Do the World’s Energy Policies Make Sense?

The world today has a myriad of energy policies. One of them seems to be to encourage renewables, especially wind and solar. Another seems to be to encourage electric cars. A third seems to be to try to move away from fossil fuels. Countries in Europe and elsewhere have been trying carbon taxes. There are also programs to buy carbon offsets for energy uses such as air travel.

Maybe it is time to step back and take a look. Where are we now? Where are we really headed? Have the policies implemented since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 had any positive impact?

Let’s look at some of the issues involved.

[1] We have had very little success in reducing CO2 emissions.

CO2 emissions for all countries, in total, have been spiraling upward, year after year.

World CO2 Emissions

Figure 1. Carbon dioxide emissions for the world, based on BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy.

If we look at the situation by part of the world, we see an even more concerning pattern.

Figure 2. Carbon dioxide emissions by part of the world through 2018, based on BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy. Soviet Empire is an approximation including Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, based on the BP report. It would not include Cuba and North Korea.

The group US+EU+Japan has been able to reduce its CO2 emissions by 5% since 2005. Emissions were slowly rising between 1981 and 2005. There was a dip at the time of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, followed by a downward trend. A person might get the impression that CO2 emissions for the EU tend to rise during periods when the economy is doing well and tend to fall when it is doing poorly.

The “star” in emissions reductions is the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites. I refer to this group as the Soviet Empire. Emissions fell around the time of the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union in 1991. This big decrease in emissions seems to be related to huge changes that took place at that time. Instead of one country with a single currency, the individual republics were suddenly on their own.

The high point in CO2 emissions for the Soviet Empire came in 1990, the year before the collapse of the Soviet Union central government. By 1999, emissions had fallen to a level 37% below their 1990 level. In fact, even in recent years, emissions for this group of countries has stayed low. Much industry collapsed and has never been replaced.

The group that has more than doubled its emissions is what I call the Remainder Group. The group includes many countries, including China and India, that ramped up their manufacturing and other heavy industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the World Trade Organization added members. The Remainder Group also includes many countries that suddenly found new export markets for their raw materials, such as oil, iron ore, and copper. The Remainder countries became richer; they became more able to pave roads and build more substantial homes for their citizens. With all of this GDP-related activity, CO2 emissions increased rapidly.

[2] Population growth has followed a pattern that is in some ways similar to CO2 growth. 

Figure 3. Population from 1965 to 2018, based on UN 2019 population estimates.

In Figure 3, we see that population has been virtually flat in the former Soviet Empire (2% growth between 1997 and 2018). With the economy not doing well, young people emigrate to countries that seem to provide better prospects.

Population in the US+EU+Japan Group grew by 11% between 1997 and 2018.

The group that is simply outstanding for population growth is the Remainder Group, with 35% growth between 1997 and 2018. A big part of this population growth comes from improved sanitation and basic medical care, such as antibiotics. With these changes, a larger percentage of the babies that are born have been able to live to maturity.

It is hard to see any bend in the trend lines, which would indicate that recent actions have actually changed the course of activity from the way it was headed previously. Of course, the trend is only “linear,” implying that the percentage growth is gradually slowing over time.

This rapidly growing population feeds into the CO2 problem as well. The many young people would all like food, homes and transportation. While it is possible to obtain some version of these desired products without fossil fuels, the version with fossil fuels tends to be vastly improved. Most people prefer homes with indoor plumbing and electricity, if given an opportunity, for example.

[3] Deforestation keeps growing as a world problem.

Figure 4. Chart showing World Bank estimates of share of world forested by economic grouping.

High Income Countries keep pushing the deforestation problem to the poorer parts of the world. Heavily Indebted Poor Countries are especially affected. Worldwide, deforestation continues to grow.

[4] With respect to fossil fuels, there is a great deal of confusion with respect to, “What do we need to be saved from?” 

Do we have a problem with too much or too little fossil fuel? We hear two different stories.

Figure 5. Author’s image of two trains speeding toward the world economy.

Climate modelers keep telling us about what could happen, if indeed we use too much fossil fuel. In fact, the climate currently is changing, bolstering this point of view.

It seems to me that there is an equally great danger of collapse, accompanied by low energy prices. For example, we know that energy production in the European Union has been declining for many years, without the countries being able to do anything about it.

We also know historically that many civilizations have collapsed. The Soviet Empire collapsed in 1991, illustrating one type of collapse. The Soviet Union was an oil exporter. Its collapse came after oil prices were too low to allow adequate investment in new oil fields for an extended period of time. The Great Recession of 2008-2009 offers a much smaller, temporary version of what collapse might look like.

Another example of low prices accompanying collapse comes from Revelation 18: 11-13, warning of possible collapse like that of ancient Babylon. The problem was inadequate demand and low prices; even the energy product of the day (human beings sold as slaves) had little value.

11 The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore— 12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.

What we have been seeing recently is falling prices and prices that are too low for producers. Such a result can lead to collapse if too many energy producers go bankrupt and quit.

Figure 6. Inflation adjusted weekly average Brent Oil price, based on EIA oil spot prices and US CPI-urban inflation.

If we are in danger of collapse from low prices, renewables would not seem to be of much assistance unless they (a) are significantly less expensive than fossil fuels and (b) can be scaled up sufficiently rapidly to more than replace fossil fuels. Neither of these seems to be a possibility.

[5] Early studies overestimated how much help renewables might provide, especially if our problem comes from too little energy supply rather than too much.

Renewables look like they would be great from many points of view, but when it comes down to the real world situation, they don’t live up to the hype.

One issue is that while wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and other devices for capturing energy are called “renewables,” they are really only available through the use of the fossil fuel system. They are made using fossil fuels. If a part breaks, or if insects eat away the insulation on wires, replacements need to be made using the fossil fuel system and transported using the fossil fuel system. At best, renewables should be considered fossil fuel extenders, using less fossil fuels than conventional electricity generation. They are also dependent on other resources, which may eventually deplete, but which are not a problem at this time.

A second issue is that it is extremely difficult to do a proper cost-benefit analysis on renewables because they can only be used as part of a larger system. They tend to look inexpensive, when viewed in isolation. But when total system costs are viewed, they often are quite expensive.

One difficulty in a proper cost-benefit analysis is the fact that renewables are often sited at quite a distance from where electricity is to be used, leading to the need for a significant number of long distance transmission lines. Furthermore, if renewables provide intermittent power, they need to be sized for the maximum output, not their average output. All of these long distance lines need to be properly maintained, or they tend to cause fires. In some instances, burying the lines underground at significant cost is the only solution. Somehow, these higher costs need to be recognized as part of the cost of the system, but this is rarely done.

Another difficulty in a proper cost-benefit analysis is the fact that renewables’  intermittency must be overcome, if the electricity is to be of benefit to a modern economy that requires electricity 24/7/365. In theory, we could greatly overbuild the renewables system and the transmission. This might work, but we would end up with a large percentage of the system that is not used most of the time, greatly adding to costs.

Batteries can be added, but the cost tends to be high. One commenter on my site recently observed:

EIA reports the average cost for utility scale battery systems to be about $1500 per kWh. At that rate the batteries needed for backing up a solar or wind facility for three days cost around 30 times as much as the RE facility. But wind is often unpowered for more like seven days, during huge stagnant high pressure episodes. Thus the backup battery cost is more like 100 times the wind farm cost. Batteries are not feasible.

The major intermittency problem is season-to-season, especially saving up enough for winter. We do not have a way, today, of storing energy from one season to another, short of making it into a liquid (such as ammonia), and storing the liquid from season to season. This would be another way of driving up costs of the overall system. It has not been included in anyone’s cost calculations.

For the time being, we are forcing nuclear and fossil fuel to provide backup electrical services to intermittent renewables without adequately compensating them for their services. This tends to drive them out of business. This is not an adequate solution either.

A third issue is that renewables really need to be “economic” to work. In other words, they need to generate a profit for their owners, when comparing the unsubsidized costs with the benefits of the system. In fact, their owners need to be able to pay fairly substantial taxes to governments, to cover their share of governmental costs as well. If renewables truly were providing substantial benefit to the system, their use would tend to “take off” on their own, because they would be providing “net energy” to the system. Instead, renewables tend to act like “energy sinks.” They need endless subsidies. They can never substitute for fossil fuels. In fact, they can’t even pay their own way.

A related issue is that, because of the high total costs (as well as their lack of true net energy benefits), it is almost impossible to ramp up the quantity of renewables such as wind and solar very high. The EU has been a big supporter of renewables other than hydroelectric. Figure 7 shows a chart of the EU’s own energy production, together with its energy imports.

EU Energy by Type and Whether Imported

Figure 7. EU energy by type and whether imported, based on data of BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy. Renewables are non-hydroelectric renewables such as wind, solar, and geothermal.

After at least 20 years of subsidies, the EU has been able to increase renewables (other than hydroelectric) to about 10% of its total energy supply. The EU’s oil imports are roughly level, and its natural gas imports have been increasing. Even with rapid growth in non-hydro renewables, the EU has been experiencing a decrease in total energy consumption.

[6] Looking at the actual outcomes, a person might ask, “What in the world were policymakers really thinking about?”

We are told that the reason policymakers made the decisions they did was because they thought that they could reduce CO2 emissions in this way. Really? If a person really wants to reduce CO2 emissions, it is easy to see how to do it. A person simply has to take steps in the direction of reducing global co-operation. One step would be to reduce international trade. Another would be to get rid of umbrella organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the United Nations and the European Union. In fact, within individual countries, the top level of government could be removed, leaving (for example) the provinces of Canada and the states of the United States. In other words, policymakers could push economies in the direction of collapse.

Another way collapse could be encouraged would be by rapidly raising interest rates or cutting off credit. With less purchasing power, the world would be pushed into recession.

At the time of the Kyoto Protocol, policymakers moved in precisely the opposite direction of pushing the economy toward collapse. They moved in the direction of adding international trade and more debt to enable the growth. The countries with greater trade had huge coal resources that had not been used. With the help of this coal, the world economy was able to continue to grow. This approach only made sense if the real problem at the time of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 was too little energy resources, not too much. The economy needed the stimulation that more low-cost energy and more debt could provide.

It is now more than twenty years later. The coal resources of China are starting to deplete. Coal is also causing serious ground-level pollution problems, both in China and India. Without growing coal production, world GDP growth starts slowing. We are again facing low oil prices and other commodity prices–a problem similar to the one present when the government of the Soviet Union collapsed. The world economy seems again to be headed toward having some of its governmental organizations collapse from inadequate energy. Political parties are becoming more extreme; countries are enacting new tariffs. If we go back to Figure 5, the concern should again be collapse, on the left side of the figure.

[7] The scenarios considered by the IPCC climate model need to be revisited.

