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.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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2,368 Responses to Today’s Energy Predicament – A Look at Some Charts

  1. Dennis L. says:

    Oil production:

    Production down from 13mbpd to 10mbpd in approx 9 months; this would seem to be a crash in production. Annualized to make it more dramatic that is down 4.5mbpd by year end or a annual loss of 35% or so. That is real depletion.

    It seems I have read somewhere the GDP might be down a similar amount on an annualized basis, imagine that.

    Dennis L.

    • US production of oil might be somewhat distorted by shut-ins due to Hurricane Laura in Kunstler’s chart. It takes a while to get production back after the hurricane hits. Of course, now we have another hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, Sally, shutting in production. So we have more unplanned outages. It may be that without all of the unplanned outages, production would have been closer to 11 million barrels per day.

      On the other hand, OPEC’s production was up in August, related primarily to an increase in production from Saudi Arabia.

      The chart Kunstler uses is US crude oil production. I am not sure that GDP crashes by a similar amount. GDP usually is related to total energy consumed; total energy consumed includes a lot of non-oil energy. Think of non-oil energy as mostly electricity. It has stayed closer to flat. There is also an issue of US energy produced versus consumed.

  2. D3G says:

    “Religion is fading more quickly in the United States than in any other nation! “The United States now ranks as the 11th least religious country for which we have data,” University of Michigan professor emeritus Ronald Inglehart writes.”

    “Growing numbers of people no longer find religion a necessary source of support and meaning in their lives. Even the United States—long cited as proof that an economically advanced society can be strongly religious—has now joined other wealthy countries in moving away from religion. Several forces are driving this trend, but the most powerful one is the waning hold of a set of beliefs closely linked to the imperative of maintaining high birthrates. Modern societies have become less religious in part because they no longer need to uphold the kinds of gender and sexual norms that the major world religions have instilled for centuries.”

    Well worth a read.

    • Dennis L. says:

      With all due respect, only skimmed it, I disagree with the ideas.

      “Although some religious conservatives warn that the retreat from faith will lead to a collapse of social cohesion and public morality, the evidence doesn’t support this claim. ” Quote out of the referenced article in FA.

      Correlation is not causation, our society(US) is having significant social issues, secular humanists seem adrift, with regards to sexual norms please see Netflix
      “Cutties” (disclaimer I have not seen it, I will not watch it, read reviews) or see Rubin’s Report referenced below and the rap song WAP.

      Take the movie “The Ten Commandments”, watch Moses come down from on high and see the orgy, same game, different century.

      This is not a healthy society, this idea of not upholding norms does not work. These new norms have been put into our society by media people who have found a fast way to make a buck.

      These ideas have been used to justify more and more outrageous behavior to the point where now pedophilia is being suggested as some sort of normal. Doubt it? Cutties. Disgusting, wrong, weak scholarship.

      Dennis L.

      • Oh dear says:

        Inglehart acknowledges that sexual morality about divorce, abortion, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality etc. has become moral liberal, indeed that is one of measures on which he predicates a shift away from religiosity.

        It is not seen as a problem as infant mortality rates are down, life expectancy is up, wealth is up, and people feel more secure about their future. It is similar to functionalism but his emphasis is on the subjectivity of the individual within the evolving society, while obviously the individual has its context within the society.

        At the same time churches, particularly RCC have been rocked by very public abuse scandals, which have detached perceptions of sexual morality from churches and their authority. Abuse is perhaps perceived as a peculiar aberration that society deals with.

        I have not watched the Netflix show in question but I doubt that it is as bad as some people are making out, there are laws in place. Likely it is a panic that is intended to find some remnant of a place for religious constraints in an increasingly liberal, secular society.

        • Dennis L. says:

          Dear dear,

          We strive not to argue here nor sermonize to convert others to a point of view, so if you found this reply and it is in reference to your last paragraph I have linked a review to “Cutties.” I am not a prude, but I will not watch the film and contribute to its popularity, generally I link back as far as I can to sources, this one I am taking at face value. You can read it if so inclined and come to your own conclusions.

          Dennis L.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Dennis, I agree with almost everything you say, especially about the bad social consequences of a retreat from religion. But please allow me to add my own observation: it is not just the people that have retreated from religion, so have many of the churches.

