumptions. Certainly, the end users cannot.

              If we look back historically, we can see that a lot of civilizations have collapsed. This model is simply using absurd assumptions to scare people regarding what might happen 80 years from now. Another purpose seems to be to distract them from the real problems we have today, with too little affordable fossil fuels, rather than too much. A third purpose is to try to extract funding from the rich countries, to help out the countries whose emissions have, in fact, been exploding. This explosion has gotten worse since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. (CIS is the Former Soviet Union countries.)

            • Mike Roberts says:

              You cannot really separate the model from the assumptions.

              But it isn’t the model that has those assumptions, it’s the projections of future fossil fuel use that are fed into the models.

              distract them from the real problems

              Climate change and other environmental issues are also real problems. Are you suggesting that we ignore some of our serious problems in order to concentrate on a few of them that some may deem more urgent? Why can’t we look at all of our serious real problems?

            • Our biggest problem is population. The actions chosen to supposedly mitigate our CO2 problems have simply made our world population problem much worse. The fact that the UN is a “do good” organization, helping the poor, very much biases the outcomes of how climate change will be addressed, making certain that energy increases will be given to those whose populations are likely to grow most. China, with its one-child policy, has managed to somewhat cap the impact.

              Giving more energy supplies to less well off nations effectively means helping their populations to continue to soar, making an even bigger CO2 problem for the world later. It also makes a huge migration problem. Asking for handouts from the high income countries to the low income countries adds to mitigate CO2 is likely to add to this effect.

              Drawing attention to climate problems, when it is doubtful that the model is correct, and it is even more doubtful that we can do much of anything about the emissions, is a real problem. In fact, if what we do is counterproductive, in terms of the model, the result is just plain silly.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “continuous development”

            I am not certain about the technical or economic details yet, but a preliminary look at combining low-cost PV, the recently announced MIT CO2 capture system, and old F/T technology produce some interesting numbers that indicate it might be possible to get off fossil fuels entirely.

    • Mike Roberts says:

      Not sure why schoolchildren studying climate change is green propaganda.

      • MG says:

        We do not know what are the turning points. The heating up of the planet has its limits also. Maybe the scientists miss this fact.

      • MG says:

        Obviously, under “c. ch.”, they usually mean some kind of reversal we can achieve easily slashing down some indicators like CO2, which is not true.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Since it is very unlikely the school kids will be learning about how climate is constantly changing and that it is not changing now any more than it always has and it is not all going to end in the next twelve years and it is not all our fault, it probably will be taught as green propaganda.

        Having said that, studying almost anything at school has been propaganda of one kind or another for some time now. The problem is we can’t afford to let the kids grow up into savages or non-conformists or even eccentrics, so we can’t have them educating themselves. Indeed, we need to fill their little heads with something in order to make them us, to socialize them in a non-Bernie Sanders way.

        Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.” A generation ago, the problem of compulsory schooling as a vehicle for an authoritarian society was widely discussed, but as this problem has gotten worse, it is seldom discussed.

        The nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and that they are impotent to affect their situation. A teacher can lecture about democracy, but schools are essentially undemocratic places, and so democracy is not what is instilled in students. Jonathan Kozol in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home focused on how school breaks us from courageous actions. Kozol explains how our schools teach us a kind of “inert concern” in which “caring”—in and of itself and without risking the consequences of actual action—is considered “ethical.” School teaches us that we are “moral and mature” if we politely assert our concerns, but the essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.

    • The IPCC is a joint project of the United Nations’ Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization. It was created in 1988 largely due to the efforts of Maurice Strong, a socialist with considerable interest in redistributing funds from richer countries to poorer countries. Quadrant online posted this unflattering view of Mr. Strong.

      From what I have seen, the UN, in general, seems to be set up from a point of view of aiding small, poor countries. It should not be surprising that the result of the IPCCs efforts are to produce conclusions along these lines.

      The International Energy Agency (IEA), which is an organization of OECD, disseminates energy-related views about what countries should do in response to climate change. The IEA writes report after report telling countries that they should add more wind, solar, and hydroelectric, and cut back on fossil fuels. (OECD and IEA are both headquartered in the same building in Paris. OECD was set up to counter OPEC.)

      I heard years ago that the IEA is also the organization that gives the IPCC the absurdly high estimates of future fossil fuel extraction. (Someone outside of meteorology would have to do this. The IEA would be a reasonable first guess as to which organization would do this, since they are the only international energy organization.) These high estimates pretty much guarantee that the forecast future temperatures will be high, given that the model seems to consider CO2 and other warming gases above everything else in forecasting future temperatures.