A climate model looks to the past and tries to forecast what would happen in alternative “scenarios.” The concern I have is that the scenarios evaluated are not realistic. To get to the level of CO2 that would produce the most extreme scenarios, coal production would need to continue at a high level for many, many years. This seems unrealistic because world coal production has been fairly flat for several years, and prices tend to be lower than producers require if they are to stay in business. The likely direction for coal production seems to be down, rather than up.

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

In order for coal production to grow as much as the higher emission scenarios assume, there needs to be a major turnaround in the situation. World coal prices would need to rise substantially. In fact, coal in very difficult locations for extraction, such as under the North Sea, need to become profitable to extract. This situation seems very unlikely.

It seems to me that climate modelers should be considering more realistic scenarios regarding CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. One scenario which should be considered is the possible near term collapse of several governmental organizations, such as the European Union, World Trade Organization, and the governments of several oil exporting countries.

[8] The push toward renewables makes little sense without a firmer foundation than currently exists.

Early studies looked only at the cost of renewables themselves, without the cost of extra long-distance grid transportation and battery storage. Such an estimate makes renewables look far more valuable than they really are.

We now have enough experience that we can see what goes wrong. A hydroelectric plant that operates during the wet season in a tropical country may be of little practical use, for example, if there is no fossil fuel energy available to provide backup electricity production during the dry season. The total cost of the overlapping systems needs to be taken into consideration, including the need to hire staff year around for both the fossil fuel and hydroelectric facilities. Electricity transmission will likely be needed for both types of generation.

There are many other real-world examples that can be examined, before blanket “use renewables” recommendations should be issued. If renewables are not truly very inexpensive (around 2 cents per kWh or less), without subsidies, they are likely not to be long-lasting. Subsidies become more and more difficult to maintain, as a system scales up.

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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1,380 Responses to Do the World’s Energy Policies Make Sense?

  1. Dennis L. says:

    Got to thinking of stories told by my mother of her father and lighting on the farm, with some modern information came across this old information. It deals with lighting as well as graphically showing some solutions to street maintenance going forward. Spoiler alert on the street maintenance, a good pair of rubber boots might be useful.

    Dennis L.

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      ‘Wherever sedentism and agriculture took hold, from China to South and Central America, coercion by the powerful replaced cooperation among equals. In Jared Diamond’s blunt assessment, the Neolithic Revolution was “the worst mistake in the history of the human race.”
      https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-humanoid-stain-ehrenreich

      • Kowalainen says:

        Nature does not make mistakes. It is perfect and follows the processes defined by the laws of physics.

        The modern human is hell bent on opposing nature with all our collective might. But it does not work that way. Either we comply with the process of nature, or the process leaves us knee deep in the predicament we have created for ourselves.

        Yes, even that unfortunate outcome is part of the process. Now, do we ride the wave or end up slowly drowning in the wake from our idiotic “monkey do” dominator behaviors?

        We all know the answer to that, don’t we? But hey, look, Elon Musk just announced the stainless steel cyber truck. Buy, buy, buy..

        • Tim Groves says:

          Nature does not make mistakes. It is perfect and follows the processes defined by the laws of physics.

          Nature is just a social construct, surely.

          No, sorry, I thought you were referring to the he world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal that publishes the finest peer-reviewed research that drives … (well, that’s how it’s described on their website!)

          On reflection, I suppose you mean the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.

          Well, that’s a social construct too, surely.

          I could invent a noun, atim and an adjective atimical to mean all things and phenomena apart from my own personal creations, and that would be just as valid as the concept of nature, which doesn’t exist in nature but only in that tiny tortured organ between our ears that passes for a brain!

          Attempting to draw a meaningful distinction between things human and all other things in the Universe. HOW DARE YOU!!

          • Robert Firth says:

            I don’t think Kowalainen was trying to create a distinction between Man and Nature. We are part of Nature; to paraphrase John Donne, no species is an island. But we are part of the problem because many humans do not believe that; we believe we are, indeed, different. And as long as almost all of us embrace that belief, there is no way back to some mythical age “when wild in woods the noble savage ran”.

            The European Parliament has just voted to declare a Climate Emergency. Because we, and we alone, can save the climate. They do not realise that it was precisely that attitude, that hubris, that created our predicament.

          • Duncan Idaho says:

            So Greta is still pushing our right wings friends buttons?
            She doesn’t seem to go away–
            I wonder why?
            (sarc)

        • Chrome Mags says:

          “The modern human is hell bent on opposing nature with all our collective might.”

          With foot all the way down on the accelerator.

          “Now, do we ride the wave or end up slowly drowning in the wake from our idiotic “monkey do” dominator behaviors? We all know the answer to that, don’t we?”

          Sure do. It is clear those of our species making it through the impending bottleneck, will need to learn some very harsh lessons through crisis. And that’s if it is a bottleneck and not a brick wall.

          • Kowalainen says:

            There will be no lessons to be learned . The reset will be so deep and complete that there is total amnesia of what came before.

            Perhaps we could build some large structure as a message to future generations. Like, some large stone structure which will stand the test of time. And place it somewhere it does not rain that much, like in modern day Egypt perhaps.

            Wait a second.. Hold on a minute..

            • Robert Firth says:

              There is an important lesson we can learn from Ancient Egypt. Five thousand years ago, they built the first Nilometer. This measured the height of the annual Nile flood, and the priests then decided how much staple food to plant when the flood receded. In other words: work with Nature, not against her.

            • Kowalainen says:

              There is a few problems with that nostalgic story. Foremost: The priesthood and royal dynasties which inevitably will become corrupt and cruel. Just as the government industrial complex is becoming today.

              All decision making, knowledge and information should be distributed amongst the people. If they depart from following the rules of nature, then starvation and death quite naturally will correct that in a hurry.

              Mother nature is a rather good teacher and discipliner, we don’t need any modern day priesthood, corrupt and vulgar rulers expressing the worst aspects of primate behaviors as they seek to dominate others.

        • Xabier says:

          Should we be the tree trying to stand up to all storms without bending, and liable to shatter; or grass, yielding to each breeze and not breaking?

          First set out and debated in Chinese literature many centuries ago,….

          • Kowalainen says:

            Yet the oldest living beings on earth are trees, but they do not impose themselves on nature. In fact they are a micro ecosystem of their own, in complete harmony with nature.

            Some stand there for eons, through ice ages, meteor strikes, hurricanes, lightning strikes, earth quakes, firmly pointed at the stars as if they long for something more than earthly existence.

            “The root system of Pando, at an estimated 80,000 years old, is among the oldest known living organisms.”

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pando_(tree)

            Trees are eternal. The Chinese are not.

            • Xabier says:

              ‘Tree’ and ‘grass’ here function in a rhetorical and poetical sense only, of course. One musn’t be too literal…..

            • John Doyle says:

              Trees as a species are a lot older than grasses. 8 millions years for grasses, Hundreds of millions for trees. As if its anything but a curiosity?

            • Kowalainen says:

              Xabier, sometimes one must stand firm as the winds of change bends the grass.

        • Dennis L. says:

          Let’s think about “Nature does not make mistakes.”

          In cell replication, errors are made , cancer cells arise and proliferate at various rates, sometimes very slowly as with prostate cancer, sometimes very rapidly as with pancreatic cancer.

          In life species differ in fitness for the environment, the moth story in early industrialized England with white moths being rapidly preyed upon and brown moths blending into the soot is well known. At one point brown was a mistake, later, a beneficial error. Physics is not as deterministic as we like to think, if it be so, take classical physics and solve the three body problem, or at the other end, look at quantum mechanics.

          Humans wish a certitude, a good example is pension managers who insist upon a 7.7% return; they find someone who promises it and then wonder why things don’t work when the published growth rate of the economy is 3%.

          The process of nature is a much earlier death than we experience, the process of nature in my youth was the risk of polio, we conquered that part of nature with Salk vaccine. Politically, letting nature take its course might be a tough sell in an election.

          Dennis L.

          • Kowalainen says:

            My point being that the processes of nature and evolution specially does not make mistakes, our predicament is an outcome of a process which we label as problematic because it is bad for us, and indeed it is, but it is not a bug, it is a feature.

            Nature does experiment through the means of evolution. Nature does not make distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, we do. That is a fundamental problem of ours. If we would align our thought processes and actions closer to those of the governing principles of nature, we would experience less problems originating from ourselves and the prejudices we have.

            Indeed, we have to think in terms of the human condition as process and figure out how to suppress our terrible primate behaviors seeking to dominate others instead of inviting them as members in a competitive collaborative process.

            The market economy, common law and money is already invented and Internet is here, now where do we go from here? Straight to the abyss apparently, because as a primate with a bad habit of dominating others, that’s all we understand.

            YES INDEED – BAU TONIGHT BABY!

            As some of the more spiritual and educated of us occasionally shouts enthusiastically. 😉

            Regarding quantum physics, yes, most scientists think it is incomplete because it is fundamentally statistical in nature. The problem with relativity is who is the observer relative to and the conceptual misunderstanding between distance, clocks and time? Nobody mistakes a thermometer as temperature, yet clocks are used to define time itself. Also, why does cosmologist use unscientific, undefined, concepts such as zero division (black holes) in their quest for understanding nature. It is pseudoscience and esotericism.

            One thing seems quite clear; Gaia definitely turns mineral into complexity through the processes of evolution and life. I would conclude she desires complexity above all as a fundamental driving principle. And we can see evidence of it in the astonishing complexity in the biosphere of earth.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Kowalainen, just a few minor comments about quantum mechanics, a subject with which I have some familiarity, having studied it under Paul Dirac at the University of Cambridge. First, it is not statistical; conventional statistics predicts outcome probabilities that have been experimentally refuted. Klein’s review article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2010/808424 gives a brief (if dense) overview. Secondly, the “statistics” are in the interpretation, not the equations, and I know of at least two interpretations that disagree: Cramer’s “Transactional Interpretation”: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280926546_The_transactional_interpretation_of_quantum_mechanics, and Everett’s “Relative State”: http://jamesowenweatherall.com/SCPPRG/EverettHugh1957PhDThesis_BarrettComments.pdf.

              Finally, black holes are a prediction of relativity, which is still based on classical physics, and obsolete physics at that, from Michell in 1783 (!), which used the corpuscular theory of light. The supposed singularity is impossible in quantum mechanics; the Heisenberg indeterminacy principle prohibits it.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Thanks Robert, here is a few of my thoughts regarding QM. It is possibly nothing new, but anyway. ☺️

              There are many different interpretations of QM, thus it is flawed since it does not provide a definite understanding of the workings of nature.

              It might be such that a true interpretation is intractable to obtain for any physical device, natural or synthetic. Or the theory might be fundamentally flawed, just like the absurd epicycles cobbled together to form the geocentric system.

              Is the cat dead or alive, one might ponder. Did that atom spontaneously decay or was it already a part of the process together with the cat, the rest of the universe together with the measuring apparatus?

              The fundamental problem is that we can not conduct conclusive experiment on the fabric of the universe itself, because we are ourselves part of that fabric. As you state, “no man is an island”.

