Today’s Energy Predicament – A Look at Some Charts

Today’s energy predicament is a strange situation that most modelers have never really considered. Let me explain some of the issues I see, using some charts.

[1] It is probably not possible to reduce current energy consumption by 80% or more without dramatically reducing population.

A glance at energy consumption per capita for a few countries suggests that cold countries tend to use a lot more energy per person than warm, wet countries.

Figure 1. Energy consumption per capita in 2019 in selected countries based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

This shouldn’t be a big surprise: Our predecessors in Africa didn’t need much energy. But as humans moved to colder areas, they needed extra warmth, and this required extra energy. The extra energy today is used to build sturdier homes and vehicles, to heat and operate those homes and vehicles, and to build the factories, roads and other structures needed to keep the whole operation going.

Saudi Arabia (not shown on Figure 1) is an example of a hot, dry country that uses a lot of energy. Its energy consumption per capita in 2019 (322 GJ per capita) was very close to that of Norway. It needs to keep its population cool, besides running its large oil operation.

If the entire world population could adopt the lifestyle of Bangladesh or India, we could indeed get our energy consumption down to a very low level. But this is difficult to do when the climate doesn’t cooperate. This means that if energy usage needs to fall dramatically, population will probably need to fall in areas where heating or air conditioning are essential for living.

[2] Many people think that “running out” of oil supplies should be our big worry. I believe that lack of the “demand” needed to keep oil and other energy prices up should be at least as big a worry.

The events of 2020 have shown us that a reduction in energy demand can occur very quickly, in ways we would not expect.

Oil demand can fall from less international trade, from fewer international air flights, and from fewer trips by commuters. Demand for electricity (made mostly with coal or natural gas) is likely to fall if fewer buildings are occupied. This will happen if universities offer courses only online, if nursing homes close for lack of residents who want to live there, or if young people move back with their parents for lack of jobs.

In some ways, the word “appetite” might be a better word than “demand.” Either high or low appetite can be a problem for people. People with excessive appetite tend to get fat; people with low appetite (perhaps as a side-effect of depression or of cancer treatments) can become frail.

Similarly, either high or low energy appetite can also be a problem for an economy. High appetite leads to high oil prices, as occurred back in 2008. These are distressing to oil consumers. Low appetite tends to lead to low energy prices. These are distressing to energy producers. They may cut back on production, as OPEC nations have done in the recent past, in an attempt to get prices back up. Some energy producers may file for bankruptcy.

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

Just as people can die from indirect effects of too little appetite, an economy can fail if it cannot keep its energy prices (appetite) up. In fact, an economy will probably collapse quite quickly if it cannot keep oil and other energy prices up. The cost of mining or otherwise extracting energy supplies tends to increase over time because the cheapest, easiest-to-extract supplies are taken first. The selling price of energy products needs to keep rising as well, in order for producers to be able to make a profit and, therefore, be able to continue production.

We know that historically, many economies have collapsed. Revelation 18:11-13 tells us that in the case of the collapse of ancient Babylon, the problem at the time of collapse was inadequate demand for the goods produced. There was not even demand for slaves, which was the type of energy available for purchase at that time. This lack of demand (or low appetite) is similar to the low oil price problem we are encountering today.

[3] The big reduction in energy appetite since mid-2008 has particularly affected the US, EU, and Japan. 

We would expect lower energy prices to eventually lead to a decline in energy production because producers will find production unprofitable. On a world basis, however, we don’t see this pattern occurring except during the Great Recession itself (Figure 3).

Figure 3. World per capita energy consumption, based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy. On a worldwide basis, energy production and consumption are virtually identical because storage is small compared to production and consumption.

Note that in Figure 3, energy consumption is on a “per capita” basis. This is because energy is required for making goods and services; the higher the population, the greater the quantity of goods and services required to maintain a given standard of living. If energy consumption per capita is rising, there is a good chance that living standards are rising.

The countries of the US, EU, and Japan have not been very successful in keeping their energy consumption per capita level since the big drop in oil prices in mid-2008.

Figure 4. Per capita energy consumption for the US, EU, and Japan, based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

The falling per capita energy consumption for the US, EU, and Japan is what one would expect if economic conditions were getting worse in these countries. For example, this pattern might be expected if young people are having difficulty finding jobs that pay well. It might also happen if repayment of debt starts interfering with young people being able to buy homes and cars. When fewer goods of these types are purchased, less energy consumption per capita is required.

