Scientific Models and Myths: What Is the Difference?

Most people seem to think, “The difference between models and myths is that models are scientific, and myths are the conjectures of primitive people who do not have access to scientific thinking and computers. With scientific models, we have moved far beyond myths.” It seems to me that the truth is quite different from this.

History shows a repeated pattern of overshoot and collapse. William Catton wrote about this issue in his highly acclaimed 1980 book, Overshoot.

Figure 1. Depiction of Overshoot and Collapse by Paul Chefurka

What politicians, economists, and academic book publishers would like us to believe is that the world is full of limitless possibilities. World population can continue to rise. World leaders are in charge. Our big problem, if we believe today’s models, is that humans are consuming fossil fuel at too high a rate. If we cannot quickly transition to a low carbon economy, perhaps based on wind, solar and hydroelectric, the climate will change uncontrollably. The problem will then be all our fault. The story, supposedly based on scientific models, has almost become a new religion.

Recent Attempted Shifts to Wind, Solar and Hydroelectric Are Working Poorly

Of course, if we check to see what has happened when economies have actually attempted to switch to wind, water and hydroelectric, we see one bad outcome after another.

[1] Australia’s attempt to put renewable electricity on the grid has sent electricity prices skyrocketing and resulted in increased blackouts. It has been said that intermittent electricity has “wrecked the grid” in Australia.

[2] California, with all of its renewables, has badly neglected its grid, leading to many damaging wildfires. Renewables need disproportionately more long distance transmission, partly because they tend to be located away from population centers and partly because transmission must be scaled for peak use. It is evident that California has not been collecting a high enough price for electricity to cover the full cost of grid maintenance and upgrades.

Figure 2. California electricity consumption including amounts imported from out of state, based on EIA data. Amounts shown are average daily amounts, by month.

[3] The International Rivers Organization writes that Large Dams Just Aren’t Worth the Cost. Part of the problem is the huge number of people who must be moved from their ancestral homeland and their inability to adapt well to their new location. Part of the problem is the environmental damage caused by the dams. To make matters worse, a study of 245 large dams built between 1934 and 2007 showed that without even taking into account social and environmental impacts, the actual construction costs were too high to yield a positive return.

Developed economies have made hydroelectric power work adequately in areas with significant snow melt. At this point, evidence is lacking that large hydroelectric dams work well elsewhere. Significant variation in rainfall (year-to-year or seasonally) seems to be particularly problematic, because without fossil fuel backup, businesses cannot rely on year-around electricity supply.

The Pattern of Overshoot and Collapse Is Well-Established

Back in 1974, Henry Kissinger said in an interview:

I think of myself as a historian more than as a statesman. As a historian, you have to be conscious of the fact that every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed. [Emphasis added.]

History is a tale of efforts that failed, of aspirations that weren’t realized, of wishes that were fulfilled and then turned out to be different from what one expected. So, as a historian, one has to live with a sense of the inevitability of tragedy. As a statesman, one has to act on the assumption that problems must be solved.

Historians tend to define collapse more broadly than “the top level of government disappearing.” Collapse includes many ways of an economy failing. It includes losing at war, population decline because of epidemics, governments overthrown by internal dissent, and governments that cannot repay debt with interest, and failing for this reason.

A basic issue that often underlies collapse is falling average resources per person. These falling average resources per person can take several forms:

  • Population rises, but land available for farming doesn’t rise.
  • Mines and wells deplete, requiring more effort for extraction.
  • Soil erodes or becomes polluted with salt, reducing crop yields.

One of the other issues is that as resources per capita become stretched, it becomes harder and harder to set aside a margin for a “rainy day” or a drought. Thus, weather or climate variations may push an economy over the edge, as resources per person become more stretched.

Scientific Models Too Often Prove Whatever the Grant Provider Wants Proven

It is incredibly difficult to figure out what the future will hold. Our experience is almost entirely with a growing economy. It is easy to accidentally build this past experience into a model of the future, even when we are trying to make realistic assumptions. For example, when making pension models in the early 1980s, actuaries would see interest rates of 10% and assume that interest rates could remain this high indefinitely.

The question of whether prices will rise to allow future energy extraction is another problematic area. If we believe standard economic theory, prices can be expected to rise when resources are in short supply. But if we look at Revelation 18: 11-17, we find that when Babylon collapsed, the problem was low prices and lack of demand. There were not even buyers for slaves, and these were the energy product of the day. The Great Depression of the 1930s showed a similar low-price pattern. Today’s economic model seems to need refinement, if it is to account for how prices really seem to behave in collapses.

If there is an issue that is difficult to evaluate in making a forecast, the easiest approach for researchers to take is to omit it. For example, the intermittency of wind and solar can effectively be left out by assuming that (a) the different types of intermittency will cancel out, or (b) intermittency will be inexpensive to fix or (c) intermittency will be handled by a different part of the research project.

To further complicate matters, researchers often find that their compensation is tied to their ability to get grants to fund their research. These research grants have been put together by organizations that are concerned about the future. These organizations are looking for research that will match their understanding of today’s problems and their proposed solutions for the future.

A person can guess how this arrangement tends to work out. Any researcher who points out endless problems, or says that the proposed solution is impossible, won’t get funding. To get funding, at least some partial solution must be provided along the lines outlined in the Request for Proposal, regardless of how unlikely the proposed solution is. Research showing that the grant-writer’s view of the future is not really correct is left to retired researchers and others willing to work for little compensation. All too often, published research tends to say whatever the groups funding the research studies want the studies to say.

Myths Are of Many Types; Many Are Aimed at Giving Good Advice

The fact that myths have survived through the ages lets us know that at least some people found the insights that they provided were worthwhile.

If an ancient people did not know how the earth and the people on it came into being, they would likely come up with a myth explaining the situation. Most of us today would not believe myths about Thor, for example, but (as far as we know) no one was being paid to put together stories about Thor and how powerful he was. The myths were stories that people found sufficiently useful and entertaining to pass along. In some sense, this background gives these stories more value than a paper written in order to obtain funds provided by a research grant.

Some myths relate to what types of activities by humans were desirable or undesirable. For example, the people in Uganda have traditional folklore about a moral monster that is used to teach children the dangers of craftiness and deceit. My sister who visited Uganda reported that where she visited, people believed that people who stole someone else’s crops were likely to get sick. Most of us wouldn’t think that this story was really right, but it has a moral purpose behind it. There are no doubt many myths of this type. They have been passed on because passing them on seemed to serve a purpose.

Clearly, which actions are desirable or undesirable changes over time. For example, Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11 seem to condemn wearing fabrics that are a mix of linen and wool. Today, we use many fabrics that are mixes of two types of yarns. Perhaps there was a problem with different amounts of shrinkage. Today, our issues are different. Perhaps myths associated with issues such as these need to be discarded, because they are not relevant anymore.

How about myths of an afterlife? Things on earth don’t necessarily go well. The promise of a favorable afterlife has a definite appeal. Some people would even like a story in which people who don’t act in the desired manner are punished. Some religions seem to provide such an ending as well.

Follow a Religion Based on Scientific Models, or Based on Myth, or Neither?

Nature’s solutions and mankind’s solutions in a finite world both involve complexity, but the two types of complexity are very different.

Mankind’s solutions seem to involve more and more devices using an increased amount of resources and debt. The overhead of the system becomes greater and greater as the economy increasingly shifts toward robots and owners/overseers of the robots. The big problem that can be expected to develop comes from not having enough purchasers who can afford to purchase the end products created by this system. In fact, we seem to already be reaching an era of too much wage disparity and too much wealth disparity. Eventually, such a system can be expected to collapse under its own weight.

We can already see signs that wind and solar are not scalable to the extent that people would like them to be. Together, they currently comprise only 3% of the world’s energy supply. We need very large supplies of energy to provide food, housing, and transportation for 7.7 billion people.

Figure 3. World Energy Consumption by Fuel, based on data of 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

Regardless of what politicians would like proven, nature doesn’t move in a constant path upward. Instead, nature provides a self-organizing system of individual parts, none of which is permanent. Humans are temporary residents of this earth. Businesses are temporary, and the products they sell are constantly changing and adapting. Governments are temporary. Weather patterns are also temporary. Religions are constantly changing and adapting, and new ones are formed.

Nature’s way doesn’t seem to require much overhead. Over the long run, it seems to be much more permanent than mankind’s attempts at solutions. As the system changes, each replacement differs in random ways from previous systems of a particular type. The best adapted replacements survive, without the need for excessive overhead to the system.

We may or may not agree with the religions that have formed over the years in the self-organizing way that nature provides. The fact that religions have stayed around indicates that at least for some people, they continue to play a significant role. If nothing else, religious groups often provide social gatherings with others in the area. This provides an opportunity for friendship. In some cases, it will allow people to find potential marriage partners who are not closely related.

One of the roles of religions is to pass down “best practices.” These will change over time so some will need to be discarded and changed. For example, in some eras, it will be optimal for women to have several children. In others, it will make sense to have only one or two.

The book, Oneness: Great Principles Shared by All Religions by Jeffrey Moses, lists 64 principles shared by several religions. Of course, not all religions agree on all of these 64 principles. Instead, there seems to be a great deal of overlap in what religions of the world teach. Some sample truths include “The Golden Rule,” it is “Blessed to Forgive,” “Seek and Ye Shall Find,” and “There Are Many Paths to God.” This type of advice can be helpful for people.

People will differ on whether it makes sense to believe that there really is an afterlife. There may very well be; we can’t know for certain. At least this is better odds than the knowledge that all earthly civilizations have eventually failed.

I personally have found belonging to and attending an ELCA Lutheran Church to be helpful. I find its earthly benefits to be sufficient, whether or not there is an afterlife. I will, of course, be attending around Christmas time. I will also be getting together with family.

I recognize, too, that not everyone is interested in one of the traditional religions. Some would even like to believe that with our advanced science, we can now find a way around every problem that confronts us. Perhaps this time is different. Perhaps this time, world leaders, with their love for overhead-heavy solutions, will finally discover a solution that can produce long-term growth on a finite earth. Perhaps energy from fusion is around the corner. Wish! Wish!

My wish to you is that you have Happy Holidays, of whatever types you choose to celebrate!


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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1,598 Responses to Scientific Models and Myths: What Is the Difference?

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  3. MG says:

    Here and now: The 2 Czech guys make a video about the tens of tents behind the famous Golds Gym in Los Angeles:

    • Robert Firth says:

      Sven: yes, I have read it; and indeed, it is in my library. It is very short, but most insightful, and I recommend it.

    • Niko B says:

      William Ophuls is an amazing writer. I would also recommend his latest book – Apologies to the Grandchildren. You can find most of the chapters here.
      you can also listen to them here.

      • I listened to the last of these, “What can give us hope?” This is generally quite good.

        William Ophuls suggests that one possibility would be to use our remaining resources to try to go back to simpler technology, such as sailing ships. But then he discounts this as a solution. It would be a major step down.

        He explains that scaling up intermittent renewables is not a fix, and neither is scaling up artificial intelligence.

        Ophuls expects a lot of push toward past ways that seem to have worked better. Examples would include religious fundamentalism and reactions against migration and the urban elite. He doesn’t see any of these as a solution.

        Then he suggests that somehow, in all of this, there would be a possibility that someone would be able to come up a new view that would be our salvation. Using this new view, we might be able to “transcend our obsession with material power and progress, and recover a deep empathic connection with the ecological system.” This view sounds a lot like “” think. I disagree with this possibility of salvation. Our problems are too energy-based for this to work.

        • Jan Steinman says:

          This view sounds a lot like “” think. I disagree with this possibility of salvation. Our problems are too energy-based for this to work.

          But doesn’t our situation really demand diverse approaches?

          I don’t think solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars are going to “save” us, either. But I won’t stand in their way for trying.

          While I don’t indulge in hope much, I see the growing assertiveness of aboriginals as a hopeful thing. The Unist’ot’en have just evicted BC’s and Canada’s pet project (a natgas pipeline) from their un-ceded traditional land, as supported by BC Bill 41, which recognizes and ratifies the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), which states that indigenous people have a right to consent to use of their traditional land.

          This has opened a huge can of worms in BC, and soon, in Canada at large, since Trudeau has pledged to ratify UNDRIP.

          Those who lived for tens of thousands of years on the land, before industrial civilization began, understand what’s going on. I’ve made a monthly pledge, preferring to help them than to have excess funds with which to buy new shiny plastic things from China.

          • I have no problem with trying diverse approaches. Humans and pre-humans seemed to live through previous ice ages. There is no reason that at least some might not be successful this time around.

            • Adapted to would be a better term than lived through I think

              When an environment warms or cools infintely slowly over 000s of years then adaptation is relatively easy because you don’t notice that it’s happening. You have no infrastructure to support, you follow your energy resources on the hoof so to speak.

              if your world gets too hot or cold you adapt or move to where it isn’t—or die in the attempt.

              pre columbian colonisation is a perfect case in point—some stayed where it was cold, others moved on to where it was warmer

              Your world is governed by magic—-much like the world of the evangelicals now come to think of it.

              You also have no records past the time of living memory. So you dont know of 1000 years previously, and no way of finding out, The Inca couldnt visit his Inuit relatives

            • Jan Steinman says:

              You also have no records past the time of living memory.

              Aboriginal people maintain a strong oral history.

              We enlightened moderns don’t like it, because it is often symbolic, rather than specific, but it serves as cultural bedrock, a form of non-DNA adaptation memory, that helps them avoid future problems.

            • the strong oral history is not in doubt

              But I dont think that would encompass a native of patagonia having specific and direct awareness of ancestors crossing the frozen Bering strait 16000 years previously, or before that an awareness of northen China, Asia or Siberia, or of the animal food sources of that region and time

              or of offshoots becoming Cree, Navajo Inca or Aztec

        • djerek says:

          Things like a push for developing sailing ships and pushes towards limiting migration would be sober-minded confrontations with reality and thus two of the best things were could do to improve the prospect of our future.

          It’s sad to see that someone this astute and intelligent still has utopian ideas of a “better path forward” than confronting physics and human nature and wanting to work with them instead of attempting to transcend them.

          • Artleads says:

            By now, I don’t indulge in hope either. Where it comes to rescuing the system, I feel strictly up against the limits imposed by self-organizing complexity. (To begin with, there’s extraordinary confusion that I accept as a “reasonable” state of affairs, not thinking instead there’s a way to understand very much.) There are systems and parts of systems that are operating as they will. It probably works best to regard them as forces of nature to which we adapt the turn of our sails. So one isn’t presuming to change those (“natural”) forces. Excellence is measured by the skill or beauty with which they are adapted to. This is maybe where eastern spiritual notions of “inaction” apply. Doing the least that can be done with the maximum of strategy? This seems to bring the onus back to the individual. The individual that is in no way detached from the collective. The individual as the best sounding board for the state of the collective. A microcosm of the collective. Rather challenging to figure this out.

  4. MG says:

    The people do not understand that many parts of the system run on high revs, so that the system keeps operating. That is why the collapse is sudden and unawaited.

    We hear about sustanability and that we must do more to achieve sustainability. But the problem is we already run on high revs. How can we do more?

  5. Ano737 says:

    Can anyone explain how a self organizing system structured to maximize energy dissipation (entropy) allows for life to exist? Life temporarily _reduces_ entropy, after all. It seems like taking two steps forward and one step back as it progresses. What’s the point?

    • Perhaps there is a permanent, everlasting source of power that allows/encourages energy dissipation. Creation is not a one-time event; it is an ongoing process that takes place through the formation of new dissipative structures. The Universe keeps expanding to prevent entropy from becoming an overwhelming issue.

      • rilygtek says:

        Is it an established scientific fact that the universe expands? I would say that it is highly doubtful that established science even has the slightest clue what they are doing with regards to cosmology. Modern “established” cosmology is all myth.

        Except of course electric universe theories advanced by Peratt, Alfvén et. al, which at least tries to explain it without the need of black holes, big bangs and other science fiction fairy tales. Electromagnetism and plasma cosmology is much more convincing than pure gravitational systems and assorted scientific jank invented to support it. Such as “dark energy”. What a load of crock.

        Specially the guys at the US national laboratories at least can throw some good instruments and supercompute at the problems and not only mathemagical fantasies resulting in worthless papers to keep themselves relevant in the academia jobs program.

        Furthermore, scientific reasoning about entropy requires a control volume. What is even a control volume supposed to mean if it is defined as the universe.

        What holds true locally in the laboratories might not necessarily be how it works in a grander scale. Perhaps matter and radiation simply materializes and is then condensed into superclusters, local groups, galaxies and star systems eventually.

        After all, matter and radiation obviously exist in the universe. Where does it come from? If it is from Big Bang, then where does the Big Bang come from. I think it is a simpler explanation that the universe simply materializes matter and radiation as it goes along.

    • Robert Firth says:

      Ano, I think most of the answers were written by Erwin Schroedinger and Ilya Prigogine, but please allow me to provide a summary.

      In order to exist, life requires an entropy gradient; that is, an independent source of energy that is spontaneously dissipating, and on which life can piggyback so as to extract and employ some of that energy. In the early Earth, that energy was provided by hot thermal vents in the ocean, and our oldest living relatives are indeed the hyperthermophyles that evolved to take advantage of them. Later, we discovered sunlight, the source of negative entropy that has powered life ever since.