        This is perhaps most evident in the stunning collapse of the Roman Catholic Church over the past 60 years, as it abandoned, piece by piece, the historic faith, practice, and liturgy. But a similar disease is also destroying many of the “liberal” denominations, Anglican, Episcopalian, even some Baptist. And if the Church believes in nothing, why should the congregation believe in anything?

        I have no solution; this is a process that seems beyond human control, driven by ideologies in the saddle and riding mankind. Thank you for listening.

        • Xabier says:

          For example the ‘Messy Sundays’ which are advertised on the banner outside our 900 years old church: what on earth has that to do with the redemption of our sins by Christ?

        • Oh dear says:

          RCC has been on retreat since the high middle ages, Vatican II was a continuation of its adaptation to changed times. The analysis that its current decline is due to liberalism lacks a control sample, there is no instance of a successful major church in the West that has not liberalised.

          The decline may have been all the quicker otherwise. Most RC are thoroughly liberal in their beliefs and attitudes, and there is no chance that RCC would be able to force them into conservative beliefs, they would just leave.

          Some people would prefer that, and they are back to the ‘small church of the pure’ of the Jansenists that RCC rejected in 17 c. These sorts of debates have been going on inside RCC for centuries and the Vatican has never been interested in purism, it is not a new phenomenon. It perceives itself as a universal church not a church of a few.

          • Oh dear says:

            “on retreat”

            I meant ‘in retreat’ lol

          • be generous

            it only took the RCC 350 years to formally admit they were wrong and galileo was right

            Now all they have to do is figure out how to get jesus on the democrat or GOP ticket when he shows up again

            • Tim Groves says:

              The Catholic Church was not “wrong” in the case of Galileo. And arguably Galileo was not “right”. You can’t judge the rightness or wrongness of things people did or said almost four hundred years ago by you own enlightened standards, without forfeiting those very standards.

              Four hundred years from now, if some bloke commenting on a blog types “Norman Page was wrong,” you are going to be rightly peeved.

            • four hundred years from now I shall be posthumously peeved if I am not the focus of a religious cult, or at a minimum, sanctified, and my resting place a destination of pilgrims anticipating their hour of doom

          • Robert Firth says:

            I respectfully disagree. The Roman Church started a movement called the Counter Reformation in the late sixteenth century, and it was a major success. It is analysed in detail by Kenneth Clarke in his Civilisation, Episode 7, “Grandeur and Obedience”. It held the line against “modernism” for almost four hundred years, and during that time the churches were packed with worshippers, the seminaries were full of postulants, and the worship of God was celebrated with great music, worthy ceremonial, and an almost universal devotion to the Depositum Fidei.

            Nothing could have restored the unity of mediaeval christianity, and nothing should have, because God does not do the same thing twice. But the lesson I believe is clear: defend your civilisation in the first trench, not the last.

        • A major reason for the church is to provide a place for people (women, probably more than men) to make friends. They can sit down and talk about issues that are bothering them, without “hanging out” with others in a bar. They can explore what a modern interpretation of the scripture seems to say, taking into account what archaeology seems to show. They can listen to music and step away from the daily issues that have been bothering them.

          Believing what someone else believed in the past isn’t necessarily high on this list.

    • Oh dear says:

      “This phenomenon reflects the fact that as societies develop, survival becomes more secure: starvation, once pervasive, becomes uncommon; life expectancy increases; murder and other forms of violence diminish. And as this level of security rises, people tend to become less religious.”

      Inglehart appears to have a functionalist interpretation of the decline of religious affiliation. Religion is no longer as necessary to maintain the social roles and institutions and the social equilibrium that is needed by societies to endure over time. The fertility rate no longer matters so much, violent crime, poverty and insecurity are down and there is less social need for moral constraints.

      He poses his analysis as opposed to those of “Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim” but I am not convinced that he has not simplified and misrepresented them. Marx did not predicate secularism simply on the spread of scientific knowledge but on the economic and social development of the masses toward a scenario of security and self-determination, which is basically Inglehart’s argument.