              It is a problem of reductionism. It is all interconnected and does not yield to be taken apart without consideration of all the other parts in the universe in which it itself is an integral part.

              QM is reductionism taken to its limit and it will not yield further inquiry. We must then come to the conclusion that our minds together with the measuring apparatus is an aperture in which the universe enters a logical infinite recursion at every point and instant forming the physical reality.

              The universe thus is beyond the realm of being computable since there is no means in which we can detach ourselves from the process itself, and what would that even mean if it was possible?

              That is a conclusion which I find plausible.

          • Tim Groves says:

            But every silver lining has a cloud.

            The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to a Growing Vaccine Crisis book review)

            In April 1955 more than 200 000 children in five Western and mid-Western USA states received a polio vaccine in which the process of inactivating the live virus proved to be defective. Within days there were reports of paralysis and within a month the first mass vaccination programme against polio had to be abandoned. Subsequent investigations revealed that the vaccine, manufactured by the California-based family firm of Cutter Laboratories, had caused 40 000 cases of polio, leaving 200 children with varying degrees of paralysis and killing 10.

            Paul Offit, paediatrician and prominent advocate of vaccination, sets the `Cutter incident’ in the context of the struggle of medical science against polio and other infectious diseases over the course of the 20th century. He reminds us that, within a decade of Karl Landsteiner’s identification of the polio virus in 1908, an epidemic in New York killed 2400 people (mostly children) and left thousands more with a life-long disability. In the 1950s, summer outbreaks in the USA caused tens of thousands of cases, leaving hundreds paralysed or dead. `Second only to the atomic bomb’, polio was `the thing that Americans feared the most’.

            Offit provides a gripping account of how the `March of Dimes’, inspired in part by President Franklin D Roosevelt’s personal experience of polio, raised funds for research and focused national attention on the disease. He profiles leading figures, notably Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin —brilliant, egotistical and flawed characters—pioneers in vaccine development and as scientific celebrities, and notorious for their bitter personal rivalry.

            Offit offers a balanced judgement on both the Cutter incident and on the Salk and Sabin vaccines. Reviewing failures in the manufacturing and inspection processes, he exonerates Salk from blame and concludes that `the federal government, through its vaccine regulatory agency… was in the best position to avoid the Cutter tragedy’. Three larger companies produced safe polio vaccines according to Salk’s protocol for inactivating the virus with formaldehyde. The lack of experience and expertise at Cutter Laboratories, undetected by the inspectors, caused the disaster.

            While acknowledging Salk’s mean-spiritedness towards colleagues, Offit believes that in denying him a Nobel prize, history has dealt harshly with a man who was `the first to do many things’ that have contributed to the virtual eradication of polio in the USA. The Cutter incident led to the replacement of Salk’s formaldehyde-treated vaccine with Sabin’s attenuated strain. Though Sabin’s vaccine had the advantages of being administered orally and of fostering wider `contact immunity’, it could also be re-activated by passage through the gut, resulting in occasional cases of polio (still causing paralysis in six to eight children every year in the 1980s and 1990s, when a modified Salk vaccine was re-introduced). As Offit observes, `ironically, the Cutter incident—by creating the perception among scientists and the public that Salk’s vaccine was dangerous —led in part to the development of a polio vaccine that was more dangerous’.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1383764/

          • Robert Firth says:

            For Kowalainen, to whom I cannot reply directly, and again about quantum mechanics.

            I respectfully disagree with your claim that QM must be incomplete. The numerous “interpretations” are not about QM, but about us: our attempt to understand what it all means. The equations are unambiguous; the interpretations are but shadows cast on the cave walls of our own imperfect understanding. I well remember the lecture when Dirac created the universe out of nothing, with one mathematical concept.

            But yes, you are right that while the mathematics is comprehensible, what it is telling us is perhaps beyond our understanding. It is certainly beyond mine; and I remember all his students of quantum field theory would leave the lecture hall with haunted looks, and speak not a word.

            But one lesson did sink home: everything is connected to everything else, by the quantum entanglement that is perhaps the basis for Jung and Pauli’s “synchronicity”. And therefore, if there is a “higher power”, it is emergent, not transcendent. It is the Cosmos becoming aware of itself.

            And by the way, time is not measured by clocks: that is one of Einstein’s (many) errors. Time is measured by the wavelength of the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is a universal standard of absolute rest and absolute time.

            • Kowalainen says:

              I respectfully disagree. Time is fictional.

              Time can not be created by anything physical. It can not be altered, defined and definitively measured. We have no choice but to measure time by its definition, which these days is an atomic clock.

              The infinite recursion of the total interdependence of the universe is timeless. As observers of and from the universe we are apertures which the universe looks upon itself, is in itself an infinite recursion. The mirror which mirrors itself. The camera which points at the display.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Kowalainen, thank you for your response, with which I might disagree, but in which I find no fault that might refute you. Perhaps we are both blind men groping the elephant, so let us continue the conversation.

            • Kowalainen says:

              It would be easier if you just agree with me. But where is the fun in that. A little bit of irritation to rile people up is like the impulse response of a system. You sort of get the gist of the inner workings without having to pick them apart.

              😎

    • DB says:

      Thank you for posting this. There’s nothing like getting a glimpse of life in the past as it unfolded in real time. I especially liked the special effects of the service man shinnying up the pole as if by magic. Maybe they staged the scene by filming in reverse action?

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Investors are pulling back from the riskiest parts of the US corporate bond market, fearing that a brightening domestic economy may not be enough to save hundreds of companies struggling under heavy debt burdens.

    “Corporate bond markets have enjoyed a big rally this year, buoyed by a trio of interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve and by signs that the world’s largest economy is on a solid footing.

    “An index of junk-rated debt run by Ice Data Services has returned almost 12 per cent this year, as bullish fund managers look lower down the credit spectrum in pursuit of income. But in those furthest reaches there are signs of strain…

    ““Beneath the surface of what looks like . . . an enthusiasm for taking credit risk, there is a consciousness that all is not rosy,” said Marty Fridson, chief investment officer of Lehmann Livian Fridson Advisors in New York.Three years ago, pain among US companies with junk ratings was mostly limited to companies in the energy sector, which was grappling with a steep fall in the price of crude. Now distressed borrowers are spread more widely…

    ““The macro picture is not great,” said Fraser Lundie, head of credit at Hermes Investment Management. “Clearly, low-quality credit requires a good economy to grow into its capital structure.””

    https://www.ft.com/content/f715e496-1102-11ea-a7e6-62bf4f9e548a

  3. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The ‘catastrophic consequences’ of this debt pile are widely predicted by experts.

    “The Aspen Institute describes the situation as a crisis, and claims that unprecedented levels of debts (and defaults) in the US will ‘impact at every level: individual, family, community, and for the nation as a whole’.

    “It believes that the bubble will burst and, when it does, prison numbers will rise, healthcare will be unaffordable and governments will be ‘forced’ to bail out banks and individuals without the means to support themselves.””

    https://metro.co.uk/2019/11/27/consumer-debt-doomsday-levels-meaning-economy-will-come-crashing-11202758/

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “A financial crisis that left in its wake deflationary price pressures, low productivity, stagnant incomes, a spike in populism, a backlash against globalization: if that all sounds familiar, you may not like the following insight.

      “It comes from Dario Perkins, global macro economist for TS Lombard, who, in a Wednesday note, described the historical period he thinks most resembles the current moment. That era is called, a bit bleakly, the Long Depression, and stretched from 1873 to about 1896, depending on the country.”

      https://www.marketwatch.com/story/are-we-in-for-a-repeat-of-the-long-depression-2019-11-27

      • This is the long-term productivity growth chart shown.

        When I look back at my history of population growth and energy consumption growth net of population growth, the period 1873 to 1896 seems to be a period of low energy consumption growth net of population growth. Energy consumption growth was growing as fast as it had in the recent past, or faster. The problem was that population was growing almost as fast.

        I think that the exacerbating problem was the larger number of children who lived to maturity and mothers who survived childbirth when we learned about the germ theory and pasteurization.

        Pasteurization is the process of heating a liquid to below the boiling point to destroy microorganisms. It was developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864 to improve the keeping qualities of wine.

        Also, Ignaz Semmelweis in Austria made the discovery that if the doctor washed his hands before delivering babies, the maternal mortality rate was much lower, about this time.

        But population growth, without accompanying energy consumption growth was not good.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          when I look at that long-term productivity growth chart, I get the feeling that the downward slope on the right side will not change course until it is well into negative territory…

          so we will be in a trend that is worse than the Long Depression of 1873-1896…

          I suppose some persons might think the growth could go to negative 100% quite soon…

          a few % negative through the 2020s and 2030s might give about the same result…

        • Ano737 says:

          Gail, how do you distinguish between burst financial bubbles causing reduced energy use vs reduced energy abundance causing financial crises?

          • Self-organizing systems act through many mechanisms at the same time. So I am not certain that it is necessarily possible to distinguish between different types of financial crises.

            The big distinction I see in financial crises is
            (1) Fast crash from high oil and other commodity prices – affecting oil importers especially
            (2) Slow crash from low oil and other commodity prices – affecting exporters of commodities, and also companies making goods with commodities.

            We are experiencing the “slow crash” now. The 2008 version was the fast crash type.

            Reduced energy use can come from either increased wage disparity (with low prices) or from a popping debt bubble. A popping debt bubble can occur whenever there is a slowdown in economic growth locally.

            Reduced energy abundance mostly comes from businesses going bankrupt or their governments collapsing. I don’t think it happens otherwise. As long as prices can rise, it always looks as though energy is becoming more abundant. This is when looked at on a world basis; individual countries will show their production “peaking.” Too much importance has been attached to this phenomenon. I think it is mostly a figment of the imagination of “Peak Oilers.”

            • Ano737 says:

              Thanks. Do you think it’s possible that a financial crisis arise simply from excessive speculation especially when it’s fed with easy money (ha! No pun intended) even when there are no underlying enerrgy/commodity problems? Of course, there will always be a stated trigger, but that doesn’t make it correct. To me it seems possible (e.g. tulip mania) but I haven’t looked at enough historical data to be certain.

    • In fact, a person wonders whether governments and financial institutions can withstand the threat the Aspen Institute describes.

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        Right. The scenario they describe is not compatible with the continued functioning of the global financial system and the complex supply-chains it enables.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          Right… and what is left unsaid, but which I often like to say, is that this “debt pile” is piling ever higher because there is less net (surplus) energy flowing through the global economic system and thus that system is losing its ability to make adequate profits which would go a long way to keeping debt levels down…

          runaway debt is a signal of decreasing energy…

          there, I said it again…

        • Robert Firth says:

          Probably true. But I think the world would be a far better place if gloval finance disappeared, and supply chains became much simpler and shorter. Long supply chains really make sense only for luxuries unavailable elsewhere: silk, for example.