The pattern of falling energy consumption per capita cannot continue for long without reaching a breaking point because people with low wages (or no jobs at all) will become more and more distressed. In fact, we started seeing an increasing number of demonstrations related to low wage levels, low pension levels, and lack of government services starting in 2019. This problem has only gotten worse with layoffs related to the pandemic in 2020. These layoffs corresponded to substantial further reduction in energy consumption per capita.

[4] China, India, and Vietnam are examples of countries whose energy consumption per capita has risen in recent years.

Not all countries have done as poorly as the major economies in recent years:

Figure 5. Some examples of countries with rising energy consumption per capita, based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

These Asian countries could outcompete the US, EU, and Japan in several ways:

  • Big undeveloped coal reserves. These resources could be used as an inexpensive fuel to compete with countries that had depleted their own coal resources. Coal tends to be less expensive than other types of energy, especially if pollution problems are ignored.
  • Warmer climate, so these countries did not need much fuel for heating. Even Southern China does not heat its buildings in winter.
  • Pollution was generally ignored.
  • New, more efficient factories could be built.
  • Lower wages because of
    • Milder climate
    • Inexpensive fuel supply
    • Lower medical costs
    • Lower standard of living

The developed economies were concerned about reducing their own CO2 emissions. Moving heavy industry to these Asian nations meant that the developed economies could benefit in three ways:

  1. Their own CO2 emissions would fall, whether or not world emissions fell.
  2. Pollution problems would be moved offshore.
  3. The cost of finished goods for consumers would be lower.

Moving heavy industry to these and other Asian countries meant the loss of jobs that had paid fairly well in the US, Europe, and Japan. While new jobs replaced the old jobs, they generally did not pay as well, leading to the falling energy consumption per capita pattern seen in Figure 4.

[5] The growing Asian economies in Figure 5 are now reaching coal limits.

While these economies were built on coal reserves, these reserves are becoming depleted. All three of the countries shown in Figure 5 have become net coal importers.

Figure 6. Coal production versus consumption in 2019 for China, India and Vietnam based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

[6] World coal production has remained on a bumpy plateau since 2011, suggesting that its extraction is reaching limits. (Figure 7)

Figure 7. World energy consumption by type, based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy. “Renewables” represents renewables other than hydroelectricity. Total world consumption is approximately equal to total world production, since stored amounts are small.

Figure 8, below, shows that growth in China’s coal production was the major reason for the big rise in world coal consumption between 2002 and 2011. In fact, this rise in production started immediately after China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Figure 8. World coal production by country based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

China’s rapid growth in coal production stopped in 2011. The problem was that extraction from an increasing share of coal mines became unprofitable: The cost of extraction rose but coal prices did not rise to match these higher costs. China could build new mines in locations more distant from where the coal was to be used, but transportation costs would tend to make this coal higher-cost as well. China could increase its coal consumption by importing coal, but that would also be more expensive.

Figure 9. Coal production for selected areas based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

In Figure 9, above, we see how dramatically higher China’s coal production has been, in comparison to coal production in other areas of the world. After China’s coal production stalled about 2011, it bounced back in 2018 and 2019 as the country opened mines in the north of the country, farther from industrial use.

Figure 9 indicates that the US’s coal production was on a long plateau between 1990 and 2008; more recently, the US’s production has fallen. Coal production for Europe was falling even before 1981, but the data available for this chart only goes back to 1981. Declining production again results from the cost of production rising above the prices producers could obtain from selling the coal.

Whether or not world coal production will increase in the future remains to be seen. Normally, a person would expect a long bumpy plateau in coal production, such as the world has experienced since 2011, to precede a fall in production. This would be similar to the pattern observed in the US’s coal production. This pattern would also be similar to the shape modeled by geophysicist M. King Hubbert for many types of resource production.

Figure 10. M. King Hubbert symmetric curve from Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.

[7] World oil production through 2019 has continued upward in an amazingly steady pattern, despite low prices. Its major problem has been unprofitability for producers. 

Figure 7 above shows the total amount of oil produced has continued upward in almost a straight line, except for a dip at the time of the Great Recession.

In fact, every person needs goods and services made with energy products. Rising energy consumption per capita will mean that, on average, every person is getting the benefit of more energy supplies. Figure 11 shows information similar to that on Figure 7, except on a per-capita basis.

Figure 11. World per capita energy consumption by type based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy. Total world consumption is approximately equal to total world production, since stored amounts are small.

