Why a Great Reset Based on Green Energy Isn’t Possible

It seems like a reset of an economy should work like a reset of your computer: Turn it off and turn it back on again; most problems should be fixed. However, it doesn’t really work that way. Let’s look at a few of the misunderstandings that lead people to believe that the world economy can move to a Green Energy future.

[1] The economy isn’t really like a computer that can be switched on and off; it is more comparable to a human body that is dead, once it is switched off.

A computer is something that is made by humans. There is a beginning and an end to the process of making it. The computer works because energy in the form of electrical current flows through it. We can turn the electricity off and back on again. Somehow, almost like magic, software issues are resolved, and the system works better after the reset than before.

Even though the economy looks like something made by humans, it really is extremely different. In physics terms, it is a “dissipative structure.” It is able to “grow” only because of energy consumption, such as oil to power trucks and electricity to power machines.

The system is self-organizing in the sense that new businesses are formed based on the resources available and the apparent market for products made using these resources. Old businesses disappear when their products are no longer needed. Customers make decisions regarding what to buy based on their incomes, the amount of debt available to them, and the choice of goods available in the marketplace.

There are many other dissipative structures. Hurricanes and tornadoes are dissipative structures. So are stars. Plants and animals are dissipative structures. Ecosystems of all kinds are dissipative structures. All of these things grow for a time and eventually collapse. If their energy source is taken away, they fail quite quickly. The energy source for humans is food of various types; for plants it is generally sunlight.

Thinking that we can switch the economy off and on again comes close to assuming that we can resurrect human beings after they die. Perhaps this is possible in a religious sense. But assuming that we can do this with an economy requires a huge leap of faith.

[2] Economic growth has a definite pattern to it, rather than simply increasing without limit. 

Many people have developed models reflecting the fact that economic growth seems to come in waves or cycles. Ray Dalio shows a chart describing his view of the economic cycle in a preview to his upcoming book, The Changing World Order. Figure 1 is Dalio’s chart, with some annotations I have added in blue.

Figure 1. New World Order chart by Ray Dalio from an introduction to his theory called The Changing World Order. Annotations in blue added by Gail Tverberg.

Modelers of all kinds would like to think that there are no limits in this world. Actually, there are many limits. It is the fact that economies have to work around limits that leads to cycles such as these. Some examples of limits include inadequate arable land for a growing population, inability to fight off pathogens, and an energy supply that becomes excessively expensive to produce. Cycles can be expected to vary in steepness, both on the upside and the downside of the cycle.

The danger of ignoring these cycles is that researchers tend to create models of future economic growth and future energy consumption that are far out of sync with what really can be expected. Accurate models need to include at least some limited version of overshoot and collapse on a regular basis. Models of the future economy tend to be based on what politicians would like to believe will happen, rather than what actually can be expected to happen in the real world.

[3] Commodity prices behave differently at different stages of the economic cycle. During the second half of the economic cycle, it becomes difficult to keep commodity prices high enough for producers. 

There is a common belief that demand for energy products will always be high, because everyone knows we need energy. Thus, according to this belief, if we have the technology to extract fossil fuels, prices will eventually rise high enough that fossil fuel resources can easily be extracted. Many people have been concerned that we might “run out” of oil. They expect that oil prices will rise to compensate for the shortages. Thus, many people believe that in order to maintain adequate supply, we should be concerned about supplementing fossil fuels with nuclear power and renewable energy.

If we examine oil prices (Figure 2), it is apparent that, at least recently, this is not the way oil prices actually behave. Since the spike in oil prices in 2008, the big problem has been prices that fall too low for oil producers. At prices well below $100 per barrel, development of many new oil fields is not economic. Low oil prices are especially a problem in 2020 because travel restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic reduce oil demand (and prices) even below where they were previously.

Figure 2. Weekly average spot oil prices for Brent, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Strangely enough, coal prices (Figure 3) seem to follow a very similar pattern to oil prices, even though coal is commonly believed to be available in huge supply, and oil is commonly believed to be in short supply.

Figure 3. Selected Spot Coal Prices, from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy. Prices are annual averages. Price for China is Qinhuangdao spot price; price for US is Central Appalachian coal spot index; price for Europe is Northwest European marker price.

Comparing Figures 2 and 3, we see that prices for both oil and coal rose to a peak in 2008, then fell back sharply. The timing of this drop in prices corresponds with the “debt bust” in late 2008 that is shown in Figure 1.

Prices then rose to another peak in 2011, after several years of Quantitative Easing (QE). QE is intended to hold the cost of borrowing down, encouraging the use of more debt. This debt can be used by citizens to buy more goods made with coal and oil (such as cars and solar panels). Therefore, QE is a way to increase demand and thus help raise energy prices. In the 2011-2014 period, oil was able to maintain its price better than coal, perhaps because of its short supply. Once the United States discontinued its QE program in 2014, oil prices dropped like a rock (Figure 2).

Prices were very low in 2015 and 2016 for both coal and oil. China stimulated its economy, and prices for both coal and oil were able to rise again in 2017 and 2018. By 2019, prices for both oil and coal were falling again. Figure 2 shows that in 2020, oil prices have fallen again, as a result of demand destruction caused by pandemic shutdowns. Coal prices have also fallen in 2020, according to Trading Economics.

