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.

2,036 thoughts on “Today’s Energy Predicament – A Look at Some Charts

    • ““I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do, but many businesses on my street have already said they plan to open because if they don’t, they’ll go under,” said the owner of a store on Tel Aviv’s Ibn Gabirol Street.

      ““The government doesn’t understand that businesses will fail. Another month like this, it’ll all be over.””

      https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/business/.premium-small-businesses-fear-collapse-as-israel-heads-into-second-lockdown-1.9152660

      • These new lock-downs are puzzling, as it has been clearly established that they are of very doubtful benefit in ‘saving lives’, but 100% effective in crushing commercial life.

        Are the con spi theorists therefore correct, and this is just a cover for economic reform and triage?

        Or are the career polticos and their epidemiologist advisers morons and detached from everyday reality?

        I’m still betting on the latter -but only just……

        • I tend towards the latter, although I don’t doubt for a minute for a minute that some governments (like Israel’s) are seeing an upside to constraining their troublesome populaces’ freedoms in this fashion.

          Taiwan seems to be doing a very good job of maintaining growth *and* avoiding lockdowns:

          “Thanks to the outstanding handling of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak by the Central Epidemic Command Center, Taiwan has seen the least impact on its economy by the pandemic, disproving the widely spread myth that controlling infections must always come at the cost of economic growth.”

          https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4008495

        • “Are the con spi theorists therefore correct, and this is just a cover for economic reform and triage?”

          I vote for this interpretation. As to how complete and thorough the program might be, I don’t have an opinion. As we see below, Taiwan is doing something different, and making it work? So if FE’s EL. D. ers have their reputed superhuman intelligence, could they have planned for lots of wriggle room and a scenario with more than one possible ending?

    • Israel does have an unusually high number of cases reported, but not many deaths so far. In fact, it has had this surge long enough that a person would expect a big increase in deaths to have already started, if it were going to start.

  1. “The pandemic is not Mr Modi’s fault, but he owns his government’s dysfunctional response. He imposed a draconian lockdown in late March with no warning and no planning. The prime minister seemed to revel in the drama of a primetime announcement and its muscular message.

    “But the national shutdown, which ended in June, destroyed millions of people’s livelihoods. Many of the most affected sit on the bottom rungs of Indian society…”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/13/the-guardian-view-on-indias-strongman-in-denial-about-a-covid-crisis

    • Yawn. A replay of the argument proposed in Norman Angeli’s The Great Illusion”, published in 1909, which argued that the economic integration of the European powers made a war inconceivable, since they would all have too much to lose. It was a best seller, and went through several editions. Until 1914.

    • You know, if I lived in a country where almost the entire journalism establishment continually published gross, defamatory, and utterly false lies about the government, the country, and anyone whom they cared to destroy, I would be cheering on every “brutal” policeman I could find. The journalists have sown the wind; let them reap the whirlwind.

    • This is, to an objective observer abroad, an interesting psy op: all the fretting about ‘what if Trump doesn’t concede?’, etc.

      It was in fact Hilary Clinton who first came out and instructed Democrats not to concede defeat if the vote went against them.

      Which is, in effect, nothing less than a call to subvert the democratic process.

      They need to read Jung on ‘projection of the shadow’…..

      What will emerge from the end of the US Republic: uni-party deep state government?

        • I hope so: although a foreigner, I am greatly saddened to see what is happening in the US.

          Not least because I live next to one of the great US war cemeteries and memorials in Britain, where the tombstones lie ‘white like snow’.

          • “In Flanders fields the poppies blow
            Between the crosses, row on row,
            That mark our place; and in the sky
            The larks, still bravely singing, fly
            Scarce heard amid the guns below.

            We are the Dead. Short days ago
            We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
            Loved and were loved, and now we lie
            In Flanders fields.

            Take up our quarrel with the foe:
            To you from failing hands we throw
            The torch; be yours to hold it high.
            If ye break faith with us who die
            We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
            In Flanders fields.”

      • Gail—you are on the ground in USA, and with a valid sanity claus—while we on the outside looking in might be (are) getting a different take on all this.

        So is Trump as mad as a hatter?

        Or are we missing something deeper here, something other than the mass ‘news hysteria’ that goes on all the time.

        I don’t go for all the conspiracy hoaxy nonsense that gets put about on here and elsewhere, but from your viewpoint is the don really trying to run the USA as a cross between his personal business venture and a TV reality show?
        And is his ultimate intent control and dictatorship?