Figure 11 indicates that on a per capita basis, oil supply has been approximately flat. In a way, this should not be surprising. Oil is absolutely essential in many ways. It is used for agriculture, transportation and construction. Oil is also used for its chemical properties in medicines, herbicides, pesticides, lubricants, and many other products. Oil is very energy dense and can be easily stored.

Because of its special properties, many people have assumed that oil prices will always rise. We saw in Figure 2 that this doesn’t actually happen. Low prices have continued for long enough now that they are becoming a serious problem for producers. Many companies are seeking bankruptcy. One analysis shows that 230 oil and gas producers and 214 oilfield services companies have filed for bankruptcy since 2015.

Oil exporters find their countries in financial difficulty, because at low prices, the taxes that they can collect are not sufficient to maintain the programs needed for their people. If the programs cannot be maintained, citizens may become unhappy and revolt.

At this point, oil production during 2020 is down. Figure 12 shows OPEC’s estimate of oil production through July 2020. World oil production is reported to be down about 12%. The highest month of supply was about November 2018.

Figure 12. OPEC and world oil production, in a chart made by OPEC, from the August 2020 OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report.

Figure 13 shows oil production for selected areas of the world through 2019.

Figure 13. Oil production for selected areas of the world based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy. Europe includes Norway. Russia+ is the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Middle East production tends to bounce up and down. If prices are low, the tendency is to reduce production, as occurred in 2019.

US production rose rapidly between 2008 and 2019, but dipped in 2016, as prices dropped way too low.

Europe’s oil production (including Norway) reached its highest point in the year 2000. It has been declining since then, causing concern for governments.

The production of what I call Russia+ dropped with the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union in 1991. Oil prices had been very low between 1981 and 1991. It appears to me that these low prices were instrumental in the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union. Production was able to rise again in the early 2000s when prices rose. My concern now is that a similar collapse will happen for some oil exporters in the next few years, due to low prices, and it will lead to a major decline of world oil production.

[8] Natural gas is the fuel that seems to be available in abundant supply, if only the price could be made to rise to a high enough level for producers. 

Natural gas production can be seen to be rising on both Figures 7 and 11. The fact that natural gas consumption is rising on a per capita basis in Figure 11 indicates that production is rising robustly–enough to offset weakness in coal production and perhaps help increase the world standard of living, to some extent.

We can see from Figure 14 below that the increase in natural gas production is coming from quite a number of different areas, including the US, Russia and its affiliates, the Middle East, and Australia. Again, Europe (including Norway) seems to be in decline.

Figure 14. Natural gas production for selected areas of the world based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy. Europe includes Norway. Russia+ is the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The problem for natural gas is again a price problem. It is difficult to get the price up to a high enough level to cover the cost of both the extraction of natural gas and the infrastructure and fuel needed to transport the natural gas to its destination.

We used to talk about “stranded natural gas,” that is, natural gas that can be extracted, but whose cost of transportation is simply too high to make the overall transaction economic. In fact, historically, a lot of natural gas has simply been burned off as a waste product (flared) or re-injected into oil wells, to keep up pressure, because there was no hope of selling it profitably at a distance. It is this formerly stranded natural gas that is now being produced.

Figure 15. Historical natural gas prices based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy. LNG is liquefied natural gas transported by ship. German imported natural gas is mostly by pipeline. US Henry Hub gas is natural gas without overseas transport costs included.

The increase in investment in natural gas production in recent years has been based on the hope that prices would rise high enough to cover both the cost of extraction and transportation. In fact, prices have tended to fall with crude oil prices, making the overall price far too low for most natural gas producers. Prices in 2020 have been even lower. For example, recent Japan LNG prices have been about $4 per million Btu. Thus, natural gas seems to have exactly the same problem as coal and oil: Prices are far too low for producers.

[9] The world economy is a self-organizing system, powered by energy. It can be expected to behave in a very strange way when diminishing returns become too much of a problem. 

In the language of physics, the world economy is a dissipative structure. This has been known at least since 1996. The economy is a self-organizing system powered by energy; it is not possible to significantly reduce energy consumption without a major collapse.

The economy has many parts to it. I have illustrated the situation in the following way:

The fact that consumers are also employees means that if wages fall too low (for a significant share of the population), then consumption will also tend to fall too low.

Prices are set by the market. Contrary to the popular view, prices are not based primarily on scarcity. Instead, they are based on the quantity of finished goods and services that consumers in the aggregate can afford. If wage disparity gets to be too great a problem, commodity prices of all types will tend to fall too low.

[10] Economists and modelers of all kinds have completely misunderstood how the economy actually operates.