          • Global supply chains require huge amounts of fossil fuels. If goods and people stay at home, much less transportation fuel is required.

            • Kowalainen says:

              The means of production would also become part of the local ecosystem, thus pollution would directly be visible locally and not masked by moving factories elsewhere where the corrupt govt don’t give a rats ass about ruining the environment.

    • okboomerfromOK says:

      meh. So what else is new. Money is debt. If you have 10,000 dollars in the bank you own 10,000 dollars of debt. The cure for debt is … more debt. “debt” is lending debt. The only way all this was not debt was energy surpluses. Thats gone. How about storing the waste from a nuclear power plant for half life of 24,000 years? Five times the age of the pyramids. Who is going to pay that energy debt “borrowed” for energy now? No one because the energy doesnt exist to pay the debt. Same for all debt. As long as energy gets extracted debt payments are payable. As soon as it doesnt payments of all sorts end.. Our entire species is in debt. Debt is simply a aspect of the ponzi tale of endless energy. Yes a Gail has shown borrowing allows things. And now the lending borrowing thing persists even as it no longer has any hope of recovering the energy it lends now because it allows continuance. The cure for debt is more debt. Thats easy. No energy not so much.

      • Robert Firth says:

        “Money is debt”? Ah yes, MMT strikes again. Debt can indeed be a medium of exchange, but, almost by definition, it cannot be a store of value. And it is that attribute of sound money that created capitalism. Which debt and fiat money are busily destroying, much to the advantage of those who issue debt, and so steal the future of the little people who naively thought that thrift would still be rewarded.

    • ssincoski says:

      Regarding that quote, most of it is probably true except for the part about bailing out individuals without the means to support themselves. Unless they mean sending them to prison.

      • Robert Firth says:

        One part of “bailing out people” was to send them food stamps. A typical “welfare” program, to hand out tokens for goods that do not exist, in the belief that they will appear by magic. And so, food prices in places of “extreme poverty” (meaning, places where the people are richer than only 90% of the world’s population) began a steady climb, eventually erasing any supposed benefit.

        And again as usual, the failure is blamed by liberals on insufficient funding, and by conservatives on “waste, fraud and abuse”. Both trying to evade the true problem, that the failure is intrinsic to the process.

  4. Harry McGibbs says:

    Can’t imagine that this is going to help trade talks:

    “Donald Trump has signed into law legislation backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, angering Beijing which has condemned the bill as “full of prejudice and arrogance”.

    ““This is a pure interference in China’s internal affairs,” China’s ministry of foreign affairs said on Thursday, hours after the bill was signed by Trump.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/nov/27/trump-hong-kong-bills-signed-china-protest

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “China summoned U.S. Ambassador Terry Brandstad on Thursday to demand that the United States stop interfering with its internal affairs immediately.”

      https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7733415/Trump-signs-bills-support-Hong-Kong-protesters.html

      • okboomerfromOK says:

        How about the concentration camps China has for ethnic minorities? name any other country that wouldnt be sanctioned hard for that. Besides that one of course… Yup just make doing business with China illegal via santions… LOL. There is no solution for the “trade war”. Might as well put China on the non approved list. Vietnam investments looking good!

        • Robert Firth says:

          It would be more accurate to call them a religious minority, not an ethnic minority. And perhaps China feels that suicide bombers, homicidal truck drivers, machete wielding fanatics, and rape gangs targeting underage girls are not what they want in their country. France, Sweden, Germany and Britain, observe and learn.

          • China has tried to be anti-religious, and this seems to be part of its efforts in this direction. The government, in a sense, wants to put together a new order to doing things that is different from religious values. A person does what he can get away with. It is the role of the state to monitor everyone, and give people some sort of value points.

            The US economy is shifting into this role as well. Keep all sorts of religions out of the schools. All sporting events at all times of the weekend. Teachers are not to talk about what is good or bad. Poor families are terribly unstable; they rarely stay together if they actually do marry. Jobs that are available to this group are at irregular hours and pay poorly. They make normal family life impossible.

            At the same time, private citizens, businesses, and governmental groups put monitoring cameras everywhere. Software is increasing used to sort out who is a good person and who is not, according to whatever criterion seem to work. Using this approach, a mentally ill person can be characterized as a bad person, hampering his or her ability to get a job, even if treatment helps fix the situation.

          • Tim Groves says:

            It would be more accurate to call them a religious minority, not an ethnic minority.

            Neither OK Boomer nor you Robert have specified who “them” are.

            If, as I suspect, OK Boomer was referring to the Uyghurs and the Tibetans, then even the Chinese government acknowledges them as ranking among China’s 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities.

            Suicide bombers, homicidal truck drivers, machete wielding fanatics, and rape gangs targeting underage girls are a minority among almost every ethnic group I can think of. Obviously, the Chinese government takes a very dim view of anybody who challenges its monopoly on violence, and if it catches individuals doing any of these things, it will result in the miscreants’ losing valuable points in the social credit system, possibly leading to no more pudding after Sunday lunch.

    • Trump’s signature cannot help our relationship with China.

      • Dennis L. says:

        Looking at today’s headlines, they are pretty busy with what is on their plate, not enough pork in the world, one has to wonder about grain as well; yesterday at dinner heard of a fellow with 3,000 acres of corn still in the field, there is snow on the ears.
        China basically sold to the US while we used our accrued wealth as a backup to the CC and purchased stuff. As witnessed by the disappearance of so many retailers, that gig is pretty well over, they are short people who can and will buy their stuff.

        If Hong Kong is truly that important to China, from the little I saw some years ago while there, the resource is the people. If they cease to cooperate, having the beatings continue until the morale improves might not work.

        When one owns capital that requires people, it is the owner’s who are hostage to the capital as without skilled people it is just so much non productive stuff. Today’s world requires skilled people who can work as teams, even in a placed as seemingly simple as the Menards of the world.

        • Kowalainen says:

          Yes, good luck finding skilled people these days, specially good engineers. The slightest whiff of incompetent stewardship, bad pay, and people are out looking around on LinkedIn.

          But it is good comedy working for an almost totally disorganized company. All the bad choices, lack of basic systems engineering, managers focusing on irrelevant details because they don’t understand the full picture of a complex project scope, the (awful) design which is intractable to grasp. Then experiencing the inevitable reorganization as the customers had enough of the chaos and incompetence. LOLZ. “Sayonara” suckers!

          Once behind, it is almost impossible to catch up without poaching skilled people from competitors and compensating them sufficiently enough. But not even that might be enough, because nobody wants their work to be part of a shit-show amateur hour.

          “We can’t find good people”, seems to be the current trope in corporate Sweden. Yeah, it is because you suck. Nobody wants to work for you.

          • Robert Firth says:

            I have been there. This disease in endemic in modern companies: managers who are ignorant, incompetent, arrogant, and in consequence destructive. And it can be traced back to one man, Frederick Winslow Taylor. Fortunately, there is a cure: bankruptcy. Unfortunately, there is a prophylactic: debt, which allows zombie companies to live well beyond the point where traditional economics would have buried them at the crossroads.

            Another feature of Modern Monetary Theory: the unsuccessful should be able to parasitise the successful, until both fall into the abyss. As was prophetically (if boringly) foretold in “Atlas Shrugged”

  5. JT Roberts says:

    As I had posted previously. CO2 is not the primary greenhouse gas. H2O is. Anyone who has been out on a cloudy night can testify that it is warmer than a clear sky. That is why deserts rapidly cool at night because there is no water vapor to reflect radiation back down.

    If all water vapor was removed our earth would be 30 deg cooler. Not true of CO2 which would be maybe 6 degrees. So instead of looking at CO2 maybe we should be looking at water vapor. Has there been an increase in water vapor in the atmosphere?

    Yes and in an unnatural place. The lower stratosphere. Commercial aviation has exploded in the last 60 years and all modern jets fly just above the troposphere. And everyone here who has flown knows it’s true because we look down on the clouds. Water vapor generally stops at that level. However jet aircraft are emitting millions of tons of water vapor above it. And is very slow to drift down.

    Historical readings show that the lower stratosphere has been increasing in humidity and the upper stratosphere has been cooling. Meaning heat is being reflected lowering the air above it.

    CO2 is likely just political hype driven by big business. I’m sure the air industry would fight hard not to be sanctioned like the oil industry.

    • Herbie R Ficklestein says:

      Is it just a political hype!? Just because H2O is a primary Greenhouse gas, does not mean other greenhouse gases are not a factor.
      I suggest just do a simple goggle search to debunk your reasoning.
      Here is a link …
      https://skepticalscience.com/CO2-is-not-the-only-driver-of-climate-intermediate.htm

      • JT Roberts says:

        The fact the article ignores water vapor which is 60% of warming shows it’s a poor reference.

        You might need to google some more.

          • JT Roberts says:

            From the article

            But while water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, it has “windows” that allow some of the infrared energy to escape without being absorbed. In addition, water vapor is concentrated lower in the atmosphere, whereas CO2 mixes well all the way to about 50 kilometers up. The higher the greenhouse gas, the more effective it is at trapping heat from the Earth’s surface.

            My point is water vapor is being introduced in the upper atmosphere where it doesn’t belong. 36,000ft

            Nice article

            • Tim Groves says:

              I haven’t researched this in detail, but I wonder whether much of the green-housing potential usually attributed to water vapor is actually the work of small particles of condensed water such as fog or mist?

              Country folk observe that very cold nights are usually very clear, offering excellent resolution of faint objects in the night sky, such as the Milky Way, the Pleiades, the Andromeda Nebula, etc. The same atmospheric very clear atmospheric conditions in daytime result in strong sunshine.

              Water vapor by itself in the form of individual molecules floating in the air is invisible. It doesn’t block visible light. Only when it condenses into particles is the blocking effect apparent to the naked eye.

              And it is under the same conditions that visible light is not blocked and the sky is very clear that outgoing UV is not blocked and the nights become very cold.

              It may be that two effects, one from individual water molecules and another from small particles of water, are at work, but I’ve not seen any discussion of this.

    • Mike Roberts says:

      CO2 is not the primary greenhouse gas. H2O is.

      Regardless of that fact, it is the increase in CO2 that is the additional forcing causing current warming. Much has been written about this, so it’s surprising it still comes up.

      • Kowalainen says:

        The amount of ink laid down on paper is not a proof of the quality of the underlying assumptions.

        “And yet it moves”
        — Galileo Galilei

        • Herbie R Ficklestein says:

          Seems some folks don’t realize proof is in the realm of mathematics, in science it is based on the scientific method, in addition to observations, experimentations, data collection and evidence.
          Thus,
          Without naturally occurring greenhouse gases, Earth’s average temperature would be near 0°F (or -18°C) instead of the much warmer 59°F (15°C). The concentration of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide and methane, has fluctuated naturally over geological time scales.
          https://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/ma_01/

          These are trace gases
          In order, the most abundant greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are:
          Water vapor (H. 2O)
          Carbon dioxide (CO. …
          Methane (CH. …
          Nitrous oxide (N. 2O)
          Ozone (O. …
          Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
          Hydrofluorocarbons (includes HCFCs and HFCs

          The atmosphere is composed of a mix of several different gases in differing amounts. … Nitrogen accounts for 78% of the atmosphere, oxygen 21% and argon 0.9%. Gases like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane, and ozone are trace gases that account for about a tenth of one percent of the atmosphere.