      The seeming paradox is how organisms that live off entropy can seemingly reverse entropy, and build complex structures. For that, I refer you to the above authors;,but my own view is that this is in strict accordance with the laws of Nature, but nevertheless represents a new and most admirable adaptation of their use. If only we humans behaves likewise!

    • Jan Steinman says:

      Can anyone explain how a self organizing system structured to maximize energy dissipation (entropy) allows for life to exist? Life temporarily _reduces_ entropy, after all.

      First, I’m not sure that life is structured to “maximize” energy dissipation. There’s no doubt that life does dissipate energy, but to do so “maximally” does not seem to be life’s purpose. In fact, there are numerous examples where life appears to be minimizing energy dissipation. Otherwise, polar bears would not have fur, wales would not have blubber, and we would not wear clothing.

      Second, I think you may be right, in a closed system, but as far as we know, life does not exist in closed systems. Our sole example is one in which life receives 1,000 watts per square metre at the equator — it is not a closed system, therefore life’s main concern (if you will) is to properly balance energy gain with energy loss, so life can continue, since life appears to be self-perpetuating.

      We clever naked apes seem to be mucking that up a bit at present, though. Perhaps Gaia’s fever will rid itself of the organism that wasn’t playing by the “self-perpetuating” rules.

      • Christopher says:

        ” In fact, there are numerous examples where life appears to be minimizing energy dissipation. Otherwise, polar bears would not have fur, wales would not have blubber, and we would not wear clothing.”

        Without their fur polar bears wouldn’t dissipate much energy. Blubber also probably assist the whales to dissipate more energy. Concerning clothing, it’s a pretty energy intensive activity to produce them. Clothes also decrease the infestation of parasites (compared to having fur), which enables humans to figure out even more ways to dissipate energy.

      • Davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        “Second, I think you may be right, in a closed system, but as far as we know, life does not exist in closed systems. Our sole example is one in which life receives 1,000 watts per square metre at the equator — it is not a closed system…”

        yes, once again it is The Sun…

        funny how all that energy has enabled the complexity of life…

        but as we now know:

        energy makes the world go round…

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        He is a astronomer , not a evolutionary biologist.

        • Niko B says:

          Who went on to study biology and biochemistry.
          Sounds like getting an all round education to me.
          You have read his paper Duncan? It is very interesting.
          I have studied biology and the patterns it discusses are thought provoking.
          Ultimately everything seems to be about dissipating energy as fast as possible.
          Take it or leave, who cares its all dissipation to me.

        • Tim Groves says:

          Some people can keep learning new things and excelling in more than one subject EVEN AFTER graduating from college. Some are polymaths. Some are geniuses. Who’d have thunk it?

          Other people, smug in their jaded expertise, just keep sniping from the sidelines and hardly ever learn anything worth knowing.

          “Had I been told me ten years ago that the laws of statistical mechanics could explain human behavior, I would have smiled doubtfully. Today, however, I am absolutely convinced that they can. The fundamental laws of biochemistry are those of thermodynamics, as established by Gibbs, and insofar living beings are made up of biochemical reactions, they cannot but obey these laws.”
          — Francois Roddier (2017). The Thermodynamics of Evolution (pg. 3)

          “In a world where everything is changing, how do you know the laws that govern its evolution? A mathematician, Emmy Noether, has shown that if evolution obeys fixed laws, then there is a measurable quantity that remains constant. Physicists call such a quantity an invariant. Discovered in the nineteenth century, this invariant has been given the name of energy. It can be thought of as the Arianeʼs thread that allows us to track the evolution.”
          — Francois Roddier (2012), Thermodynamics of Evolution (pg. 10)

          • Francois Roddier was born in 1936. That would make him about 83 years old now. Much of his work has been done in his “retirement” years.

          • Robert Firth says:

            “A mathematician, Emmy Noether, has shown that if evolution obeys fixed laws, then there is a measurable quantity that remains constant.”

            A misleading oversimplification. Noether’s Theorem applies only to physical systems with a Lagrangian function, ie that obey the Principle of Least Action. It does not apply to dissipative systems. Indeed, this issue was probably the impetus to Schroedinger’s research that led to his lectures “What is Life” of 1943.

      • Ano737 says:

        Thanks for this and everyone for the helpful replies! This is a great community.

  6. anybody got an answer?

    by 2025 the UK’s biggest domestic boiler (furnace) manufacturer is making all their boilers ”hydrogen ready”– ie they can be converted in situ.

    one must assume that the rest will follow suit

    but I can’t find any reference to making all the supply infrastructure ‘hydrogen ready”

    so hydrogen being what it is, it’s surely going to leak like crazy from underground joints intended to contain conventional gases?

    or maybe I’ve missed a trick here.

    • Kowalainen says:


      “Looking in the right direction, Marin Radu solved the above problems by producing hydrogen in situ, via an electro-catalytic membrane, which decomposes the water molecules efficiently, with low input of electric current (9 V–24 V) and produces hydrogen on demand”

      Use the intermittency to produce hydrogen on demand in situ, compress it or cool it to liquid form and then burn it before it leaks or evaporates.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        compress it or cool it to liquid form

        This takes almost as much energy as is in the hydrogen itself!

        It takes a lot more energy to liquify hydrogen than it does to liquify natgas, which is mostly methane.

        • rilygtek says:

          Are you sure?

          The conversion and compression process seem reasonably efficient.

          “Electrolysis consists of using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Electrolysis of water is 70-80% efficient (a 20-30% conversion loss) while steam reforming of natural gas has a thermal efficiency between 70-85%. The (electrical) efficiency of electrolysis is expected to reach 82-86% before 2030”

          Furthermore with regards to regenerative compression:

          “Compressed hydrogen is estimated to cost about 2.1% of the energy content to power the compressor for a large scale underground facility such as a cavern or aquifer from 1 to 200 bar. Higher compression without energy recovery will mean more energy lost to the compression step. Compressed hydrogen storage can exhibit very low permeation”

          So it is likely they are aiming for in-situ hydrolysis with compressed hydrogen storage to cover for the excess production from intermittent sources.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            Compressed hydrogen is estimated to cost about 2.1% of the energy content to power the compressor for a large scale underground facility such as a cavern or aquifer from 1 to 200 bar.

            I was responding to the comment that hydrogen be liquified.

            It takes a lot of energy to get it down to 33 Kelvins, above which, no amount of pressure will liquify it.

            • GBV says:


              Is your EcoReality email address still in effect?
              Tried to send you an email, but it bounced back.


            • Jan Steinman says:

              Is your EcoReality email address still in effect?

              My email should be working. We had a power glitch earlier today, and our server was down for a bit. But I got notice of your posting via email, so it seems to be working now.

    • MG says:

      Everybody who advocates hydrogen as fuel must be crazy: hydrogen is a very dangerous explosive, not for domestic use. The idea of hydrogen cars must have been created by the mentally ill people.

      • Robert Firth says:

        MG, I respectfully disagree. Hydrogen is not explosive; left alone it is completely inert. It is of course inflammable, as is the wooden furniture in your home; but if treated with respect it is quite safe. No hydrogen balloon has ever exploded.

        However, if you compress hydrogen into a small container, then when it escapes (as it will probably do), the energy released by its decompression might well trigger a hydrogen/oxygen combustion. So yes, storing hydrogen under compression, as in a hydrogen car, is probably a bad idea.

        Hydrogen is an energy carrier, and what we most need in such a carrier is energy density conveyed at low cost. At which hydrogen spectacularly fails.

        • Jan Steinman says:

          No hydrogen balloon has ever exploded.

          Thank goodness this was all made up, then!

          • Robert Firth says:

            Thank you for the movie. It shows quite clearly that the Hindenburg did not explode: if it had, the (rather fragile) envelope would have been blown out. But it stayed in place and burned in place. The tragedy was caused by static electricity igniting a little leaked hydrogen, and that set off a chain of combustion through the whole. In addition, note that the flames all go upwards, not outwards as they would in an explosion.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Okay, then. It was not an “explosion.” Yea, right.

              I’ll bet if you google for “Hindenberg,” you’ll find that word correlates highly with “explosion.”

              You’re grasping at straws, here. But let’s not quibble over semantics. Perhaps we can simply agree that hydrogen has some properties that make it particularly dangerous, and leave the word “explosion” to chemists and physicists.

        • MG says:

          Obviously, I meant that it must be compressed, which creates the explosiveness.

          Furthemore, when I was a child I tried to produce hydrogen using electrodes from the inside of a battery connected to another battery, put the electrodes into a cup with salted water and filled a plastic bag with it. Then ignited it. The ignition is quite abrupt, like explosion.

        • doomphd says:

          “No hydrogen balloon has ever exploded.”


          • as i understand it, it was the outer skin of the hindenburg that ignited first, having been proofed with a similar inflammable mixture used to coat circus tents— releasing the hydrogen to atmosphere before it too caught fire


            • doomphd says:

              H2 + 1/2O2 –> H2O. a few years ago, we had a post-doc working in a basement lab, mixing compressed hydrogen gas with other gases (CO2, O2). static electricity or perhaps a digital pressure sensor on the regulator apparently caused an electrical spark which ignited a small leak in the hydrogen regulator or tank. the resulting explosion blew her arm off and badly damaged the walls and steel door of the lab. quick response from others in the building stopped the blood flow so she survived to sue the university for damages, which is self-insured.

              it could have been much worse, like a different part of her body being severed, or damage to the supporting columns causing the entire $60 M building to be condemned.


            • Sounds bad!

            • JesseJames says:

              The outer skin paint sealant contained alumina, which is highly flammable. However it is most likely the hydrogen ignited, due to either sparking or the correct hydrogen/air mixture ratio, due to leaking or intentionally venting hydrogen.
              Hydrogen apparently burns without colored flames so the pictures of the disaster clearly show the skin burning and giving off much colored flames.

          • john Eardley says:

            “No hydrogen balloon has ever exploded.”

            Maybe not a balloon but the Fukushima containment vessels blew up due to hydrogen.

            • Tim Groves says:

              Actually, the containment vessels didn’t blow up. If that had happened there would have been a lot more mess. What happened was that hydrogen was produced from the breakdown of zirconium fuel cladding either in the reactors or in the spent fuel tanks and probably both, was leaked or was vented into the containment buildings, and exploded when the hydrogen concentration in the air reached a critical threshold.

              Please, please, please, please, please! Forgive me for quoting Wikipedia on this. I do so only because it’s the first reasonably simple explanation of the hydrogen explosions that I could find online.

              As workers struggled to supply power to the reactors’ coolant systems and restore power to their control rooms, a number of hydrogen-air chemical explosions occurred, the first in Unit 1 on 12 March, and the last in Unit 4, on 15 March. It is estimated that the hot zirconium fuel cladding-water reaction in Reactors 1–3 produced 800–1,000 kilograms (1,800–2,200 lb) of hydrogen gas each. The pressurized gas was vented out of the reactor pressure vessel where it mixed with the ambient air, and eventually reached explosive concentration limits in Units 1 and 3. Due to piping connections between Units 3 and 4, or alternatively from the same reaction occurring in the spent fuel pool in Unit 4 itself, Unit 4 also filled with hydrogen, resulting in an explosion. In each case, the hydrogen-air explosions occurred at the top of each unit, that was in their upper secondary containment buildings.Drone overflights on 20 March and afterwards captured clear images of the effects of each explosion on the outside structures, while the view inside was largely obscured by shadows and debris.In Reactors 1, 2, and 3, overheating caused a reaction between the water and the zircaloy, creating hydrogen gas. On 12 March, leaking hydrogen mixed with oxygen exploded in Unit 1,destroying the upper part of the building and injuring five people. On 14 March, a similar explosion occurred in the Reactor 3 building, blowing off the roof and injuring eleven people. On the 15th, there was an explosion in the Reactor 4 building due to a shared vent pipe with Reactor 3.


            • Robert Firth says:

              For Tim: you are right. The same thing almost happened at Three Mile Island. Zirconium is a reducing agent: when exposed to steam, or very hot water under pressure, it oxidises, releasing free hydrogen. Technically, this was a spectacularly stupid idea: it created what safety people call an “amplifying cause”: it alone seems harmless, but in the event of an accident, and the majority of nuclear plant accidents will release superheated water into the containment chamber, it will make the accident far worse.

          • Kim says:

            While it did indeed explode, it is my understanding that that was a result of sabotage to discredit Germany. The saboteur behind it was a Jewish baseball player by the name of Moe Berg who worked for the OSS. Some parts of his story have been made into a Hollywood movie called “The Spy Behind Third Base”, or similar.

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      or maybe I’ve missed a trick here.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      by 2025 the UK’s biggest domestic boiler (furnace) manufacturer is making all their boilers ”hydrogen ready”– ie they can be converted in situ.

      Sounds like greenwashing to me.

      A natgas boiler is already “hydrogen ready,” since it is already burning 10% to 30% or so! (The rest is methane.) They might change the jets to improve efficiency, but I’m sure it’s no big thing.

      “In situ” is a fancy way of saying, “some guy with a wrench.”

    • john Eardley says:

      Yes it leaks easily however the really big issue with Hydrogen is that unlike other gasses, when decompressed it heats up rather than cooling down. One can imagine what happens to leaks; boom! Its a very dangerous gas and not suited to home use.

    • doomphd says:

      re: hydrogen economy: sure signs of ignorance and desperation.

    • Davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      “anybody got an answer?”


  7. Herbie R Ficklestein says:

    Resolving the debate will require “a combination of data and modeling,” according to NASA climatologist Claire Parkinson. Many scientists are already hard at work on this issue.
    One ongoing project known as the Polar Amplification Model Intercomparison Project is conducting a series of coordinated model experiments, all using the same standard methods, to investigate the Arctic climate and its connections to the rest of the globe. Experts say these kinds of projects may help explain why modeling studies conducted by different groups with different methods don’t always get the same results.

    At the same time, improving the way that physical processes are represented in Arctic climate models is also essential, according to Xiangdong Zhang, an Arctic and atmospheric scientist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

    Outside that debate, there are still big questions about the Arctic climate to resolve. Scientists know the Arctic is heating up at breakneck speed — but they’re still investigating all the reasons why.

    Researchers believe a combination of feedback processes are probably at play. Sea ice and snow help reflect sunlight away from the Earth. As they melt away, they allow more heat to reach the surface, warming the local climate and causing even more melting to occur.

    One key question for the coming decade, Zhang said in an email, is “what relative role each of the physical processes plays and how these processes work together” to drive the accelerating warming.

    Unraveling these feedbacks will help scientists better predict how fast the Arctic will warm in the future, according to Francis — and how quickly they should expect its consequences to occur. They include vanishing sea ice, thawing permafrost and melting on the Greenland ice sheet.

    Unfortunately, knowing and projecting are not the same as doing something about it!

    • In fact, it is likely that nothing can be done about arctic changes, other than adapting to the changes that nature is handing down. We need to move away from the idea that our scientists can somehow fix the situation.

    • JesseJames says:

      Arctic sea ice is not vanishing. Check out the supposedly “vanishing” ice cover.
      Greenland just recorded the lowest temperature EVER recorded in history for any day, anywhere in Greenland.

      • Davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        thanks for that factual link…

        “NASA has recently revealed this upcoming solar cycle (25) will be “the weakest of the past 200 years,” and they’ve correlated previous solar shutdowns to prolonged periods of global cooling here…”

        so it seems The Sun has the final say in global temperature changes…


        who is shocked by that? 😉

  8. Yoshua says:

    Inside info on Suleimani’s attacks on U.S assets.

    Trump just draw a red line that is an invitation to anyone who wants to ignite a war between the U.S and Iran to do a False Flag attack.

    The fuse is right there…

    Al Qaeda

    …are thinking: now where are my matches?

    • adonis says:

      you are on the money yosh that is obviously their plan to
      start a war to get the oil price up for a short while anyhow both sides would be happy to do the deed

  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Most of the problems afflicting the global economy relate to a lack of demand for goods and services, at least on average, compared with the years prior to the 2008 crash.”

  10. Jan says:

    Thanks for all great literature hints, I will look them up. @Jan: I am fighting inna similar way with my digital books.

    My point of view: No god, no supernatural deity, has imposed that predicament on us. We dont face any cosmic challenge but consequences of our actions. This is put by man on man.

    Needed is:
    1. reduce coslnsume of energy
    2. reduce population

    Both can be easily done, restrict offspring to one child and in two generations we are a quarter. In every European flat or house can easily survive double the residents, individual transport is not needed to survive. Electric power is not needed. No doubt we can survive with traditional farming methods. We already did.

    Our financial troubles include that we grant 1% od the populagion 50% of the resources. No deity imposed that on us.

    We can survive reduced complexity, we did lately in the Soviet Union, in WW1+2.

    All those Abrahamitic religions have a tendency for war, at least they dont manage to stop their leaders. I am sad for that. For me as a leftist atheist european John Doe, that has never been to the US, it was possible to see that Trump would react with war on the empeachment. All those honourful university professors did not. Unbelieveable, eh?

    It is not yet clear that economy can survive 150USD/barrel. Last time we spent all pension funds to rescue the banks.