Our academic communities each seem to exist in separate ivory towers. Economists don’t talk to physicists. Physicists know that dissipative structures cannot last indefinitely. Humans are dissipative structures; they each have limited lifetimes. Hurricanes are also dissipative structures that last only a limited time.

Most economists and modelers have never considered the possibility that today’s economy, like that of ancient Babylon, could be reaching collapse because of low demand, and thus, low prices.

Economists don’t realize that once energy resources become too depleted, energy prices are not likely to rise high enough for producers to make a profit; instead, the overall system will tend to collapse. Central banks have been trying, without success, to get commodity prices up to the point where they can be profitable for producers, but they have not been successful to date. I am doubtful that even more new tricks, such as Universal Basic Income, will work, either.

The erroneous belief systems of most economists and modelers leads to all kinds of strange results. The economy is modeled as if it will grow indefinitely. Most modelers assume that if we have oil, coal, or natural gas in the ground, plus the technical capability to pull these resources out, we will eventually pull them out. Perhaps a later civilization, built on the remains of our current civilization, can do this, but our current civilization cannot.

Climate change models are applied to fossil fuel assumptions that are absurdly high, given the problems with low energy prices that we are currently encountering. No one stops to model what will happen to the climate if fossil fuel consumption is decreased very quickly, which seems to be a real possibility in 2020. The loss of aerosol emissions (smog, for example) from fossil fuels will tend to spike world temperatures, even with reduced CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.

We are led to believe that an economy similar to today’s economy can operate solely on renewables. This is simply absurd. Figures 7 and 11 show that there are nowhere near enough renewables to support today’s population, even if substitution were possible for fossil fuels. In fact, we need fossil fuels to make and maintain solar panels, wind turbines, electric transmission lines, hydroelectric plants, and nuclear power plants.

If we cannot keep fossil fuels operating because of continued low prices, today’s economy can expect a disturbing change for the worse.

This entry was posted in Financial Implications, Introductory Post 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.

2,018 thoughts on “Today’s Energy Predicament – A Look at Some Charts

  1. “The amount of money investors are recovering from companies that default on their debt has fallen at a sharper rate this year than during previous credit cycles, potentially heralding a structural shift in debt markets, according to a new report from Barclays.

    “CDS recoveries have sunk “alarmingly” to an all-time low of nine cents on the dollar in recent months…”

  2. “Frackers are blasting less sand into shale wells for the first time in almost three years as oil explorers adjust to lower oil demand and prices amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    “Shale explorers are pumping an average of roughly 2.9 million pounds of sand a day during the current quarter, marking the first time since the final three months of 2017 that growth has subsided, according to Coras Research LLC. Sand per well is a key measurement of frack efficiency because more sand typically means more of the rock fissures that allow crude to flow.”

  3. Lebanon succumbs to the highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the world:

    “Lebanon’s gross public debt increased by 8.9 percent annually to $93.40 billion in the first half of 2020, according to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Finance.

    “And it could exceed $95 billion by the end of August, according to economist and banker Nicolas Chikhani… At this pace, the debt to GDP ratio will exceed 375 percent by the end of 2020, the world’s highest debt-to-GDP ratio ever, Chikhani said.

    “Japan has second highest national debt in the world at 234.18 percent of its GDP, followed by Greece at 181.78 percent.”

    • “The unfolding tragedy falls short of a famine, which is typically set off by a combination of war and environmental disaster. Food remains widely available in most of the world, though prices have climbed in many countries.

      “Rather, with the world economy expected to contract nearly 5 percent this year, households are cutting back sharply on spending. Among those who went into the pandemic in extreme poverty, hundreds of millions of people are suffering an intensifying crisis over how to secure their basic dietary needs.”

      • It seems to me that there is more than war and environmental disasters setting off famines. Since 1840 or so, I think it was often indirectly set off by too many children living to maturity, because of better sanitation practices. For quite a while, major famines could be averted by some people emigrating to the New World. Now we have run out of parts of the world for people to emigrate to.

        Environmental disasters might be defined to include all of the diseases and pests that kill crops. The Irish Potato Famine

        The Irish Potato Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, began in 1845 when a fungus-like organism called Phytophthora infestans (or P. infestans) spread rapidly throughout Ireland. The infestation ruined up to one-half of the potato crop that year, and about three-quarters of the crop over the next seven years.

        These diseases spread most easily when there are wide expanses of a single crop grown. The fact that conditions were ripe for the spread of the disease also points to an overpopulation problem.