        Or does the US govt (in general) realise all this is an energy problem, not a political problem.

        Things always seem to suggest that the USA is about to break out into civil war at any moment—whites–blacks–gods and so on. Or is that nonsense too?

        I ask these questions in all seriousness because what happens to the USA currently affects the world—for good or ill

        • I don’t think Trump is “mad as a hatter.” I think he listens to advisors who have a better understanding of the energy situation than Biden’s advisors have. I don’t think either side understands how unfixable the current situation is, however.

          There are an awfully lot of newspapers and periodicals in the US that are convinced that everything Trump says is wrong. They are the same folks who are convinced that renewables will save us. They also think anything Anthony Fauci says must be gospel truth. They also think that Trump must be crazy to ignore Fauci. What Fauci says must be “100% science.”

          There is an awfully lot of discord between Republicans and Democrats. This has been going on for quite a few years now. It becomes impossible to have a reasonable discussion on a lot of subjects.

          The rioting is probably more limited than the impression a person gets from the newspapers. There are indeed some major cities that are being hollowed out because people no longer want to live there. This is partly due to being able to work at home. Downtowns are no longer viable places. If you add riots to the mix, people will certainly move out. I have not been to downtown Atlanta myself, in quite some time. It wouldn’t be a place I would want to go, even before this past year. There are some State of Georgia office buildings, Georgia Institute of Technology the university that used to be called Georgia State University, and the group of historically black colleges (Atlanta University Center). There are hotels and a few tourist attractions, but there is no reasonable shopping area. There are a lot of beggars asking for handouts.

          Most of Atlanta’s businesses are distributed around the metropolitan area, not downtown. Public transport was never good; after COVID, it is very much lacking.

          The population of the State of Georgia is about one third Black.This is much above the US average. Atlanta has an above average reputation as a place where Blacks can get ahead. There are quite a few Black citizens in most suburbs (fewer in the more expensive ones). Hopefully, this will keep down race conflict. Near where I live, there were a handful of (mostly white) BLM protestors holding up signs on a corner for a few days after the Minnesota riots. I haven’t heard or seen anything more recently.

  2. [Quote from another site]: Chevon, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, and British Petroleum (BP) were hauled into a San Francisco court room to answer for their role in climate change. In an historic admission, all admit the IPCC is accurate and CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are to blame for global warming. Full stop. No joke. They agree there is a scientific consensus and the science is settled (as far as the IPCC). There is no “uncertainty”. There is no “hoax”. It is not caused by “natural warming”. Etc..

    They said oil doesn’t cause climate change. People burning oil causes climate change. They are not at fault, it is the consumer who creates demand for energy. You are the problem.

    The truth is, what else can they say at this late stage. After generations of successfully lobbying against regulations and muddying the waters with dark money dirty tricks, fake science and culture wars, they have trashed the planet and poisoned the political atmosphere. It’s your fault, don’t blame them. [End quote]

    https://www.independent.com/2020/09/12/oil-companies-admit-to-contributing-to-climate-change-and-blame-you/

    • Unfortunately, the oil companies are right. It is the fact that humans want to have jobs and have food, and these are only possible with oil, is the problem. If we could live without food, transportation, manufacturing and construction, we would do just fine. We can’t. The IPCC report is based on a wrong view of the fossil fuels that can be economically extracted. It is not right.

      • We need to be like the Indian guru’s star pupil:

        1st Guru: ‘How’s that brilliant disciple of yours coming along?

        2nd Guru: ‘All going just fine, until.. ‘

        1st Guru: ‘Until what?

        2nd Guru: ‘Well, I’d got him to the point when he could live without any food or water at all , and then – he died on me.’

      • The externalisation of blame is risible. It is of course industrial civilisation and us, its inhabitants, that are “the problem”.

      • We the eight billion can’t live without food, transportation, manufacturing and construction supported by oil. We the eighty million can live without the support of oil.

    • Typical final paragraph: “We as the human race can no longer look the other way at this impending calamity. For ourselves and for our children, the time to act is now.”

      • The time to act was a long time ago, when we first began the systematic use of fossil fuel, and we first began to make synthetic fertiliser. Now, it is far, far too late, and all this breast beating is merely a distraction from the truth that collapse is unavoidable.