    • The big battles an economy without fossil fuels is up against include:

      (1) Disease. Antibiotics are losing their battle rapidly.
      (2) Fires. Perhaps cold, wet areas are protected, but in general wood buildings burn down very frequently without modern fire protection. Forest fires can be expected, especially after a long period of suppression by “modern” approaches.
      (3) Sufficient year-around food.
      (4) Sufficient year-around fuel and biomass building materials.

      Maybe, living in a forested area of Canada, you are protected more than most against these problems.

      I don’t see any oil price that the world economy can sustain. Either the price is too low for producers or too high for consumers.

  11. Yoshua says:

    There have been massive protests in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon against poverty and corruption as their economies are going down the tubes.

    There is information that the Quds Force General Suleimani was planing to attack U.S assets and personal in Iraq and Lebanon to force a U.S retaliation.

    The U.S retaliation would then direct the anger of the people in the region against the U.S instead and unite them against the U.S…and perhaps even ignite a war against the U.S.

    Suleimani might just have managed to do just that.

  12. Catherine says:

    Hi Gail, I’ve read your site for over 1 1/2 years now and never commented. But I just saw the most hilarious youtube video that I think you will enjoy. Just a warning it might not be safe for work due to his name.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      Bit over the top, don’t you think?

      I’m no friend of militant vegans, but I’ve never really understood the “unless you live in a cave and use no fossil fuel, you have no right to protest” argument.

      I do think eating meat from a local source that has been produced with minimal carbon impact in mind is a lot more ecologically sensitive than eating a veggie burger from soy grown in vast monoculture farms in Iowa, shipped to Atlanta to be made into soy isolate protein, shipped to New Jersey to be made into burgers, put on single-use plastic trays inside a plastic-coated box and then wrapped in plastic, then shipped to distribution centres, then shipped to your store, then picked up in your SUV.

      On the other hand, zealotry on either side is still zealotry. Greta refused to ride on BC Ferries to give a talk in Victoria, because many of them use diesel fuel (some run on natgas), so those of us who live across the water from Vancouver had to each take a ferry to go see her speak in Vancouver.

      Still, I’m glad she’s doing what she does.

      • Kowalainen says:

        I think the original intent of veganism is compassion towards animals. The climate sect hijacked that movement and basically ruined it.

        Buying and eating veggies is of course better if you worry about greenhouse gasses, than first having to raise animals with the same basic caloric input and then eating the animal. Plenty of conversion losses there.

        I agree with Jan that if you are going to eat meat. Source it yourself, either through hunting or owning the animal. Killing and butchering it yourself, keeping it real.

        Plastic wrapped meat in your local supermarket is nothing else than nicely packaged cruelty. Avoids it at all costs if you consider yourself compassionate.

      • Kowalainen says:

        I think for the protest to be real, one have to first consider oneself before lunging into a protest with a vegan burger in one hand and a supposedly clean conscience in the other.

        I find shallow and hypocritical environmentalist activists worse than those who mock them, such as the guy in this video. They only get what they deserve. Ridicule.

      • DJ says:

        Wild or mostly grass fed must be really low on resource use, except time.

    • Your YouTube Video is over the top, but a lot of Greta’s things are over the top too. We are terribly dependent on fossil fuels right now, but people don’t realize how much this is the case.

    • Tim Groves says:

      Me too. I’m glad Greta is working so hard to show the world how serious her issues with adults and the patriarchy really are.

  13. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Hopes that 2020 would bring a happy new year for the global economy have already fizzled out. A closely watched figure has showed the world’s manufacturing sector all but ground to a halt in the final month of last year.”

    • Of course, 50.1 is still slightly expanding. And the eternally optimistic IMF has come out with another, marginally lower, world growth estimate.

  14. Davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

    WTI $63
    Brent $68

    both new highs for 2020!

  15. Davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

    economists just doing their thing:

    “The Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing managers’ index fell to 47.2 in December from 48.1, the fifth straight month of contraction and missing estimates for a rise in a Bloomberg survey of economists, according to a report Friday. It was the worst reading since June 2009 and marked the eighth decline in the last nine months. Readings below 50 indicate activity is shrinking.”

    “economists” forecasting growth even after 4 months of contraction, and 7 out of the previous 8…

    worst reading in 10.5 years… but just wait for next month’s index…

    • This is a US index. The US is supposedly doing relatively well, but you wouldn’t know it from this report. It says, “Fifteen of the 18 [U. S.] manufacturing industries reported contraction in December.”

  16. this is more than a ‘good listen’ on bbc world service

    it’s a MUST listen about what is going to happen to world geopolitics as we stop using oil

    • Kowalainen says:

      I am shocked! The BBC actually providing some informative stuff? First Meadows and now this. Did that landslide trouncing from Tories shake them so hard that actual factual information fell out of their rear ends instead of that dullard and awfully horrific cultural Marxism collectivist anti-feminist globalist drivel?

    • Neil says:

      Thanks, very good documentary!

    • kevin moore says:

      Meh. China is lauded at the end of the documentary for leading the “renewable” energy transition with the manufacture of “cheap and massive equipment production”. It is also mentioned that China is a contradiction in that it leads the World in the production of solar technology but also in carbon emissions having twice that of the U.S. No. this is not a contradiction.

    • All is Dust says:

      I am 17 minutes in and just hearing the same old hallelujah story. Nothing about risks and constraints of energy transitions (that last time – 1913 – triggered a World War). What am I missing?

      • Volvo740 says:

        Not much. My position is still there there are no alternatives (that scale). All you can have is addons to the existing system.

        • Volvo740 says:

          If CSP was viable wouldn’t Spain be 100% fossil free (for electricity) by now? And others have to come and learn? Not exactly rocket science with mirrors and salt. There are two massive plants near Las Vegas.

          Problem: we don’t drive on electricity. Our houses aren’t made of electricity. The cement in the CSP tower probably used large amounts of coal or oil in its construction.

          We’re going to have massive issues when the oil starts to decline, and I think what we have now is a phase of denial. But by 2040 we’re going to have a lot less, how much less, I don’t know.

          Perhaps PeakOil groups were wrong wrt to the price, but I don’t think they were wrong wrt to them being a finite resource that would eventually decline. North Sea is a good example. So is México. Egypt, …. the list is long. When the US and Saudi rolls over is when the serious trouble starts And I think by 2040 easily that will have happened. It could even start this year. But, like Campbell said, the timing isn’t very important.

          • Yes. And moreover we seem to be already in sort of patch up phase as many unconventional blends and refinery tricks have to be employed already to feed these major IC hub beasts. So, evidently after today’s extension effort must come the real severe downturn. Most likely the ~2023/5-2035 threshold seems as revealing period what forking scenario outcome comes next, i.e. either further ricocheting collapse or some IC hubs managing to circle wagons around something adjustable, e.g. drastic energy per capita gov mandates meets next gen coal / NPP etc..

          • 2040 seems optimistic. ASPO Germany published an analysis of THE 2019 IAE WEO. Growth or keeping of supply seems to be hazardous since it depends on what they now call ‘new fields’ for what they previously called ‘fields yet to be discovered’! You can find the document here :


            • The downturn does seem to be close at hand. I am guessing that 2018 was the single highest year for oil production, with the fourth quarter being especially high. 2019 will be a small step down. 2020 will a bigger step down.

              The bigger issue is total energy per capita. I expect that this is hitting limits as well. Rising natural gas production will probably keep it from falling for 2019. 2020 is more of a question mark. Energy prices are too low, for practically every type of energy. Even lithium prices are low.

            • Volvo740 says:

              Thanks Gail! And thanks for your great blog! These are interesting times, but I think they could turn to frightening pretty quickly. 5 years? That could be -10% or more. Another 5?

            • Volvo740 –

              We really don’t know how quickly energy production/consumption will fall. My guess is that it will fall much faster than depletion models suggest, because failing international trade and failing financial systems could bring prices down further crashing the whole system.

  17. Jan says:

    Yes, you can go back! Of course!

    Sorry, I never know where to add the threads in this system.

    We have a very good object for studies of reduced complexity: WW1 + 2. I recommend on youtube the BBC series “Wartime Farming”, very nicely done.

    Of course, horses cannot substitute cars, there will not be enough oat for that. But a military use of horses seems logical to me, also a system of communication based on horses. We cannot go backwards in time, so when internet breaks down we cannot rely on a working telegraph system. But we can “go back” in terms of reducing complexity. An example: The predecessor of that power tool electric wood mill was a wood plane. If you dont have that you might use a chisel and if that is missing an axe will do. If you dont have an axe you might use a stone that you break in half throwing it on another stone to get a sharp edge. Of course half a stone will never be a substitute for an electric power tool and you wont be able to make fancy furniture or window frames with a stone but if you need a wooden bowl to prepare baby food it might help a lot.

    When a crash comes a lot of people will die. Some will survive. They will remember older techniques and try if they are of help. Here in the European Alps for example there is a lot of knowledge about iron. In our place people know how to make metals without oil or technology. Not tanks but enough to provide Europe with knifes. I guess everybody knows more or less how to do it, some elders may tell the kids. That is exactly “going back”. Maybe we can copy an old singer and trade sewing machines. Folks in lower areas might remember to keep sheep or plant flax. Of course it does not mean we get the imperor back!

    It would be possible to prepare for a crash. It would require little gardens for everyone, knowledge, water, forests and some strategic thoughts about defense in times of a breakdown of all public control.

    We just dont do it for religious reasons. We are sinners and need our fate. To give gardens for free is terrorism. I guess the current threat to Iran is to avoid the pressure of the Democrats? Maybe we really deserve our fate. We are not in an unavoidable trap. We are asking for it.

    • Kowalainen says:

      Sinners? Speak for yourself.

      This joint will be kept lit until the end of the century.

      Prepping is futile hope for the great purification and cleansing event in disguise. How sorely disappointing it must be as BAU prods along to ever higher levels of complexity through technology and ultimately to master interstellar travel by the cognitive machines science and technology inevitably will create.

      • Country Joe says:

        And then on the beautiful morning of Dec.7 ,1941 bombs started falling out of the sky.
        The day at the beach didn’t turn out that day.

        • rilygtek says:

          Not for the unfortunate sailors, it didn’t.

          4 years later two high technology devices fell from the sky and put an end to that militaristic futility. Japan never will recover as a culture given the thorough trouncing from the gunboat diplomacy and humiliation from WW2. It is not a western culture and will never be. A good collectivistic emulation will never capture the true libertarian spirit of the west. Never. They have zero chance without the west and US specifically. They would directly regress back to feudalism and find themselves in the back waters once again. The same goes for the Chinese and all the other so called geopolitical competition.

          The engineer understood the implications directly without much thought, because he had seen in awe the might of the productive capital.

          “When we awoke on the morning of December 8, 1941, we found ourselves — without any foreknowledge — to be embroiled in war… Since then, the majority of us who had truly understood the awesome industrial strength of the United States never really believed that Japan would win this war.”

          – Jiro Horikoshi, chief engineer of the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero”

          Some 30 years later an US flag was on the moon thanks to US and former Nazi engineers and scientists.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            A good collectivistic emulation will never capture the true libertarian spirit of the west. Never.

            Ah, good old Mercan exceptionalism.

            Hey, it worked for Egypt, it worked for the Sumerians, it worked for the Maya, it worked for the Roman Empire, it worked for the British Empire, so why not the US?

            All civilizations fall. Every. Single. One.

            You really need to read Joseph Tainter. Read it with an open mind. He may be wrong. But consider that, if his rational is solid, how much he describes “the true libertarian spirit of the west,” okay?

            • Davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

              we’re just quasi-exceptional Americans…

              “we” sent men to the moon!

              sure, way back in 1969…

              yup, the USA is headed for the same post-IC poverty as the rest of the world…

              perhaps as the last one standing, or perhaps “we” go down with the rest of The Core all at once…

              only 363 days left in 2020, so I doubt that’s enough time for The Collapse…

              but poverty is coming, whether the wealth bubble pops quickly or just slowly deflates for a decade or two…

            • Jan Steinman says:

              poverty is coming

              So, embrace the inevitable! We all need the practice!

            • rilygtek says:

              What I am saying is that we need each other. The idiosyncrasies and flaws every single culture have can be spotted and heckled into ridicule.

              As an example, table that buffoon Saigō, threw thousands of capable men to die in vain and then in an final act of futility and sunk cost fallacy obliterated the rest. Fighting for what? They would all have been pardoned anyway saving thousands of young men in the process. That stupid old pride and class infested feudalism vs industrial civilization, is that really worth preserving. No it isn’t, but it still lingers on in Japan in the collective unconscious. But don’t get me wrong. I like the traditional aspects of Japanese culture, it has merit, a certain adorable beauty and simplicity. But as with all culture there is this disgusting thing worth loathing.

              Yes, the oil age will inevitably come to an end to the great grief of mankind. But mark my words, the 1bn core will prevail. It has to. It must. It will. The exodus towards the western/European, even Russian core will intensify eventually ending in border conflict.

              Of course the bill of rights and British common law is exceptional.

            • Why one billion? Why not a lower number?

            • Kowalainen says:

              Let me put it this way, the amount of people will be kept inversely proportionate with the amount of cheap energy.

              The limit will of course be the energy at current levels, supported by hydro and coal/organic matter gasification. Which is about 10% of world energy today.

              10% of let’s say 10bn is approx 1bn. Give or take.

              Then of which some 5% will run the machinery until it reaches awareness. From there point onwards mankind is totally and utterly irrelevant, a mere curiosity, an historical artifact.

              And then Gaia stretches her clutches outwards.


            • Number of people would be proportional to cheap energy, I would expect.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Number of people would be proportional to cheap energy, I would expect.

              I agree.

              We have Haber and Bosch to thank for conjuring up human biomass out of the very atmosphere, thanks to natural gas.

              Without natgas, nitrogen fertilizer will plummet, as will agricultural output, as will human biomass.

              But there does appear to be a “break point” in the energy-biomass curve. At some point, one does not need to breed a slave labour force and a retirement plan, due entirely to excess energy. The African villager whose village gets an electric well pump does not need to breed a water-fetcher. The industrial-world worker who has a pension does not need children to care for her when she gets too old to work.

              So, the energy-biomass curve seems to have two slopes. One, a nearly 1:1 correspondence, as greater energy enables greater fecundity, and then a break point and flattening of the curve, after which, excess energy can be used directly to supply the needs that fecundity formerly filled.

              In fact, in highly-industrialized, high-energy nations, it appears that fecundity becomes a relative disadvantage, a resource-sink, rather than a source — children in the First World are a hobby, not a necessity.

            • Pensions of all kinds are failing right now. The promises cannot be kept, unless there is an ever-growing army of rich children to tax.

              I don’t think the 1:1 correspondence goes away. It anything, more energy is required. Extra overhead seems to require more energy, as bigger companies, more international trade, and more technical training are added. Way too many people get left out of the system. Somehow, they need to be supported, or they tend to cause revolutions.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Ah, yes of course. And also, the energy used per capita should ideally increase with technological advancement.

            • DJ says:

              “The industrial-world worker who has a pension does not need children to care for her when she gets too old to work.”

              “What if everyone did it?”

            • An awfully lot of systems are running into the too few children problem. Many of these children aren’t earning very high wages, either.

            • Kowalainen says:

              I think it is time to incentivize by removing the subsidies, as exist in Sweden, of getting and having children and then to do like the Chinese with the one child policy.

              Mandatory IQ and general cognitive ability tests before allowing child bearing.

            • “Mandatory IQ and general cognitive ability tests before allowing child bearing.”

              Sounds too much like Nazi Germany.

              We think brains are the key to success, but that may not be the case at all. Being physically strong may be what it takes to succeed in a world without fossil fuels. We don’t really know how our self-organizing system will work in the future.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Did I mention race or ethnicity?

              The US military does IQ tests, are they racist, Nazis perhaps?

            • Kim says:

              @ Kowalainen “Mandatory IQ and general cognitive ability tests before allowing child bearing.”

              Why? What kind of outcome do you think you will get from more higher IQ citizens? How would higher average IQs solve current problems?

              Your eugenic system might better test for tendencies to sociopathy or psychopathy and eliminate those, no? Having lots of greedy and selfish “intelligent” people who will do anything to get what they want, well, that’s no improvement on anything

              But the whole idea is silly anyway. You haven’t even defined the problem, or what outcomes you are seeking, and why your method is appropriate.

              But perhaps your IQ is not high enough for this discusson and your genes should be culled. Because, after all, that’s perfectly moral, right?

              I suppose you must have been joking.

            • DJ says:

              Kim, Kowalainen needs lots of technicians (IQ ~120+) building the machine to send the owners out in space, while the useless gets denied resources.

            • Robert Firth says:

              “All civilizations fall. Every. Single. One.”

              To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

            • rilygtek says:

              Actually few civilizations collapse, they simply evolve into something different. Case in point, industrial civilization succeeded agrarian feudalism as it were hopelessly obsolete as new technologies became available to mankind.

              Eventually human civilization in all its forms will be obsoleted.

              You might disagree with me, but then you’d be wrong.

            • The definition of collapse used by historians is broader than the one you use. Using the broad range of negative outcomes classified as collapse by historians, civilizations collapse.