    • Bei Dawei says:

      There are a number of ways to look at this. I like to compare the situation to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. It used to be necessary, at least for many, to belong to a church, or at least give lip-service to Christianity. As more and more people stopped doing this, it gave courage to others to rebel, or stop deferring to what turns out to be a fairly narrow range of religions. Kids started playing Little League on Sunday (at least until they discovered electronic gaming.) We have arguments about public prayers.

      We can also compare it to the decline of membership in fraternal orders like Freemasonry (which is shrinking and heavily aging, just like many “mainline” Protestant churches). Blame generational and social change–people started watching TV instead of going to the Shriners. (Remember the end-of-bowling thesis.) Social niches that were once filled by churches, are now filled by other activities. Couples are more likely to meet at work than at church.

      This has a number of effects on the churches that remain. A lot of them are in financial trouble, both at the congregational and denominational level. The ones that prosper tend to be authoritarian and…how shall I put this. Corrupt? Entrepreneurial? You know, like TV evangelists, except you don’t have to be on TV to get this type of style and culture. So I would hesitate to conclude that a decline in religion is associated with a decline in morality! The Satanists may be flamboyant, but at least they’re honest. The traditional assumption that churches are similar to charities should also be re-thought–many are more like Scientology.

      Since liberals have been the most comfortable with abandoning religion, many of the churches that remain have become more conservative, in the sense of aligning themselves with the values of the Republican Party. Evangelical support for Trump must sour many who disapprove of Trump, on religion.

    • The foreign affairs article basically sounds absurd to me.

      Having a lot of children goes with having a high death rate, particularly of children. Without modern contraceptives, a person would need to try hard (perhaps have several abortions) to avoid having a lot children. Old religious writings will document the practices of the times. I expect that there are few people today who would think “having a lot of children” is a major religious teaching for today.

      Worldwide, the people with the most children in their families are people in sub-Saharan Africa. I doubt that the reason why they have all of these children is because of writings of some religion.

      The PEW Forum in 2014 published the following list of “Completed Fertility,” (average number of children ever born to adults ages 40-59), for various religious groups:

      Full sample 2.1

      Protestant Subtotal 2.2
      —Evangelical 2.2
      —Mainline (Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) 1.9
      —Historically Black 2.5

      Catholic 2.3
      Mormon 3.4

      Non-Christian Faiths 1.8
      — Jewish 2.0
      —Others too small sample to produce meaningful information by group

      Unaffiliated 1.7

      I would point out that 2.1 is the replacement level for a population, because not all children live to have children. The full sample is at 2.1, or at replacement level.

      Mormons are by far the highest in terms of number of children in this group, at 3.4. At one time, they encouraged multiple wives. This is a way to raise population. Poor men often cannot afford to marry.

      Second most is “historically black.” Blacks have historically had lower income, lower income people have historically had higher birth rates. If a person doesn’t go on to school, “being a mother” is a career for a woman. Also, these groups haven’t had the funds to buy birth control. Family customs have been different as well.

      I expect the writer of the article is in the “Unafficilated” group. He basically doesn’t know what he is talking about.

      • Oh dear says:

        It may be that Inglehart sees religion as largely epiphenomenal, and he thinks that religious ideas reflect behaviour rather than guide it. Thus ideas associated with previous behaviour are discarded.

        “Religions inherently tend to present their norms as absolute values, despite the fact that they actually reflect their societies’ histories and socioeconomic characteristics.”

        • I think religions are a way of documenting practices of the day (perhaps as oral stories) as a means of passing along these values to offspring. As long as conditions remain close to the same, this strategy makes sense. Once outside conditions change, values need to change.

          I believe that this is why religions, everywhere, tend to change over time. They fragment to match local conditions. Even though the written documents may suggest that a large number of offspring is desirable, this belief tends to disappear when it is no longer useful.

          Another old belief is that men should have as many wives as they can afford. (The is the Old Testament view of marriage.) This tends to lead to maximum childbearing. But as an economy gets richer in resource per capita, it can afford to require only one wife per man.

          • Oh dear says:

            Yes, I think that is an insightful, honest and practical approach to religion. You might be termed a ‘modernist’ in current terms rather than a ‘traditionalist’ in so far as you accept a ‘development’ within religion. Sexual morality has changed over centuries and millennia, as you point out, and that is reflected in the Biblical texts.