        I know that I have read previously that in many previous famines, the issue was distribution of food as much as total quantity of food. Poor people could not afford food. It may have appeared that there was a glut of food. Food may have been shipped out of the country to other customers who could pay more for it.

        • I read recently that the potato blight was imported from Peru on guano fertilizer mined off the Peruvian coast. Makes sense, with potatoes being south American.

          • That could be. Originally, the soil was naturally fertile, but potatoes took certain nutrients. Guano fertilizer added back in at least some of the missing nutrients.

            Often, rotation does not even add back what is missing, especially if human and/or animal waste ends up far from where food is produced. Some nutrients that humans require can become chronically low, without plants being clearly adversely affected. It is humans that have the problems.

  4. I will pick up on an earlier thread.

    Xabier said to me: “If you truly believe that morality and heroism -and one must infer nobility, self-sacrifice, humanity, etc – are always ‘lies’, then you are clearly not someone who could be relied upon in a tight corner.”

    First to restate my actual argument: all is strategy; there is the strategic act, and there is the strategic spin that is put on it. The spin is basically that it is ‘good’ and ‘true’ rather than just strategy.

    I have been continuing my reading through Nietzsche’s BGE and it is important to understand that ‘beyond’ the evaluation of ‘good and evil’ there lies for him another evaluation of ‘good and bad’. He is not a ‘nihilist’ but a moralist.

    He too identifies the ‘useful’ (good) with the ‘true’. Indeed the early section of BGE, on ‘the prejudices of the philosophers’, is intended to make that identification. He does so through the ‘will to power’, which I would summarise as making use of things for one’s own interests.

    The identification of the ‘good’ and the ‘true’ is obviously very ancient and it appears, if inconsistently, in religions. It is not that simple for Christianity but that is another subject. The identification in philosophy is particularly associated with the ontology of Aristotle, the identity of ‘being, good, and true’.

    I reject that identification. Being is sometime useful, and nothing is useful except it is a ‘being’ in some sense, even if it is merely a shared figment of the imagination, some belief that is useful to oneself. But not all being is useful, some of it is harmful, they are not identical.

    And neither are the good and the true identical, a belief is not true simply because it is useful to oneself. It can be useful to trick and to deceive people but does not make the trick and the deception ‘true’.

    Rather, I simply identify ‘being’ and the ‘true’. Some being is useful but not all of it. ‘Good’ is simply ‘use’ and it is contingent to the user, it is not ‘good in itself’ – indeed there is no such thing. That is my basic ontology.

    And that seems to be, at base, the problem that Xabier took from what I said. His response immediately was ‘how is this useful to me?’ ‘How then can I rely on you to fight with me when I am in danger.’

    In other words, it came straight back, for him, to his own personal utility. The idea that the useful, ‘good (in itself)’ and the ‘true’ are not the same thing disturbed him because it might negate any apparently unconditional solidarity that I supposedly have with him.

    Which proves my point: it is all strategy – what is useful to oneself, and strategic spin on strategy. The spin itself is strategy. It is supposedly ‘good’ and ‘true’ that he could rely on me in a tight spot. It is ‘good’ and ‘true’ because it is useful to him.

    In fact it would merely be useful to him, ‘good’ for him, but not ‘good in itself’, as if I would ‘have’ to do it because it is ‘true’.

    Hume is quite useful at this point. ‘Ought’ statements cannot be deduced from ‘is’ statements because conclusions can only contain the terms that are found in the premises. ‘Ought’ statements can only be assumed not proved from what ‘is’.

    That so and so ‘is’ useful to one is an ‘is’ statement and no ‘ought’ can be logically deduced from that. The pursuit of use is a matter of will, not of ‘ought’ (‘good in itself’) or the ‘true’ (what is) but what I will to be.

    Anyway, the conclusion is that it is not ‘true’ or even ‘good’ (maybe for him but not in itself) that I would fight for Xabier ‘in a tight corner’.

    I do not ‘have’ to do anything, I do what I do because I choose to do it, not because it is ‘good’ or ‘true’. And frankly his outburst would make it all the less likely that I would step in, risk myself, for him, as if I have no choice but to risk myself for him and otherwise I am ‘evil’ or some other strategic slander.

    It is an intent to order my well-being to his own and to sacrifice me for him if need be. It is an act of aggression, an attempt to subjugate me to his own interest even to the point of my death. That makes solidarity unlikely. I do not even know him and he would demand that.

    My advice to Xabier would be, do not go around picking fights and the odds are that you will not end up in one.