          • Mike Roberts says:

            Are you saying that because the amount of heat trapping gases is small that a slight increase can’t possibly have any discernible effect? I don’t think that is mathematics and hundreds of thousands of scientists would disagree with that hypothesis, and be able to show why.

            • Herbie R Ficklestein says:

              I’m not saying at all. Perhaps contacting the above link and inquiry with them if need be!
              P.S. Without trace greenhouse gases the planet would be an ice all.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Hey Mike why not stop with your dumb appeals to authority and appeal to majority fallacies.

              Yes indeed, stop being an useful idiot to the crackpottery of modern day climate “science”.

        • Robert Firth says:

          Ah yes, the famous “eppur si muove”. In three words, Galileo had overturned the several thousand words penned by the Church condemning the heliocentric theory. And the whole controversy was in vain, because Aristarkhos of Samos had propounded the same theory in about 150BC, and published in the Library of Alexandria his proof that it was correct. As you can see for yourselves: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aristarchus_working.jpg

          • Kowalainen says:

            Probably older civilizations preceding his also drew the same conclusion.

            The church of the past is modern day climate “science”, albeit not as cruel and horrible. “Monkey do” shenanigans cranked to 11.

            • The church of the past provided jobs and a place to live for a lot of “extra” children (beyond the first son and daughter). In fact, building cathedrals provided employment for a lot of folks who otherwise would not have been employed. Selling indulgences was a way of getting the wealthy to “voluntarily” contribute money that could be spread around to the many people the church employed, plus perhaps some others.

              I have do not agree with the teaching of the Catholic Church, but I can see that it has served valuable functions over time.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Cheap labor by promoting the virtue of reproduction. As the Catholic Church still is busying themselves with today.

              Nothing wrong with that in the dawn of fossil fuels, for a little while, but prior to that amidst crop failure and bad harvests, it is a recipe for malnutrition, drudgery, starvation and outright slavery to the church and local overlord. The government corporate complex of the olden days.

              But make no mistake, I do not condemn people for being religious and spiritual, it is organized and politicized religion that is awful. If people find their own purpose in life from the teachings of Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha and Brahman. Then good for them.

          • Kowalainen says:

            Speaking of the scientific method, the crank in the video below apparently states that falsifiability is not really that important and that the university labs are a fun playground where project plans and timelines enters the realm of spooky action at a distance freestyle “science”.

            The old guard must be turning in their graves. This quack can not give one definitive answer. The interviewer was thoroughly confused.

            But wait, there is more from this crank.

  6. Herbie R Ficklestein says:

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
    Let’s be thankful we are NOT small family size farmers!
    They’re Trying to Wipe Us Off the Map.’ Small American Farmers Are Nearing Extinction
    Alana Semuels / Fremont, Wisc.
    TimeNovember 27, 2019, 1:16 PM EST
    For nearly two centuries, the Rieckmann family has raised cows for milk in this muddy patch of land in the middle of Wisconsin. Mary and John Rieckmann, who now run the farm and its 45 cows, have seen all manners of ups and downs — droughts, floods, oversupplies of milk that sent prices tumbling. But they’ve never seen a crisis quite like this one.

    The Rieckmanns are about $300,000 in debt, and bill collectors are hounding them about the feed bill and a repayment for a used tractor they bought to keep the farm going. But it’s harder than ever to make any money, much less pay the debt, Mary Rieckmann says, in the yellow-wallpapered kitchen of the sagging farmhouse where she lives with her husband, John, and two of their seven children. The Rieckmanns receive about $16 for every 100 pounds of milk they sell, a 40 percent decrease from six years back. There are weeks where the entire milk check goes towards the $2,100 monthly mortgage payment. Two bill collectors have taken out liens against the farm. “What do you do when you you’re up against the wall and you just don’t know which way to turn?” Rieckmann says, as her ancient fridge begins to hum. Mary, 79, and John, 80, had hoped to leave the farm to their two sons, age 55 and 50, who still live with them and run the farm. Now they’re less focused on their legacy than about making it through the week.

    In the American imagination, at least, the family farm still exists as it does on holiday greeting cards: as a picturesque, modestly prosperous expanse that wholesomely fills the space between the urban centers where most of us live. But it has been declining for generations, and the closing days of 2019 find small farms pummeled from every side: a trade war, severe weather associated with climate change, tanking commodity prices related to globalization, political polarization, and corporate farming defined not by a silo and a red barn but technology and the efficiencies of scale. It is the worst crisis in decades. Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies were up 12 percent in the Midwest from July of 2018 to June of 2019; they’re up 50 percent in the Northwest. Tens of thousands have simply stopped farming, knowing that reorganization through bankruptcy won’t save them. The nation lost more than 100,000 farms between 2011 and 2018; 12,000 of those between 2017 and 2018 alone.
    Small isn’t beautiful Baby in the eyes of BAU….

    Very sure after the corporate farm takes over, the job openings will provide a nice living

    Enjoy your meal

    • okboomerfromOK says:

      Round here the farmers sons drive brand new camaros at 16. The Mennonites live in mansions. If you own family farming land pretty hard to not make a $.

      • What do farmers grow in Oklahoma? Or, are they getting their money from renting their land for wind turbines? The subsidies for wind turbines end up in many places. Farmers are big recipients.

  7. Herbie R Ficklestein says:

    Truly astounding…indeed…same can be said of humans worldwide…

    https://news.yahoo.com/truly-astounding-inside-farallon-islands-110036009.html?bcmt=1
    First introduced by sailors in the late 19th century, the Farallones’ mouse population has exploded in recent years, reaching numbers that have been described as “plague-like”. Researchers arriving for months-long stints on the islands find they must share their space with a colony of scurrying neighbors whose density can reach a whopping 1,200 mice per acre – reportedly the highest rodent density of any island in the world.

    “Sometimes you’ll see the ground moving as mice are burrowing their little tunnels underneath,” said Pete Warzybok, a senior marine ecologist who leads conservation research in the Farallones. “The numbers are truly astounding.”

    The question of how best to solve the growing rodent problem has created a decade-long conservation drama, with scientists, federal agencies, and activist groups each convinced they know the best way to build a better mousetrap.
    That is in part because of how difficult it is to wipe out a rodent population. “We have to get every last one,” Warzybok said. If even one male and female were left alive, the population would bounce back quickly.

  8. Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

    Orlov with an excellent and highly entertaining article (and not behind his paywall!) about the greater threat to humanity of globbal coooling:

    http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2019/11/avoiding-coming-ice-age.html#more

    ice ages have dominated the past and are far worse to human life than the opposite…

    a timely article…

    Happy Thanksgiving Day… thanks BAU…

    • dolph says:

      The problem with Orlov is that he is too pro Russian. He has a fanatical hatred of America.
      I don’t like America, but I try not to let that cloud my judgment. The past 10 years have done nothing but prove that there is of yet no alternative to America, and none on the horizon. To all the Russia and China lovers, my message is, show me the goods. And when confronted they have no response, because neither Russia nor China has a global reserve currency, global reach, or much in the way of international prestige.
      But any day now the ruble or yuan is going to replace the dollar, right? Any day now Russia and China will announce some great military action? Any day now the world will be speaking Russian and Mandarin and not English? Watching Russian movies? Eating Chinese fast food?
      Russia and China, the best, the brightest, the essential nations?
      Just listen to yourselves.

      • Sven Røgeberg says:

        Dolph, could you please relate to what Orlov writes in the article and not confound that with your own obsessions.

      • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

        yes, I also have problems with his biases, but since he has discovered that he can monetize his ideas by writing in English while being anti-English-speaking-world, and thus gaining a fan base of some 2,000+ monthly donors, I don’t see him stopping with his pro-Russia anti-west ideas…

        the irony that his income is mostly from the west is quite amusing…

        but putting that aside, I enjoyed this well thought article about the threatt to humans of globbal coooling and the obvious danger of another ice age…

        he even claims that the world is essentially still in an ice age of sorts, with lots of ice at both poles of course…

        the earth right now is much cooler than when it was in one of its many ice free periods…

        good article…

        ignore the biases of the author…

        • Kowalainen says:

          The anti-Americanism is rampant. How ironic is it that Orlov’s platform and online following is enabled by American technology.

          They are beating the ‘proudly made in America’ anti US drum furiously, while hating the sound it makes.

          The US should not only place tariffs, but demand that all technology exported should be shipped back home to the mothership. It would make great landfill and silence the buffoons.

      • beidawei says:

        Sure, Putin is a thug, but the alternative may be the collapse of Russia (which was well underway under Yeltsin). Maybe the same is true for China, I dunno. I hate Xi Jinping and the PRC, but have to admit that a collapsing China might be even scarier. The Dalai Lama thinks it will democratize within his lifetime (he’s 84), which seems wildly optimistic, to say the least.

        China has quite a bit of soft power these days, although it may have peaked in 2019. (Or not–who knows?) Few people find Russia attractive, except perhaps Orthodox Christians (except Greeks) and white nationalists, and their interest is largely based on fantasy. Also migrant workers from countries which are even worse off, like Tajikistan. On the other hand, Russia is better placed than most countries to survive a global collapse (which would make the rest of the world more like Russia today!), and some Russians dream about leading Western civilization in the aftermath. Of course they’ll be about one-third Muslim by then, demographics being what they are…

    • I will have to admit that Dmitry expresses the way I feel about the situation as well. The climate change story is so oversold today that it comes across as a religion. Anyone who has looked at past history can tell that we are pushing our luck, staying away from a major ice age for as long as we have. The green spots are the fairly warm periods.

      The current warm period is already longer than recent past warm periods. As Dmitry says, we are due for an ice age, “Any century now.”

      Dmitry says,

      Luckily, there is something we can do to push off the next age by at least half a million years: burn more fossil fuels. According to some calculations, the amount of fossil fuels burned to date is nowhere near sufficient; to get the desired effect, we would have to triple that amount.

      I don’t know if this is true or not. It very well could be. In his final paragraph he says,

      Ice age avoidance seems like a wonderful new priority. Climate scientists will still get to scare the shit out of everyone—enough to keep the grant money flowing—plus they’ll make themselves popular with all the people who are currently shivering from the cold and are finding their global warming message unimpressive.