[4] The low prices since mid-2008 seem to be leading to both peak crude oil and peak coal. Crude oil production started falling in 2019 and can be expected to continue falling in 2020. Coal extraction seems likely to start falling in 2020.

In the previous section, I showed that crude oil and coal both have the same problem: Prices tend to be too low for producers to make a profit extracting them. For this reason, investment in new oil wells is being reduced, and unprofitable coal mines are being closed.

Figure 4 shows that world crude oil production has not grown much since 2004. In fact, OPEC’s production has not grown much since 2004, even though OPEC countries report high oil reserves so, in theory, they could pump more oil if they chose to.

Figure 4. World crude oil production (including condensate) based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy. Russia+ refers to the group Commonwealth of Independent States.

In total, BP data shows that world crude oil production fell by 582,000 barrels per day, comparing 2019 to 2018. This represents a drop of 2.0 million barrels per day in OPEC production, offset by smaller increases in production for the US, Canada, and Russia. Crude oil production is expected to fall further in 2020, because of low demand and prices.

Because of continued low coal prices, world coal production has been on a bumpy plateau since 2011. Prices seem to be even lower in 2020 than in 2019, putting further downward pressure on coal extraction in 2020.

Figure 5. World coal production based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

[5] Modelers missed the fact that fossil fuel extraction would disappear because of low prices, leaving nearly all reserves and other resources in the ground. Modelers instead assumed that renewables would always be an extension of a fossil fuel-powered system.

The thing that most people do not understand is that commodity prices are set by the laws of physics, so that supply and demand are in balance. Demand is really very close to “affordability.” If there is too much wage/wealth disparity, commodity prices tend to fall too low. In a globalized world, many workers earn only a few dollars a day. Because of their low wages, these low-paid workers cannot afford to purchase very much of the world’s goods and services. The use of robots tends to produce a similar result because robots can’t actually purchase goods and services made by the economy.

Thus, modelers looking at Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) for wind and for solar assumed that they would always be used inside of a fossil fuel powered system that could provide heavily subsidized balancing for their intermittent output. They made calculations as if intermittent electricity is equivalent to electricity that can be controlled to provide electricity when it is needed. Their calculations seemed to suggest that making wind and solar would be useful. The thing that was overlooked was that this was only possible within a system where other fuels would provide balancing at a very low cost.

[6] The same issue of low demand leading to low prices affects commodities of all kinds. As a result, many of the future resources that modelers count on, and that companies depend upon as the basis for borrowing, are unlikely to really be available.

Commodities of all kinds are being affected by low demand and low selling prices. The problem giving rise to low prices seems to be related to excessive specialization, excessive use of capital goods to replace labor, and excessive use of globalization. These issues are all related to the needs of a world economy that depends on a high level of technology. In such an economy, too much of the output of the economy goes to producing devices and to paying highly trained workers. Little is left for non-elite workers.

The low selling prices of commodities makes it impossible for employers to pay adequate wages to most of their workers. These low wages, in turn, feed through to the uprisings we have been seeing in the last couple of years. These uprisings are part of “Revolutions and Wars” mentioned in Figure 1. It is difficult to see how this problem will disappear without a major change in the “World Order,” mentioned in the same figure.

Because the problem of low commodity prices is widespread, our ability to produce electrical backup of all kinds, including the ability to make batteries, can be expected to become an increasing problem. Commodities, such as lithium, suffer from low prices, not unlike the low prices for coal and oil. These low prices lead to cutbacks in their production and local uprisings.

[7] On a stand-alone basis, intermittent renewables have very limited usefulness. Their true value is close to zero.

If electricity is only available when the sun is shining, or when the wind is blowing, industry cannot plan for its use. Its use must be limited to applications where intermittency doesn’t matter, such as pumping water for animals to drink or desalinating water. No one would attempt to smelt metals with intermittent electricity because the metals would set at the wrong time, if the intermittent electricity suddenly disappeared. No one would power an elevator with intermittent electricity, because a person could easily be trapped between floors. Homeowners would not use electricity to power refrigerators, because, as likely as not, the food would spoil when electricity was off for long periods. Traffic signals would work sometimes, but not always.

Lebanon is an example of a country whose electricity system works only intermittently. It is hard to imagine that any other country would want to imitate Lebanon. Lack of reliable electricity supply leads to protests in Lebanon.

[8] The true cost of wind and solar has been hidden from everyone, using subsidies whose total cost is hard to determine.

Each country has its own way of providing subsidies to renewables. Most countries give wind and solar the subsidy of “going first.” They are often given a fixed rate as well. Both of these are subsidies. In the US, other subsidies are buried in the tax system. Recently, there has been talk of using QE to help wind and solar providers lower their cost of borrowing.

Newspapers regularly report that the price of wind and solar is at “grid parity,” but this is not an apples to apples comparison. To be useful, electricity needs to be available when users need it. The cost of storage is far too high to allow us to store electricity for weeks and months at a time.

If we were to use intermittent electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels in general, we would need to use intermittent electricity to heat homes and offices in winter. Sunshine is abundant in the summer, but not in the winter. Without storage, solar panels cannot even be counted on to provide homeowners with heat for cooking dinner after the sun sets in the evening. An incredibly huge amount of storage would be needed to store heat from summer to winter.

China reports that it has $42 billion in unpaid clean energy subsidies, and this amount is getting larger each year. Countries are now becoming poorer and the taxes they are able to collect are lower. Their ability to subsidize a high cost, unreliable electricity system is disappearing.