    So, the identification of the usefulness, the good, duty and the true is a trick, a deception, a strategy that frankly does not work on me.

    My approach to state nationalism is based on a similar analysis.

    Everyone is pushing for their own interests, their own usefulness, and those interests are very often opposed. People are forming tribal gangs, nation states, to push for their own perceived interests. Russia, China, USA, UK, they are all the same in that regard. I have no ‘loyalty’ to any of them and I find their attempts to equate their own perceive interests with the ‘good’ and even the ‘true’ absolutely appalling. I suppose that I am not a ‘sheep’, a ‘herd’ animal that goes ‘baaa’ when it is ordered to.

    Nor have I ‘loyalty’ to anyone else, except to those people whom I personally and freely choose to have loyalty to, which is basically those people close to me, people that I like and get on with and with whom I have bonds. No one else. My solidarity is not for free and it is not forced, it autonomous and voluntary. Perhaps that is what is useful to me!

    Of course I observe the social contract and I do not harm those who do not harm me, and I might even step in to help people if the occasion arises but not because I ‘have’ to or because it is ‘true’ or because of loyalty but because I freely choose to.

    Anyway, I ‘disagree’ with Nietzsche in so far as I do not see the good of his wannabe ‘aristocracy’ as useful to me. Other people’s strategies are their own, not mine, and I am not getting roped into some imaginary aristocracy. He is a wonderful, insightful philosopher but there is a strong element of ‘Boy’s Own’ adventure stories about BGE. His book seems to be a ‘game’ for him, a fanciful novel.

    • I suggest you become a little less “pushy,” Oh Dear. While you have one belief, other people have different ones. The worlds view of what is right keeps changing over time. We are now looking back from a period of plenty, and making judgments about what people in earlier periods should have done, according to today’s standards.

      Today’s major religions arose during a time when the world was beginning to see trade and travel. In some sense, they had enough surplus energy to set aside for these activities. Now we are in a period when surplus energy is shrinking, especially on a per capita basis. Views of at least part of the population will change.

      • Thanks Gail, I agree with all of that, apart from the idea that I was being pushy. Other people are free to ‘believe’ whatever they want and that is my modus operandi so long as they do not start telling me what to think or heckling, abusing or whatever.

        I prefer to explore whatever insights others may have than to impose dogma. A little courtesy and tolerance generally go a long way in any interaction.

        How do you see/ foresee the views of people changing as plenty fades? Have your own views changed? How has it been for you personally to contemplate finite limits and their import on the future? Has it changed you as a person in your character or do you feel pretty much the same as before?

        • As plenty fades, the ties that bind groups together are going to fade. We can already see this with churches. Here, no more than 50 can gather at a time. Churches can have Zoom meetings, or they can have multiple 50 person services, but they cannot have regular services.

          I expect that a lot of governmental organizations will disappear. If every country is poor, countries will not want to contribute to world do-good organizations. In fact, there may be some form of international war.

          My own view is that there is not a good solution to “too many people for resources.” This is the problem Winston Churchill was encountering. This was the problem at the time of the US civil war. This is the same problem we are encountering now.

          Our do-good instincts say, “Let’s share everything equally; let’s avoid war at all costs.” Unfortunately, sharing everything equally doesn’t work, if there is really not enough to go around. Everyone will starve at the same time.

          The physics of economies as dissipative structures says that some members of economies cannot make it through the limits that are being reached. Some will be “frozen out” in the words of physicist Francois Roddier. The rich (or better adapted) will receive more, like steam rising to the top. This is the same thing that happens in ecosystems of all kinds, whether we like it or not, when conditions are not right (too hot, cold, wet, dry, windy) for the number of plants/animals to live in a given area. The people in charge have a terrible predicament, but it is really, “Them or us.”

          This time, there is a question whether any of us can make it through the limits we are reaching. It is especially difficult for young people, with families.

          I am not a young person with a young family, so I don’t have that issue. My immediate family tends to be very liberal. I have always been socially liberal. My daughter is married to another woman. I have a sister who has been married to another woman for many years. But I have moved farther away from liberal politics. I have found it helpful to keep quiet about my views, if I don’t want to start a fight.

          I have supported Planned Parenthood in more in recent years.