              Henry Kissenger was quoted as saying,

              “I think of myself as a historian more than as a statesman. As a historian, you have to be conscious of the fact that every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed.

              “History is a tale of efforts that failed, or aspirations that weren’t realized, or wishes that were fulfilled and then turned out to be different from what one expected. So as a historian, one has to live with a sense of the inevitability of tragedy. As a statesman, one has to act on the assumption that problems must be solved.”

            • Robert Firth says:

              Ah, rilygtek, Saigo Takamori, (西郷 隆盛), perhaps not a buffoon, but as they say, “more royalist than the king”. His devotion to the Meiji Restoration was noble, but it led him to do some very stupid things, creating division at a time when unity was badly needed. And then he joined the Satsuma Rebellion; as you say, a truly stupid decision. As well as a repudiation of the oaths of loyalty he had sworn. In fact, rather like some English nobles, who violated their oaths to the king and conspired with foreign adventurers, such as the Welsh criminal Henry Twdwr. Did he commit seppuku? Perhaps, but there is no good evidence.

      • Davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        “… as BAU prods along to ever higher levels of complexity through technology and ultimately to master interstellar travel by the cognitive machines science and technology inevitably will create.”

        that’s a nice modern myth you created there…

        the complexity of IC is based on the energy flowing through the system…

        that energy flow inevitably will diminish and take away most of the complexity built over centuries of cheap abundant FF…

        though before it’s over, humans might be able to send out lots of those tiny space drones….

        but why not colonize Mars first?

        oh, wait, we can’t…

    • Herbie R Ficklestein says:

      Jan, no doubt a few may survive the bottleneck and afterwards what remains of “folk knowledge” will be sparse.
      Like yourself, I was deeply interested in the subject. Amazed at the intelligence, resourcefulness and ability of ancestors.
      One excellent written book reference is this series.

      In 1966, Eliot Wigginton and his students in an English class at the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School initiated a project to engage students in writing.[1][2] The class decided to publish a magazine over the course of the semester. Its articles were the product of the students’ interviewing their relatives and local citizens about how lifestyles had changed over the course of their lives and dealt with traditions in the rural area. First published in 1966, the magazine covers topics of the lifestyle, culture, crafts, and skills of people in southern Appalachia. The content is written as a mixture of how-to information, first-person narratives, oral history, and folklore.

      The Foxfire project has published Foxfire magazine continuously since 1966. In 1972, the first of the highly popular Foxfire books was published, which collected published articles as well as new material. Both the magazine and books are based on the stories and life of elders and students, featuring advice and personal stories about subjects as wide-ranging as hog dressing, faith healing, blacksmithing, and Appalachian local and regional history. Foxfire moved from Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School to Rabun County High School in 1977.

      Unfortunately, many of these outdated publications are being hauled away in the trash bin now that old timers, like myself, are dying off.
      Doubt much will be available after BAU ends….not a pretty picture …

      In 1966, Eliot Wigginton and his students in an English class at the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School initiated a project to engage students in writing.[1][2] The class decided to publish a magazine over the course of the semester. Its articles were the product of the students’ interviewing their relatives and local citizens about how lifestyles had changed over the course of their lives and dealt with traditions in the rural area. First published in 1966, the magazine covers topics of the lifestyle, culture, crafts, and skills of people in southern Appalachia. The content is written as a mixture of how-to information, first-person narratives, oral history, and folklore.

      Of course, this is one of many that was produce. Roy Underhill is still producing the Woodwright Shop on Public TV. Others have retired, like Mike Dunbar of New Hampshire in traditional chairmaking and Drew Langsner of Marshall, North Carolina operating Country Workshop out of his homestead. Both published excellent books on the topic.
      One thing that will be apparent, human activity will slow down, way down.
      Took me 5 days to complete a Windsor Chair by hand tools.
      That’s a good thing, the Cosmos needs a rest….

      • Jan Steinman says:

        In 1972, the first of the highly popular Foxfire books was published

        I keep picking them up as I find them. I’ve got volumes 1-6. Are there more?

        In that vein, The Mother Earth News back issues are available digitally. Got those, too! I put them all on a 9″ Kindle, which will run for a month from a couple hours of sunlight. I’ve got a dozen 9″ Kindles that I got broken for very cheap and replaced the displays and batteries on. I also got a dozen solar chargers for them.

        Foxfire and TMEN aren’t going to “save the world.” But they may soften the descent for a few of us. They may be the Internet of the future.

        • Herbie R Ficklestein says:

          Jan, afraid I had many back issues of Mother Earth News in original magazine form and moved out of State, leaving them behind, along with a treasure trove of other like minded reading material. Friend donated them to a private school in New Hampshire that does support sustainability. So, hopefully, they go to good use.
          Also, have the disc of Mother Earth News and suspect after BAU this and other digital reference works will be lost either in the cloud or no hardware to upload.
          Also, Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog, warned BAU makes possible some of the means to preform the tasks at hand.
          Reflecting back on those long gone days brings a smile, how naive and misguided the back to the land movement was in terms of going mainstream.
          Just like the Permaculture movement of today! Watched a video clip of Permaculturist Peter Hand, former editor of the Permaculture Activist for over 20 years and one of the leaders here in the States. Moved from EARTH Haven Ecovillage in Black Mountain, NC.,
          which he help found to Bloomington Indiana. There him and his partner purchased a house on a small parcel zoned for both agriculture, residential. On YouTube he shows clips of it and what they accomplished. Anyhoot, one rich neighbor frowned on the design and basically forced them to sell with harassment and they sold it, heading to the rural Michigan countryside.
          Peter Hand was very active in the community and even was on a City Panel Committee for a write up plan for Peak Oil.
          So much for adapting….

          • Jan Steinman says:

            … have the disc of Mother Earth News and suspect after BAU this and other digital reference works will be lost either in the cloud or no hardware to upload.

            That’s why I got into e-ink Kindles. I’ve hacked it to disable the “screen saver,” so the last-viewed page remains forever, even without power.

            I’m sure the civilization bigots will claim We’re All Gonna Die, And No Freakin’ Kindle Will Change That™, but what the heck, you gotta try what you can, no? Things designed for very low power and a bit of vegoil-powered diesel may give the bottleneck survivors some breathing room between smart phones and ox carts, no?

            … Permaculturist Peter Hand… Moved from EARTH Haven Ecovillage… to Bloomington Indiana… one rich neighbor frowned on the design and basically forced them to sell… So much for adapting…

            Sheesh. Earthhaven may well be one of the places to be after the bottleneck. A similar situation happened to friends on Vancouver Island, who started Permaculture farming on a property zoned “rural residential.”

            Permaculturists can be a bit arrogant about being able to transform any landscape, without regard to politics or zoning.

            I say, stack the deck in your favour, first! The politics here are very supportive, we’re on agriculture-zoned land (which the Right To Farm Act protects against rich neighbours), and a good portion of our island are aware of our impending crisis.

            Still, that didn’t keep some “do gooder” from calling the RCMP, the Bylaw Enforcement Officer, and the SPCA, when we had a goat with a terminal disease. Sheesh. You’d think any one of those would be enough. We got a clean bill from each of them, with the SPCA noting only that we should have euthanized the goat.

            • Herbie R Ficklestein says:

              Hi Jan….One thing I agree…not only Permaculturists can be a bit arrogant…but EVERYONE!
              Do not know why, but spell whatever changed Peters name to Hand!! No, it’s Peter Bane
              and I can attest that is not in his nature at all.

              Just a short clip, numerous ones on YouTube worth seeing

              Here is his website

              Peter Bane is a native Illinoisan who grew up in the university city of Champaign-Urbana. A frequent speaker and conference presenter, he is the author of The Permaculture Handbook: Garden Farming for Town and Country, and published Permaculture Activist magazine from 1990-2015. He contributed to the City of Bloomington Peak Oil Task Force Report, Redefining Prosperity: Energy Descent and Community Resilience.
              Familiar with tropical and temperate systems in North America, Hawaii, and the Caribbean, Peter has taught more than 1500 students in 100 courses spread widely across the US, Canada, and as far afield as Chile, Argentina and Trinidad-Tobago, for more than 25 years. He holds the Diploma of Permaculture Design, variously, in teaching, media, trusteeship, site design, and community service from the Permaculture Institute – USA (2014), the British Academy Worknet (2005) and the Permaculture Institute of North America (2016).

              One individual worth exploring.

    • Dennis L. says:

      I appreciate your viewpoint, it is comforting(no condescending here), the big problem is time, there is not enough of it to do all the things you list, electric tools are very efficient and without them it is probably impossible to build a modern, fuel efficient house even if it is small. I have built a great deal of my infrastructure, even with journeyman tools and the ability to use them well it takes time and projects need to be limited in scope.
      Old structures really aren’t better, they require much maintenance(time) and without that they fail.

      Gardens: There are times of plenty and there are times of want, people become angry in times of want. Gardens are not easy; someone(an actor I believe) has wondered if people at a given age look younger now; my grandma’s both looked old, both lived to be a hundred, my mother who also lived into her late 90’s did not look that old. Hard work takes its toll on the body, it steals time to say converse on the internet.

      Iran: We are currently self sufficient in oil, if oil goes to $150/barrel it solves the cost of fracking problem, if we bomb the refineries as one politician has obliquely suggested(I think the quote was whether or not the Iranians wanted to continue to be in the oil business) that would solve our fracking cost problem for a few years. Conclusion on this: follow the money, 9 times out of 10 one gets the correct answer. The intelligence seems to have been very good, the bombs fell at 1:00AM where he stood.

      Democrats: My main concern is they are going off the rails and we do not need a single party system; the right can be prone to as many mistakes as the left. Predictions are difficult, but should the right win both houses and the Presidency in the fall, that might not be all to the good. This may be where the Democrats failed us, they went off on too many tangents, we need both sides of debates least we make serious errors; corollary, we seek affirmation not information. OFW is unique in that respect, we seem to seek more information than affirmation.

      Deserving fate: I can’t believe this, we are not asking for things, it is life. Yes, I agree we are sinners, thus it has always been so and those of us who are Christians we have found ways to live with the inevitable contradictions or our existence. For all its faults, it actually works pretty well and in that regard I envy the Catholics and confession where somewhat in jest I see a person going into the booth, confessing their sins and effectively saying, “Well, that is done, now it is all your(the priest’s) problem and I have to go on about the business of living in my life.”

      Dennis L.

      • Dan says:

        I believe Gail will be proven correct in that oil prices will spike but they won’t be sustained due to the regular folks not being able to afford it or the goods it produces which is where we are now and getting worse. Look at the yellow vest, venezuela, Argentina, mass migrations, etc. Now think what an oil shock (supply and price) will do. What did oil prices do in 2008 before the GFC and where are we now?
        The financial wasteland of debt and the unparalleled inequality of the modern era is feathering a nest for a big fat black swan to come swooping down to lay its eggs and hatch they will.
        Oil and the politics of it has been a big part of my life – it is a big part of everyone’s life. My first memories as a kid were sitting in gas lines in the 70’s while my dad rode a bike to work at a textile mill. I served in the Marine Corps having joined right after Iraq invaded Kuwait (oil) and then Desert Storm. The Iraq war of 2003 – Present (oil). The Great Financial Crisis of 2008 (spurred on by high oil prices). The greatest income inequality of the modern era courtesy of declining EROEI and the associated unrest that comes with it.
        Now here we are once again and I have to wonder how many times can we spin the chamber and get away with it. Eventually our luck will run out and we begin the descent to wherever that may lead.
        Thank God we have Trump and a group of men and women that admire him so much they never question or condemn a single tweet. We are in good hands and are loved dearly.

    • I am not convinced that sin is terribly important, except from a couple of points of view:

      (1) People need to treat each other in a way that enables energy dissipation, including families living together peaceably and trade with others. This is the reason why various codes of conduct have been written or handed down on stone tablets.

      (2) We all make mistakes. We need to forget them and move on. In this sense, it is we who need to forgive ourselves of sin.

      I am doubtful that any fate is associated with sin, except for bad outcomes here on earth.

      • rilygtek says:

        Hitch discusses the Ten Commandments.

        Very enlightening.

        • Really, not very enlightening.

          Inconsistencies certainly do not prove that there is no god. Many men could construct their view of god, based on what little piece of the universal god had been revealed to them. We only get to see the understandings that humans have of god, not what god is really like.

          The old commandments were commandments for a low-energy world. The new commandments invented by Hitch are temporary rules that might sort of work in a high energy world (in fact, growing energy as well as high energy). Such a high-energy world is already going away. The world is being taken back by conservatives, whether we like it or not.

          We cannot have any single set of commandments. They need to change with the world’s energy supply per capita. Laws are to a significant extent self-organizing. The interpretation of a given set of laws changes from group to group. Nowhere do the original Ten Commandments say anything negative about homosexuals, for example, contrary to what Hitch seems to suggest.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            Inconsistencies certainly do not prove that there is no god.

            Or, as the alien hunters put it, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

          • Dennis L. says:

            It has been my privilege to have met you first perhaps in Boston when you were an editor on the old OD and in that light watch you explore the consequences of a somewhat rapidly changing world secondary to forces beyond our control.

            Your thoughts into the self organization of our world and probably the universe for me are one of the more or perhaps most important of those insights.

            It would seem that the world will organize itself in a manner to optimize energy throughput despite our best efforts to make it do otherwise; which to me means some of the beliefs in the “old” gods determining our fate as compared to self determination might have been closer to reality than contemporary thought. Should this be the case, the current left and its belief that one only has formulate the right policy and things will work out as desired could be in for a collision with reality – reality seems to always win in the end.

            We at OFW seem to have more or less completed our understanding the physics of oil, depletion, etc.; we as a group are working our way through the political and living aspects of it(I have one foot in each world, very challenging to live that way) and now returning back to the gods and how they see us. If we are right in our beliefs, the non believers in what ever faith will find themselves either totally marginalized or begrudgingly return to the metaphorical pews they abandoned in the mid twentieth century and sit next to us, we would do well to welcome them and forget some of the unpleasantness of this current period.

            Odd, we have gone from god to physics and back to god. Its looking to have been a short trip.

            Thank you for helping us navigate this voyage in a very thoughtful manner.

            Dennis L.

            • Thanks! The “We are in charge; there is no god” view is simply false. It is the new religion of the day, but it is a nonsense religion.

            • Artleads says:

              Back to some teaching by one to whom it seemed to matter much less than it mattered to me: Everything is a spirit. Every thought is a spirit. Every thought about a thought is a spirit. Treating these entities with sincere reverence seems to help me.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Yes, having the capacity to ponder about things is truly profound. That is the true gift of existence.

          • rilygtek says:

            11’th commandment, thou shalt not consume without consideration of mankind.

            12’th commandment, thou shalt rid yourself of excesses

            13’th commandment, thou shalt strive to be productive

            14’th commandment, thou shalt be thrifty and industrious


            • Jan Steinman says:

              13’th commandment, thou shalt strive to be productive
              14’th commandment, thou shalt be thrifty and industrious

              I’m not so sure about these two, and I don’t really see how “trifty” fits in with them.

              Hey, if productivity and industriousness got us into this mess, surely they can get us out!

              In Lean Logic, David Fleming writes of the need for a “slacker economy,” and the need to do no more than what is necessary, in a low-energy future.

              Yea, feed your family, plus a bit more for reserve or trading, but don’t go all “productive” and “industrious” about it, so you have to develop distribution channels and hire accountants and lawyers.

              Of course, this is the exact opposite of what we are taught, because we are all taught the Religion Of Growth and the Puritan work ethic.

              I take my inspiration from the story of the Mexican fisherman and the Harvard MBA.

              Work less. Enjoy more. I’m not really very good at that. It sometimes takes real work to avoid work. 🙂

            • Kowalainen says:

              As Steve Jobs once said; “real artists deliver”.

              It is hard not being an industrious, thrifty engineer. The programming goes deep into the microcode.

              It is an attractor in the dynamic systems processes of the brain. Either doing work or think about philosophical matters just as a curiosity. And of course heckle RF engineers and insta-doomers occasionally.

              So I guess Joe average eventually will figure out that engineers are the Faustian bargain that went sour and will seek reparations: “But you see, dear Joe, it’s gone, all gone”.

        • Kowalainen says:

          It is not how it works.
          The absence of evidence proves nothing.
          Does the flying spaghetti monster orbit Tau Ceti?

          It is a ridiculous hypothesis and should immediately be rejected by any sane person.

          Mankind has survived a number of ice ages and other disasters and in the process created an enormous amount of gods and religions.

          What makes the abrahamic religion any more true than, let’s say the Greek Poseidon or the Hindu Gods?

          Absolutely no difference at all, it is only the delusional hope for an afterlife which fuels this search for meaning in the void which underpins it all.

          The sermons and smoke and mirrors from the priests tending the congregation is only a distraction keeping you way from trying to grapple with the void. It is nothing else than pandering with the ego.

      • Kim says:

        What about evil (selfishness and greed advanced through lies and violence) rather than something as vague and denominational as “sin”?

        Evil is always with us. It should be identified and punished, so that we get less of it. And evil is common and ubiquitous no matter how much energy is available to us. Evil doesn’t grow or diminish with our energy production.