[9] Wind, solar, and hydroelectric today only comprise a little under 10% of the world’s energy supply. 

We are deluding ourselves if we think we can get along on such a tiny total energy supply.

Figure 6. Hydroelectric, wind, and solar electricity as a percentage of world energy supply, based on BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Few people understand what a small share of the world’s energy supply wind and solar provide today. The amounts shown in Figure 6 assume that the denominator is total energy (including oil, for example), not just electricity. In 2019, hydroelectric accounted for 6.4% of world energy supply. Wind accounted for 2.2%, and solar accounted for 1.1%. The three together amounted to 9.7% of the world’s energy supply.

None of these three energy types is suited to producing food. Oil is currently used for tilling fields, making herbicides and pesticides, and transporting refrigerated crops to market.

[10] Few people understand how important energy supply is for giving humans control over other species and pathogens.

Control over other species and pathogens has been a multistage effort. In recent years, this effort has involved antibiotics, antivirals and vaccines. Pasteurization became an important technique in the 1800s.

Humans’ control over other species started over 100,000 years ago, when humans learned to burn biomass for many uses, including cooking foods, scaring away predators, and burning down entire forests to improve their food supply. In my 2018 post, Supplemental energy puts humans in charge, I wrote about one proof of the importance of humans’ control of fire. In the lower layers of a cave in South Africa, big cats were in charge: There were no carbon deposits from fire and gnawed human bones were scattered around the cave. In the upper layers of the same cave, humans were clearly in charge. There were carbon deposits from fires, and bones of big cats that had been gnawed by humans were scattered around the cave.

We are dealing with COVID-19 now. Today’s hospitals are only possible thanks to a modern mix of energy supply. Drugs are very often made using oil. Personal protective equipment is made in factories around the world and shipped to where it is used, generally using oil for transport.

Conclusion

We do indeed appear to be headed for a Great Reset. There is little chance that Green Energy can play more than a small role, however. Leaders are often confused because of the erroneous modeling that has been done. Given that the world’s oil and coal supply seem to be declining in the near term, the chance that fossil fuel production will ever rise as high as assumptions made in the IPCC reports seems very slim.

It is true that some Green Energy devices may continue to operate for a time. But, as the world economy continues to head downhill, it will be increasingly difficult to make new renewable devices and to repair existing systems. Wholesale electricity prices can be expected to stay very low, leading to the need for continued subsidies for wind and solar.

Figure 1 indicates that we can expect more revolutions and wars at this stage in the cycle. At least part of this unrest will be related to low commodity prices and low wages. Globalization will tend to disappear. Keeping transmission lines repaired will become an increasing problem, as will many other tasks associated with keeping energy supplies available.

This entry was posted in Energy policy and tagged , , , , , by Gail Tverberg. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

2,650 thoughts on “Why a Great Reset Based on Green Energy Isn’t Possible

  1. Pingback: Daily Bookmarks to GAVNet 07/19/2020 | Greener Acres Value Network News

  2. Years ago a friend found a great opportunity to invest his savings and a little inheritage. An online fonds offered 20%, so he transferred his money to their account and every day with the morning coffee he watches his money grow in his account and he felt good.

    Some month later the online portal was gone. He didnt have any contract and not even an address.

    The interesting point was that he needed around 5 years to get normal again. He would make a lot of decisions we, his friends, could not understand. It seemed like he got blocked. He recovered but for some years he was blocked.

    If this is a psychological phenomenon we should ask if being blocked can also occur to societies. Would be logical if their members are, isnt it?

    From emergency situations I know that some people stay completely clear, see everything, can do more than they have been trained for and seem even to know the near future – while others are paralized. The later are in the majority.

    We could ask, if our friends neglecting all rational approaches towards finite resources or our societies believing in Green New Deals are already beyond ratio. Maybe they are blocked? Maybe they just cant do it?

    There are some rules with a sudden crash or a slow decline that will apply.

    1. Need of water
    Most urgently people need a substitution for their usual water supply. In areas with substantial rain, this could be obtained from their roofs – but desinfection is needed in that case. For a few days people could fire their floors, but sooner or later either fresh water or fuel is needed, so people will have to move to areas with fresh water and forests. It is not possible to carry water or wood 15kms a day by bike for a family.

    2. Need of security
    State authority will soon decline, warlords will take over on the local and the federal level. We could ask if that is already the case in many countries. People need personal integrity, a shelter to sleep and place where to raise the kids. Very likely apartments in large cities, houses in suburbs and even farms in strategically weak areas will not provide that. Maybe it is an idea to pack a motorhome full of food and gasoline and move to such a place in time. I expect though that warlords will place themselves at all outward roads and ask for golden teeth.

    3. Need of food
    If we had a garden culture even the fugitive could make use of a left garden, obtaining fruits or seeds. With a crash of infrastructure I am afraid we have very limited seeds in some areas. Weather people live as nomads or make themselves a little shelter they will need to find areas where they can safely grow food. Rabbits, chicken and sheep would be useful. It is hard to breed cats for fur and meat. And the deer usually is fed by the forest ranger.

    4. All machines that dont require electriciy like Singers, wood stoves or large cattles will be useful but they are hard to move being on the run. Even modern technology like a small off-grid solar equipment and a flex could help to cut out knifes from cars. But there will hardly be any replacements.