          I think that there has to be a Higher Power behind all of what is happening. I have always been fairly religious. In fact, I believe that many religions can have insights that are helpful. Sitting around worrying about what will happen cannot be very helpful. But I don’t feel like I am very much in a position to do a lot to save myself and my immediate family. So, whatever happens will just have to be what happens. I look for the good in each day. I enjoy visiting with people, whenever I can. I started traveling whenever I could, because I realized that this was a temporary privilege I had that would go away. In the year before COVID-19 hit, I took several trips simply to get together with old friends that I might be increasingly difficult to see.

          • Yes, Matthew comes to mind, ‘sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ One has to live in the present and to make the most of what the situation affords. We do not have complete control over everything in our lives, let alone over what the future will bring.

            The rest is not our responsible and it should not be our burden. There is a lot of wisdom in the ‘little way’ of the French nun S. Theresa, to be simple and to do what one can in the day that is present to us.

            Yes, scarcity will inevitably bring out egoism and conflict. I do not adapt my own ‘ideology’ by what might work at some time in the future. It remains adapted to the times in which we live. In particular I avoid tying in ‘identity politics’ with collapse. It is just another excuse for pointless strife and unpleasantness in the here and now.

            If anything, my own dispositions have become more laid back in recent years. Again, ‘sufficient unto the day’. We perhaps get to the same peaceful place by different routes, trust in God and scepticism about whether any of it really ‘matters’.

            A belief in God is potentially a very valuable resource. Some Catholics find a lot of benefit by adapting the ‘little way’ to a secular life and the book remains popular. Anyway, I am glad to hear that you are bearing up and that things are working out for you.

            Yes, it is probably wise to hold one’s peace around people with whom one disagrees, I do it all the time off the web with family and friends. People disagree and there is no point in being disagreeable about that. I ‘act the adult’ and ‘go the extra mile’ on that count.

            It does the job without demanding too much of the others. I am not bothered what they think anyway, it is up to them. Fortunately I do not have to do that with everyone and the more intellectual types tend to be more interested and tolerant of a variety of perspectives but they tend to be rarer.

          • Most people would be surprised at how little is needed, if done with system and style. This applies to the very poor especially–like those living under overpasses in the Bay Area. Such catastrophes would take next to nothing to improve (from their, not our, perspective). And it’s much more mindset than hard physical realities that is obstructing such modifications.

  5. Shout out to Harry, 😺👍 for his morning wrap-up…
    Imagine that…the Government wants to get a hold of a useless, ancient relic of the past that only peasant ignorant class think is real money.
    Turkey Has New Plan to Crack Open Under-the-Mattress Gold Hoard
    (Bloomberg) — Turkey has a new plan to coax gold to its financial system after previous efforts barely made a dent in a so-called under-the-mattress stash valued at about 40% of gross domestic product.
    The Turkish Treasury and the Istanbul Gold Refinery will let selected jewelers collect gold from citizens and deposit it at state banks. A major difference under the new regulations is that customers would be able to withdraw physical gold, according to Aysen Esen, the refiner’s chief executive officer.
    Previous attempts to get gold into the system have largely failed. Some 100 tons have been pulled into lenders’ gold accounts over the past decade, according to Esen, compared with an estimated 5,000 tons stored elsewhere in the country..

    Turkey is one of the biggest consumers of the precious metal worldwide. Turks use gold as protection against inflation and traditionally gift it for events from weddings to circumcision ceremonies. It’s also used to pay rent by merchants at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s oldest covered markets.

    Well now, hope the crazies on Capital Hill put together another stimulus giveaway for people like myself…I know what I’m going to do with it..
    Buy something bright and shiny that doesn’t tarnish..😜👍

    • “A major difference under the new regulations is that customers would be able to withdraw physical gold, …”

      And if you believe that, I have a bridge across the Bosphorus to sell you.

  6. The snake doesn’t have a name, but is identified by the number 361003, according to the zoo. She’s believed to be at least 62 years old.
    A ball python laid 7 eggs at the Saint Louis Zoo, even though she hasn’t been around a male in years
    By David Williams, CNN
    Updated 3:58 AM EDT, Sat September 12, 2020
    (CNN)Zookeepers at the Saint Louis Zoo were surprised to see their oldest snake coiled around a clutch of freshly laid eggs because she hadn’t been near a male in more than 15 years.
    The ball python, which has been at the zoo since 1961, laid seven eggs on July 23, Mark Wanner, the Zoological Manager of Herpetology told CNN.
    “It was a surprise. We didn’t expect her to drop another clutch of eggs, honestly,” he said.
    Life always finds a way

    And you thought it was all science fiction 😳

  7. Cobb’s kids have been falling down on the job . . . badly.


    “A year like 2020 could have been the subject of a marvelous science fiction film in 2000,” Cobb said. “Now we have to watch and digest real-time disaster after disaster after disaster, on top of a pandemic. The outlook could not be any more grim. It’s just a horrifying prospect.”