      To some extent, the IPCC has also used Peak Oil fossil fuel estimates to provide a lower end of the fossil fuel range. But even these are likely quite high, because Peak Oilers don’t consider the possibility of low prices and collapse.

      • Mike Roberts says:

        the model seems to consider CO2 and other warming gases above everything else

        This isn’t true; the models try to incorporate all aspects that are known about. The fact that CO2 seems to be the largest driver is because that’s what the science is telling us.

        Regarding the UN favouring small poor countries, well I’m not sure about that. The big countries have far more influence than smaller countries. In any case, I don’t know why small poor countries getting some help would be so controversial.

        • Robert Firth says:

          In the Ordovician, CO2 levels were around 4400 parts per million, or about 10 times higher than today. The Earth was no warmer than today; indeed, the Late Ordovician was an ice age.

          The truth is, there is no one “biggest” factor in any climate. The system is holistic, and the parameters interact. A theory that selects one “dominant” factor, and then imposes a near linear relationship between it and climate, is not just incomplete; it is totally wrong.

          • Mike Roberts says:

            there is no one “biggest” factor in any climate

            There is for current climate change. That is what the science is telling us.

            • I expect that Robert Firth is correct. It is easy to build a model claiming CO2 emissions are the primary factor, especially if not too long a history is considered.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              It is easy to build a model claiming CO2 emissions are the primary factor, especially if not too long a history is considered.

              The climate models include the known factors that affect surface temperature. They aren’t constructed to favour any particular factor. Though solar factors may have largely negated CO2 millions of years ago, CO2 is the dominant factor at the moment. You’re right that the relatively short period will impact which factor is dominant during that period but the current period is what we’re most concerned with, is it not? We are living in a world that is warming quickly (by geological time scales) due to our actions. CO2 emissions are definitely the dominant factor right now. But that’s just the way it is, it’s not the fault of the models.

          • Robert Firth says:

            An update on our holistic climate:

            “Forecasters are predicting a blast of Arctic air will blanket most the United States next week with record-breaking temperatures.”

            Indeed, they are predicting temperatures “30 degrees” (I suspect that’s 17C) colder than average. Of course, this is the normal climate response to the onset of a Grand Solar Minimum. The key parameter to follow, though, is the arctic ice cover, because that will mark the start of the positive feedback loop.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              Indeed, they are predicting temperatures “30 degrees” (I suspect that’s 17C) colder than average. Of course, this is the normal climate response to the onset of a Grand Solar Minimum. The key parameter to follow, though, is the arctic ice cover, because that will mark the start of the positive feedback loop.

              This is weather, not climate. Are you saying that you expect the earth to start cooling now? Non-human caused factors would have seen the earth in a cooling trend right now but it’s in a warming trend due to human caused emissions.


  2. There is a new plan to solve California’s electricity problems. According to the WSJ, California Mayors Join Campaign to Buy Out PG&E

    The mayors of Oakland, Sacramento and more than a dozen other California municipalities are joining San Jose in a campaign to buy out the investor-owned PG&E Corp. PCG +6.26% and turn it into a giant customer-owned cooperative.

    The idea, first floated last month by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, is winning support from mayors and county commissioners who represent approximately one-quarter of the population served by PG&E’s utility subsidiary, Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

    The coalition plans to deliver a letter Tuesday to the California Public Utilities Commission and Gov. Gavin Newsom asking that such an option receive fair and full consideration before the state approves any bankruptcy reorganization plan. The company filed for chapter 11 protection in January, citing an estimated $30 billion in wildfire liabilities.

    PG&E has adamantly opposed the sale of any part of its system. Chief Executive Bill Johnson last month rejected an offer by San Francisco to buy the portion of PG&E’s electric network that is within city limits for $2.5 billion.

    This is a plan that sounds interesting. The group will almost certainly have to face up to the real cost of its high cost of operation. Then the situation will be like a homeowners’ association that has no choice but to pay the large bills that are coming due, or cut back services to members.

    • Dennis L. says:

      Yup, but each year someone will propose that a transformer can last one more year to delay increasing costs, or someone cannot pay their share and it is not fair they do with less than their fair share of electricity. Different boss, same as the old boss.

      Dennis L.

      • beidawei says:

        The devil is whispering to me to spread around the idea that utility rates ought to be lower for People of Color and other disadvantaged groups.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Dennis, right on, as usual. The main cause of the fires is not the utility, who admittedly made some bad decisions. It is the refusal of the state government to face environmental reality. They actively encouraged, and continue to encourage, two huge pervasive mistakes. The first is their refusal to take precautions against forest fires, by clearing brush, creating firebreaks, and similar obvious measures. The second is their crazy policy of allowing anyone to build in areas of extreme fire hazard, because that is growth, and growth is good. And now homes that should never have been built are burning to ashes, and the solution … keep doing it, but with even more oppressive, and more incompetent, bureaucratic control.