    5. As this is quite a lot to manage I guess people will “get blocked” and follow orders to meet in camps. They will falsely believe the state of justice and democracy still exists and the state could provide their security. Without state authority camps are soon victims of warlords looking for slaves. Human lives will not be very valuable there. Famine and illness will soon reduce population and knowledge. Some of the “clear thinkers” might survive in isolated areas.

    I believe we could prepare for such a situation with giving small gardens for free to the people with the obligation to grow organic food and small livestock. We could install water supplies independent from electricity and we could plant forests and distribute machines and tools that dont need electricity.

    And we could bury our nuclear waste before we dont have the tools to do so.

      • But, Ed, where would we bury the waste? In igneous rock? Then perhaps in a century or two, or three, a small volcano will send the waste into the atmosphere. In sedimentary rock? Then how long before it contaminates the nearby water table?

        The problem with nuclear power as currently implemented is insoluble, because it is grounded in a brute fact of physics: the waste products of nuclear power are far more radioactive than the raw materials. When uranium has a half life of billions of years, and radioactive iodine a half life of 8 days, we are magnifying the problem some 100 billion times. That is insane.

        • If we ever fall back to a lower technological level problems will be even more difficult.

          If we allow radiation levels to raise then humans would die on cancer and not get old which means we cannot install complex societies. Or we hide in the earth. But how do we avoid contamination from food?

        • There is actually an interesting precedent case of burying waste:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_nuclear_fission_reactor

          The long lifed materials didn’t move more than some decimeters as I recall.

          Furthermore, Sweden is planning to bury the material in caves. There are some interesting computations summarised in a diagram at page 85, in in the following pdf produced by the organisation responsible for treating the swedish radioctive waste (SKB):

          https://skb.se/publication/1380606/R-07-24.pdf

          The black line = back ground radiation, interesting for reference.
          The fat red line = amount of radiation at ground level if the material is dumped at a depth of 500 m.
          The thin red lin = amount of radiation at ground level if the material is dumped at a depth of a couple of meters.

          The x-axis is time in years.

          The other lines are variations of the above alternatives but with some added security seals covering the waste. I believe they are assumed to be sealed with bentonite clay and copper.

          As can be seen dumping them in stable rock at 500 m depth correspond to aproximately the same amount of radiation at ground level as the back ground radiation. If that is the case, it is of course not even close to harmful.

          The reason you would wish additional seals around the waste is that you need to reach the legally required radiation level caused by the waste. This level is approximately 1 % of the back ground radiation.

          Of course SKB may be wrong. At least, it’s not obvous that the nuclear waste should consitiute a problem.

          • That’s from 2007, 13 years ago. Have they started yet? If not, they should hurry up because the New Swedes are even more unlikely to do it than the Old Swedes.

          • There is very bad experience with the German salz mine Asse in Lower Saxony. It once was considered save. Meanwhile they are building a second mine for billions just to get the waste back. It is less than 30kgs nuclear fuel inside but it could pollute the whole area. The mine could break down any moment, open cracks in the mountain and get water in.

            I know there are no satisfying solutions but nevertheless we should work on them.

      • No worries-
        In 24,000 years we will be down to a half life.
        How were things 24000 years ago?

        • Good point Sir!
          A positive outlook is always a pleasure to share.
          Thank you.

          Nb. 24,000 years ago I think I was incarnated as a small amphibious reptile.

        • i guess i should jump in here as i know something about nuclear power and waste. if the government actually foresaw the issue, there are plans to bury high-level waste. two prime depository areas are dry salt beds like in SE New Mexico and granite igneous rock in places like the Nevada Test Site. the big problem is recognising the need in time to do something about it.

          right now nuclear power is providing about 20% of the electrical power in the USA. France is up there at about 90%. the problem might be along the lines of the “monkey and the gourd” parable. as long as nuclear is providing power, there would be a tendency to put off shut downs and phase outs like in Germany. but who will have the forethought to act before things spin out of control?

          if nothing is done, then the high-level waste in spent fuel ponds stored on site becomes a concern if the electricity running the pumps is permanently shut off, like at Fukushima. hopefully, the military will intervene (they know nuclear), and a patch can keep the cooling ponds active.

          the good news is under a collapse like in the former Soviet Union, the workers responsible will rise to the occasion and keep things running for some time without pay.

    • The psychology of stress and disappointed expectations is certainly worth considering,and logically it must apply to whole societies as well as individuals

      Some will, somehow, rise to the occasion; while others will find that they operate at a lower mental level and make very odd decisions.

      So, the question is, how to prepare mentally, now?

      This pandemic has been a good introduction to living in ever more uncertain times, and a valuable opportunity for those who know how to use it.

      ‘The enlightened must be physically in the world, while their minds must transcend the world. ‘

      • The pandemic and the reactions to it might also be a result of “blocked minds”, already.

        • @Jan

          Whatever it is that you use to unblock your mind could you please share it with us?

          Has World Government started trials of Soma?

          Your ideas and suggestions take me back to articles I read back in the hopeful ’60s and slightly more cynical ’70s in the last century.

          The problem then was that there were too many people in the world for the groups wanting to live simple lives in harmony with nature to find the isolated spaces that would allow them to do so.

          Some parts of the the USA, it could be argued, were somewhat viable at least at the wilderness level, but were probably tougher to survive than those making the proposals were prepared to accept.