      I get sick and tired of hearing about climate change and what we supposedly could/should do to stop it. There is an awfully lot of grant money made possible by all of the concern about climate change. There are also huge subsidies for wind and solar, hidden in the US tax system and in transmission costs. We are dealing with a huge money-making machine that feeds off the belief that climate change is not only real, but fixable by humans. It would be nice to find a different money-making machine, to substitute for the current over-used one. Looking into preventing the next ice age would seem to be a worthwhile activity to do instead!

      • Mike Roberts says:

        I think the climate crisis only comes across as a religion for those who are trying to dismiss the science. Many of those would claim to be followers of an actual religion, though that’s not always the case.

        Subsidies for fossil fuels far outweigh subsidies for renewables, so that seems a specious argument. As long as those subsidies exist, it is unlikely that any dent will be made in the use of fossil fuels.

        The main reason you keep reading about climate change is that absolutely nothing of significance is being done to address it. As this is likely a situation that will persist for some time, I’m afraid you’ll have to get used to reading more about climate change. And it gives you something to write about!

        • No, subsidies for fossil fuels don’t outweigh those for fossil fuels. Countries tend to get a disproportionate share of their taxes from fossil fuels, so it works the other direction for them. The figures regarding subsidies for fossil fuels that a person often reads about relate to a special situation in many/most oil exporting countries. Oil exporters typically produce their oil for a low amount (say $20 per barrel) and sell it for a higher amount ($50 to $120 per barrel). Most of the difference goes into tax revenue. Exporting countries often give local citizens a lower price on oil that is sold locally. In effect, they waive this high tax for their local citizens. This is reported as a large “subsidy” for local citizens.

          US subsidies for fossil fuels go to people who cannot afford fuel in winter. They are not a huge amount.

          Wind and solar subsidies amount to most of the cost. It becomes impossible to even figure our what the true total cost is. The total cost escalates as more is added, because their intermittency must be offset to a greater and greater degree. The cost goes far beyond the wind turbines and solar panels themselves. It includes all of the extra transmission lines. These transmission lines need to be lightly used, because of the variability of the generation. The cost also includes the need for battery storage, as the share of electricity from intermittent sources rises. Part of the cost is the electricity which cannot be used by the system, because there is no “demand” for it at the time it is generated. Part of the cost, too, is the foregone tax revenue that would be collected, if they were taxed like fossil fuels. Of course, their problem is that they cannot possibly be sold at a high enough price that their services could be properly taxed.

          The subsidies for renewables tend to bring down the pricing for all fuels used as backup generation, leading to an earlier end of the overall electrical system.

          Fossil fuels, at least historically, have been about to produce “net energy.” This is what has allowed them to pay high taxes. Wind and solar that seem to be net energy sinks, when all costs are included. In fact, the more you add, the worse the situation becomes.

          Europe doesn’t hide the total cost of wind and solar in tax revenue, the way the US does. On the chart below, the dotted line is the wholesale price of electricity.You can see how it is very low, and headed downward. The retail price of electricity, including the transmission cost, is the higher prices shown. The price backup electricity providers obtain becomes very low, in this arrangement. It drives them out of business.

          • Mike Roberts says:

            You might be right, Gail; maybe the reported numbers for subsidies are wildly out but the general impressions seems to be that subsidies for FF are far greater than for renewables. Certainly, the cost of the effects of burning fossil fuels is not included in the price and represents a huge subsidy as we, and future generations, will all have to pay a huge price in future.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Mike, the production and use of fossil fuels is taxed at several levels. In the case of the US for gasoline and diesel there are state and federal taxes the are paid by the end-purchaser. Governments everywhere are addicted to the revenue stream these taxes provide.

              I’ve never heard of any taxes on solar panels or wind turbines; only subsidies for installing them, subsidized guaranteed high prices for the electricity they provide, plus the all-important subsidy of going first.

              The effects of burning fossil fuels include feeding, clothing, housing, educating and saving from slavery and drudgery for billions of people like your good self, who would otherwise be forced to toil in the fields, grind at the mill, hew wood or draw water all day every day for a miserable existence with few prospects for lucrative employment and no chance of your dreams being realized or your future being rosy.

              Actually, I would love to see you and others like you—who are clamoring so persistently for an end to using fossil fuels—I would love to see your wishes granted. If I ruled the world, everyday would be the first day of spring… And everybody who complained about fossil fuels would get to live without them so that you could experience the consequences of what you were agitating for.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              I have to smile at the last paragraph (at least) but it also makes me angry because there seems to have been no attempt at critical thinking. Calling for those who appear to advocate for a simpler existence to just go off and live that simple existence completely ignores the world we live in.

              It’s also odd how many of those who comment here and know that a) economies will collapse fairly soon and b) fossil fuels will inevitably decline in the not too distant future, rail at those who appear to be advocating for exactly the situation that the railer knows will exist in future. Their main beef seems to be that someone wants it to happen a bit earlier, even if that is for good reason (to maintain a habitable planet for future generations).

              Of course I know the consequences of a rapid reduction in the use of fossil fuels; I understand that much more than those who pretend that the economy can go from strength to strength if only we embraced renewables for everything. So there is no need to point it out. But what we’re doing to life on this planet is ultimately far worse than collapsing economies.

            • I’m sorry. Renewables don’t give us anything except a way to use more fossil fuels now. Embracing them is in no way helpful, except from the point if view of those who stand to benefit from them, for example, farmers getting fees for wind turbines on their land.

              We don’t know whether there will be future generations on the planet.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              We do know there will be future generations on the planet. The next generation is being born as I write. If you don’t want to take actions to protect some future generations because you don’t know if tomorrow will come, why take any action at all, or why take no action at all, on the basis of that having some impact tomorrow?

            • The self-organizing system will take care of itself.

              The actions I take impact the folks I have contact with–my family, the people I know locally, my more distant relatives, and the people on my blog. I take the actions that seem right to me in my daily activities. I live my life in a way that I expect might be an example to others. That is about all I can do. Running around preaching against using fossil fuels is not on that agenda.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              Gail, I’m not running around or preaching. Just stating what I understand of the science. That understanding seems to gel with almost all publishing climate scientists, so I’m fairly comfortable that I have it right but will keep abreast of the latest science to see what changes.

              But your comment about the possibility of there being no future generations I thought deserved an answer. It appears that you do think there is a future, which is what I assume also.

            • There may be a future outside of this universe. I don’t know. We sometimes assume we know too much.

            • Harry McGibbs says:

              Mike, when you see those eye-catching headlines talking about fossil fuel industries being subsidised to the tune of $5 trillion annually etc., the vast bulk of that figure consists of what the IMF describes as “post-tax subsidies”.

              These post-tax subsidies are supposed to reflect the difference between the prices consumers pay for fossil fuels and the full societal and environmental costs of using those fuels, ie externalities. It is not money that is literally handed to fossil fuel firms out of public funds.

              It is a specious way of looking at the situation when it is modern industrial civilisation in its entirety that is responsible for our environmental/climatic predicament, and not solely the fuels that enable it. And I say this as one of those suckers that happens to buy into the warming potential of carbon, nitrous oxide, methane etc.

            • Good point! I had forgotten about that distortion. The calculation doesn’t mean that anyone can actually afford to pay those prices.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Calling for those who appear to advocate for a simpler existence to just go off and live that simple existence completely ignores the world we live in.

              Apparently, you you can talk the talk, but you can’t walk the walk? HOW DARE YOU!

              There are plenty of people around the world living on the equivalent of less than 2 dollars a day. Their carbon footprints are very modest.

              With apologies to John Lennon:

              Imagine no possessions, nothing free and nothing cheap.
              No fossil fuel infrastructure upon which they can leach.
              Imagine all the greenies practicing what they preach.
              I hope some day you’ll join them, for at least a year or two.
              Then come back and tell us, how easy or hard or morally uplifting or whatever it was for you.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              Tim Groves, you know nothing about my private life or what I’ve been doing and, although I have done plenty to reduce my impact, I’m not going to get into it because it is completely irrelevant to what I’ve been commenting.

            • That is a great song. I’m afraid I don’t remember it though.

            • Tim Groves says:

              I have done plenty to reduce my impact

              Good for you. That’s very commendable. And you have done it because it was the right thing to do, and not just for virtue signaling purposes. So you have a clean conscience then.

              But why bother to do the right thing? Why try to be good?

              You’ve already implied that you don’t believe in God and that you even said that feel Gail’s deistic belief in a Higher Power seems hypocritical—right?

              So why bother to be good? Why not give in to the little devil on your shoulder who wants you to be hedonistic?

            • Mike Roberts says:

              you even said that feel Gail’s deistic belief in a Higher Power seems hypocritical—right?

              Again, you show that you don’t read what I write, because that is not what I wrote or meant.

              I try to reduce my impact because I understand the damage we’re doing. Simple as that.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Mike, no, you haven’t done nearly enough. Actually the amount of damage you have done is impossible to calculate.

              There is nothing to learn from the way you live. You are just like everybody else in BAU. Full of useless worry and an integral part of the machinery which seeks to undermine its own basis of existence.

          • Tim Groves says:

            I have done plenty to reduce my impact

            I try to reduce my impact because I understand the damage we’re doing. Simple as that.

            Mike, that’s twice now you’ve stated that you are taking action “to reduce my impact”.

            You don’t say what you’ve done, but we both know that it isn’t nearly enough to make a difference, don’t we? Your “plenty” is actually a paltry amount in comparison to what would need to be done to avert the damage you think we (Humanity/the Denizens of First World/Conservative White Males/or whatever) are doing.

            If you are smart enough to understand the damage we are doing, then you are surely smart enough to understand that any reduction in your personal impact is futile, yes?

            • Mike Roberts says:

              Whatever I do can’t possibly help, in a global sense. Of course I understand that but, in all conscience, I can’t continue to do as much damage as I used to. It’s a personal decision and, whilst I’m not happy that I’m doing everything I can, I will continue to try to do more to limit my impact.

              I don’t have any control over global behaviour but I do have control over mine, to some extent.

            • Tim Groves says:

              That is a very fair answer, Mike. And your attitude makes sense to me because at a young age, around forty years ago, I decided I would never have kids and never drive a car and one of my motivations was that I didn’t like what industrialized humans were doing to the biosphere and I wanted to limit my impact.

              I was a follower of James Lovelock back then, and I was burdened by a very demanding conscience, stemming from a strong desire present from infancy to be a good boy that I have never completely outgrown.

      • Malcopian says:

        Climate change.

      • Malcopian says:

        Censorship.

        • If a person has a blog, he or she can choose which comments to show. Some bloggers review all comments, and only choose to post a few. That is the way it is.

          • DB says:

            It would be nice if commenters who challenge Gail’s views, especially on climate change and renewables, actually read and understand her posts before commenting. Gail spends a lot of time patiently rehashing the same points for commenters who seem not to want to engage with her arguments and evidence. She graciously offers the comments section to those with widely varying opinions, including some who are disrespectful to her and yet feel entitled to continue their harangues.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              Not sure who you’re writing about here, DB, or their particular comments. I sense you’re referring to me but your comments don’t seem connected to what I’ve written. I do appreciate Gail’s insights on the economics and physics about renewables, agreeing wholeheartedly with her view on that.