        But no one in the world or religion or “ethics” wants to talk about evil any more. No one wants to be “judgemental”. But religions and “ethics” that don’t identify and oppose evil are nothing more than self-amusing speculations.

        • Kowalainen says:

          Can you please define evil and sin. In your own words.

          • Kim says:

            I defined it in my first paragraph.

            “selfishness and greed advanced through lies and violence”

            Please now tell me that selfishness, greed, lies and violence do not objectively exist.

            • Kowalainen says:

              No, I agree with you. Sin is way too “biblical” for a person of simple Buddhist tastes.

              It has way too many problems, such as the original sin. What is it even supposed to mean for a person rejecting all creation and religious myth. It carries and aura of manufactured guilt which invites sanctimonious mockery.

              I was just curious of your interpretation of sin, but I suppose you, too, find it somewhat problematic to be included in a rational discussion?

              It depends of course of the ultimate outcome. For what we know, the hideous acts of, let’s say Mao, Stalin and Hitler for all intents and purposes might have saved mankind in the long run. However doubtful, you might agree that it is a possibility.

              We simply can not know the long-term outcome of all our actions, good or bad.

              Assume that a greedy, hedonistic, child rapist, selfish and lying capitalist greedily investing money in an enterprise which happens to solve the energy predicament we are in now saving billions of lives in the process. What then? Throw him to the wolves? I would certainly object.

              Check out the Buddhist:

        • There is always a question of the “good of the group” versus the “good of the individual.”

          In a low energy world, the “good of the group” has to prevail. Thus, the admonitions in the direction of “Wives obey your husbands.” If the group has a problem with maintaining population, then wives need to have as many children as possible. All women need to find males as mates, so that they can have children. This often will involve rich husbands with many wives, and poor husbands with no wives. The one husband with one wife model is possible as energy resources per capita rise.

          In a high energy world, “looking out for oneself” and “entertainment” seem to be the highest value, especially if there is no long-term reward. The good of the family (or clan or village or country) becomes less important. In Europe, governments have taken over the need to take care of the poor and the outcast, so there is no need to even consider this.

          Hunter-gatherer economies and many traditional economies seem to have worked as “gift economies.” A person’s status depended on how much he/she could give away. This type of economy can work, where resources are fairly scarce and everyone knows each other. A person who does not conform is thrown out.

          All of these issues, as well as the kind of government at the time, seem to influence what level of sharing is “ethical” and “right.”

          • Kim says:

            Of course, this issue of the individual within the group is key. And it becomes most vexed when we consider the issue of war and our allegainces to the group to which we belong.

            Is war “evil”? No. Not necessarily, because the first law of life is that we must survive.

            However, we can conduct war in ways that are evil.

  18. hide-away says:

    Meanwhile, let’s just hasten a world descending into limits…
    “Qassem Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Quds Force, killed in US air strike on Baghdad airport”

    “The United States killed Iran’s most powerful general in an air strike at Baghdad’s international airport on Friday, on the direct orders of President Donald Trump.

    Key points:
    The Pentagon says the strike was carried out to deter future attacks
    A former Iran Revolutionary Guard chief has vowed “vigorous revenge on America”
    The attack takes the US confrontation with Iran to a dangerous new level
    The Pentagon confirmed the death of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East.”

    Both oil and Gold have jumped in price with this news. Let’s make oil more expensive for an ailing world economy…

    • Yoshua says:

      The Supreme Leader of the Islamic state of Iran: “Jihad will continue”.

      Iran has been fueling the sectarian war in the Middle East and now controles Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

      Russia is fighting with the Shia sect and China has quietly been arming them.

      Iran probably needs the oil in the region for its own survival. Russia and China probably need the oil too.

      • And everyone needs a higher price!

      • Robert Firth says:

        Yoshua, I disagree. The Shia are responsible for less than 10% of the “terrorist” actions in the ME; the Sunni do the rest. And that terrorism is funded and armed by three players: Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the US. The Saudis, because it helps them export their own fanatical sect of Islam; the Israelis, because they believe the terrorists will weaken their potential (and likely) enemies; the US because US foreign policy in the ME is dictated from Tel Aviv.

        The Iranians have responded to every offer of negotiation and accepted every proposal for reducing tension. It is the US that has repeatedly betrayed them, and left Iran with only one lever to apply.

  19. Sven Røgeberg says:

    «Of course, macro-economists would call linking wealth to energy through a constant absurd, even those that acknowledge the key role of energy in economic production. They would likely point out that the global GDP has been rising faster than energy consumption, and offer the utopian dream of “decoupling” the economy from its basic environmental needs.

    Dream on. How much is your home worth in an uninhabitable city where there the fuel supply and electrical power are shut off for the foreseeable future? GDP represents the accumulated production of worth over an arbitrary period of just one year; meanwhile, energy is required to sustain the activities of a healthy civilization that has been steadfastly built up over all of history. Current energy consumption is far more tied to maintaining the fruits of centuries of collective effort than to the national vagaries of a single prior year. We cannot erase the past; it is always with us, and it must be fed».

    • Kim says:

      Tearing down civilzation produces rising GDP as much as building it up.

      • DJ says:

        Maybe, probably not. But maintaining civilisation costs continually.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Good one, Kim! But yes, a lot of small Italian towns obtained nice ready cut stone by tearing down what the Roman Empire had built. And from my perspective, put it to better use.

        • Artleads says:

          But that’s taking away from the collective cultural commonwealth to instead benefit individuals. And to perpetuate consumer patterns based on individualism.

          • Robert Firth says:

            Artleads, in an age where every collective, no matter how small, demands its own privileges, we tend to forget that the smallest minority on Earth is the individual. But it is upon the individual that all human progress depends.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              the smallest minority on Earth is the individual. But it is upon the individual that all human progress depends.

              This has not been true for 99.9% of human history! You are speaking from a place of extreme privilege. It’s amazing the predictions one can make, sitting on top of pyramid containing a cubic mile of oil.

              Individualism arises as a direct result of excess energy. In an energy-poor future, collective cooperation will once again dominate. This is not new. This is basic anthropology.

            • I would have to agree with Jan. Without a lot of surplus energy, individuals cannot possibly survive by themselves. A person excluded from a hunter-gatherer economy would likely die.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              A person excluded from a hunter-gatherer economy would likely die.

              In such societies, there were no such things as imprisonment or capital punishment. People who did not work to the collective benefit were simply shunned, or expelled from the collective — what was essentially a death sentence.

      • It is really the building civilization back up again that produces the rising GDP. If uninsured damage occurs, and the owners have no way of funding repairs (such as through loans or government payments), the damaged property will stay damaged, except to the extent that vegetation naturally regrows.

        Without repairs, the lower value of the property can adversely affect the property values of other nearby homes, besides directly affecting the property. Asset price changes aren’t counted in GDP, however.

    • This is an excerpt from Tim Garrett’s blog. (A person has to follow a couple of links through to figure this out.) Tim Garrett is the person collaborating with Steve Keen in trying to introduce energy into economic models.

  20. happyholidays says:

    What happens if Iran tags Saudi oil production HARD not just a demo?
    Stuff gets real.

  21. happyholidays says:

    Just dont know how to process this AT ALL. NYT names Soleimani and location of strike hours before it occurs. Not sure this is BAU for 2020 we all hoped for.

  22. happyholidays says:
    These were top terrorist personnel from both Iran and Lebanon.
    A stunning and precise blow.
    Oil might go up a bit.

    • Robert Firth says:

      Indeed, a stunning, well planned, and almost perfectly executed blow. Note that the same people who three days ago were condemning Trump for being “powerless” to confront Iran are now condemning him for not being powerless. When US politics crosses the water’s edge, it becomes treason. (US Constitution, Article Three, Section 3)

  23. WSJ: Governments in Europe Find Workarounds to Bail Out Ailing Banks
    State injections into banks in Germany and Italy continue to protect investors over taxpayers

    We can be thankful for this!

    • Davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      yes, thanks to the CBs who are ready willing and able to create digital money out of thin air…

      part of the financial Endgame as the world economy undergoes the Great Turning from centuries of growth to the new normal De-growth…

      CBs must not allow any major bank failure…

      along with the other two: stock markets must not fall, and interest rates must stay near zero…

      the Everything Bubble is going to begin to deflate, or pop…

    • Chrome Mags says:

      “investors over taxpayers”

      The periphery (taxpayers) forced to protect the core (investors). That’s what’s been happening to the world economy since 08 and is analogous to a human body in the cold. To save the core the periphery (hands and feet) are sacrificed to save the organs, the core. That’s why it’s important to try and remain viable, needed by the core, so you don’t end up on the outskirts of the periphery living hand to mouth. I think when there is another step down like 08, the number of disenfranchised is going to be really scary. Right on that edge of asking if the core can sustain that many cast aside?

      • Jan Steinman says:

        it’s important to try and remain viable, needed by the core, so you don’t end up on the outskirts of the periphery living hand to mouth

        I prefer to remain invisible to the core, on the outskirts. “Hand to mouth?” Perhaps. Big hands, little mouth.

        • Kowalainen says:

          The “core” wishes you a good new year and, yes we can see you, because you can not resist the allure of what technology gives you.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            yes we can see you, because you can not resist the allure of what technology gives you

            Good. Seeing is believing.

            But it’s not so much “allure” as it is recruiting and proselytizing. This comment section needs some stirring up from time to time. I like to get people to think differently, or to at least get people to admit the possibility that things may not be as they assume.

            I am but an ant. No one who can “see me” because of technology is going to go through the trouble of stepping on me. Might as well assume Bill Gates will stop and bend over to pick up a nickel — it costs the system more to notice me than to step on me.

            • rilygtek says:

              You would find zero apostles if there were no Internet at your resort.

              Once BAU does the cost benefit analysis and cuts out (decommissions cell towers) Internet from your site due to finite world issues, rest assured that will be the end of the happy camping and the start of the exodus toward the core.

              People value their Internet connected devices only second to food and shelter. The rest is merely noises in the background that buys prestige and incentives to keep up with the Joneses, which anyway is a nonsensical, relative measure of success and wealth.

              Where there is energy, information exchange, technology and trade – civilization is. It is where people migrate towards. The recent world events and migrant crisis should be enough for you to draw that conclusion.

              I would lobby hard to get out a fiber to that resort. cell phone towers are a fickle thing that easily might not be repaired once they inevitably fail. A fiber optic cable in the ground can last for half a century and can be repaired with DYI kits.

              I know of remote villages in north Sweden with some ~50 people in population, getting fibers as an EU modernization effort together with HVDC connecting the near by wind turbines and hydro power station.

              It is obvious to me that most normal telecoms 3G/4G/5G towers will be decommissioned in rural areas of Sweden long before any serious bouts of finite world issues hits.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Internet at your resort

              Resort? Resort?

              I can see you haven’t done your research.

              You seem to have a rather limited view of people and the world. There seem to be many more types of people out there, with a huge diversity of needs and capabilities, than you seem to imagine.

              I’m not interested in the sheeple. I’m interested in outliers. They’re going to be whatever future humanity has.

              BTW: we have OC3c running down the road in front of us, not that it matters when the power is off, or when the wind blows a tree over on it — or if a backhoe slices through it. Having actually worked with fibre, it is not as simple to maintain as you seem to imagine. You need to diamond-hone the ends to an exacting flatness, for one thing. You don’t pass a gigabit/second through a “DIY kit.”

              The last time we had an extended power out(r)age, our UPS and generator kept our server (and freezers) going, but our internet/phone provider went down after about four hours. With 90 kph winds forecast, the next out(r)age could be *($(#)%%))..R$*@ TRANSMISSION TERMINATED

            • rilygtek says:

              There is still some zest in that RF engineer!

              Haha, happy to hear that you got some good ole’ OC3 capable fiber running through your resort.

              Don’t take it too seriously, we are here to speculate and mock each other gently.



            • Jan Steinman says:

              mock each other gently

              Yeabut, Resort? Really?

              Them’s fightin’ words ‘roun hea. 🙂

              You’re welcome to come spend a week on our “resort.” We’ll see what you’re made of.

              I’ll start you out hauling eight yards of manure from the goat barn. Then you can dig 44 beds in the greenhouse. And if you’re any good, we’ll feed you, although we’ve been known to buy people bus tickets outta here when they didn’t measure up!

            • rilygtek says:

              Easy peasy peanuts.

              I crank out some 300 watts for about 2hr every day on my 40km commute. Now do the calculation of the amount of work required shoveling manure from A to B and compare it with that.

              I used to part time/summertime work repairing broken stuff in the mining business up north and manually plant trees in the forestry business there as well. The endless stretches of coniferous plantation I have worked on…


              I guess I like to work with tech and to be alone pondering about existential stuff too much. People is the real distraction for me.


            • Jan Steinman says:

              I like to… be alone pondering about existential stuff too much. People is the real distraction for me.

              I hear you. I’d rather be off on my own doing things. But there are things one enjoys doing, and there are things that one knows just gotta get done. For us introverts, one of the “just gotta do it” involves working well with others.

              Preferring to be alone is fine, as long as you’ve got people skills to use when you really need them. But I think the notion of living a solitary life is an artifact of high-energy living.

              If you don’t have people skills, it’s best to go about acquiring them, while the ATM still spits out money and you can still buy bike parts. When that happens, you might need more people skills than emailing your boss a weekly status report.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Yeah, those maximum expressions of idiocy. Status and TPS reports. Don’t get me started on this.

              I actually like to work with my brothers in arms (colleagues). But the social aspects require mental energy to be spent.

              We use to discuss finite world issues occasionally and to them it is clear that we will inevitably run out of the cheap stuff and that it will be a severe predicament on mankind, so I guess the message of Gail and the peak oiler crowd is reaching a critical intensity. Good job there.

              I guess engineers generally enjoys to worry about stuff, a fetish of sorts. But for the most parts it is sterile and mundane stuff, the typical Swedish conflict-averse boring topics.

              I was actually planning going back to school studying some matters of personal interest, before my stupid brain gets too inflexible to learn new things.

              Going to Canada shoveling goat manure is certainly a quite controversial idea for me, no sarcasm intended. Why not, let me ponder about it. That Justin Trudeau thing you got going there, though. 🤮

            • Jan Steinman says:

              That Justin Trudeau thing you got going there, though.

              I don’t disagree, but have you looked at the primary alternatives?

              Ten years of Harper nearly turned Canada into “USA-lite!”

              So far, Canada seems to be resisting the trend of electing populist-nationalists.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Im not very up to date in Canadian smoke and mirrors, is there any critical mass of leftist leaning libertarians there? Small government and sensible welfare programs without the horrors of social(ist) engineering and brain washing?

      • Kim says:

        On balance, does the core produce or consume?

        • Kowalainen says:

          It depends on the perspective. Is a hydro power station located somewhere in the boondocks considered part of the core? I would argue yes.

          The topology has to be analyzed from a connectedness and not a purely population centric perspective. The “core” is all about energy flows and productivity.

    • Robert Firth says:

      Deutsche Bank (Germany) and Banco Popular Italiano (Italy) are two of the most corrupt banks in Europe. Both, of course, can demand, and will be given, unlimited amounts of taxpayer money. The myth of the Wirtschaftswunder must be maintained at any cost.

  24. Perhaps to my detriment I ostentatiously ignored the tiny wheel scooter scene for years, as only seeing around the old same meaningless *toyz with no real long term value. Seems I was wrong, or more precisely it took years of innovation to bear some fruits, and the Koreans are at it as world’s #1 again ..

    Brand /Mercane/ with two models:

    MX60: 2WD drive, CNC frame, full suspension, two disc brakes, seat option
    WideWheel (Pro): 2WD drive, wide wheel and passive suspension, two disc brakes

    Energy consumption: ~1/10 – 1/20th of a small/midsized car..

    yes dog kickscooters with serious wheel diameters were always different league above though

    • Kowalainen says:

      Plenty of these scooters here in south Sweden. I wouldn’t want to ride those on winter roads though. A tad bit too slow compared with the souped up China import electric bicycles maxing out at 50+ km/h. Faster if you don’t mind cranking. Or build your own mechanical “doping” sleeper bike dropping pros on your commute.

      • It creates a problem when vehicles of different speeds are trying to occupy the same small road. I would expect more accidents and more unhappy people, because they were almost hit in near misses.

        • Kowalainen says:

          Really, have you never cycled during rush hour in any arbitrary city in Europe or Asia? Or getting overtaken by a car as you prod along with your bicycle. It isn’t exactly a daredevil endeavor cycling along in traffic with the proper hi-viz gear, lamps and reflexes.

          You are clearly an American when it comes to scaremongering and fear where there is none to be found. Oh boy the powers that be can trick you into anything convincing you that the only way to be safe is inside a car with a .44 magnum in your glove compartment.

          Geez, these ‘muricans. 🤣

          • I have not cycled in Europe or Asia.

            I cycled quite a lot when I lived within the city of Chicago. The city is flat. The grid layout made finding streets that are not overly busy easy. I lived near Lake Michigan, and there were bicycle paths I could ride on, for long distances.