          Most of the rest of the world would have presented greater challenges.

          Now there are more people.

          At what level of simplification or both life and population count do your suggestions become viable? Do you have some numbers?

          Psychologically how does one persuade humans to adopt and adapt to this simpler New Normal existence?

          Guarantee local tribes some means of self sufficiency in food, shelter and security? How to do that?

          Guarantee a certain amount of space to develop their societies? How much space?

          Will it require population reduction? If so, how it that to be achieved?

          It occurs to me that if the need ir urgent the only quick population change approaches I can thing would be some form of mass extermination (on an equal opportunity basis rather then selection?)

          That in turn suggests either a global health catastrophe or a global war of some sort. Possibly both I suppose, one consequent upon the other.

          Which would you propose as the likely least risk full for the long term survival of the remainder groups of humans post catastrophe?

          And will they all have the same SOMA dreams about their futures after their experiences of the cull?

    • You have a good list of things we should have done. And I am afraid that you are right about camps being a good way to spread disease.

      Gardens certainly helped Russia at the time of the Soviet Union, but I am not sure we are in a position at this point to do as much. They had land near the city where people could grow crops. They could get to the land by train. We would not be as well set up to do this. It is not easy to grow enough food for a family. People need tools and a way to keep predators from eating everything that is grown.

      • and to grow food successfully we need non-hybrid seeds, and knowledge of just how to grow what and when. good soil is essential as is enough water. it may be difficult to find uncontaminated sites in many areas.

        i recommend permaculture education for as many people as possible.

  3. We need to invest heavily in next generation Nuclear Energy. It is clean, safe, with minimal waste.

    • As a graduate of the Nuclear Engineering and Applied Physics department of Columbia University I agree. It is interesting to note Columbia has for many years quietly promoted nuclear.

    • Thomas, you don’t get that nuclear energy rests entirely on fossil fuels for maintenance, construction, extraction, and cooling. The “nuclear” part is minor in the overall equation. It has most likely been a net negative even without confronting the true costs of decommissioning.

      You can’t win.
      You can’t break even.
      You can’t get out of the game.

      • I agree.

        I don’t know the data, but it looks like the entire process of building nuclear power plants and mining and processing the fuel is all basically expending the energy in FF to indirectly get the output of electricity.

        • You are correct. But the carbon dioxid footprint of nuclear energy is way below wind or solar energy. You get a much better leverage by spending FF on nuclear than on most other energy producers.

          • Quite true, Christopher. But the main problem with nuclear (apart from the reactor waste) is the waste heat. Hydropower can be almost 90% efficient. As was windmill power before some idiots thought of turning it into electricity. But with nuclear power almost 70% of the energy is released as waste heat. So nuclear contributes seven times as much to global warming as hydropower, for the same useful output. But not as bad as orbiting power satellites, which contribute 100% of their output to global warming.

  4. It would seem that solar, wind and batteries are almost cheap enough. Solar has an EROI of about 10 and wind has an EROI of about 20, meaning they make that many more times the energy needed to make them. We also have enough fossil fuels to continue the kickstarter.
    Too bad we disallowed ourselves from using Alvin Weinberg’s molten salt nuclear.
    Must be a very bad government that would inhibit clean energy and cause planned scarcity. Our only hope is to fix our governments!

    • The intermittency is such a bad problem that even those EROEIs are not helpful. We need batteries from summer to winter, and that cannot be done. Or we need to grossly overbuild. Even at that, using batteries for even the remainder would seem like a problem.

      There may indeed theoretically be enough fossil fuels, but if people cannot afford to buy an increasing amount, each year, of finished products made with those fossil fuels (such as homes, cars, computers, solar panels), then there is a problem. Commodity prices of all kinds fall too low for producers. This is a strange result. Modelers of all kinds have assumed that what is in the ground makes a difference, but it really doesn’t.

      There is a similar problem if people stop buying imported clothing made in low-income countries because they are no longer going out to places where they would normally dress up. These low income countries suddenly have no way to employ their populations. There is plenty of cotton being grown. There are plenty of synthetic materials being made. The problem is in the buyer’s end of the equation! Similarly, people who are working from home are going to buy fewer new cars because they don’t drive as much. They will buy less oil products too. This sends oil prices too low for producers.

      Go back and reread my post.

      • Gail,

        It is a finite world, “There may indeed theoretically be enough fossil fuels, but if people cannot afford to buy an increasing amount, each year, of finished products made with those fossil fuels (such as homes, cars, computers, solar panels), then there is a problem. ” Growth is most likely over if for no other reason that bau leads to a problem with radiating the excess heat from the earth, continued growth goes toward 200 degrees F surface temp as I recall.

        We are going to have a new economy, it may not be dictated by physics, but it will be limited by physics. Time to get on with it, time to adapt.

        There are guys out there who are making a living by essentially riding the economy down and interestingly enough, they are very busy doing something Greer has described in his writings. New machinery is almost impossible to maintain, old stuff goes almost forever, these guys are in maintenance, they are damn smart.

        Dennis L.

  5. This summer in Central Europe looks like a summer from the 80s: the temperatures barely exceed 21 – 25 degrees Celzius, there is a lot of raining. It looks very strange after the escalating summer temepratures and the dry years we have experienced during last decades.

