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. Herbie R Ficklestein says:

    One more brick in collapse

    (WSVN) – Drivers who have to renew their licenses in person are having an extremely difficult time getting appointments at the scaled down DMV, and some are now getting tickets for expired licenses. Find out whether that’s legal in tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
    To use a pun, it’s driving people crazy.
    Luis Sosa, can’t renew driver’s license: “I’ve been going online every day trying to schedule an appointment. It is impossible.”
    Luis can’t renew his driver’s license with the Division of Motor Vehicles, and he is not alone.
    Voicemail 1: “My driver’s license is expiring, and they’re telling you they can’t help you.”
    From voicemails and emails, so many South Floridians who have to renew their licenses in person are told you have to first make an appointment.
    This fellow wrote, “I am 80 years old. I can’t reach them by telephone. Their line is always busy.”
    He is right, and if you go online to make an appointment…
    Woman: “DMV is unavailable for any appointments. Have they gone COVID mad?”
    Many people give up and show up at the DMV, where they are turned away.
    Man: “We need to do it. It’s an emergency.”
    Man 2: “I try every day. Every day there’s no appointments.”
    And if you get caught by the police driving to work or the grocery store with that expired license, watch out.
    Luis found out after his license expired.
    Luis Sosa: “‘I have to give you a ticket, a citation for the expired license,’ and I explained to him, ‘I can’t go to an office. I don’t have a way to renew my license.’”
    A $113 ticket for driving with an expired license, expired because South Florida drivers can’t get an appointment in Miami-Dade or Broward to renew their license.
    So Luis expanded his search for an appointment.
    Luis Sosa: “Because I was willing to drive all the way to Palm Beach, Orlando, wherever I had to go to get the renewal, and everything says ‘No appointments available.’”
    The state cannot renew their licenses, but police officers can write you tickets for not renewing your license.
    Sarcastic South Floridians have had enough.

    Plus the State is raising fees to boot because they are strapped for cash!

    • Robert Firth says:

      It doesn’t take a pandemic to turn people into idiots. I remember attending a technical meeting at a multinational company, many years ago. Presented email invitation; had to produce proof of identity. Employment pass? No. Debit card? No. Employee ID? No. Well, what would they accept? Ah yes, driver’s licence. And I had one. Issued in another country, expired over ten years ago, and with a grotty photo that no longer looked much like me. And I was in. Sigh. Even without the energy crunch, rule based systems would have taken down our society.

    • Chrome Mags says:

      Want to hear another weird one? Here in the SF Bay Area all the major bridges are going to systems that read the license plate with zero toll takers. We only go over a certain bridge to go to a place of business a couple times month, so we always paid cash to a person/toll taker.

      Recently I was headed over the bridge and it only had two choices; Fast track and the right side openings with a sign that said drive thru and you’ll receive the toll in the mail. So we got two of these so far and they state in all bold caps:
      NOTICE OF TOLL EVASION. (sounds like a felony but really it’s just their way to scare the crap out of you to force their new system on you).

      It goes on to explain how to pay online which my wife said took an hour to set up. So now we have to pay large chunks of money on a recurring basis to get a sticker for the vehicle. We usually take one or the other vehicle but the set up is so time consuming we’re only going to do it for the truck. So we’ll do it because we have to, but it’s something that use to be real easy, fast and cheap and now it’s time consuming and of course the extra time needed makes it cost more.

      On the bridge we take there use to be east indians that took the toll. I wonder what they’re doing now?

      • Someone, somewhere, thought that this was a good idea. Get rid of wages, charge a fee on a recurring basis, so that the system could collect more money.

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        Never take an auto into The City.
        Use the Ferry.
        I worked there for a while— parking was often $40.00 a day.
        Richest City on Earth.

      • Tim Groves says:

        The way these changes are introduced in the West always seems to meet with resistance and generate resentment. Here in the east, people welcome the convenience aspect of innovation with a smile.

        What they did in Japan was to keep the pay by cash toll system and introduce an electronic toll system beside it, offering users of the ETC a discount and the convenience of automated monthly billing. Motorists jumped at it.

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The International Energy Agency on Tuesday cut its forecast for 2020 oil demand growth, citing a “treacherous” path ahead amid weakening market sentiment and an upsurge in the number of coronavirus cases reported across the globe.

    “In a closely-watched monthly report, the IEA trimmed its outlook for worldwide oil demand growth to 91.7 million barrels per day. That marks a contraction of 8.4 million bpd year-on-year, more than the 8.1 million bpd contraction predicted in the Paris-based energy agency’s August report.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “The next big shock to the oil industry could be yet another hit to demand, analysts said.”