        Again (putting on the same old 78rpm record), classical economics would have solved at least the second problem. Insurance companies would have refused coverage for homes in fire hazard areas, and so such homes would not have been built, unless fire management was put in place first. But in the world of socialised economics, everybody is “entitled” to insurance, no matter how stupid their behaviour.

  3. Ugo Bardi has a new book out, called “Before the Collapse: A Guide to the Other Side of Growth,” published by Springer.

    According to a Facebook post by Ugo,

    It is out! My new book on collapse!! Not a watered down version of “The Seneca Effect,” but a completely new book: a “Guide to the Other Side of Growth,” a true master plan for the future. Not a gloom and doom book, it tells you how to avoid collapse and even how to profit from it.


    So far, there are no reviews up on Amazon about the book.

    It is not expensive, compared to most Springer books ($29.99). But I scratch my head. What in the world? This book reminds me of some of Richard Heinberg’s books. The first one to come up on the Amazon’s listing for Richard Heinberg is, Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy by Richard Heinberg and David Fridley June 2, 2016.

    Perhaps this is the way to make money. “How to profit from our upcoming problems.”

    • Dennis L. says:

      Perpetual energy comes to mind.
      With fusion I often wonder if the real problem is physics as we understand it; fusion seems to work well on a large scale, the problem is stars are hard to confine in magnetic containers. Maybe it doesn’t work on small scales, even a dwarf star is a handful on a lab bench.

      Dennis L.

      • doomphd says:

        You don’t need a mini-star or magnetic confinement to make fusion work. All you need is directed velocity impact, like in a particle accelerator. See:

        • Robert Firth says:

          Dear Doom, nobody doubts that this process “works” in the sense of causing fusion to occur. The problem is (still) that it takes much more energy to create the fusion than is released by it. The slideshow you reference makes two claims: secondly, that a particle accelerator can create fusion (true), and first, that this requires no input power. In other words, it is proposing a perpetual motion machine of the first kind.

          I’m not about to sell my investments in a machine to extract sunlight from cucumbers.

          • doomphd says:

            No, there is energy being consumed. However, DeLuze is claiming net energy out. I’ll ask him to provide a detailed response.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Dear Doom, check out the slide at 5:00 in. It claims that the particle accelerator needs no current, and hence no energy input. But accelerated charged particles ARE current, are they not? So they consume power, and that slide is pure obfuscation.

            • doomphd says:

              James DeLuze says: Dear Doom and Robert Firth. Sorry for misleading wording, for there is minuscule, insignificant current and power consumption. So low my concern is being able to see it during operation of my 2kW prototype to get actual power gain measurements. Fusion is driven solely by force, voltage with electric fields. Magnetic fields are in proportion to current. With DC particle acceleration, voltage is across resistive plasma and the resultant unidirectional movement of charged particles is a net current. With AC acceleration, voltage is across a capacitance, within which the charged particles oscillate. One direction is a positive current, with the other being a negative current. The net current cancels to zero.

              The current insignificance can be understood by considering the very small capacitive reactance with consideration of the very high DC resistance of the circuit approximating 6 E15 ohms. This will calculate to a phase shift of 90 degrees to at least 10 significant figures. When the phase shift is 90 degrees, the power function (current times voltage) is a sign wave at twice the frequency centered on the x axis. It’s average is exactly zero. I’m not claiming perpetual motion, but very high power gain.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Dear Doom, Thank you, and please thank James DeLuze on my behalf, for a long, detailed, thoughtful, and most professional response. I note that he concedes the slides were a little unclear, and in turn I therefore withdraw the objections in my previous posts. His explanation is far beyond my skills at mental arithmetic, so please allow me time for the consideration he deserves. The only small gap I see in his post is that there is no discussion of the magnetic fields his apparatus will create. Does that have a negative impact on the accuracy of the accelerated particles? This was a consideration that kept the Tokamak people awake at nights, as they explained to me during my visit to CERN many years ago.

              But by the way, to maintain a pi/2 phase shift with that degree of accuracy is indeed an impressive feat.