    • when Rockefeller piped oil into Chicago and made it cheap enough to burn, nobody complained

      several generations have passed, but it has been this generation where the truth has dawned that we are burning the only home we have.

      too late the blame the oil companies, we all helped Rockefeller to burn his oil,
      we all danced round the fire as politicians and economists told us it would last forever.

      (Remember the American dream?)

      We are the only species of critter that thinks this planet is property with a cash value

      Global warming is our eviction notice, covid 19 has served it on us

      • It’s not like the information re AGW hasn’t been available to the wider public for decades. This is a clip from a Thames Television documentary from 1981:

        “I don’t know, apathetic bloody planet, I’ve no sympathy at all,” as Captain Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz says in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

        • Vonnegut: “We could have saved the Earth, but we were too damned cheap.”

          Vonnegut wrote lots of both positive and negative material concerning humanity and the U.S, but here is one of his last beliefs on Bill Maher’s show in 2005, two years before his death:

          VONNEGUT: No, look, I think it’s – I think the earth’s immune system is trying to get rid of us, and it’s high time [it] did. My goodness, we are a disease on the face of this planet. You know, after two world wars and the Holocaust, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and, well, the Roman games and the Spanish Inquisition, and the burning of women in public squares. It’s time we got out of here, and I-

          MAHER: You left out “The Gong Show.” [laughter]

          VONNEGUT: Yeah, but we are a disease on the planet. And I think we ought to become “syphilis with a conscience” and stop reproducing. [laughter] [applause]

    • Maximus, have you eaten food grown with fossil fuels?… answer …yes
      Have you utilized our civilizations travel advances for anything….Highway, commercial air travel, taxis, personal vehicles…. answer …yes.
      Have you gone to a hospital or utilized modern medical systems….answer….yes.
      Have you bought or utilized any so called green power….solar, wind, hydro…if yes, then you have Utilized fossil fuels as you put it. You are guilty. Not a corporation….you. Everything you have done in your life is because of fossil fuels.
      Contrary to your post, it has not trashed the planet.
      But you have with your ignorance.

    • In June 2014, then-Prime Minister David Cameron signed a £14 billion ($18.5 billion) trade deal with China that included a £400 million solar investment with ZN Shine. Britain’s solar market was booming thanks to the Renewables Obligation scheme; Huawei was cleaning up in the local PV inverter market.

      In October 2015, Cameron and China’s President Xi Jinping signed another deal for China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) to take a one-third stake in the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant. That deal may have marked the zenith for U.K.-China relations.

      Times have changed dramatically. ZN Shine ceased operating in Europe in 2015 after running afoul of EU trade rules. Huawei’s telecommunications infrastructure is being removed from the U.K.’s budding 5G mobile network. Hinkley Point C could be the first and last U.K. nuclear plant built with Chinese investment as lawmakers question the security implications.

  3. Holding out for a hero
    The high growth countries that kept the global economy from free fall
    aren’t coming to seesave us this time. Nobody is.
    https://www.businessinsider.com/us-china-india-europe-cant-save-global-economy-from-recession-2020-9?amp
    India is now on its 170th day of lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Credit rating firm Moody’s expects economic growth to fall 11.5% in 2020.
    And while the worst of China’s lockdowns have passed (for now), it’s expected GDP growth of around 3.2% for 2020 is a far cry from a decade ago. Plus, this time around China’s policymakers are being much more cautious with their stimulus In some part this is because the government is concerned it may have to institute another lockdown
    No one is coming to save the global economy this time
    Linette Lopez
    Sep 13, 2020, 8:26 A
    During the financial crisis, two countries kept the global economy from cratering even further than it did — China and India.
    Unfortunately this time around — in the economic crisis caused by the corornavirus pandemic — no country is coming to save us.
    India has been on lockdown for months, and China is still feeling the debt hangover from the credit binge it went on to skip the financial crisis.
    This gives us all the more reason for Washington to pass another coronavirus aid bill as soon as possible.
    The coronavirus depression will be much worse than the last worldwide recession, because this time no country is strong enough to rescue the global economy.
    The story of the Great Recession goes like this: the US and Europe were crippled while working to clean up their devastated banking system, the global services sector suffered without its biggest player — the US consumer engine — but global economic growth didn’t completely fall off a cliff because other countries kept money moving around the planet.
    Over in China policymakers enacted a massive stimulus to skip over the recession entirely. The country’s GDP grew 9.4% in 2009. India chugged along as if the crisis barely happened, with its GDP growing 7.9% in 2009.
    But this time there is no corner of the globe that has been left untouched by the pandemic or its effects. And so, there’s no country that can reasonably chug along and keep things from getting truly disastrous
    Economists over the Institute of International Finance (IIF) recently wrote in a recent note that it was the growth of these two countries that lifted the global economy while the US economy was on its knees. That is why global GDP only fell to -0.4% in in 2009. Conversely, without their help the economists estimate that global GDP to fall to -3.8% this year.