            The values reflect the norms that are the current life-process of a people. That process is liable to change along with material conditions. Today, as you mention, there is contraception, low infant mortality, long life expectancy, pensions etc. The life-process is conditioned by altered material circumstances and so are are the norms and the values that reflect it.

            There is no reason for a Christian to assume that the norms and values of previous generations are ‘absolute’ rather than relative to the times, the same as OT norms and values were relative to their times. Relativism is not contrary to religion as interpreted in a broad, knowledgeable way. So it is quite right that Christians are modernist and liberal, and they adapt their values to the present life-process.

            The norms and values are aimed at a particular objective, even the continuation of the life-process in general, rather than a dogmatic approach to how that life-process is conducted, as if one way fits all eras, times and conditions, when the Bible makes it clear that is not the case.

            It follows that the Protestant churches are correct to go liberal and to adapt to the present life-process rather than to let ‘conservatives’ insist on a dogmatic, absolutist adherence to norms and values that are now redundant to the life-process in current conditions. The more centralised, dogmatic RCC struggles with reform.

            I am reading about epiphenomenalism today (Stanford has an article), and in particular that of Marx. It seems that a lot of modern sociological thinking is traceable to 19 c. philosophers. I noticed the other day that functionalism (wiki has an article) is traceable to BGE 262, the basic idea that ‘virtues’ and institutions evolve to perpetuate a society in particular conditions (favourable/ unfavourable as Nietzsche put it.) Similarly epiphenomenalism seems to be traceable at least back to Marx and his material base-ideological superstructure analysis of the manifestation of the life-process in ideology, metaphysics, religion. Inglehart seems to be influenced by functionalism and epiphenomenalism and thus by the older writers, so I am looking into those aspects of his article in order to better understand what he saying. At the moment I am reading this paper on Marx and epiphenomenalism. Notice the sci hub website that allows one to post in the links of academic papers and to see the whole paper. Useful.


        • Robert Firth says:

          I think Inglehart needs to learn some history. The verdict there seems clear: for the most part, it is societies’ history and socioeconomic characteristics that reflect their religion. You can trace that back to Djoser Neterkhet, third dynasty Egyptian pharaoh. Or to Hesiod’s Theogony. Or to the Emperor Constantine.

  3. Chrome Mags says:

    ‘Coronavirus Patients Twice As Likely To Have Eaten In Restaurants Before Getting Ill: CDC Study’

    “The survey did not ask participants if they had dined indoors or outdoors.”

    • I would like to see more detail on this survey and the interpretation of the results.

      My guess is the people who eat in restaurants (especially inside) also do a whole lot of other things, such as visit other people’s homes. It may be more a pattern of behavior, than eating in restaurants per se.

      Often fairly big groups of people seem to eat together in restaurants. It may be these groups of friends who are sharing germs, rather than catching the illness from other diners who might be quite a distance away.

      • Robert Firth says:

        This just in: following reports from the UK Ministry of Health that 95% of coronavirus patients had eaten tomatoes, Boris Johnson issued a ukase (welcome to the post democratic UK) banning all sales of tomatoes, and ordering all tomato growers to demolish their orchards and greenhouses. This was estimated to save 122 lives over the next three months, at an economic cost of four billion pounds. “We are ahead of every other country in Europe in our response to the pandemic”, said Boris in a recent interview.

  4. Dennis L. says:

    Heck of a Monday AM news cycle.

    This woman seems credible, she has certainly given up a great deal to publish this. I don’t have a clue about this virus, personally I believe a higher power in charge of a self organizing system is rearranging the deck chairs.

    Basic summary, COVID was made in a lab. Who knows?

    If it is a fake or made up, it certainly is well organized and well presented. Our societies are becoming so complex that it takes a Ph.D virologist to read this intelligently.

    Dennis L.

  5. Ron Owen says:

    Other causes of excessive energy consumption: 1) over-organization, facilitated (necessarily) by 2) over-insurance (versus “assurance”).

  6. D3G says:

    “With all due respect, only skimmed it, I disagree with the ideas.”

    Hi Dennis. You disagree with an article you have not read. That does not disrespect me in the least. No worries. I’m sorry that you find the article so threatening.

    “These ideas have been used to justify more and more outrageous behavior to the point where now pedophilia is being suggested as some sort of normal.”