            • doomphd says:

              James DeLuze says: Thank you Mr. Firth for your kind response. My intent in the slides was to present the idea as simply as possible. Attempting to explain apparent, real, and reactive power (and resistance) to laypeople is beyond my expertise. I’m also not a mathematician, and I find AC circuit calculations very difficult. But AC capacitive reactance provides a good “electrical trick” to separate the issues of force from power. With DC power “comes along” due to the unidirectional motion of the charge carriers, though only the force (voltage) provides the electric field that drives fusion. Like pushing against a wall (force applied) that does not move, therefore no work (force acting thru distance) done or power expended. This is a huge advantage over magnetic confinement, for the magnetic field is in proportion to current (the distance component in electricity). I know my explanation was simplistic and incomplete, but the point is that power consumed approaches zero by not using parameters directly driving fusion: ie high voltage with insignificant, minuscule current; thus high power gain. It’s also like wave motion or hydraulic fluid in a break line. What is moving is the force impulse. Through the time domain of electrical rotation, the movement of the charges approximates zero. The magnetic fields anticipated are small, since only the fuel ions are in motion, therefore oscillatory current minimized. I do not at this time believe magnetic fields will interfere, but with the Lawrence Berkley DC reactor there was concern from secondary electron emission due to ion target impact. A small magnet was placed in the target to alleviate this issue. At this time, since this reactor cycles through repetitive sequences, I believe secondary electrons will cancel out through each cycle. But there are many other things that keep me awake at night.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Dear Doom and James DeLuze

              My brain hurts. However, the basic physics seems to be sound. Your remark that a force multiplied by zero distance requires no energy is of course correct. But your apparatus seems rather more subtle: the force does indeed move a small distance, but the ensuing reaction moves it back, allowing the energy to be recovered on the recoil.

              That this will indeed move your fusion candidates together is a claim of which I am less certain, but a contour integration around the system cycle certainly does not refute it. (If memory serves, it was Paul Dirac who taught me that.)

              But one problem did drop out: that pi/2 phase shift is critical to the apparatus, but it is metastable. If it drifts even a little, it will suffer an exponential departure from the mean, and I doubt the consequences would be manageable. Given the very short time frame in which these events occur, I suspect you will have a major problem keeping everything on its small island of stability.

              But, on balance, you may have my provisional support for your innovation. And thank you both for a most interesting conversation.

            • doomphd says:

              a minor point to add to this discussion: if you create a high voltage, you will consume energy maintaining it. it can be a comparatively small amount, but it takes electronic drives to make it, consuming finite energy amounts. then there are all the ancillary electronics to sense, monitor the processes going on. nothing is completely “free”.

    • Curt Kurschus says:

      Everybody wants and needs a positive and uplifting expectation for the future. Nobody wants to hear or read doom and gloom. If we suggest that we are heading for global collapse with sharp population decline, no cars or electricity, and a lot less food, then we can’t tell the future. If we suggest that we are on the cusp of a renewable energy revolution with electric flying cars and times of plenty for all with endless growth and colonies on Mars, then we are absolutely right to the point of stating the obvious.

      The likes of Ugo Bardi and Richard Heinberg are writing what people feel a need to read, probably as much as they are writing something with which they seek to allay their own concerns.

      • And there were a lot of academics who put together narrow EROEI analyses that seemed to suggest that wind and solar might work as substitutes, because they might produce enough “net energy.” Plus we have Jacobson and others with models of how wind, water and solar might work. If a person puts all of the wishful thinking together, a person can get a story that people want to hear.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “can get a story”

          Right. But at *some* low enough energy cost, renewables will work. That’s assuming that the cost of power reflects the cost to produce it (i.e., the invested energy in the PV plant).

          • Of course, you have to do something to make the energy storable–either convert it to a liquid or store it in a battery.

            We use a surprising amount of coal as coal. It needs to be pretty cheap to beat this. This is a chart I made using some world IEA data, showing what type of organization is the first use of coal. In this case, the price to beat is the price of coal (not electricity made from coal).

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “price of coal”

              At one point, back when I was first talking about power satellites on The Oil Drum, I had the cost of coal at my fingertips. It was around $70/ton in those days. There is about 7 bbl of oil to the ton, so $50/bbl oil would be about $350/ton. That makes synthetic oil about 7 times more expensive than coal on a ton basis, somewhat less on an energy basis because of the hydrogen. But there is no use of coal I can think of that cannot be done other ways. For example, blast furnaces are widely replaced with direct reduced iron, which is then fed to arc furnaces.

              BTW, the closest the US has to the Sasol plant is here:

            • hkeithhenson says:

              There are uses of coal that would be hard to replace. It’s used in the big electrodes used for making steel in an arc furnace. But it is a small use, so does not impact the CO2 buildup.

            • Keith:

              When I look up “Direct reduced iron,” I find the following:

              Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) is the product of the direct reduction of iron ore in the solid state by carbon monoxide and hydrogen derived from natural gas or coal.