    The high growth countries that kept the global economy from free fall aren’t coming to save us this time. Nobody is.
    So while the government is pulling some levers it pulled to spur economic activity during the financial crisis — like encouraging infrastructure investment — China’s central bank, The People’s Bank of China, has said it sees no need for additional emergency stimulus in 2020.
    With weak demand coming from China and India, Latin America will sell fewer commodities, and the whole of Asia will slow, the IIF notes. We cannot expect exceptional growth from there.
    Could the European Union could save us? The rapid response of Eurozone countries to the pandemic seemed to be a model for the rest of the world and a potential salve for the economic chaos. But now cases spiking in countries like Spain and France and it’s unlikely that the bloc will have the economic power to boost the rest of the world for the time being.

  4. Frank over at spiked has an articulate piece today on the ‘cancellation’ of David Hume by Edinburgh University. The post-imperialist shift in the economy and ideology of the capitalist state to ‘anti-racism’ is continuing to take its toll on the reputation of the towering figures of the past.

    It is doubtful that there is going to be anyone left at this rate because they were all ‘racists’ during the imperialist era when racism was the dominant ideology, of the British capitalist state, that reflected the imperialist economic base.

    Ironically the announcement to cancel Hume came pretty much the day after I invoked him as a key figure in my own worldview, for his insight that ‘ought’ statements cannot be deduced from ‘is’ statements, as conclusions can only contain the terms contained in the premises, and they are rather simply assumed.

    I would much rather hear how students respond to that argument than about whether they feel ‘fragile’ at name of Hume. Most of the figures that I have studied would now be cancelled by the ‘fragile’ – Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Hume. They are all too much for our ‘fragile’, moralistic age.

    Edinburgh University was once a towering locus of intellectual thought, but no more. Now it is about little more than posturing by the ‘fragile’ about the ‘moral’ failings of the icons of another era. To be fair to that Uni, enlightenment intellectualism is basically dead in our uptight, limited, regressed culture anyway, so in a way it is appropriate that they would dump those trappings.

    > The crusade against the Enlightenment

    Edinburgh University’s shameful cancelling of David Hume shows how backward identity politics has become.

    … But the fact that Hume had racist views is one of the least interesting and least important things about him. He was an energetic foe of the dogmas and conventions of his era. His philosophical scepticism and atheism were frequently denounced by those who upheld the prevailing moral order. His powerful critique of religious miracles made a profoundly significant contribution to the development of secular and modern scientific thought. Contemporary cognitive science owes a huge debt to Hume.

    Hume exercised great influence over philosophers such as Smith, Kant, Darwin and Jeremy Bentham. That is why he is regarded by many as the most important philosopher who wrote in the English language. Even his detractors recognise that his Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) is arguably the most significant work of philosophy published in English before the 20th century.

    It is unlikely that those who claim to be ‘distressed’ by Hume have actually bothered to study his work. If they had, they would realise that the writings of this remarkably sceptical philosopher are an important intellectual resource that those opposed to prejudice can draw upon. He may have been a prejudiced man, but his writings were animated by a critical spirit that challenged prevailing dogmas. That is why those of us who are committed to free thinking continue to regard him as an intellectual giant.

    Whatever the faults of Hume the man, they pale into insignificance in comparison to the faults of his 21st-century detractors. There is nothing critical or questioning about the ‘decolonisation’ movement. Unlike Hume, who questioned the conventions of his time and oriented his thought towards the future, his detractors are devoted to the dogma of reading history backwards. They want to fix the problems of the past through denouncing and ‘cancelling’ 18th-century philosophers. And since these philosophers cannot answer back and account for their thoughts and behaviour, it is easy to win a one-sided argument against them. Under the guise of radical campaigning, there is moral cowardice and intellectual sloth at work here.

    https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/09/14/the-crusade-against-the-enlightenment/

    • When there is “not enough to go around,” the laws of physics demand that some groups be left out. Otherwise, everyone will starve. Unfortunately, the result is very unacceptable to those of us who have been raised in an era of plenty. We assume that all can be equal. In fact, on the way up, this almost works. But as we reach limits, this no longer works. Some groups have to be left out.