    The Catholic child abuse scandal is not mentioned anywhere in the article.


    • Dennis L. says:

      1. I in no way find the article threatening, I don’t think it works and is a very poor norm for society. Anything works for the individual for a while.

      2. Two wrongs don’t make a right; my personal opinion is Vatican II was a disaster for Western Civilization; Western Civilization was very hard to make and the Catholic Church figured heavily in making it. Vatican II tried to secularize religion. Religion appears to be rules of thumb that work fairly well, need to be forgiven often for the abeyance, repeated weekly in short sermons(homilies if you like) accompanied by various emotional music to attract the audience and inspire awe. Hopefully attendees find lessons applicable to life on occasion and return. All this is missing in make it up on the fly secular humanism, or relativism.

      3. Sex is basically a domaminergic neurological response of the brain to various stimuli, being sentient, humans found rules of thumb to deal with this. Domaninergic events are for many addicting and need to be moderated if society is to function.

      I read very quickly, when appropriate I slow down and read for depth and have a prejudice that most philosophy is hand waving and current philosophers seem mostly exist to collect salaries at universities. Nietzsche claimed god is dead, I claim philosophy is dead, science such as paragraph three is pushing it into circular arguments. Sex is done because it feels good by design, some are wired to elicit that feeling in different ways and among different sexes. Some can control it, some not.

      In the end a society has to live with each other, a simple set of rules that work most of the time are good enough, Pareto again, or a religion. We do not live as one, we live as a group, the really talented can get away with almost anything, the rest of us need some guidance and a reference, religion fulfills that need.

      Dennis L.

      • Xabier says:

        Wise comments. It was interesting how, when Hitler invaded Russia, many people who had concealed their religious faith, in God and Holy Mother Russia, showed that it provided consolation and hope in a time of terror rather than the official atheist system. Religion helps people to endure.

        • Malcopian says:

          From Wikipedia:

          “Stalin passed his exams and his teachers recommended him to the Tiflis Seminary. Here he joined 600 trainee priests. The Seminary was controlled by the Georgian Orthodox Church, which was part of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

          It is said that Stalin’s practice of self-criticism (for his communists, not for himself) was inspired the by church practice of confession. I see no difference between fanatics who are religious and atheist fanatics – between the Khmer Rouge and the Spanish Inquisition. All they wanted to do was defend orthodox truth as they saw it – no new thinking allowed. There are commenters here who are riled by new thinking.

        • Robert Firth says:

          As is also illustrated in a famous scene from the movie “War and Peace” (1956), when, on hearing that Napoleon was abandoning Moscow, General Mikhail Kutusov’s immediate reaction was to cry “Russia is saved!”, and kneel in thanks before an icon. The background music was, of course, Alexei Lvov’s ‘Бо́же, Царя́ храни́!’. May God and his archangel Saint Michael bless, preserve, and defend Svyataya Rus, Holy Russia.

  7. Chrome Mags says:

    ‘Now is not the time to worry’ about the fiscal deficit or the Fed’s balance sheet, Mnuchin says

    No way, why would anyone ask that now at a time of unprecedented printing/borrowing? Why would anyone question if smoking cigarettes leads to lung cancer, or if not wearing a safety belt in a car increases chances of dying in a car accident, or why anyone would suggest gun control after a disgruntled person with a military weapon just doinked 30 people in 60 seconds, or why anyone should ask questions about how things are changing when massive fires in Siberia, and the Western US are raging? No way, you just keep on going with blinders on. That’s the whole point of what we as a species do. We aren’t going to start asking hard questions now or even do anything about it. We take pride in remaining steadfast in the midst of escalating crisis.

    • Dan says:

      I am starting to hear from my Republican friends that Mnuchin and Powell did it and we will be back to normal if we could just get a vaccine.They can’t ever let go of their politics even when they are dead they will still be political its a sad thing. I am not so sure….what is the debt? Can it be monitored and can the u.s be the bank for the rest of the world? I just don’t see how this can keep going on… I think that if you sat down and had a talk with Mnuchin and Powell you would freak out at how clueless the two are.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Dan, I fear there will never be a vaccine. The virus can mutate far faster than we can develop countermeasures; this endless and expensive search for a vaccine seems to me to be mere hubris. Our immune systems are the best, and perhaps only, line of defence. And I think we now know how to keep them healthy.