              Carbon monoxide and hydrogen are hardly things that we can easily produce with limited quantities of burned biomass.


              There are several processes for direct reduction of iron ore:

              #gas-based shaft furnace processes (Midrex® and Energiron being the main ones, but there are several others including Finmet which uses iron ore fines as feedstock) – accounting for 82% of 2016 production (72.8 million tonnes);

              #coal based rotary kiln furnaces (mainly in India) – accounting for 17.5% of 2016 production.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Carbon monoxide and hydrogen . . . burned biomass”

              We probably would not bother with CO since hydrogen works just fine. As to getting it, I have been talking about a buildout of solar farms and F/T plants up to 100 million bbl/day. The amount needed to make all the iron we use is tiny in comparison.

              Not saying it will be done, but it looks like it is possible.

            • Timing is critical as well.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Timing is critical”

              Agreed. There are at least ten years of FF left though. I am far from certain that anyone will start making carbon-neutral fuel, but they could.

              The people who run the Palo Verdi Nuclear Generation station are thinking of making hydrogen in the fall and spring.

              Turning the hydrogen into hydrocarbons would be a way to store the energy or they could use it to fuel the utility trucks. Depending on how they value excess power, the fuel could be rather inexpensive.

              I am not sure what the side effects would be of covering something like 1/35th of the Saraha desert with black PV to make 100 million bbls a day. It would cost some number like $1.3 T per year for ten years to put this much structure in place.

              I need to rework the numbers and have someone else check them.

            • There are only ten years of fossil fuels left if the prices stay high enough. Peak oilers have a great deal of faith that prices will stay high enough. In fact, they believe the system will stay together, allowing us to extract the fossil fuels that seem to be easily available. I am not convinced that the system will stay together long enough, with high enough prices, for this to happen.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” I am not convinced”

              Neither am I. But if the engineering and economics work out, then maybe the first synfuel plant comes online perhaps 4-5 years from now. After about 5 years at a high construction rate, renewable PV would be supplying half what is being pumped out of the ground. Another 5 years could see natural oil completely displaced.

              Not at all saying this will happen. It will take a considerable time for the idea to spread out and be checked. And there is the question of 1.69 cents/kWh being real. The people I know in that business are scratching their heads trying to figure out how they did it.

              But the scheme is a way that *might* meet your quite reasonable objections to renewables by making something easy to handle and store.

          • Robert Firth says:

            Keith, we know renewables will work, because from the Mycenae of Agamemnon to the Austria of Maria Theresa, renewables were all we had. And they were good enough not just for survival, but for civilisations that were the envy of the world. The trouble is that nobody knows how to go back, to climb down the ladder that leads only to doom; and with very few exceptions, nobody cares.

            • We don’t have a big supply of abacuses, for example, or of clay tablets. Farmers don’t know how to farm without metal tools. We don’t have trained draft animals. We have no way to mill grain without electricity or fossil fuels.

              People have believed the idea that wind, water and solar are all we need to replace fossil fuels. They are not even renewable–they don’t grow on trees or otherwise reproduce.

            • Robert Firth says:

              For Gail: some of us do retain these skills. i have seen Chinese shopkeepers in Singapore use the abacus. I have seen farmers here in Gozo harrow the soil with wooden tools, and build drystone walls with mallet, chisel, and muscles. And Heage windmill is a modern working flour mill driven entirely by the wind. Most of the skills we would need are still there, somewhere, and it would not need all that many itinerant Master Craftsmen to make them more widespread. After all, that is how the great cathedrals of Europe were built over a thousand years ago.

            • Artleads says:

              Yep. Nobody cares. You can’t get proper understanding or consensus over the simplest things. I guess our system manufactures ignorant individualism. Another vexing problem is that all the many care about is people. It’s like total mania. Nobody cares about the place–the soil, the land, the old buildings, the trees.

        • Robert Firth says:

          Gail, I fear the more absurd analyses were based not on energy but on money: MROMI. Equipment built cheaply in countries with almost slave labour, no environmental controls, and minimal quality assurance. The windmills (for instance) would then pay for the cost of construction and generate a profit. Of course, even this was a fraud, because it underestimated, or even ignored, the cost of the infrastructure needed to erect them and connect them to the grid, the cost of longer term maintenance, and the cost of decommissioning.

          That is why I spent some lazy evenings doing my own EROEI, with the conclusion that these innovations, over their entire life cycle, were an energy sink.

      • doomphd says:

        “Nobody wants to hear or read doom and gloom.”

        Well doom and gloom is what you percieve when you read OFW. It’s a logical feature of the facts that are confronting us humans. You have to be honest with yourself and others. Heinberg and Bardi cannot do that. They’re both in denial, and are perhaps ethically challenged.