      If the groups to be left out are not chosen by race, there seem to be other choices.

      Choose by age: Those who are no longer in the workforce seem to be no longer needed.
      Choose by health status: Those who are most prone to depression are no longer needed. Those most overweight are no longer needed. Those with the most severe long-term conditions are no longer needed.
      Choose by choice of ecosystem to settle in: People in ecosystems that need to burn regularly for trees to propagate have chosen to live in an unsustainable situation. Perhaps people in California, Australia, and quite a few other fire-prone areas need to leave, or be eliminated by nature.

      • Or, it could be by money. At the start of the year the government can set a tax say $10,000. Those who can pay are allowed to live for the year. Those who can not pay are killed.

        • Well, Ed, as the state-provided hospital system grows worse, with increasing waits to see consultants, get operated on, etc, here in the UK, one could well die of something which would have been perfectly treatable and curable if caught at an early stage, unless one has the cash/insurance to go private and be seen quickly.

          Works rather well: taxes collected but no service provided; the individual eliminated (and their estate duly taxed of course.)

      • Yes, clearly the insight that social ‘ideas’ and ‘values’ reflect material, economic conditions is not unique to Marxism.

        You are certainly correct that societies adapt their ideas to material circumstances.

        Nietzsche takes that same, simpler approach to material ideological determination as yourself. He calls it ‘unfavourable’ and ‘favourable’ conditions that make the difference (plenty and scarcity, conditions favourable to peace). I have appended BGE 262 so that you can see see how he is on the same page as yourself. I would have done extracts but the whole paragraph is apposite.

        The issues that you raise are ‘difficult’ on a moral level, and if they unavoidably must be faced at some time in the future, then as you suggest, there probably would be no ‘moral’ solution.

        Personally I accept the point but I do not take a ‘crystal ball’ approach to future material-ideological scenarios. It may be that post-industrial collapse is so sudden, and the population collapse so deep, that nature will have taken care of our ‘moral dilemmas’ for us. We will be back to just trying to survive in less favourable conditions.

        As I mentioned the other day, I do not adapt my personal ideology to what may happen in the future, but to conditions today. I think that is personally healthier and a saner approach to social living. Philosophy should help us to adapt to the present.

        So, what do you think of Nietzsche’s take, does it gel with your own? It seems incredible to me that he would pen this take on modern trends in the 1880s but perhaps our times are not actually that different – conditions were ‘favourable’, and relative plenty abounded, even back then.