            • Tim Groves says:

              DB’s comment reads to me like a plea for decency and respect aimed primarily at Malcopian but phrased generally in the interest of politeness. After all, we wouldn’t want the lad to feel offended, would we?

              Of course, if the cap fits…..

            • DB says:

              My comment was general, and directed to commenters who challenge Gail’s views but don’t seem to have actually read and understood her posts. If Gail says she is getting tired of something, you know that she’s endured quite a bit. I’ve noticed that whenever Gail writes a post on a somewhat different topic (lately, renewables and climate), it brings in new commenters who are dedicated opponents to whatever Gail has written. These commenters argue from emotion, and the hope that there is something that can be done. Sometimes they lapse into hectoring (“this is what we should do and why aren’t you doing it??!!) and squabbling with Gail and other commenters.

              When I first started reading OFW a few years ago, I still had some hope (not of the green kind, and my view of the climate debate is almost identical to that of Tim and others here). I struggled with Gail’s conclusions but her logic and evidence won me over. So I do understand the psychological resistance many feel when encountering these views. I still try to prepare in a feeble way for collapse, because if there is any chance to help one’s family survive, it seems to me worth it to try, even if the chance of success is extremely low. The best part of it is learning about and trying older ways of living. Regardless of how things turn out, it is fun in the meantime.

          • Malcopian says:

            The CIA showed me a recent video of yourself in which you never moved your lips once, so it has assigned me to find out whether you are a deep fake. Don’t tell anyone, though, because it’s top secret, OK?

            I was just curious to see if you were still censoring the CC words, given that you often use them yourself now. And I also wondered whether the word “censorship” was censored – but it’s not. I suppose there is still lots to censor, given that Fast Eddie and his ilk took to complaining about the sweJ, etc.

            But yes, I do enjoy your insights, and for free, so I will most generously allow you to continue your censorship and not report you to Batman and Robin. 😉

            • I don’t want climate change to dominate every discussion. So I choose when and to what extent it will be discussed.

              I preview climate change comments. That doesn’t mean I block every one, or even a significant number of them.

          • Xabier says:

            Like the ‘Letters’ page of a newspaper or magazine. Fair enough

        • Tim Groves says:

          I keep hearing the voice of President Obama inside my head.

          He’s saying to me, “with Obamaclimate, if you like your current climate, you can keep your current climate!”

          I’m sure in the real world he never actually said these words, but they seem to sum up an assumption underlying the statements of progressive politicians and activists; the assumption that we have our hands on the control knobs and can steer and drive the economy, the biosphere and the climate as we would a car.

        • Robert Firth says:

          This web resource is Gail’s home; she has a right to invite into her home whomever she chooses, and to exclude whomever she chooses. She may have at times excluded me, but I don’t know that, because i don’t keep score and don’t bear grudges. As you may have noticed, I post under my own name, because that seems to me a minimal courtesy owed to ones host.

          Thank you, Gail; In my eyes, you are on the side of the angels.

      • Dennis L. says:

        I am not sure if this one will be reprinted or not, but the problems we face have been with us forever. Not being a philosopher, a guess is our modern, fossil fueled civilization gave us a sense of power which is now fading and we have forgotten the old ways, this is the first verse of a hymn written sometime in the late 19th century.

        What a Friend we have in Jesus,
        All our sins and griefs to bear!
        What a privilege to carry
        Everything to God in prayer!
        O what peace we often forfeit,
        O what needless pain we bear,
        All because we do not carry
        Everything to God in prayer!

        It is given here not as an absolute solution but as an example of problems which can overwhelm us, for which we need an answer or at least a means of acceptance. No matter how hard we try, not matter how noble our intentions, some things are just out of our control, or as the common man might say, “S… happens.”

        The religious like fervor of the CC activists seems to have some of these qualities. Somewhere, somehow we have to dump all this mental baggage which piles up and move on, prayer, worship, singing, protesting, whatever at least gives mental relief that something has been done. Those of us who lived through the sixties witnessed the burning of bras as a symbolic protest on the part of women. Then some wag invented the “push up bra” and that protest died for failing to uplift its supporters.

        JMG is referencing the Tridentine Mass in this week’s post and it possible effect on the Catholic Church and indeed Western Civilization. The loss of this ritual which Joseph Campbell referred to as one of the heights of Western Civilization seems to coincide with the fall of the Church which in the eyes of this Lutheran is a great loss for all of us. The ritual gave a sense of peace, all would be well, even as a non Catholic I enjoyed it, it was comforting, they knew what they were doing, one had only to believe. We as humans need to believe in something, currently it is CC whatever that may mean.

        God keeps slipping in and out of these discussions, the more modern ideas seemingly accepted by some of the elites being that we are in a simulation and all is not real, someone will push reset and all will be solved, or effectively and metaphorically taking the problem to God in prayer and trying it again.

        It does appear the natural world is not entirely to our liking, glancing in the rear view mirror of history, it is a somewhat common occurrence.

        Dennis L.

        • Robert Firth says:

          “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874 to 1936)

          All too true. After I became an atheist at the age of 16, I started believing in Dianetics, Lyndon LaRouche, time travellers from the future (thanks to “Vintage Season”, by Kuttner and Moore), and even worse rubbish. Fortunately, God did not stop believing in me.

          • Dennis L. says:

            Thank you for the reference to Chesterton; my club has a reading group with this man as the focus, time to join another group. I glanced at Chesterton in Wikipedia and reference was made to the Marconi scandal of 1912-1913, the more things change, the more they are the same.
            This is blog is a wonderful site to explore current ideas and review old ones, again, thank you Gail,

            Dennis L.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Thank you, Dennis, and I agree. One of the many, many reasons for the current malaise of our civilisation is that we have lost our sense of historical continuity:

              “… truth, whose mother is history, who is the rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, example and lesson to the present, and warning to the future.”

              ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547 to 1616)

              And thank you also, Gail, for allowing these digressions from the present into the past.

          • Kowalainen says:

            If we agree on that the processes of the universe are god, then all right. I believe in it too.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Another quote:

              “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.”
              Carl Sagan (1934 to 1996)

              And that is the clearest expression I know of one of the world’s oldest religions: Pantheism. Which, as you might have guessed, is also my religion.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Yes, I was wondering if you were a Christian a little while since you cite the Bible quite frequently. I guess there is some truth in there as well.

              I think the people of OFW is interesting and genuine, with a few slimy exceptions, lackeys from the government corporate complex. I think you all know what and who I am talking about. 😉 The crypto commie narrative can also be a bit overwhelming from time to time, though.

              Being spiritual is of course the natural outcome of having a curious and inquisitive mind. I guess the worldly comedy and vulgarities quickly cease to be of any particular interest as compared with the mysteries and wonders of the universe which we inhabit.

              It is a fantastic site and Gail does an excellent job with the sprawling discussions surrounding her posts.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Kowalainen, I cite the Bible a lot because I know a lot of it, thanks to seven years in a Christian boarding school. But I am also happy to cite Plato, Cicero, Ibn Sina, and many others, As they saying goes, “seek wisdom even in China”. And a most unfashionable corollary: seek wisdom even in the past.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Robert, don’t forget: Seek wisdom from within yourself.

              Read less, think more.

            • Robert Firth says:

              For Kowalainen.

              I should seek wisdom from within myself. Thank you; a most excellent precept. The portico of the Library of Celsus, in Ephesus, contains four statues. I have seen them. Reading from right to left, they personify Episteme (knowledge), Ennoia (understanding), Arete (virtue), and Sophia (wisdom).

              Perhaps my education, at Oxford and Cambridge, allowed me to climb the first step; thought, gainful employment, and service perhaps took me one step higher. Working of the military, in the UK, the US, and NATO, and making many enemies because of my deplorable habit of telling the truth, might have enabled an upgrade to the third. As for the last; perhaps all I have learned is that I know nothing.

              But yes: wisdom can exist only within, not without, and therefore you are right.

            • Kowalainen says:

              You are welcome Robert,

              Being an irritating truth seeking and truth telling rascal is a long term investment with little burdensome spiritual legacy to carry. It frees the mind for delightful musings in the mysteries of the universe and mind.

              It seems our destinies delivers us what we deserve and not what we want, even though we might feel miserable from time to time. We are eternal beings, so we must experience suffering to attain enlightenment.

              It is part of the process.

          • Tim Groves says:

            I believe in the existence of the late Lyndon Larouche.

            But I don’t believe Lyndon was omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent.

        • I have never changed my belief in a literal Higher Power behind everything that happens. Things self-organizing in amazing ways. We think we know more, but we really don’t. We need religions for many purposes:
          -To bind groups of people together who are not close relatives, so that children can find appropriate spouses.
          -To allow people to share experiences and socialize with each other, as a way of working through the bad things that happen. Often, “When a door closes, a window opens.”
          -To provide a way for handing down “best practices” at the time. If too many infant births are happening, then having a lot of children is appropriate. If eating too much meat and dairy is a problem, then kosher laws prevent hamburgers.
          -To keep down population. Groups fighting with each other helps serve the purpose of helping to limit population. Many animals mark their territories and fight with intruders. This tends to hold down animal populations as well.
          -Over time, new religions self-organize, suitable for a group of people in an area. This is the same as any self-organizing structure. Now we have a climate change religion.

          • Mike Roberts says:

            I have never changed my belief in a literal Higher Power behind everything that happens. Things self-organizing in amazing ways. We think we know more, but we really don’t.

            Sorry, this came across as a little hypocritical. If we really don’t know more, why do you think you do (the literal higher power)?

            Having been a devout Christian, in the past, I find myself thinking about this stuff often and, every time I do, religious belief just seems crazy. Everything I used to believe just makes no sense at all.

            I guess that before humans learned how to communicate complex ideas, there would have been no beliefs. Suddenly there is a god of sorts that somehow influences how we live?

            • Malcopian says:

              There is of course a higher power and it’s called nature. Nor do we humans – or our scientists – know everything, which implies that there is more. We must live within nature and the system that it imposes. So I don’t know what is hypocritical about the implicit humility behind Gail’s statement.

              Myself, I’m neither religious nor worshipful, and I do not like the fact that we are all subject to the food chain on Earth. That’s not the kind of cosmology I would have gone for or invented. It seems more suited to the “nature red in tooth and claw brigade” who were largely defeated in 1945.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              Well, a belief is something you think you know. Gail is saying she thinks she knows that there is an undefined higher power that is controlling events. When she then says “we think we know more” that, to me, implies that she thinks “we” are mistaken in thinking we know more but she also think she isn’t mistaken in thinking she knows more – that there is some higher power behind everything.