      • Xabier says:

        Ugo Bardi couldn’t afford to live in the nice big house his parents built and now lives more or less in a cellar, a half-underground apartment; his son had to leave Italy to find work, and his daughter is unemployed with poor prospects – not much fun at all. He’s a nice chap, but often writes nonsense about renewables for those reasons I think – the overwhelmingly depressing reality of a sharply declining Italy. We all cope as best as we can…..

        • I have had many meals with Ugo over the years when both of us spoke at the same conferences. So I feel like I know him. I know he has always been very optimistic, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

        • info says:

          His daughter if she is attractive would have to marry.

          • Robert Firth says:

            “His daughter if she is attractive would have to marry.”

            The main means of upward mobility for women since marriage replaced sex slavery. A preeminent milestone in the progress of mankind, which the invaders of Western Europe are currently reversing.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Thank you, Curt. As it happens, I do have a positive and uplifting expectation for the future, but for the future of this Island Earth and the manifold creatures that inhabit it.

        “O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.” (Ps civ:24)

        I believe that Gaia will survive this sixth extinction, and become once again an abode of life, and life more abundant. And that this will be a future far better than any of our contrivance.

        • Agreed! We are not in charge of creating a proper outcome. All of the articles we read suggest that we have far more power over self-organizing systems than we really do. They pound a story of sin and guilt into our heads: We aren’t doing enough to prevent climate change. If only we would recycle more, things would be better.

          We aren’t really in charge of this system. I keep saying that there seems to be a literal power behind this self-organizing system. What happens is ultimately determined by the system, not ourselves.

          • Artleads says:

            But I’m not seeing where we can separate ourselves from the larger system. We may well be a malignant part of the system, however. A whole lot of the problem I see is that we separate ourselves and put ourselves so far above all else (and are indeed so influential) that we can’t see the forest for the trees.

    • Mike Roberts says:

      Profiting from collapse? That sounds fantastic for collapsing societies. Just what we need.

    • Jarle says:

      “How to profit from our upcoming problems.”

      That’s the way according to Cory Morningstar:

      The manufacturing of Greta Thunberg

      • I remember an analysis done for Lloyds of London on the expected Peak Oil problem, done years ago. It was done for the insurance industry. A big part of the story seemed to be, “How you can profit from Peak Oil.” Climate change can be viewed the same way. More revenue, if insured natural events can be shown to increase and premiums for these events can be raised.

        • Robert Firth says:

          Many people have profited from climate change, or at least the climate change movement. Al Gore, for one, who bought a waterfront property in Montecito for almost nine million dollars. (An issue I raised earlier for which I was called a liar). And the climate change activists, who attended the recent summit in Palermo courtesy of 114 private jets.

          The Charles Mackay recipe for becoming very rich, as effective now as in 1841.

          I think Greta Thunberg is almost completely wrong, but at least she walks the walk, rather than just talking the talk. And in an age of almost universal hypocrisy, living up to ones beliefs is an act of exemplary moral courage. Dominus tecum, puella nobilissima.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “Greta Thunberg”

            I have not paid a lot of attention to Greta. I wonder how deep her understanding of physics is?

            • DJ says:

              What is there to understand? The science is settled. Not up for discussion.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “The science is settled.”

              That may be the case, but there is no widely recognized approach to get off using fossil fuels. In the last few weeks, a couple of news stories and some old technology fell together into what might be a solution.

              The question is if Greta has the background to understand it. And would she put out a positive message?

    • Jarle says:

      “Our Renewable Future” by Heinberg and Fridley really isn’t very optimistic. The book is free to read at – have a look and see what you think.

  4. MG says:

    The Iran marriage crisis:

    • Interesting! The government has set up a matchmaking office. And there are many women who work for no compensation, working as matchmakers. There are forms to fill out.

      On the government website, no photos are allowed. Parents are expected to meet the other person on the first date.

      • MG says:

        The children are considered to be an investment of the parents, so, logically, they must approve the marriage.

        It is clear that the declining income or property of the young is a problem that makes the marriage impossible.

        • In the US, it seems to be the instability of the jobs that makes marriage a problem. If a person works only on a contract basis, or doesn’t know when this job will end and he will have to find another one, it makes it hard to plan. If there are two adults in the household, keeping the jobs near each other is often difficult, without one taking a big payout. Historically, it seems like men moved for their jobs; wives took whatever kind of low paying jobs they could find. But now, it seems to be rare to have an employer move a couple and their children across the country for a new position. The couple gets stuck with the expenses of moving.