        > A species arises, a type becomes established and strong, under the long struggle with essentially unchanging, unfavourable conditions. By contrast, we know from the experience of breeders that species which receive an ultra-abundant nourishment and, in general, an increase in protection and care immediately tend towards variety in the type in the strongest manner and are rich in wonders and monstrosities (as well as monstrous vices). Now, let’s look for a moment at an aristocratic commonwealth, for example, an ancient Greek polis [city state] or Venice, as an organization, whether voluntary or involuntary, for the purpose of breeding. There are men there living together who rely upon themselves and who want their species to succeed mainly because it has to succeed or run the fearful risk of being annihilated. Here there is a lack of that advantage, that abundance, that protection under which variations are encouraged. The species senses the need for itself as a species, as something which, particularly thanks to its hardness, uniformity, simplicity of form, can generally succeed and enable itself to keep going in the constant struggles with neighbours or with the rebellious oppressed people or with those who threaten rebellion. The most varied experience teaches them which characteristics they have to thank, above all, for the fact that they are still there, in spite of all the gods and men, that they have always been victorious. These characteristics they call virtues, and they cultivate only these virtues to any great extent. They do that with force – in fact, they desire force. Every aristocratic morality is intolerant in its education of the young, its provisions for women, its marriage customs, its relationships between young and old, its penal laws (which fix their eyes only on those who are deviants) – it reckons intolerance itself among the virtues, under the name “justice.” A type with few but very strong characteristics, a species of strict, war-like, shrewdly laconic people, united and reserved (and, as such, having the most sophisticated feelings for the magic and nuances of society) will in this way establish itself over the succession of generations. The constant struggle with unvarying, unfavourable conditions is, as mentioned, the factor that makes a type fixed and hard. Finally, however, at some point a fortunate time arises, which lets the immense tension ease. Perhaps there are no more enemies among the neighbours, and the means for living, even for enjoying life, are there in abundance. With one blow the bond and the compulsion of the old discipline are torn apart: that discipline no longer registers as necessary, as a condition of existence – if it wished to remain in existence, it could do so only as a form of luxury, as an archaic taste. Variation, whether as something abnormal (something higher, finer, rarer) or as degeneration and monstrosity, suddenly bursts onto the scene in the greatest abundance and splendour; the individual dares to be individual and stand out. At these historical turning points there appear alongside each other and often involved and mixed up together marvellous, multifaceted, jungle-like growths, an upward soaring, a kind of tropical tempo in competitiveness for growing and an immense annihilation and self-destruction, thanks to the wild egoisms turned against each other and, as it were, exploding, which wrestle with one another “for sun and light” and no longer know how to derive any limit, any restraint, or any consideration from the morality they have had up to that point. This very morality was the one which built up such immense power, which bent the bow in such a threatening manner – now, at this moment, it has become “outdated.” The dangerous and disturbing point is reached where the greater, more multifaceted, and more comprehensive life lives over and above the old morality; the “individual” stands there, forced to give himself his own laws, his own arts and tricks for self-preservation, self-raising, self-redemption. Nothing but new what-for’s, nothing but new how-to’s, no common formula any more, misunderstanding and contempt bound up together, decay, spoilage, and the highest desires tied together in a ghastly way, the genius of the race brimming over from all the horns of plenty with good and bad, a catastrophic simultaneous presence of spring and autumn, full of new charms and veils, characteristic of young, still unexhausted, still unwearied depravity. Once again there’s danger there, the mother of morality, great danger, this time transferred into the individual, into one’s neighbour and friend, into the alleyways, into one’s own child, into one’s own heart, into all the most personal and most secret wishes and desires. What will the moral philosophers who emerge at such a time now have to preach? They discover, these keen observers and street loafers, that things are quickly coming to an end, that everything around them is going rotten and spreading corruption, that nothing lasts until the day after tomorrow, except for one kind of person, the incurably mediocre. Only the mediocre have the prospect of succeeding, of reproducing themselves – they are the people of the future, the only survivors, “Be like them! Become mediocre!” – from now on that’s the only morality which still makes sense, which people still hear. – But it is difficult to preach, this morality of mediocrity! – it may never admit what it is and what it wants! It must speak about restraint and worth and duty and love of one’s neighbour – it will have difficulty concealing its irony!

        http://nietzsche.holtof.com/reader/friedrich-nietzsche/beyond-good-and-evil/aphorism-262-quote_6f8563173.html

      • Kunstler is up this AM, what he says seems in rough agreement with your comment:

        “The orgy of political hysteria, insane thinking, and violence is a psychotic reaction to the collapsing techno-industrial economy — a feature of it, actually. When all familiar social and economic arrangements are threatened, people go nuts. Interestingly, the craziness actually started in the colleges and universities where ideas (the products of thinking) are supposed to be the stock-in-trade. The more pressing the practical matters of daily life became, the less intellectuals wanted to face them. So, they desperately generated a force-field of crazy counter-ideas to repel the threat, a curriculum of wishful thinking, childish utopian nostrums, and exercises in boundary-smashing. As all this moved out of the campuses (the graduation function), it infected every other corner of American endeavor, institutions, business, news media, sports, Hollywood, etc. The country is now out of its mind… echoes of France, 1793… a rhyme, not a reprise.”

        https://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/convergence-of-quandaries/#more-13083

        It is very hard to walk away from what one thinks one has, what one has given one’s life to achieve and what has either less and less value or no value – it is a reflection on how we value ourselves which seems to mirror your choices above.

        As always, thanks for a place to think it through, to be wrong and be able to reexamine.

        • My problem with his analysis is that it seems to assume an awareness of impending crises on the part of the masses, to which he traces ideological shifts towards new ways of perceiving society, as false solutions to the crises.

          I do not think that there is any such awareness, and rather the trends like BLM are a further logical outworking of ideological trends that reflect times of relative plenty.

          For sure there have also been limits to development and social mobility and that is also reflected in trends, but that awareness of limits is located within a scenario of relative plenty rather than in an awareness of the impending crises that he describes.

          I doubt that the BLM types will ever transcend their fairly status quo ideology, even when the crises hit. They are too ‘dug in’ to a particular world view. Their response is likely to just be frustration and dismay.

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