    “The 2030s are going to be noticeably worse than the 2020s,” she said.

    “As a mom to four children, I’ve always known that kids could be a huge part of the climate solution . . . ”

    • Ugh.

      Sadly, Norman Borlaug in 1970 actually believed in humanity’s capability to understand the exponential-growth function:


      The Green Revolution has won a temporary success in man’s war against hunger and deprivation; it has given man a breathing space. If fully implemented, the revolution can provide sufficient food for sustenance during the next three decades. But the frightening power of human reproduction must also be curbed; otherwise, the success of the Green Revolution will be ephemeral only. Most people still fail to comprehend the magnitude and menace of the “Population Monster”. . .

      Since man is potentially a rational being, however, I am confident that within the next two decades he will recognize the self-destructive course he steers along the road of irresponsible population growth.

      • Doug Stanhope–born in 1967, vasectomized, child-free by choice

        Stand-up clip from 2012:

        “And what you said–that one thing you said, overpopulation. You’re right, Doug. You’re not really funny anymore, But you’re right. What you said about overpopulation, most of the world’s problems are based on overpopulation. There’s just too many g.. d… people.

        We’re still gonna have the baby ’cause Janice’s biological clock Is ticking, and plus we live in a gated community. It’s not really overpopulation If you can afford to send It to a Montessori school is my take, but it’s right– What you’re doing is a good thing, and you should keep doing It, and don’t die on us.”



    In the 1930s, the US Forest Service instituted its so-called 10am policy, according to which fires had to be stamped out by that time the next day. Fire activity decreased, but with scouring flames removed from the environment, forests grew far denser and brushier. In one Arizona forest, 20 trees per acre became 800 trees per acre. These forests burn more severely. In addition the climate crisis is rendering vegetation ever drier, and by 2050 up to three times more acreage in Western forests will burn as a result of global warming. Meanwhile 60m homes can now be found in or close to high-risk areas where wildfires have previously burned.

    Cue urban fires. The fire that obliterated Paradise on the morning of November 8, 2018 was sparked in a rural river canyon several miles to the east of town. It hit like a hurricane. Strikingly, many of the hundreds of thousands of trees in the town were spared – it was the homes that became matches setting fire to the next. The fire was so quick, so hot, that people died seeking shelter under their cars, in the driveways of their homes while holding a hose, or huddled in their bathtub.

    With so many of our Western paradises now under threat, experts are begging us to bring controlled fire back into the ecosystem in the form of prescribed burns.


    [Note: Scotland also has its own devolved Labour party, which is part of the UK Labour party].


    A rebellion by Scottish Labour’s centrists aimed at toppling their party leader, Richard Leonard, has collapsed after they failed to force through a motion of no confidence in his leadership.

    One trades union source said the outcome was an “absolute farce. They have had a botched coup about a lame duck leader. They hardly look like a party of government in waiting. Leonard is presiding over the final death throes of the Scottish Labour party.”

    Support for Scottish Labour has slumped to as low as 14% in recent weeks. One recent YouGov poll said 53% of Scottish voters had no opinion of Leonard.

    The rebel motion was tabled after four MSPs at Holyrood, including two who resigned from their frontbench posts, urged him to quit or face a leadership challenge.

    They were backed by four Labour peers. Ian Murray, Scottish Labour’s sole MP and shadow Scottish secretary, was also expected to vote against Leonard.

    The result is an embarrassing setback for the party’s centrists, who had been extremely confident they had the numbers to force his resignation or to force a leadership contest.

    It also leaves Leonard badly wounded. With the party’s ruling executive split over his suitability as leader, he now no longer has the support of his own union, the GMB, for which he worked for 20 years, nor of Usdaw, the shopworkers’ union.


    My thoughts: The 2021 Scottish Parliament election is scheduled to be held on 6 May 2021. Boris Johnson is disliked in Scotland as a Tory and a posh Englishman, and he is floundering in the UK opinion polls.During recent visits to Scotland, more than one Scot told Boris to his face, “You’re not welcome here!” Nor is Labour popular in Scotland these days. The Liberal Democrats are still weak and only recently elected yet another colourless leader.

    It looks to me like the SNP will make a clean sweep in the Scottish parliament elections in May. Around the world, everywhere else is in turmoil, so Scotland would only be following the trend. 😀

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