    Where is the glbl wrmng?

    • And we’re undergoing a pole shift. Strange things may be happening at the Earth’s core. Sometimes it can mean catastrophe for living beings over a very short period.

      • I see a May 7, 2020 Forbes article called Earth’s Magnetic North Pole Is Shifting Dramatically From A Powerful Tug Of War.

        This is a report on an academic study:

        It’s become increasingly clear in recent years that Earth’s magnetic north pole has been moving towards Russia at rather fast clip.

        One magnetized patch is beneath Canada while the other is under Siberia. In the past few decades, the Siberian patch has begun to overpower its opponent in dramatic fashion. The planet-scale battle has resulted in the magnetic north pole migrating towards Russia with a quickness.

        A polarity flip North-South seems to be quite a ways away. A February 20, 2020 article has these bullet points:

        -World Magnetic Model 2020 highlighted the pole rapidly speeding in the direction of Siberia
        -Earth’s magnetic north pole is moving at unprecedented speeds.
        -This can be a problem for GPS, military operations, airliners, and other navigation systems.
        -From 1831, the north magnetic pole has travelled around 1400 miles (2,250 km).
        -If this continues, the field could collapse entirely and flip polarity.
        -Changing magnetic north to south and vice versa–and the consequences could be dire.
        -The last reversal occurred roughly 773,000 years ago.

        This article quotes a researcher as saying, “The decrease in geomagnetic field is much more important and dramatic than a reversal.”

        This Electroverse article claims that there is mounting evidence that Magnetic Flips occur on a regular 12,000-ish year cycle. It also has links to some controversial forecasts that the next flip is 10-20 years away (or in 2046). There is a claim that the flip somehow caused the changes 9,700 hundred years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. If another flip occurs, it could have a dramatic impact on climate. My presumption would be that some people think that we could go back into another ice age, with a flip.

        • “If this continues, the field could collapse entirely and flip polarity.”
          Then it’s Game Over. I saw few years ago a TV broadcast explaining that, indeed, the field would weaken and even disappear before switching polarity.
          – Total absence of field means total loss of protection from cosmic high energy radiation : destruction of life cells.
          – Weakened field : I guess only partial protection for life cells, and electronic componants : a solar magnetic storm could destroy more easily all our electronic and electric systems : instant end of IC. And what about nuclear plants and spent fuel ponds ?

          • The flip has happened many times in the past. The fact that all life forms didn’t disappear before provides reassurance that many forms of life can live through such changes. In fact, humans and pre-humans lived through ice ages in the past. Whether the weather is quite hot or quite cold doesn’t seem to necessarily determine the end of the humans.

            It is disturbing to me that climate modelers don’t seem to have an understanding of when the next ice age will be coming along, in order to build this into their climate change models. Based on timing alone, it would seem as though an ice age should be coming up, in the absence of CO2 warming.

            • Well my fear of destruction of all living cell is probably too pessimistic. I red that a stable magnetic filed, as a shield against sun high energy radiation, is a condition for life on earth. I red that perhaps Mars might have had an atmosphere but, due to an absence of magnetic field, this atmosphere would have been wiped out by the solar radiation.
              One article says the last flip occurred 773,000 years ago, the other one says it happens every 12,000 years, but yes, the last time it happened , all complex life forms were here, including lots of mammals and hominoidea.

            • we still have the atmosphere to protect us even without the magnetic field. May have an increase in caner rates but life will be fine.

    • I have the same observations and I ask myself the same question lately.
      Where is GLBL WRMNG?

      Can someone explain it (with scientific reasoning, please)?

      • NASA and other scientists have concluded that there is a new solar minimum that is starting or has started around about this year.

        the science looks quite clear that the Sun goes through decades long cycles, and has now entered the part of the cycle where there is slightly reduced solar activity.

        while science will NEVER gain a complete understanding of all the multitudes of factors that go into the chaotic processes that cause slight changes in average glowball temp, the solar cycle may be the most important factor.

        we should trust the science.

        • Thank you. Any links, please?

          I admit, I panicked 4 months ago.
          There were all these lockdowns starting,
          decreased FF consumption all over the world,
          planes grounded, 90%+ decreased global aviation and sea transport,
          there were rumours about the ‘aerosol effect’ impact this summer
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerosol
          https://climate.nasa.gov/news/807/dusts-warming-counters-half-of-its-cooling-effect/

          So I imagined droughts and extreme temperatures around the planet.
          Quite contrary has happened, floods, cool and cloudy weather. We are still blind in this area. Science is failing badly in climate field.

          • The science is out there. The fact that you have listened to the political non-science based on all the climate change “models” is only your failing.
            Here is a primer, read the book “Iceage Now” by Robert Felix. It is a great layman’s summary.
            The sun and the earths geomagnetic environment controls our weather. Both are constantly changing. The Sun and our planetary system position in the galaxy, and the earths orientation all combine to alter our geomagnetic environment.
            Floods, cool and cloudy weather are all well predicted by the onset of the grand solar minimum and potentially a new little ice age. In particular, excessively rainy springs and falls will decimate our ability to grow and harvest crops.
            It is happening…Now.