            In the Atlanta area, it is hilly and the streets are winding. Houses are within subdivisions containing perhaps 100 to 300 houses. The streets within subdivisions go nowhere, other than past other houses in the particular subdivision. (The subdivision will often include various residents-only recreational facilities, as well.) The subdivision roads empty out onto a few big hilly, winding roads with lots of cars and trucks. These streets are not inviting for bicycles. I see virtually no bicycles on these roads. But these are the roads that a person needs to take to get to any business.

            I know of adults who ride bicycles for recreation. They take their bicycles, load them in the back of their pickup trucks, and take them to an area considered suitable for bicycle riding.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Yes, I should not project my opinion upon the conditions you have in Atlanta area.

              I guess car-centric suburbia puts some limits to the possibility of cycling.

              Those electric bikes, though seem quite powerful in extremely hilly road conditions though.


            • Artleads says:

              This is one of the most telling, clear and damning descriptions of suburban “planning” I’ve ever seen.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              I see virtually no bicycles on these roads.

              Sounds like perhaps Chicago will do better than Atlanta in the coming energy bottleneck. (Although they need more household heat in Chicago.)

          • Dennis L. says:

            Some data might be helpful, personally mixing cars with bicycles seems like a bad idea. An automobile traveling 40 mph is going basically 60 feet per second, a bicycle going 20 is moving 30 feet per second, one second and both the cyclist and motorist can have a very bad day.

            “Aug 14, 2019 – In New York City, eight people have been killed while riding their bikes since June, bringing the total number of deaths so far this year to 19. “My friends [and I] … we are really in a weird time right now,” Marine said. “No one really wants to go ride even though it’s the thing we love to do most.”

            “A whopping 62 percent of working cyclists interviewed in a 2017 survey by the Biking Public Project said that they had been involved in a motor-vehicle collision at least once, and an average of 30 percent said they had missed work because of work-related injuries in the last year. ”

            All the good intentions in the world will not result in a good outcome when a bicyclist and motorist attempt to occupy the same space at the same time.

            Dennis L.

            • DJ says:

              But insider cìties bikes are faster than cars? And probably twice as fast as buses.

              (Casual cycling, not getting warm. )

            • Kowalainen says:

              Let’s read up about cycling safety statistics from Denmark instead of car conditioning culture fake “news”.


              Let’s observe in the pdf above that the bicycle related accidents went down by 20% when the amount of bicycles increased by 20%.

              Now that is quite close to a cycling conditioned culture as you can get, with the exception of the Netherlands.

              “To the higher social classes the bicycle is a status symbol, with which they give subtle signals to other people, such as “I live so close to my work that I can cycle”. The lower classes still feel more comfortable when their means of transport has an engine and they prefer the car or the scooter, when they are less affluent. This difference is reflected in the figures. Well-educated people in Amsterdam choose the car for only 28% of their journeys, for the lower classes this is over 50%.”


              Yup, only the rabble drive cars.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Dennis, Singapore found their usual insane solution to the bicycle problem. Ban all bicycles from the roads, where they only impede cars, which are of course Singapore’s first class citizens. And tell the cyclists to ride on the pavements (sidewalks), where they will only endanger pedestrians, the city state’s third class citizens.

              And the law restricts them to 15 km/hr, which I never, never saw enforced. But an adult on a cycle at 15 km/hr has more than enough momentum to kill a small child, but the children cannot hear the cycle, and being full of life and energy tend to move unpredictably. The cyclists are also allowed on walkways in parks, across playgrounds, and so on. In other words there is now no place in the public realm where a small child is safe. Thank you, bad emperor.

            • Kowalainen says:

              The child is also out cycling with the parents.


              This sight is very common in Sweden.


              3 year olds stunting away on BMX’s.


              These ‘muricans. 🤣

          • DJ says:

            Stockholm in the winter is a bit of a stretch.

            Vasagatan. Bike lane goes from right side to side walk to out between two car lanes.

            Cars start honking like crazy because in the darkness they can’t see the snow covered lines.

      • Thinkstoomuch says:

        How many cycles does this battery last? Kind of important if it is used as a commuter bike and the battery only lasts 100 cycles. Do you even know what the battery chemistry is? Not all lithium batteries are the same.

        Notice no link to determine anything. Not that most such web sites generally say anything about that. I have come to the conclusion that the whole area is another fad to separate consumers from their money.

        Meanwhile I am still riding the same bicycle I purchased in 2001. Lost count of the number of tires and tubes(good luck buying a tire/tube without a advanced civilization to make it). Living in Florida the brakes are just about due for replacement.

        Suggest you need something like the old Boneshaker. Even the old safety is difficult without machine tools.


        • Kowalainen says:

          I don’t own an electric bicycle. I discuss electric bicycles from the things I know from my friends having them and from trying them for myself.

          100 rides for a modern li-ion chemistry battery? Haha, okay. 😉

          The people from conditioned car culture wants to “debunk” electric bikes and normal bicycles. Why am I not surprised.

        • Good points!

      • happyholidays says:

        a very tenacious trooper.

        • rilygtek says:

          I like how the H2 driver kept cool and made some clean downshifts as he filtered through the traffic.

          Remember kids; if you are out with your Kawasaki enjoying life, always keep your fuel tank topped up.

          Ahh, that H2R – a heaven sent machine from the gods of speed.

  25. Neil says:

    Rise in UK renewables…UK seems to be doing OK, no black-outs or brownouts that I’m aware of

    • Thinkstoomuch says:

      UK blackout in Aug.

      The Guardian uses selective info to blame it on gas fired. Except that wind goes away overloading the gas fired which then trips. We are talking milliseconds when data is reported in seconds for most public sites.

      An alternate read is:

      Based on:


      • richarda says:

        The ESO Technical Report is an interesting read. They got things back together quite quickly, all things considered. “Margins for the day were comfortable”. Over 30% of supply was wind generated. Protection gets more complicated as renewables increase, maybe getting into Complexity, particularly with larger numbers of smaller units interconnected.
        It’s easy to be sanguine about loss of supply until an event like this happens.

    • rilygtek says:

      Scandinavian hydro to the rescue when the natgas and coal starts to falter due to the green gimmicks.

      “Passing through Norwegian and British waters, North Sea Link will be operational in 2021 and will be the longest subsea interconnector in the world.”

      • Ed says:

        How much energy does Norway use per year in joules? How much energy does Norway produce per year in joules? The all in totals heat, industry, business, homes, transport.

        • DJ says:

          BPs annual report is really good.

        • BP says that in 2018, Norway consumed 370.6 giga joules per capita. This compares to other consumption levels:

          USA – 294.8 giga joules per capita
          Australia – 243.9
          Iceland – 696.4
          Kuwait – 388.6
          Saudi Arabia – 323.4
          Africa – 15.0
          India – 25.0
          China – 96.9

          Norway is up at the top, with all of the other energy producers.

          Iceland, with its almost free energy, seems to top out the world’s energy consumption per capita. Lots of bitcoins produced, I expect.

      • Of course, the real issue is the amount of Norway’s hydroelectric supply is available for use, when needed. The UK can’t use it, if it is really being used by Germany, France, and others in that direction. You can build all the transmission you like, but at some point you have different groups competing for the same supply.

        Norway’s total hydroelectric generation in 2018: 138.5 terawatt hours

        Germany’s electricity consumption in 2018: 648.7 terawatt hours

        France’s electricity consumption in 2018: 574.2 terawatt hours

        UK’s electricity consumption in 2018: 333.9 terawatt hours

        Norway has a lot of hydroelectric compared to its small population, but not compared to the population of Europe.

        • Kowalainen says:

          The UK intermittent gimmicks is what the interconnect is going to cover for with .no dispatchable power. Once the wind in the UK subsides, the .no hydro ramps up faster than any thermal plant can ever hope to achieve.

          It is not intended as UK baseload. For that they got thermals. The business concept here is high frequency energy trading.

          • But what happens when the wind is low in the UK, France, and Germany, when all three depend on Norway for supplemental hydroelectric to offset low wind or solar power? France right now has mostly nuclear, but it is now proposing to build a 1-GW wind park off of Normandy. The same article says:

            France is seeking to almost double its installed renewables capacity to 113 GW by 2028 in an effort to cut its reliance on nuclear power and phase out coal. It aims to reach 40% renewables power by 2030.

            • Kowalainen says:

              1GW? That is nothing compared with their hydro capacity.

              “The country’s 25.5 GW of installed hydropower capacity, including 5 GW of pumped storage, makes it the third largest European producer of hydroelectricity behind only Norway and Turkey.”

              France would not even notice if the wind stopped blowing with that hydro capacity. On top of that, their nukes as an immense baseload.

              Nope, EU got this one covered pretty convincingly. With the Gen IV’s coming online in Russia as the gas depletes, the grid will be in place all the way to Moscow and beyond.

            • I agree that 1GW is essentially nothing. The point is that France is trying to get to 40% renewables by 2030.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Question is how much green gimmicks their existing dispatchable power can support without throwing in the towel.

              At least they probably need to reinforce the grid to cope with the intermittency.

            • Davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

              “With the Gen IV’s coming online in Russia as the gas depletes, the grid will be in place all the way to Moscow and beyond.”

              EU nat gas from Russia, then Russia builds lots of new NPPs, then electricity transmitted from Russia…

              sounds like the flow of wealth increasingly will be in the EU to Russia direction…

              those Gen IVs seem to be far superior to renewables…

              the world just needs to build one per day for the next 10 years…

            • Kowalainen says:

              Not to worry, just build them behemoth Gen IVs one at a time as the natgas depletes.

              Then synthesize petroleum from Russian coal.

              “Russia has the second largest coal reserves in the world, equaling 19% of the world’s total. The total coal reserves in Russia amount to 173 billion tons.”

            • The coal reserve numbers are pretty much nonsense. Transporting coal to its destination is a big share of its total cost. The US has big coal reserves in Alaska as well. There is a lot of coal under the North Sea as well. We seem to reach peak coal in each area far before 50% of the supposed reserves are depleted.

              I suppose, given enough time/debt/resources, it would be possible to build railroads operated by coal (perhaps electricity from coal) to transport the coal to areas with population able to use it. But the cost of this coal may very well be unaffordable, given the wage distribution of people at the time. Our self-organizing economy would try to use resources of this kind, if it actually makes economic sense.

        • TrevorC says:

          “You can build all the transmission you like, but at some point you have different groups competing for the same supply.” Exactly. There seems to be a common idea that we can all rely on wind and solar power as there will always be somewhere where the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. They can then supply us with power. The problem with this is that every country (or state) will need to install ten times the wind and solar that they need for themselves, so that they can supply their neighbours for a couple of weeks a year. That seems to be a very expensive and completely impractical solution.

          • No kidding.

            I have heard that the 5G Internet isn’t working out well for perhaps a parallel reason. You can build as big a pipeline as you want, but you have to have the resources to support it.

    • Or is Australia experiencing the same transmission line fires that other places are experiencing? The fires are in the area where wind/solar are especially prevalent.

      The news only publishes the “climate change” hypothesis. Overloading transmission lines with wind and solar would be expected to cause an increase in these fires.

      • rilygtek says:

        Electrostatics and worn transmission lines is the spark plug. Bury those suckers and call it a day.

        • Herbie R Ficklestein says:

          Australia has addressed that already from past fires.

          Victoria rejected the widespread power shutoffs employed by PG&E. Both experts and the public in Victoria concluded that the disruption caused by power shutoffs would make people and communities less safe in an emergency. Marxsen notes that more than twice as many people died of extreme temperatures during the Black Saturday fires as from the fires, and people rely on electric air conditioning to stay cool. “Cutting off power may sound like a good solution. It certainly reduces drama. But it could actually increase deaths,” he says.
          Instead of shutting off power, Victoria’s government adopted a suite of measures to try to shut off the fires. For example, whereas California utilities largely set their own standards for crucial activities such as trimming vegetation along power lines, Victoria’s government set or strengthened a number of mandates for utilities. Ultimately, authorities imposed a stringent risk-reduction standard on utilities, along with a deadline for meeting them.
          The state simultaneously beefed up its utility regulator, Melbourne-based Energy Safe Victoria (ESV), which now has four times as many arborists and engineers overseeing power infrastructure as it did in 2009.
          The regulator’s role is to “test, challenge, and expose” what the utilities do, says ESV director Paul Fearon. While ESV’s approach is largely collaborative, it can also prosecute utilities whose equipment and procedures fall short of expectations.
          The risk-reduction actions that utilities have undertaken since 2009 and that ESV oversees are a mix of the mundane and the high-tech. The mundane starts with stepped-up inspections of utility equipment and tree trimming. There has also been some ‘hardening’ of the system, including burying about three percent of Victoria’s 90,000-kilometers of rural power lines.

          Seems Climate Change is the main factor in the fires

          • Basically, they don’t know yet whether the efforts are really working, however.

            Whether Victoria’s fire risk is lower now than it was ten years ago also remains unproven. Incident statistics suggest that it is, but the data points are sparse and thus the trend lacks statistical significance. Marxsen is hopeful that this year’s fire season, which is just beginning, will provide a definitive answer.

            • Herbie R Ficklestein says:

              Some of the most innovative fire-beating grid technologies are the products of an R&D program funded by the state of Victoria in Australia, prompted by deadly grid-sparked bushfires there 10 years ago. Early this year, utilities in Victoria began a massive rollout of one solution: power diverters that are expected to protect all of the substations serving the state’s high fire risk areas by 2024.

              “It’s not cheap to put one in but once you do it, you’ve got 1,000 kilometers of network that’s suddenly a lot safer,” says Monash University professor Tony Marxsen, former chair of the Australian Energy Market Operator, Australia’s power grid regulator, and chairman of Melbourne-based grid equipment developer IND Technology.

              The power diverters—known as Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiters (REFCLs)—react to the surge of current unleashed when a power line strikes the ground or is struck by a tree. When this happens on one of Victoria’s 22-kilovolt distribution circuits, the REFCL instantly begins collapsing the faulted line’s voltage toward 100 volts, and can get there in as few as 40 milliseconds (ms). “If it can do it within 85 ms, you won’t get fires,” he says.

              And in regard to if Wildfires are being extended or not…..


              The overlapping fire seasons are challenging contract companies that help firefighting agencies world-wide because customers in different regions are increasingly requesting aid at the same time. Bolivia leased a Boeing 747 water bomber from the U.S. to fight fires in the Amazon in August. That same month, blazes broke out in Australia amid tinder-dry conditions as winter rains failed to arrive.

              Heating Up
              Tourists were advised to leave as authorities expect more fires over the weekend.

              Area of


              Hotspots and fires*

              NEW SOUTH





              Batemans Bay

              South coast






              200 miles

              200 km

              *detected between Dec. 26, 2019 and Jan. 1, 2020

              Sources: NASA (hotspots); NSW Rural Fire
              Service (evacuation area)
              “Our whole paradigm of progressive fire seasons is out the window,” said Greg Mullins, a former New South Wales Fire and Rescue commissioner who recently toured areas devastated in the Californian fires to learn lessons for Australia’s worsening wildfire risk. “We’ll be fighting over the very small fleet of aircraft.”

              California’s fire season in the Sierra Nevada is now nearly 75 days longer than it was four decades ago, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

              “The problem is our fire seasons are getting longer and longer,” said Ken Pimlott, who retired as the director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in 2018. “We’re sort of competing, now, for the same resources on the edge of our fire season.”

              That’s from BAU Wall Street Journal!

            • It is good to hear that someone is working on this problem.

              I expect, though, that we will find ourselves adding increasingly expensive equipment that, at best, works most of the time. The models suggesting that wind and solar can be cost effective solutions seem to omit extra transmission-related costs.

        • Ed says:

          To bury transmission line one needs to use DC not the typical AC. The AC/DC and DC/AC converters are expensive.

          • Kowalainen says:

            Fires are expensive and disastrous to the biosphere. Bury those suckers.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            To bury transmission line one needs to use DC not the typical AC.

            As an electrical engineer, I don’t really see why that is so.

            Google/Quora had some thoughts, but nothing very convincing.

            However, in Alberta, they are apparently gung-ho on burying HV AC lines, although the mention a “slight” cost disadvantage, compared to DC.

            When the capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs are combined over the 60-year life of a line, underground high voltage lines are generally less expensive than overhead lines. High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) lines are even easier and cheaper to bury than High Voltage Alternating Current (HVAC) lines. We bury sewer lines, water lines, telephone lines, electricity distribution lines, TV cable, natural gas lines, oil pipelines, gas pipelines, and other petroleum product pipelines. It’s time we started burying more high voltage transmission lines (AC and DC) [emphasis mine] because overhead lines and towers are unsightly and have so many other negative impacts.

            Do you have some insight?

            PS: I and about 299,999 other people all get our hydro via some 30km of AC undersea transmission lines. That article says there is also a DC link, but that it is “obsolete and unreliable,” leading one to think the AC lines must be “new and improved.”

            • Kowalainen says:

              Placing three (phase) HVAC conductors beside each other’s is more costly than dual DC conductors. No problem with transmission line instabilities and dynamics in a DC link either. The ground provides ample cooling for the cables reducing the losses. However, if there is an already existing transformer station and associated gear… Cost benefit analysis…

              Ideally underwater cables which is being ploughed down in the seabed to protect trawlers catching the live wire high-voltage synthetic eel.