              Yes, you could regard nature as the higher power, though I get the impression that Gail thinks the higher power is, in some way, intelligent (i.e. deliberately organising events). However, nature is something we’re discovering, in terms of how it works. We discover more and more as time goes on but we haven’t come across evidence of some higher power, other than nature itself. One can still believe there is one but I can’t see how it affects any analysis of our energy predicament, or our environmental predicaments, though Gail sometimes mentions such a power, in her posts.

            • People everywhere have insights in how the system operates. In other words, which actions have good consequences and which ones have adverse consequences over the long run. They develop codes of proper conduct. God may be given as the source of these views, and in a sense that is right. It is really a reflection of what really works over the long run, so in a sense, is what God would tell us is right, for a particular people at a particular point in time. Religions develop around these insights.

              We live in a world with self-organizing systems. These systems operate, whether or not anyone sits down and codifies rules or special celebrations. You don’t need to worry about the time before religions. These systems work for every part of nature without our help.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              A code of conduct is highly personal. There is no way of knowing what some hypothetical god would tell us is “right” or even if there is such a thing as “right”. Moral codes change over time and vary among communities. Some people actually do benefit from actions that many others think is wrong, so, for them, the consequences are good. People have had hundreds of thousands of years to figure out what is “good” and what is “bad” but it seems people haven’t yet been able to do that because people still behave in different ways.

            • John Doyle says:

              I do not believe in God. A vaguely human like identity ruling over everything. For us such belief is a cop out. We should be making the decisions, not leaving them up to some “higher power.”
              Just the same it is mysterious. How do termites know to build air conditioned mounds? How come mites that infect the ears of bats, only ever infect one ear?!
              Probably we will never know, but it shouldn’t stop us choosing our own way. No god is going to help us.

            • Who says that God is a vaguely human like entity ruling over everything?

              God can be operating through self organizing systems of every kind. The vaguely human aspect comes about because observers in some religions find this way of describing what seem to be aspects of god. But if we start with African traditional religions, or those of Australia, I don’t think we would get as much of the idea of God behaving as humans do. The problem is that human observers are limited in their analogies.

            • John Doyle says:

              You don’t ever recall seeing Michaelangelos creation of Adam? Who is the figure reaching out to touch life into Adam? It think you would find that imagery has penetrated western society right up to today.

          • Tim Groves says:

            Sorry, this came across as a little hypocritical.

            Hypocritical means behaving in a way that suggests one has higher standards or more noble beliefs than is really the case.

            Gail has expressed that she has a belief about a Higher Power behind everything that happens. To Mike, this came across as a little hypocritical. In order for Mike to feel like this, he needed to make certain assumptions about what was motivating Gail to hold this particular belief.

            I don’t know why he linked the expression of belief in a Higher power with hypocrisy. But he must have been assuming that holding this belief was accompanied by some kind of pretentious behavior on Gail’s part that she hasn’t actually displayed.

            Also,
            If we really don’t know more, why do you think you do (the literal higher power)?

            Belief means an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially without proof. It is a form of opinion, not a statement of fact or an expression of certainty. If proof was at hand, then Gail would have said that she knew, not that she believed.

            I believe (in my opinion) that MIke has misinterpreted Gail’s prose because his grasp of the meaning of some words is “fuzzy” or “imprecise” which can lead him to read more into other people’s words than is actually there.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              You can have whatever opinion you choose, Tim. I merely opined that Gail’s comment came across to me as hypocritical and for the reason I mentioned. If you disagree with that, then that’s fine.

              By the way, without proof, one would have to have belief. If their were proof, then it becomes knowledge.

            • Tim Groves says:

              without proof, one would have to have belief.

              Sounds superficially credible. But if we add an object to the statement, we see it still needs some work on it:

              “Without proof of the existence of God, one would have to have belief in His existence.”

              That doesn’t follow, surely.

            • The existence of self organization and the laws of physics seems to imply that a high level of “thought” underlies the earth’s ongoing creation, and in fact, the ongoing creation of the universe. This, to me, shows the existence of a Higher Power of some sort.

              The existence of religions of many kinds around the world reflects the fact that people everywhere sense that there is more going on than we can explain in human terms.

            • Mike Roberts says:

              The existence of what appear to be laws of physics is proof only that such laws exist. Even if some being was somehow running an experimental universe with those laws, that being would, itself, be operating under some physical laws. Otherwise, it couldn’t have brought this universe into existence. Consequently, there is no need to invoke some higher power to explain the existence of laws. Of course humans almost certainly haven’t discovered all of these laws, at least not to complete accuracy, but we can certainly perform analysis on energy policies without recourse to a higher power.

            • Perhaps I have seen the power of self-organization in practice, in Our Finite World. I started out with few credentials to figure out how the world economy operates and what goes wrong. Yet with the help of commenters on this site, I seem to put far more pieces of the puzzles together than those in academia. Dennis Meadows and his group put together very important and useful pieces of the story as well, as did researchers on historical collapse. Peak oilers had some of the right idea, but went off in the wrong direction. I have had the opportunity to get involved with approximately five different academic groups over the years. In this way, I could what goes right and what goes wrong.

              In some ways, how all this has worked together has been a miracle. One commenter leaves and new ones take their place. People email me with their ideas and links to articles. All this has been helpful.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Gail, it is an excellent manifestation of a competitive-collaborative information sharing ecosystem.

              People, ideas and hypotheses arrive, gets discussed, refined and perhaps even rejected and departs, thus the merry go around. It is a process of evolution. The spiritual essence of the competitive collaborative processes.

              Allowing wild ideas and completely different perspectives is a fundamental strength of this site.

    • Niko B says:

      Funnily enough Dmitry wrote a few blog posts a while back on how the potential for rapid sea level rise of 6m was a very real threat. Looks like he has changed his mind.

      • Niko B says:

        Personally I stopped subscribing as I think he is getting too nutty. He really is pushing the nuke angle but has yet to back it up with anything substantial.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          I haven’t ever subscribed…

          his writing is usually worth the zero I pay for it… once in a while, he’s below that…

          the couple of conspearasea theorries which he flaunts are the worst of his posts and quite aggravating (moon landings were faaaked and nine eleven buildings were not downed by huge jets loaded with jet fuel) but I think he does these two because his “donors” want to hear it, and perhaps he doesn’t really believe these two but he does it as an inside joke sort of mockiing his own audience…

          whatever… once in a while he’s worth reading… many of his Ukraine posts are quite revealing…

          this one today is better than most…

      • Or maybe the hype about climate change and how we can prevent it has finally gotten to him.

        • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

          and maybe it’s just really really cold where he is on his farm in Russia…

  9. Sven Røgeberg says:

    The Economist this week
    Everybody knows that rich-world inequality has soared. People read about it in newspapers, hear about it from pressure groups and witness it in their daily lives. On both sides of the Atlantic politicians are building action against it into their campaigns. Yet our cover this week examines new research that suggests this growing inequality is not what it appears. Our cover story delves deep into the national account economists use to tease out the income and wealth of the top 1%, and trends in average wages and in how owners outearn workers. In each case, the growth in inequality is either smaller than most people think or, possibly, absent. That many claims made about inequality are debatable does not reduce the urgency of tackling economic injustice. The rich world’s housing markets are starving young workers of cash and opportunity. America’s economy needs a giant dose of competition. Too many high-income workers, including doctors, lawyers and bankers, are protected. But good policy starts with good data.
    https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/11/28/inequality-could-be-lower-than-you-think

    • Sounds like something the Economist would write.

      Part of the problem is the increasing cost of “required” things. Medical care is now higher cost. A person can’t buy a package of old-fashioned medical care. Automobiles have more bells and whistles, most of which are not needed to get from point A to point B. More education is required, and the person getting it is required to pay himself. People with the same wages now are much worse off in many ways than they were previously.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Gail, once again you have nailed it. Inequality has changed very little if you measure total income, but if you measure disposable income, what is left after paying for necessities, you find a very different story. I should know: I fell into just that trap and could get out of it only by leaving the US. I had a well paid white collar job, but one afternoon I wrote down the numbers, did the math, and found that of every dollar I earned, just two cents was mine to spend as I chose. And I was one of the lucky ones, with no debt except the mortgage on the house.

        • Tim Groves says:

          I wrote down the numbers, did the math, and found that of every dollar I earned, just two cents was mine to spend as I chose.

          For one thing, nobody outside of the US can really wrap their head around the extortionate cost of healthcare and health insurance there.

          • The American healthcare system seems to be set up to make money from people being sick. People in the US are disproportionately sick in the US partly because food is over processed, cheap, and served in huge portions. It is not adapted to what human bodies need. Exercise levels are also too low. And far too many people get discouraged because it seems impossible to earn an adequate living for themselves and their families.

          • Robert Firth says:

            Another (true) story. When I was offered employment in Singapore, I had to submit a health report. It was very comprehensive, and I feared it would be rather expensive, since I was living in the US at that time.

            Now, my employment was in Pennsylvania, so I made contact with the insurance company my employer had registered me with, and enquired. However, at that time I was a visiting professor in Florida, and they said I had to return to Pennsylvania (a mere 900 miles) and apply there.

            Well, I enquired at the local blood donor centre about an alternative, and was referred to a local GP. He read the whole package, and said, unsurprisingly, “will the insurance pay?” I replied “I shall pay privately.” Suddenly, he was all smiles. He performed the basic stuff then and there, took my blood and urine samples for analysis, and had his secretary book hospital appointments for the specialist work.

            It took two more days. One at a hospital to get an EKG and an abdominal sonogram (a procedure I had never heard of) and another at a different hospital for sight, hearing, and coordination testing.

            Then back to his office, where he put all the reports together into a neat package, and presented me with the consolidated bill. It was under $600, so I wrote a cheque on the spot. (This was in 1997, so scale the cost as appropriate.) That lesson stayed with me: have health insurance and be treated like a nuisance; pay privately, and be treated like a prince. I have never in my life made a health insurance claim, and, God willing, I never will. The first line of defence agains ill health is me.

            • John Doyle says:

              Well, that’s how the USA flies today. I have been hospitalised many times [a tribute to modern medicine !] It was invariably courteous and timely. So the comparison you show is not a general one, just specific to your situation. The same happened when hospitalised in Italy and the UK, [renal colic] Totally professional and impersonal as needs be..

    • Xabier says:

      Highly amusing! Decline of a whole civilisation? We can cure that! It’s not as bad as it’s been painted, and a few policy tweaks will deal with it…….

  10. Artleads says:

    Blogs had made me a bit too cynical for Holgrem, but this presentation seems well reasoned to me. He made me see Gail’s point about women in the workforce (to add to GDP but not domestic economy), the need to have more people occupy existing home space, etc. And that has something to do with the building industry not generally producing more human occupation of existing space. The houses are bigger but accommodate roughly the same number of people per unit of land.

    https://retrosuburbia.com/published-media/next-economy-now-podcast/?utm_source=RetroSuburbia+News&utm_campaign=9c1c5e627d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_09_24_07_04_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2c1bf67eaa-9c1c5e627d-182828457

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