          • the gig economy is taking us back, in the absolute sense, to the hiring fairs of the middle ages (and later)

          • MG says:

            That is a good definition: “the instability of the jobs”. The jobs are often performed in a hurry, yesterday was late, there is a need of various follow-ups, additional repairs, corrections etc. The resulting wages are mostly not satisfactory, so loans or savings are needed to bridge the times without the income.

      • Xabier says:

        On the other hand, according to Iranian friends, there’s lots of Free Love going on openly a these days, at least in Teheran; so if not marrying they are, at long last, having some fun and a more normal life – at least the urban middle-class are, not the lower classes who are still bound by religion and that ridiculous oppressive dress code.

        • MG says:

          What is “normal life” when the population starts to shrink and the ageing population requires caregivers? I do not see a fun in that.

  5. Get HaPpY says:

    Don’t Worry, Be HaPpY
    Yereth Rosen

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – The Trump administration said on Tuesday it will be auctioning off nearly 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares) of land in Arctic Alaska for oil development next month, and it is promising much more territory will be open to development in the future.
    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that its annual oil and gas lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska will be held on Dec. 11. The sale will be the 15th in a series of oil lease sales held by the BLM for that region on the western side of Alaska’s North Slope.
    The BLM is also finishing up a draft plan to overturn Obama-era protections that put about half of the 23 million-acre (9.3 million-hectare) reserve off limits to oil development, citing needs to protect caribou, migratory birds and other resources important to the region’s indigenous people and to the nation.
    The Trump administration and the oil industry argue the Obama plan is too restrictive and needs to be replaced.
    “With advancements in drilling technology, it was prudent to develop a new plan that provides for greater economic development of our resources while still providing protections for important resources, such as subsistence uses,” Chad Padgett, BLM’s Alaska state director, said in a statement.
    The reserve, which lies well to the west of the legacy Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk oil fields, was undeveloped for decades.
    Several recent discoveries have sparked a westward expansion of oil development on the North Slope, and the petroleum reserve – the largest single U.S. federal land unit – is seen as a promising region for new Alaska oil production

    Yes, yes, please run for re-election and WIN..the PeRfEcT President for BAU Full Throttle!

  6. Get HaPpY says:

    Just poor judgement….what’s 6 billion among friends? Plenty of more coming down the pipe to patch things up….just a double click away! Then, off to the clubhouse for a bite to eat and a round of golf!

    SoftBank Reveals $6.5 Billion Loss From Uber, WeWork Turmoil
    (Bloomberg) — Masayoshi Son is finally disclosing the damage from SoftBank Group Corp.’s bets on WeWork and Uber Technologies Inc.
    The Japanese investment powerhouse on Wednesday reported its first quarterly operating loss in 14 years — about $6.5 billion –after writing down the value of a string of marquee investments. It swallowed a charge of 497.7 billion yen ($4.6 billion) for WeWork, whose spectacular implosion turned the once high-flying shared-office startup into a Silicon Valley punchline.
    The losses call into question the billionaire founder Son’s deal-making approach just as he’s trying to raise an even larger successor to his $100 billion Vision Fund. The investment vehicle had been a driver of profit growth at SoftBank, contributing over $14 billion in mostly paper gains over the past two years. Now, the shrinking valuation of Uber and WeWork, once among the brightest stars in the SoftBank constellation, raises the prospects of more writedowns in the Vision Fund’s portfolio with its high exposure to businesses that prioritize growth over profitability.
    On Wednesday, SoftBank’s chairman took some blame for his poor decisions. “There was a problem with my own judgment, that’s something I have to reflect on,” said an unusually somber Son

    • No wonder US profits of companies are down. It doesn’t take a lot of results like these to bring overall profits down.

      • Robert Firth says:

        A minor observation. If we exclude from the calculation companies that have never made a profit, such as WeWork, Uber, Tesla, or Chesapeake Energy, company profits are going up. The problem is that these fraudulent shell companies are increasing in number, fuelled by fools with a lot of easy money, thanks to the even worse fools who try to run the world economy.

  7. Yoshua says:

    Chesapeake issues a warning about default if prices remain depressed.

  8. Yoshua says:

    Global auto production just keeps falling with no bottom in sight.

  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Something weird happened in September, for reasons that remain a little murky. The repurchase agreement or “repo” market seized up.

    “I’ll spare you a plumbing lesson; all you need to know is that repos are really, really important for overnight funding.

    “Without them, it’s very hard for banks, brokers, funds, and other market participants to square their books. Modern banking simply wouldn’t function and the system would shut down.

    “Now, this wasn’t a catastrophe. The Fed injected some liquidity and everything seems okay for now. The important part is that it shouldn’t have happened and worse, apparently no one saw it coming.