            • Jan Steinman says:

              Placing three (phase) HVAC conductors beside each other’s [sic] is more costly than dual DC conductors.

              Not in terms of copper, as three phase carries 3/2ths the current of single phase. (Yea, there is a bit of “skin effect” going on, but only a few percent.) But you needAC on either end, and high-power, high-voltage AC-DC-AC conversion is also a lot more expensive than simple and efficient transformers.

              No problem with transmission line instabilities and dynamics in a DC link either.

              Sounds like vague hand-waving.

              It’s trivial to characterize 60Hz AC reactance and to compensate for it. Once. Buried line should be less “dynamic” than suspended line, which is subject to changing vegetation levels, etc.

              There’s a lot of ignorant disinformation out there. One Quora answer on the topic said that a 500kV line would lose all of its power to ground or water capacitance in about 22km. At 30km out, I’m glad BC Hydro didn’t take that advice!

              If someone with actual experience would like to answer this, great! I’m not going to reply to any more speculation.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Copper is transmission lines? Really? You might want to do some research first?

              A long-distance, point-to-point HVDC transmission scheme generally has lower overall investment cost and lower losses than an equivalent AC transmission scheme. HVDC conversion equipment at the terminal stations is costly, but the total DC transmission-line costs over long distances are lower than for an AC line of the same distance. HVDC requires less conductor per unit distance than an AC line, as there is no need to support three phases and there is no skin effect.

              Depending on voltage level and construction details, HVDC transmission losses are quoted as less than 3% per 1,000 km, which are 30 to 40% less than with AC lines, at the same voltage levels. This is because direct current transfers only active power and thus causes lower losses than alternating current, which transfers both active and reactive power.

            • I found that copper is too heavy/expensive to be the primary metal in transmission lines, and has been for many years. Some combination is used. Aluminum seems to be the primary metal used.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Sometimes, the need to be right is more important than the need to explain why things are.

              Fact: AC transmission predominates. You can argue that this should not be so, or you can try to explain why it is so. Your choice.

            • JesseJames says:

              Apples to oranges….it seems like if you can generate and maintain a high voltage dc power, then your loses should be similar to high voltage ac. You have a reactive calculation on losses with the ac, but then you have dc leakage with the dc. I do not understand going dc. Would like to know more.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              I do not understand going dc.

              AC is simpler to transform, but has “skin effect,” whereby more of the current flows closer to the surface of a conductor, effectively increasing the resistance of a conductor.

              The West Coast Intertie, running from BC to Southern California, is DC. All the other grids in North America appear to be AC.

              Would like to know more.

              More than you ever wanted to know at Wikipedia.

            • Kowalainen says:

              “As of 1980, the longest cost-effective distance for direct-current transmission was determined to be 7,000 kilometres (4,300 miles)”

              Which is slightly more than the distance between New York and Japan.

              Imagine US east coast hydro dispatching for Japanese wind. What a crazy world those madmen Tesla and Westinghouse created for us together with the Semiconductor and software wizards of today.

              Speaking about engineers.

            • Think of all of the jobs that would be available in the area of transmission building/repair/maintenance.

              I wonder if the cost-effective distance considered the cost of preventing fires with all of these cables. In fact, the cost of putting most of the cables underground.

              It is amazing how models change, if a few of the variables are tweaked.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Yes, I think it is a good idea to bury those cables. It removes the risk of fires from arcing and corona effects and provides jobs. It also makes those ghastly old and worn transmission lines go away.


            • Kowalainen says:

              Gail, yes, however the Nord link cable is made from copper apparently. I guess in undersea cables the ductility of copper and low losses is preferable since they don’t meet to be suspended in the air.

            • richarda says:

              Lets leave aside Japan for the moment …. they have both 50Hz and 60Hz systems on the same island 😉 Where two 50 Hz systems need to be connected, a DC link like that between UK and France is the way to go.
              For long distance transmission, typically between countries on the same continent, a rule of thumb is : the longer the distance, the higher the voltage.
              For very long distances, AC is impractical – I’m told that one effect is that it prefers straight lines, dislikes corners. Also an AC link actually connects the two systems while DC provide a degree of isolation.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Exactly. My poorly-made point was that it is an engineering problem of trade-offs, not some absolute thing.

              At least in North America, AC predominates. The examples you cite for DC all seem to be ones where the considerable extra cost of DC infrastructure were warranted by political and legacy concerns: either you replace all the synchronous motors and clocks in England, or you couple their 50Hz system to the continental 60Hz system.

              (BTW: frequency is another engineering trade-off issue. Aircraft use 400Hz power, which means reactive components can all be about 1/10th the size and weight as 50Hz or 60Hz systems.)

              I’m told that one effect is that it [AC] prefers straight lines, dislikes corners

              Interesting… as an RF engineer, I’m certainly aware of the “corner effect” of circuit board design for frequencies of upwards of a gigahertz or so†, but since a wavelength of 60Hz is five million kilometres, I’m having trouble imagining how it would have much effect on power transmission lines. But perhaps I simply lack imagination…

              †At Tektronix Computer Research Labs, you’d sometimes hear a senior engineer telling a junior engineer to remember “Gordon Nanosecond” in their designs, since a nanosecond — the time it takes to propagate a one gigahertz signal — is 30cm, or about a “Lightfoot.”

            • rilygtek says:

              Two DC links already exists.

              “The first Cross-Channel link was a 160 MW link completed in 1961 and decommissioned in 1984, while the second was a 2000 MW link completed in 1986.

              The current 2000 MW link, like the original link, is bi-directional and France and Britain can import/export depending upon market demands.”

      • richarda says:

        Hearsay: The environmentalists prevented traditional regular firesetting to clear dead undergrowth. And nobody wants people setting fires near their homes. Especially if you are building a new estate ….
        Second or third hand gossip …

    • Ian says:

      “Fire has played a significant role in the ecology of the Australian flora at least since the arrival of arid conditions in the mid-Tertiary. In fire-prone floras, particularly those of mediterranean zones, fire has been shown to be crucial for the recruitment from seed of a wide variety of taxa”.

      Fires have been a regular occurrence here in Australia for millions of years (along with the lightning that causes many of them). Humans suppressing the normal fire cycle only means they will be that much worse when they eventually get out of control, due to build up of fuel. Hot weather, drought, fires and floods have been here much longer than humans. We don’t need to go barking up the climate change tree to find a reason for these things.

      I have often thought that when industrial civilization ends, scavenging in Australia will be a short career, as fires will quickly remove most traces of modern civilization.

      • I thought that this was interesting:

        “Smoke is a key principal in breaking seed dormancy in a wide variety of native Australian species.”

        The current popular way to frame stories is as if we humans are in charge. The main obstacle is viewed to be climate change. We humans are viewed to be able to stop climate change, if we simply change our ways to “more sustainable growth” and other such nonsense.

        Ecosystems are dissipative structures. Fire seems to be a major part of the collapse cycles of these dissipative structures. There are academic articles related to this issue. I associate Robert Ulanowicz with research in this area. According to Wikipedia, Ulanowicz received the 2007 Ilya Prigogine Medal for outstanding research in ecological systems. He was a scientific advisor to Howard T. Odum at the University of Florida.

        • Looking at the Ulanowicz Wikipedia page, I notice the following:

          One pertinent discovery by Ulanowicz was that ecosystems do not progress to maximum efficiency. Ecosystems that channel too much activity along the most efficient pathways do so at the expense of redundant, less-efficient processes that can function to take over vital activities in the event that mainstream processes are distributed. Ecosystems that persist are those that achieve a balance between the mutually exclusive attributes of efficiency and reliability. This result from nature poses a significant challenge to mainstream economics, wherein market efficiency is held to be the sine qua non.

          I also note that Robert Ulanowicz writes about the relationship between God and science (among other things). He comes down in the direction of creation being necessary. A recent article is this one:

          The Universal Laws of Physics: Inflated Ontologies?

          If I understand the article correctly, he points out that the randomness alone cannot explain the order that has taken place since the big bang. The number of combinations available is so very large that it cannot explain why humans, plants and animals occur. “Even in the manifoldly heterogeneous world, some combinations persist with almost unfailing regularity, while others reoccur most of the time.”

          Ulanovicz later says,

          To begin, it should be made clear that no one is denying a necessary role for universal laws in the creation of order and regularity. But active creation of order is not an ability of the known reversible laws. Therefore, to understand what activity is at the leading edge of evolving ordered systems, it is necessary to consider configurations of processes known as mutualisms.

          He then talks about autocatalysis, a process in which each member accelerates its downstream neighbor.

          One notes that autocatalysis always acts in a preferred sense, and that direc­tion is always toward greater autocatalytic activity. A secondary but equally important observation is that autocatalytic dynamics are self-preserving and self-stabilizing. Even before the advent of specialized materials to store mem­ories (such as RNA/DNA), autocatalytic ensembles possessed an inherent tendency to persist.

          He concludes the section:

          The conclusion one draws from the burgeoning new perspective on real­ity seems, at first sight, quite radical: There exist very few enduring physical forms, and no biological configurations that do not owe their inception to ante­cedent contingencies. Actually, this truth was always implicit in the conven­tional approach to problem solving, but remained obscured by a preemptive emphasis on the constraining universal laws in abstraction from necessary boundary contingencies.

          He goes on to talk about the incompleteness of the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

          Difficulties are encoun­tered especially in their application to heterogeneous systems. It’s not that the laws are violated, but rather that their generality renders them insuffi­cient to determine outcomes when enormous numbers of possibilities are all capable of satisfying the same lawful constraints.

          • Robert Firth says:

            Gail, I consider Robert Ulanowicz to be one of the wisest people on Planet Earth. He is a worthy successor to Ilya Prigogine. His analysis of the evolution of complex systems I find most persuasive. There is only one (minor) point where I disagree. He recognises that the laws of physics are time symmetric, and therefore that evolution on the grand scale, from the Big Bang onwards, is wholly dependent on the initial conditions. But he does not engage the corollary: that there is both retarded action (past to future) and advanced action (future to past). This small insight, I believe, solves some at least of the problems he perceives.

            • Can you give an example of advanced action? The arrow of time seems to work in one direction only.

            • Robert Firth says:

              For Gail:

              Advanced action has been demonstrated in the laboratory, in the form of Wheeler’s “delayed choice” experiment. You can look it up at your leisure, and will find people who agree with that view, and others who disagree. I believe the simplest explanation is that information does indeed travel into the past.

            • Kowalainen says:

              I think this illusion comes from the intuition we have about time.

              Time is impossible to measure without using its own measuring apparatus as a differential definition. The clock becomes thus the definition of time. But what is exactly a modern atomic clock, it is a measuring apparatus that monitors the state transition process of a substance and uses it as reference to that of other materials. Nothing absolute can be measured with a differential apparatus.

              Is it even established that the speed of light in absolute vacuum is a constant and not changing as the universe evolves? I would conclude that there is no evidence for that assuming that these changes occur at an unimaginatively slow rate.

              Everything is process in the void that underpins it all. It is true for the universe and for our minds which exist in it.

            • I think I have seen references to Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment before. It is probably above my level of physics.

              I would think, however, that there are many other things that are hard to explain. All of the organization of self-organization is hard to explain. For example, this blog would not be possible except for an amazing number of coincidences and interactions that came together over many years. I was in the right place at the right time in the 1970s, for example to see financial impacts then. And my finances have been such that I haven’t needed to charge readers for reading my blog. My years as editor at The Oil Drum were important as well. Strangely, I became editor even after I refused the job. Over the years, I have met an amazing number of people involved with all aspects of our predicament. And, of course, I have many readers now who provide insights and news I would never find by myself.

              Besides the strange way self-organization works, there are many reports of supernatural experiences of various kinds. There are people who claim to be mind readers. Horoscopes have been read for many years. Many people have had prayers answered. People claim to have communicated with the dead. We don’t know how much of this is something other than imaginative thinking, but its widespread nature and persistence leads a person to believe that there may very well be something to it.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              We don’t know how much of this is something other than imaginative thinking, but its widespread nature and persistence leads a person to believe that there may very well be something to it.

              I had a psych professor who had a very interesting reply for when students would ask him, “Do you believe in…”

              He simply said, “I don’t dis- believe it, but I’ve seen no evidence.”

              Science becomes no better than a religion when people use the lack of evidence for certain phenomena as a general indictment of that phenomenon.

              I would like to think that many of these sorts of things (communicating with the dead, ESP, mind reading, etc.) are possible. I’ve seen no evidence, but I don’t want that to block my imagining the possibility, either.

              On the other hand, there are a class of ontologies that have a great deal of evidence to the contrary, like anti-vaxers, chem-trailers, AGW deniers, general relativity dis-believers, etc.

          • rilygtek says:

            Not much there if one rejects Big Bang and other creation myths and draws the obvious conclusion that redundancy is the necessary compromise for robust complexity to evolve.

            Overspecialization leads to death. A disturbance through natural disaster and the whole system collapses into oblivion.

            An overspecialized system is thus not a maximally complex system because it does not account for subsystem failure. The system itself needs to be analyzed from a higher level of abstraction where the redundancy adds complexity even though on the surface it can be perceived as less optimal, less complex.


          • Jan Steinman says:

            Quoting Ulanovicz:

            Ecosystems that persist are those that achieve a balance between the mutually exclusive attributes of efficiency and reliability.

            We ignore this at our peril!

            I’ve talked about the “maximum power point” in the efficiency ERoEI curve, and the vital need to fully account for the hidden emergy cost of efficiency. And here is yet another reason to resist the “efficiency trap:” resilience.

            The more efficient a system becomes, the more brittle and fragile it becomes. Inefficient systems tend to be more resilient, through redundancy and hidden, unexploited reserves. Modern economics completely ignores that!

        • Jan Steinman says:

          The current popular way to frame stories is as if we humans are in charge.

          Thank you for that, Gail.

          Sometimes, it is not clear where you stand when you talk about needing to increase energy production and funding the future via debt. Then you come up with a crystal clear statement, like the one above!

    • DJ says:

      BP seems to think global co2 emissions rose about 43% 2002 to 2017 (estimated from a chart)

  26. Jan says:

    @nuclear plants in Germany
    As a German I appreciate any decisions to shut down nuclear facilities as fast as possible.

    In case of any crash we might loose the ability to handle nuclear waste. I dont want to imagine a human civilisation living in an unsecured Majak area without high technology. I guess life expectancy might be 15 years before the cancer knocks all out. Such a human group will loose intellectual and social capabilities and might develop like higher dogs. If we can prevent that we should not hesistate.

    I guess a lot of Germans think similar, at least all my family and friends do. Merkels decision was opportunism, of course, that saved her elections after Fukushima. But I nevertheless believe that it was also her personal legacy.

    Yes and the German government tries to lie hand on the French nuclear weapons by creating a European Defence Alliance, so they dont need the technology in Germany.

    Happy New Century! 🙂

    • richarda says:

      Something I read suggests that the UK is considering installing compact nuclear reactors to reinforce its grid system, perhaps as a response to the blackout of August 2019. The blackout was linked to a wind farm and a natural gas power station going offline.
      But maybe I read too much into what was said.

  27. richarda says:

    Happy New Year
    I have a notional Financial model in my head, but I doubt it can ever be fully implemented or tested. I’m just following the logic that IF Finance is a self-optimising system, then it would act to transfer the maximum amount of wealth to its controllers. Hence the Financial System will always push to extremes. It will always incentivise short term investments well past points of fair returns. “Just keep buying the dip”.
    Such a system is designed and optimised to flip (Collapse by design) whe the last greater fool commits. Because that maximises wealth transfer.
    “Of course” that cannot happen. Central Banks are specifically tasked to prevent it 🙂

    • As long as people think that energy prices will keep going up, they keep investing, regardless of what the evidence shows. This is what keeps the system from collapsing, when it looks like it should.

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        WTI for the year $48 to $61.

        Brent for the year $55 to $66.

        • But the average price of WTI for the year 2019 was $56.93, compared to an average of $65.23 for 2018. If we expected a 2% increase in average price, to keep up with inflation, we expected an average price of $66.54. The actual WTI 2019 average price of $56.93 was 14.4% below the inflation-adjusted expected price.

          Similarly, the average price of Brent for the year 2019 was $64.25, compared to an average price of $71.34 for 2018. If we expected a 2% increase in average price, to keep up with inflation, we expected an average price of $72.77. The actual Brent 2019 average price of $64.25 was 11.7% below the inflation-expected price.

      • Jan says:

        I dont know the structure of investment into fracking or Aramco but I guess a lot is made by pension fonds or similar. So just very few people decide. They may even read this blog. But to ruin the pension of their clients may be better than let the system crash. Peak energy or however one may call it is not prophecy but a prediction based on rational calculation. It can be dealt with, Turchin has shown the general possibility in an example in Britain. We could switch into a civilisation based on little energy, it is thinkable and probably we will be forced to. The debt bubble is also a way of moderation, without the crash would already been there. A lot of people had another 15 good years.