            • Your answer is little condescending at best.
              Let’s say I am not new to this topic and I’ve read quite a lot about the issue. From many sources, both pro- and anti- AGW narrative. A lot of other, mainstream, non-mainstream and totally conspiracy-like theories. The problem remains. Many of these ‘theories’ are quite convincing, with a lot of graphs, diagrams, arguments, data, etc. And most of them are wrong with their ‘prophecies’.
              You are just saying that the ‘theory’ which is the most convincing to you is the right one and the only one representing truth.

              Let me be sceptical – I read 50+ theories advertised as truth by their believers. Nevertheless, I will look at the book you advise. Thanks.

        • I also think that the solar cycle may be responsible, too. There are various factors that contribute to the Earth temperatures: water retention, co two, solar activity etc.

      • Where is GLBL WRMNG?

        “Global temperatures in 2020 are on pace for one of the planet’s top two warmest years in 141 years of temperature records, according to separate new analyses.”

        https://weather.com/news/climate/news/2020-07-13-june-2020-global-temperatures-noaa-nasa-ecmwf

        The solar minimum is already here. It may even be ending, as the large flare at the end of May, which followed a record-breaking slump in solar activity, suggests:

        “The Sun produced its largest solar flare since October 2017 over the weekend, which could be an indication that the sun’s solar cycle is becoming more active.”

        https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/nasa-sun-solar-flare-sunspots-magnetic-fields-space-a9541696.html

  6. Thanks Gail for another great article.
    I live in the sw. of Ireland with some of the best yearly winds in the world for energy generation yet we can still go from a large amount of renewable energy produced one day and practically nothing the day after.
    I have two wind farms around my farm. They are a blight on the landscape, but I would not mind if they worked properly, they do not.
    When ever there is winter or summer high pressure the wind turbines all stop, we are 3 miles from the Atlantic ocean. Once in Feb. 2016 the wind turbines did not turn for six weeks. We have a gas plant standing by in the eastern part of our county. Also it is difficult for gas power plants to do contracts to purchase gas on international markets when you never know how much you need.
    The yearly subsidy for wind generation is over 1.2 billion euros a year and most of the best sites have already been used.
    They also break down as one turbine is stopped at least once a week for some kind of repairs.
    A large scale energy storage solution is needed to make renewables some way viable, but as you you have already shown that may still not be enough.

    • Thanks Noel-if it’s tricky in SW Ireland we’re all in trouble. My wife (London) is certain they’ll sort it out although she’s not quite certain who they are. Your Irish Feasta site is top notch

    • Thanks for your on-the-ground report. A lot of theoretical work on renewables is done only people who have not looked at the day to day operation of wind turbines. Some of the calculations are even based on what manufacturers claim wind turbines can do in theoretically the best conditions.

      One thing I was surprised to learn is that offshore, wind operations often have living quarters for repair workers, since repair needs come frequently.

  7. Well from a statistical stand point you are using anecdotal evidence to support your claim….very wrong. However I think that we an economic slow down temperatures will get cooler in general over time. But you can’t go out and say its hot today so there is global warming or vice versa….

  8. I think we need to put 2 trillion into nuclear until we find an alternative and streamline regulations. We can build new plants that are much smaller and safer and there is even the possibility of using spent nuclear fuel to power these plants. The problem is on the left they freak out saying its unsafe and the right freaks out saying its too expensive. Both sides are uninformed and are not up to speed on nuclear technology.

  9. Dalio’s reading is a bit interesting, but what he seems to be missing is the role climate change will play in his study of rising and declining empires.

  10. “Distributing the COVID-19 vaccine will require one of the largest supply chain capacities for fighting pandemics ever built.
    Eradicating COVID-19 around the world could require distributing between 7 to 19 billion vaccine doses – and blockchain is integral to making it equitable.”

    this seems to be part of the plan vaccinating the entire worlds population sounds like a cull to me.

    https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/blockchain-role-in-distributing-covid-19-vaccine-could-make-history/

      • Hypothetically speaking with less population could

        a. BAU using our current system continue?

        b.. Sustainable Economic Growth utilizing “green growth ” such as a combination of renewable energies with some gas,oil and coal mixed in continue ?

        • a. yes, but the % of population decrease would have to be faster than the % of net (surplus) energy decrease. This energy decrease is happening now and is irreversible, so this energy decrease will precede population decrease and in fact will be the general basic foundational cause for the coming population decrease. (coming when? not this year, perhaps not this decade.)

          b. no. The above reasons preclude any “growth”.

          • Many thanks for your response this clears up any “delusistani” utopian ideas of a “green generated great reset ” which means option .a. is a possible future outcome tor the human species .

            • if it’s option “a”, then the population INCREASE of about 200,000 per day better hurry up and reverse itself soon.

            • Most of the 200,000 a day increase is taking place in places where people don’t use a lot of energy Per Capita.

              Living on not a lot of energy Per Capita, of course, is one of the reasons so many people are so keen to migrate to where they hope get access to more energy Per Capita.

              Hope springs eternal, as you well know.

            • Holding down immigration is thus a way of keeping energy consumption per capita from rising. If people in low energy use countries moved to countries with better housing and better transportation, it would add to demand for world energy supplies. Holding down immigration acts like stopping air flights, in keeping down energy consumption.

        • (a) I am doubtful that with rapidly falling population our current system could continue as it is. One of the problems is all of the built infrastructure. The cost of maintaining this infrastructure (high rise buildings, paved roads, oil and gas installations, hydroelectric plants, nuclear plants, wind and solar installations) becomes a problem. Nuclear can’t just be walked away from. Likely all of the transmission lines need to be maintained, regardless of how few are using these lines. Roads mostly need to continue to be paved.