        • Tim Groves says:

          According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a vaccine is a substance containing a virus or bacterium in a form that is not harmful, given to a person or animal to prevent them from getting the disease that the virus or bacterium causes.

          By this definition, there has never been a successful flu vaccine since even the CDC admits that “during seasons when the flu vaccine viruses are similar to circulating flu viruses, flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40 percent to 60 percent.” If, as is often the case, the circulating flu viruses are novel, the risk reduction is even less.

          What would you think of a car braking system, seat belt, parachute, bulletproof vest, hard or condom hat that under ideal conditions only works half the time? I’m surprised that an intervention that is officially admitted to being successful only half the time or less can be considered a preventive measure at all.

    • Perhaps we should worry about collapse, instead.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Mike Ruppert worried about collapse so much that he committed suicide. So perhaps we shouldn’t overdo the worrying. But I agree we should make collapse a concern.

        • Iamnotme says:

          Mike Ruppert committed suicide over a woman just like most fools that do that. Knew Mike know the woman. Mike was brilliant but he was a drama queen. RIP

  8. Dennis L. says:

    CHS is up again.

    I like the graph, it is consistent with Cline in “1177” where his thesis is civilizations can endure one or two major blows, the third at the same time is fatal. In CHS’s words, the buffers are exhausted or close to it.

    The US had a buffer in shale oil, when COVID came it had a buffer of a trillion or two in debt, now we have fires and hurricanes. The fires out west are major; much human effort over many years has been destroyed as well as forest lands. It’s a challenge.

    We shall see, my personal hope is the dam literally does not break – 3 Gorges dam. That would flush the supply lines of modern civilization in a big way.The Chinese are an old, proud and intelligent culture, the dam will hold but it will be a lot worse for the wear one would think.

    Dennis L.

    • Too many things going wrong at once. JHK brings up this issue as well.

    • Xabier says:

      Another way to look at China is that they are no longer an old culture, but only one of recent invention as the historic culture was comprehensively trashed by Mao; not that intelligent, as they too have participated eagerly in the wrecking of the world’s ecosystem through participating in globalised industrialism; and their pride is merely vulgar nationalism which teaches hatred of foreigners, fostered by a corrupt and criminal one- Party dictatorship.

      Just playing Devil’s advocate. 🙂

      For all our sakes I do hope that dam holds.

  9. Dennis L. says:

    More news – I even called this one.

    “Remote Learning” Sinks Student-Housing CMBS, After Delinquencies Had Already Spiked in 2019″

    Well, the students borrowed money to live in these luxurious apts. now what happens?

    Assume the virus is with us for a few years, we now have a solution to the homeless, move them into student housing! They will be in a liberal neighborhood and be welcomed, the cafeterias at the university can serve hot meals daily, student health will have patients they can treat and make well. This is a win win for all concerned. It actually uses sunk capital to solve a social problem. The rents due can be put into forbearance. Social justice, yes, many of these landlords have slicked students for years.

    Dennis L.

    • The local newspaper here raised the point that the lenders behind student housing were lobbying for the university here to reopen. The paper is fairly liberal; it was arguing that this was undue influence. In fact, I think there were are lot of other interests pushing in the direction of reopening.

      Now, many of the schools in my area are reopening–lower level besides university. They tend to start a few groups at a time, such as young children and children in special ed classes.

  10. From ZeroHedge: ‘Rogue’ Chinese Virologist Joins Twitter, Publishes “Smoking Gun” Evidence COVID-19 Created In Lab

    On Saturday we reported that Dr. Li-Meng Yan – a Chinese virologist (MD, PhD) who fled the country, leaving her job at a prestigious Hong Kong university – appeared last week on British television where she claimed SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, was created by Chinese scientists in a lab.

    On Sunday, Li-Meng joined Twitter – and on Monday, just hours ago, she tweeted a link to a paper she co-authored with three other Chinese scientists titled:

    Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route

    She also posted a link to her credentials on ResearchGate, revealing her (prior?) affiliation with The University of Hong Kong and 13 publications which have been cited 557 times.

    Excerpts from the paper are given in the ZeroHedge article.

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