    “We had a string of similar hiccups in 2007–2008. All were manageable but eventually they added up to something much worse. So, this wasn’t a good sign for market stability.

    That’s the problem with unconventional monetary policy. It may solve your immediate problem but create bigger ones later… the Fed looks rattled and a rattled Fed is not what we need.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “…the Federal Open Market Committee’s summary of economic projections in September 2018 showed all its members calling for no interest-rate cuts in 2019. Instead they have cut rates three times this year.

      “So why should we believe the Fed can protect the market against a sell-off in stocks and bonds when it is implying both are at risk of happening so it gave us three rate cuts and a $1trillion repo liquidity infusion?”

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        ““Euphoric” U.S. equity futures positioning among asset managers is nearing July 2019, September 2018 and January 2019 peaks that are in line with highs seen just before the global financial crisis. That means stocks could be vulnerable to bad news… Earnings forecasts for 2020 are too high… Stocks are already accounting for the benefits of a phase one trade deal…”

      • The author makes a good point about the continued rise in stock markets being the result of the cheap to negative interest rates abroad, allowing multinational companies to buy back their stock at low or even negative interest rates.

        One critical paragraph in this report, regarding her view of the future:

        There is a potential for bond yields to rise in response to the Fed having to “print money” to buy Treasury securities in order to prevent short-term rates from going up. The Treasury is issuing government debt as fast as it can in order to pay for the current massive government spending deficits (coincidentally, over $1.3 trillion this year). Because the market doesn’t want to swallow all that debt at the rate the Fed has set, don’t be surprised if the market forces up interest rates on Treasury securities.

        This is where the author sees everything going wrong. However, it seems to me that the US would use QE to buy up the debt itself, before it would let interest rates rise. Also, the US economy would be in such bad shape from crashing debt elsewhere, the higher interest rates on US debt would be just one part of our problems. In some sense, interest rates can’t really rise, because there aren’t enough goods and services to divide up. I guess the question is, “Where do things go wrong?”

        Higher interest rates for even certain classes of debt will bring the economy down. I expect this will happen before interest rates on US debt rise a lot. Or am I missing something.

      • MM says:

        Heating up the kettle:
        “I am convinced that since mid-September 2019 major banks have been trying to use the situation in the US to put pressure on the supervisory authority and on the Fed to lower the ratio of liquidity that is demanded to face most real systemic hazards. Indeed since the 2008 crisis, the supervisory authorities have demanded that systemic banks keep more liquidity compared with what was the case before 2008, to be able to deal with an accident.”
        From this article:

  10. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Chesapeake Energy helped pioneer America’s shale natural gas revolution. Now, the company is warning that it may not survive the era of cheap gas it helped to usher in.

    “The Oklahoma-based energy company said Tuesday in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission that if “depressed prices persist,” there is “substantial doubt” about its ability to continue as a “going concern.””

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      ““Signs of stress have appeared in the global economy, and the outlook for global growth, at least in the short- and medium-term, has been revised down repeatedly over the past year,” OPEC said in its World Oil Outlook.

      “The group said it would likely cut production of crude and other products to 32.8 million barrels per day by 2024, down from 35 million barrels per day in 2019.”

      • The way that peak oil arrives is through low prices. US peak oil in 1970 arrived this way, in fact.

        We know that peak coal has arrived in many places. It comes with rising costs of production and prices that remain too low for profitablity. The situation is not any different for oil, as far as I can see.

        If demand (really “affordability of finished products made with oil”) is high enough, oil prices can rise, and output can rise.

    • The link also says,

      Citing weak prices, Chesapeake on Tuesday announced plans to slash its drilling and completion activity by 30% in 2020. And the company plans to cut production and general expenses by about 20% in a bid to achieve free cash flow. Executives also said they will consider selling assets to raise cash.

      • Robert Firth says:

        I’m not an accountant, even though both my parents were, but even to me it seems that cutting production by 30%, and expenses by 20%, is unlikely to improve the bottom line.

        In science, it’s called “hysteresis”. Revenue is much more volatile than expenditure, so over engineered, over complex, and slow moving organisations are desperately vulnerable to market fluctuations.

      • Chrome Mags says:

        I wonder what price oil will drop to in the next recession and its implications on the oil industry. If it dropped to $35 for an extended time, surely that would drive a stake through many smaller struggling oil & service companies.

        • DJ says:

          And nations.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          not that I have a crystal ball but…

          I predict oil will average under $50 in 2020 and then under $40 in 2021…

          wild ash guess, who knows, could soar…

          but my highly subjective interpretation of 2019 economic news suggests that down is the probable direction…

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