        Mankind did survive after WW1 and WW2. Civilisation will change but it wont mean the end of mankind. The BBC has a nice historic series on YT called Wartime Farming. Here in the alps people feel a crash might come, even people that are not preppers or survivalists or peakoilers. You always have some flour in the house for bread in case avalanches block the road for some weeks. But people start talking about wartime experiences and skills. Like: “Dont forget to always combine three sorts of potatoes, so when one gets a desease you still have the others. Red potatoes grow best here.” That is amazing talk between people that dont grow potatoes or even have a garden. In the cities people are fatalist and say they dont want to survive a crash.

        • The problem is that the current economy cannot go “backward.” We can’t go back to horses for transport.

          We also cannot go forward to the ridiculous ideas that are being proposed, particularly intermittent wind and solar. The grid cannot handle these. We cannot devote all of our resources to building and maintaining an electric grid. Electric cars are ridiculous without a way to keep manufacturing them and a way to maintain the roads. I don’t expect to see many at all.

          The situation is analogous the situation around 1929. We have a high stock market. There are a handful of rich people. Prices of commodities are very low, relative to what most producers need. The problem is the wage disparity. We did get through World War I and World War II, primarily because they enabled a huge ramp-up in debt and in fossil fuel use. It is hard to see that we have this way out this time.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            The problem is that the current economy cannot go “backward.”

            The key word being “current.”

            After an economic crash, we will no longer have the equivalent of the current economy, and anything is possible. After such a crash, I would not be surprised to see horses used as transport — not universally, but more than today, certainly!

            I think we are all pretty much in agreement that the current situation cannot endure. All that means is that the next situation is unknowable, and it could be anything.

            I’m doing what I’m doing, not because I think it will “save the world,” but rather because it is the most diverse and flexible base from which to move to whatever follows the “current economy.”

      • richarda says:

        That “think that energy prices will keep going up” is what I think of as ‘pull’ investment. The monetary expansion by the Federal Reserve and the Budget Deficit actually creates investment and it creates profits where none should exist. I think of that as ‘push’ investment.
        I believe this is usually thought of as the Credit Cycle. I haven’t modelled that, but I’d suppose that inventories of one kind or another are key in those models. These cycles end when excess overpriced stores are cleared. I’m supposing that this is one step on from Business Cycles by the inclusion of cheaper credit in the process.
        Looking at the USA right now, the politics of re-election is driving ‘push’ investment. Maybe a Credit Cycle on steroids, but this seems to be different in several ways.

        • The problem is that private debt growth has not been rising, relative to GDP, at least in the US. No matter how fast governmental debt rises, it cannot make up for the debt problem elsewhere. This chart shows the debt problem elsewhere:

          Top purple line: US domestic financial sectors (debt securities and loans)/GDP as %
          Short blue line: Household debt to GDP as %
          Green line: Home mortgages to GDP as %. The green line, plus things such as credit card debt and student loan would seem to make up the short blue line.
          Red line: Non-Financial corporate business (debt securities and loans) as % of GDP

          I think that the red line represents debt used to finance the true development of businesses. It would include debt for the purpose of opening new factories, or buying new equipment, I expect. Notice that it has been pretty flat since the late 1980s.

          I think that the purple line represents mostly what I think of a funny money. It grew rapidly between the earliest point on the chart and 2008. Then it blew up, and has been falling ever since. I think that it represents things like debt to buy other companies, or to buy back shares of stock. It also represents debt used in packaging and reselling debt.

          The green home mortgage debt had been flat in the low 40% range until about 2001. Then the attempt to stimulate the economy by lowering interest rates and giving home loans to everyone who walked in the door led to a big increase in mortgage debt. This mortgage debt has been falling off, as young people increasingly cannot afford new home, and existing homes are changing from individually owned to corporately owned rental property.

          • richarda says:

            I’m thinking the problem is something beyond rational behaviour. The FBI talked about ‘endemic’ mortgage fraud in the early 2000’s but related problems eg LTCM’s crash were ongoing for a while. In 2008 events seen supposedly very 10,000+ years were happeing daily.
            Initially todays changes seem like cultural behaviour, but I see it as a lack of trust in institutions, (learned behaviour) and a cynical view of future prospects.
            In my cynical view there is a worldwide shortage of greater fools and that makes a collapse unaffordable for the very wealthy. I suspect they need more bag-holders.

        • By the way, this is the chart of US total debt (including governmental debt) to GDP.

  28. in2bikeblog says:

    Over the holidays we have been dealing with a number of new electronic devices. I have therefore added the following to my medical advanced directives. ” Before any final decisions please unplug me, wait a minute, and plug me back in.”

    Thanks all for an interesting year.

  29. Dennis L. says:

    Electricity in Germany.

    This would seem to be a real world, real time test of the thesis that renewable energy is or is not self sustaining. It would seem that once both coal and nuclear are taken off line it will be difficult and perhaps impossible to restart of rebuild these facilities in time to make a difference. Electricity is key to an economy and if it goes so does the economy. Here the numbers are so large they should outweigh various “noise” factors in the data.

    Dennis L.

    • rilygtek says:

      Either the gas goes to EU or to China. Now how does the EU/US/Russia feel about competing with 1.3 billion Chinese for the rest of the resources that cheap gas enables?

      That is the Putin / Trump deal. Keep China between the Clutches of finite world issues and geopolitical interests.

      Say good bye to Winnie the Pooh

    • Two related stories:

      New York Times: Germany Shuts Nuclear Plant as it Phases Out Atomic Energy

      The 1,468 megawatt reactor that’s being shut down began operation in 1984. It is located 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Frankfurt near the French border.

      Neighboring Switzerland shut down a 47-year-old nuclear plant earlier this month.

      On Monday, Sweden shut down one of the four nuclear reactors at its largest power station after over 40 years of operation due to a lack of profitability.

      So three European nuclear power plants were shut down in late 2019.

      From CNN: Germany is closing all its nuclear power plants. Now it must find a place to bury the deadly waste for 1 million years

      Currently, high-level radioactive waste is stored in temporary facilities, usually near the power plant it came from.

      But these facilities were “only designed to hold the waste for a few decades,” said Schreurs, chair of environmental and climate policy at the Technical University of Munich, and part of the national committee assisting the search for a high-level radioactive waste site.

      As the name suggests, high-level radioactive waste is the most lethal of its kind. It includes the spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants. “If you opened up a canister with those fuel rods in it, you would more or less instantly die,” said Schreurs.

      These rods are “so incredibly hot, it’s very hard to transport them safely,” said Schreurs. So for now they’re being stored in containers where they can first cool down over several decades, she added.

      • rilygtek says:

        Yep, the deal is to buy cheap gas from Russia. The nukes will be mothballed and then perhaps replaced with Gen IV plants from Russia as the gas depletes.

        “However, early in 2017 the CEO of Rosatom said that the government would end state support for the construction of new nuclear units in 2020, and so Rosatom must learn to earn money on its own, primarily via commercial nuclear energy projects in the international market.”

        • Yes, but the govs are also actively helping to secure some int deals for the domestic industry as well, the nuclear industry is not completely left to hang dry. Also lot of things changed since 2017 in terms of global situation.. so not sure the stop gap measures on new units still stands and or is likely more nuanced like allowing to phase out / replace the worst designs (Chernobyl) like etc.. Also govs are pouring money into research and the recycling fuel industries. So as always and like in other countries and segments of the economy (e.g. defense linked) the govs always find ways how to support the perceived darlings..

          • rilygtek says:

            Yes, in the mean time the inclusion and harmonization of Russia into the agreements and cross Atlantic US / UK / EU geopolitics biddings is overall a good thing for the old world. Let the Russians enjoy some of that wealth which can industrialize to the hilt powered by their natgas. Later on perhaps by Russian Gen IV’s and Siemens/ABB UHVDC transmission lines straight into Central Europe.

            The Macron / Mutti calming effect after the Obama/globalists crazy dealings in Ukraine and the end of the Syria insanity has basically been adopted by the Trump admin as the eye of sauron saccades towards HK and Winnie the Pooh’s continued geopolitical and domestic fiascos.

        • Gas is selling incredibly cheaply now. I can understand why countries would want to switch to gas and forget nuclear. Of course, Chevron’s recent $10 -$11 billion write-off was almost exclusively gas, because it said the price was way too low.

      • The Magus says:

        Did anyone watch the superb series ‘Chernobyl’?

        Recall the scene where they discuss the implications of the spent fuel ponds collapsing and the lead engineer explains how hundreds of millions of people would die and enormous swathes of land (half of Eastern Europe?) would be uninhabitable.

      • Robert Firth says:

        So Germany needs somewhere to bury its nuclear waste? Bury it under the Bundestag, and be free from insane government for a million years.

    • Dennis L. says:

      Well, how about fusion?

      A story in Forbes about a USN patent for fusion, very small device.

      There has never been a satisfactory story regarding the USN fighters recently attempting to catch some sort of UFO, this is touched in this linked article.

      It would solve a great many problems; it would create a great many problems, chose one.

      Closing conventional sources for whatever reasons would hasten the need for replacements and drive increased investment in these areas. It won’t be cheap and it will be a transformative technology obsoleting many sunk investments. Gail has convinced me that there is no way backwards, so forwards it is.

      I continue to be an optimist that we will make it and our best years are still ahead of us

      Dennis L.

      • rilygtek says:

        Disruption in BAU by the advancement of science and technology is virtually guaranteed.

        This is specially true if the hegemony of the FF industry runs into problems due to the pressing issues of finite resources.

      • doomphd says:

        we are submitting an $11 M proof of concepts proposal to US ARPA-E this month. it’s a velocity impact concentric accelerator fusion device. the goal is to 10X outperform the expensive ITER fusion reactor, for a fraction of the cost.

        • I met doomphd when I was out in Hawaii recently. He isn’t kidding. The primary person working on this is a Medical Doctor, not a Ph.D. in Physics. This makes it hard to get people to listen to the idea. Sometimes an outsider can “think outside of the box,” however.

          • doomphd says:

            thanks Gail. it was a pleasure meeting you and your husband in Hawaii. i think you’re correct about outsiders taking a different view and approach. in geology, the classic case is Alfred Wegner, with his ideas of continental drift. he was a meteorologist, so geologists at the time (early 1910s) did not take him seriously. of course, he was correct, but it took another 40+ years to prove it.

          • Duncan Idaho says:

            I would not hold your breath—-

        • rilygtek says:

          Is ITER of any use?

          What’s the word in the fusion / plasma circles?
          Jobs program or serious research?

          • doomphd says:

            maybe a way of describing the US government’s faith in the ITER program is this recent ARPA-E solicitation, which seeks fusion projects that propose alternative approaches to the magnetic confinement promoted by ITER and others.

            • Robert Firth says:

              In conversation with the engineers at CERN, I learned why magnetic confinement can never work. The particles within the containment zone move too quickly for the computers around the periphery to keep up. This is an insoluble problem, because the greater distance of the computers from the centre means that, to keep up, messages between them must travel faster than light. At a certain energy threshold, well below effective fusion energies, the system becomes unstable, and there is no way to dampen the resulting effects.

          • JesseJames says:

            ITER will never generate a single kW of electrical power. It is a huge $30B experiment. It will consume half of a major river just for cooling.

            • Ribert Firth says:

              Jesse, thank you. Yes, the so called “non polluting” nuclear power plants, both fission today and fusion maybe tomorrow, are immense sources of pollution. Heat pollution, not used for any useful end, but simply dumped into the environment.

            • Kowalainen says:

              I don’t know about the US, but in the colder regions of EU and Russia, central heating is the norm. Waste heat from power plants and other heat intensive industry such as steel manufacturing is piped out to residential areas. Even the waste water and air from houses and residential areas are sent through heat exchangers.

              Heat is and will always be a valuable resource for mankind and it has been that way since humans discovers fire.

            • I think that heat of this form is sometimes called co-generation. This type of heating is (or perhaps, used to be) the norm in China as well. There seems to be a move away from it in China because of the pollution problem that results when coal is burned in the middle of cities.

              Cogeneration hasn’t been used in the United States because more money can be made by selling individual, easily regulated heat supply. The story is told about the huge heat-loss when fuel is burned to produce electricity. The heat-loss would be significantly reduced if the excess heat could be piped to nearby homes and businesses.

          • rilygtek says:

            So we can soon expect “breakthrough” news from ITER, followed by a new outrageously expensive funding request to sort out these “small” snags with yet more plasma instabilities and confinement issues.


      • Chrome Mags says:

        I wouldn’t get too optimistic about fusion just because a patent or idea is in the works. We’re going to see tons of these ideas coming out of the woodwork because it’s becoming obvious to most that the oil age doesn’t have long to go. Desperation and greed will combine to produce a potent cocktail, exciting investors and offering hope to the disenfranchised, but the question is can any of those ideas can produce cheap net energy? None have so far, so obviously it’s not easy.

      • Malcopian says:

        Oh great, so now we get limitless energy so that we can continue mining Mother Earth and raping the environment.

        • rilygtek says:

          It is not how it works. Limitless energy basically means transmutation processes becomes realistic.

          In such a scenario, mining becomes totally and utterly obsolete.

          • Limitless energy must be very, very cheap energy. It must also work in today’s devices. Otherwise, there is (at a minimum) a long transition period until new devices can be created that use the new energy supply. Electricity is only something like 43% of world energy consumption, using BP’s generous method of counting electricity. It is a smaller percentage, using IEA’s heat-equivalent output basis.


            Japan is the only country shown with over 50% electricity. The country is not amenable to travel by vehicle; toll road costs are very high. This keeps down the oil portion of energy consumption. But even with this, the electricity ratio has been flat for years.

        • doomphd says:

          everyone needs to absorb the wisdom and message of Walt Disney’s “The Socceror’s Apprentice”, starring Mickey Mouse as the apprentice.

    • rilygtek says:

      Exodus from the overpopulated and polluted Middle Kingdom?

    • According to the article:

      During colonial times, European powers exploited Africa for the vast resources that it possesses. But what China is doing today is actually much worse. Yes, the Chinese greatly desire African resources, but ultimately what they want is Africa itself. But instead of conquering Africa using military force, China is using economics instead. Today, more than 10,000 Chinese-owned firms are operating in Africa, and virtually every major road, bridge, railway and skyscraper is being built by the Chinese. As a result, most African nations are very deeply indebted to China at this point. And as you will see below, when those debts go bad that gives the Chinese a tremendous amount of leverage.

      Many people believe that the endgame for China is to make a whole lot more money and to gain control over a whole lot more resources.

      I think that the big issue is that the prices for resources remain too low, relative to the cost of extracting those resources. Thus, this approach doesn’t really work, in practice, since 2014. It would be a good idea, back when resource prices were higher.

    • Hubbs says:

      I think people are sadly mistaken if they think that China is motivated by economic goodwill in the foray into Africa- or anywhere else in the world. They couldn’t use their military decades ago- simply because they didn’t have any. Even their jets during the post Vietnam War invasion and Korean war were Soviet. But now that they have their military, well, the Spratlys and the South China Sea militarization of the coral reefs is a clue to where they’re headed. Plus their crackdown on Muslims and the Tibetans locally. Nobody will give a damn what they do the Africans as past history with the Hutus and the Tutsis, the Southern Sudanese and other spill over countries, etc. has demonstrated. The western countries will care only about the raw materials, oil, and minerals. The US played “Cowboys and Indians. The new game in Africa will be “Chinese and …well, I won’t say it to keep this forum respectable. The only hope is that China too collapses internally under the weight of its debt, corruption, civil unrest, energy and raw material shortages first.

  30. Norman Pagett says:

    worth a listen bbc world service, recordings of Dennis Meadows talking about limits to growth etc etc

    • rilygtek says:

      Interesting that BBC did not manage, or wasn’t allowed by Meadows, to squeeze in some climate hysteria into that message. He even went so far as to say that he was unconcerned about the environment and that earth shall heal itself with time and then concluded that the predicament is that of mankind, not one of earths. It is of course an absolute iron clad irrefutable fact.

      But I must disagree with him. Releasing the trapped carbon into the atmosphere is both in the interest of the biosphere and mankind.

      Perhaps there is some redeeming qualities of MSM after all. That is if they decide to stick to the cold hard truth of resource-economy-energy system dynamics instead of the unbearable polarizing and politicizing every. goddamn. single. broadcast.

      The facts, k, thx, awesome.

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      Another Meadows podcast:
      Worth a listen.

  31. Yoshua says:

    My China chart was Fake News.

    The last decade belongs to central banks, debt and stock markets.

    • Curt Kurschus says:

      And angry 16 year old Swedish girls?

    • I agree. “The last decade belongs to central banks, debt and stock markets.”

      • Yep, he who placed bets on the Muskian e-adventures and or collapse of oil price won.

        • rilygtek says:

          My semiconductor stocks went quite well. Specially AMD recently. Lisa Su & Jim Keller straightened up that lost cause in no time.

          • Nice hockey sticks there on AMD history graphs lolz.
            Good for you, did you join the lift even prior ~2017 though?

            In hindsight lunatic switching among industries and asset classes is the true multi dozen thousand% gain portfolio guarantee before reaching age of ~40, hah. Imagine jumping in/out of leveraged oil and tech stocks (at the theoretical exact right time), that’s 10,000% bagger in less than two decades..

            Well, I mean it like oddity exercise as the aftermath is not much as fun (getting rich bast@ard personality – brain issues afterwards) ..