          We have a huge number of specialists. Keeping all of these specialists working will become an increasing problem. The system is not built for shrinkage at all.

          (b) If we can’t do this with current systems, I don’t think we can do it at all. It is the shrinkage itself that is a problem.

          • @Gail @Engineerswithspecialvisionsofthefuture

            Quote:
            (a) I am doubtful that with rapidly falling population our current system could continue as it is. One of the problems is all of the built infrastructure. The cost of maintaining this infrastructure (high rise buildings, paved roads, oil and gas installations, hydroelectric plants, nuclear plants, wind and solar installations) becomes a problem. Nuclear can’t just be walked away from. Likely all of the transmission lines need to be maintained, regardless of how few are using these lines. Roads mostly need to continue to be paved.

            We have a huge number of specialists. Keeping all of these specialists working will become an increasing problem. The system is not built for shrinkage at all.

            (b) If we can’t do this with current systems, I don’t think we can do it at all. It is the shrinkage itself that is a problem.

            /End Quote

            In many fields there was a point somewhere in the ’90s and early ’00s at which there was a “sweetspot” of sorts for a balance between complexity of “things” and the benefits delivered.

            But like the Pareto principle from that point on in many areas the ROI diminished and, potentially, turned negative.

            So put it simply and take just a few examples:

            Computers became very competent in relatively well controlled “ecosystems” that moved fairly slowly. But as Moore’s Law really got going and the product arena opened up all areas became more prone to rapid obsolescence in some way – especially at the “affordable” mass market end of things. We got to a point of obsoleting investment and production well before its expected end of life by developing ever faster products that have a place, certainly, but absorb capital (of all forms) and use it inefficiently whilst pretending to be about efficiency.

            We now provide computers that far exceed the needs of the users but aim to cater for all types of needs in one package when that probably makes little sense in reality for the majority of users. We buy stuff, hardware and software, from which we will use a very small fraction of what we have paid for and that someone has justified developing on the basis of “economy of scale” and marketeers recognising the weaknesses of humanity by pandering to desires (and dreams?) rather then needs.

            One common area that many are likely to have observed more widely relates to transport, especially personalised private transport.

            “Cars” achieved a build and materials quality in the late ’80s that suggested a better than previous usable lifespan then in previous times.

            Improved metals, where used, meant less rust and better engineering and manufacturing tolerances meant that components would last longer before replacement or, if consumable parts, were made to work better and be easier to service/change than previously.

            By such means expected lifetimes were extended, safety was improved, maintenance was more cost effective and the energy investment at manufacture offered a likely doubled lifespan potential. 20 years instead of 10 perhaps.

            This was relatively true for many other “products” as well.

            Since then, flushed with technological success ever more complexity has been added and increasing costs to achieve regulatory targets (and marketing driven buyer trinkets) have increased the net spend and capital/energy investment but added complexity and thus increased susceptibility to failure. Early failure compared to the potential life of the entire vehicle.

            Worse the failures tend to have expensive costs to fix or, for certain types of component, may be unfixable because the component is simply not available or the software no longer exists and there is no “mechanical” and simpler fallback that allows continued utility of the vehicle.

            Interestingly the primary era from which this has become an evident problem seems to be shortly before the financial meltdown of 2008. That may or may not be coincidental in some way.

            So many things have become a lot more complex and so prone to obsolescence since that period. Aircraft for example. Smart phones. Especially smart phones made obsolete, despite significant purchase expense for what they are, not because they can no longer function but because new versions of “apps” are not written to support older versions of operating systems that will never receive an update.

            The trend towards an on-line life is a trend toward everyone being forced to change their phones every 3 years because of need rather than choice. Likely even before the non-removable battery has stopped working. All because the Apps change with no real benefit to the change and are not supportable by older version of operating systems.

            The Romans, in their day, had considerable engineering skills 200 years ago and we can still see a lot of their structures today. They are not alone in that but perhaps offer the more obviously visible and so far un-recycled examples.

            Aqueducts, fine villas, underfloor heating and plumbed in toilet facilities are examples of a society that, for its time, had some complexity in it day to day functioning. Advanced engineering often well executed that meant nothing when the systems collapsed and people with much less advanced achievements took over the Roman territories, setting back development (or maybe establishing a level of survivability) that lasted at least several hundred years. Much longer if one considers some of the most advanced facilities enjoyed by Romans but only returned to many, but not yet all, areas of humanity within the last 2 or so centuries.

            I suspect we may be about to discover that added technology that also brings extra complexity is not a benefit to humanity. Indeed it may be a de-benefit.

            For a big moral dilemma to consider we could apply that idea to Health Care. But not now since this post is over long as it is.

            • Thanks! I think we are past the point where increased complexity provided adequate benefit. Once we tried to replace oil with batteries and electricity, as in airplanes, this made no sense whatsoever. Once we tried to use imaging for all kinds of health care problems, and then follow up on all of the little things that seemed a big wrong, the imaging led us down a lot of false trails. Trying to make fancy clothes washers that saved water tended to make clothes washers that were expensive and fell apart quickly.

              Software is being made more and more fancy. Excel is now being made so that different people can collaborate on projects. This is not a feature I need or want. It adds unneeded complexity.

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