      …”“A lot of us, we’re talking about another demand shock. It’s like fighting the last battle,” said Ed Morse, managing director and global head of commodities research at Citi.”

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “While OPEC will not openly state it, the removal of Libyan oil from the global marketplace has made things a lot easier for the cartel. The export blockade, however, may not last much longer if U.S.-backed sources are correct.”

        • According to the article:

          On the supply side, some relief for the cartel has come from internal conflicts in Iraq and Venezuela, which have reduced exports, and U.S. sanctions on Iran, which have significantly reduced the nation’s capacity to export crude oil and oil products. No real change is to be expected in these countries any time soon, but things could, however, be changing quickly for OPEC member Libya. . . According to the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, Libya’s General Haftar has committed to lifting the oil blockade by the 12th of September. . .This news seems to be very positive, but the agreement doesn’t necessarily mean that the skirmishing parties will actually respect it.

          So we need the two sides to stop fighting, as well.

      • Actually, anything that keeps prices down will be a huge problem for oil producers. It could be debt defaults, or layoffs in the public sector. The big concern in the fragility of the governments of these countries, and the ability of OPEC as a whole to stick together.

        “If demand doesn’t come back, how long is OPEC+ going to be able to sustain cohesion to keep supply under control when prices are hovering around $40 per barrel? While we think prices can go up in 2021 modestly, (will) demand growth keep coming back? It’s by no means an assured route,” he said.

  3. Oh dear says:

    > World fails to meet a single target to stop destruction of nature – UN report

    ‘Humanity at a crossroads’ after a decade in which all of the 2010 Aichi goals to protect wildlife and ecosystems have been missed

    The world has failed to meet a single target to stem the destruction of wildlife and life-sustaining ecosystems in the last decade, according to a devastating new report from the UN on the state of nature.

    From tackling pollution to protecting coral reefs, the international community did not fully achieve any of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets agreed in Japan in 2010 to slow the loss of the natural world. It is the second consecutive decade that governments have failed to meet targets.

    The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5, published before a key UN summit on the issue later this month, found that despite progress in some areas, natural habitats have continued to disappear, vast numbers of species remain threatened by extinction from human activities, and $500bn (£388bn) of environmentally damaging government subsidies have not been eliminated.

    Six targets have been partially achieved, including those on protected areas and invasive species. While governments did not manage to protect 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of marine habitats, 44% of vital biodiverse areas are now under protection, an increase from 29% in 2000. About 200 successful eradications of invasive species on islands have also taken place.

    The UN said the natural world was deteriorating and failure to act could undermine the goals of the Paris agreement on the climate crisis and the sustainable development goals.

    The UN’s biodiversity head, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, said humanity was at a crossroads that would decide how future generations experience the natural world.

    “Earth’s living systems as a whole are being compromised. And the more humanity exploits nature in unsustainable ways and undermines its contributions to people, the more we undermine our own wellbeing, security and prosperity,” she said.

    The report is the third in a week to highlight the devastating state of the planet. The WWF and Zoological Society of London (ZSL)’s Living Planet Report 2020 said global wildlife populations were in freefall, plunging by two-thirds, because of human overconsumption, population growth and intensive agriculture. On Monday, the RSPB said the UK had failed to reach 17 of the Aichi targets and that the gap between rhetoric and reality had resulted in a “lost decade for nature”….

    • All we have to do is stop eating and stop having children. Easy!

      • GBV says:

        Can’t we just start eating children instead?


        • A Modest Proposal was published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. The essay suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food to rich gentlemen and ladies. This satirical hyperbole mocked heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as British policy toward the Irish in general.

          • nikoB says:

            Overshoot will fix itself, it always does.

            • i1 says:

              Great point. This eliminates so much hand wringing.

            • Oh dear says:

              ‘Overshoot’ always has a politico-economic context of some sort, so the failure of the British empire to economically develop Ireland is always going to remain controversial. British rule in Ireland was never going to survive after the Great Famine. A similar if less drastic situation exists today with the failure of the British state to fully develop Scotland and Wales, and regions of England outside of London and SE. A political structure is liable to be weak in underdeveloped regions. History has its lessons but states do not necessarily learn from them.

    • Oh dear says:

      Britain is to build 3,500,000 new homes over the next decade. Bye bye to the countryside. TP has guaranteed that locals will have no say on the matter.

      Britain has a collapsed fertility rate but TP has agreed with CBI to lift any cap on incomers and over 700,000 entered in the year to July (ONS, Aug 2020).

      I gave up worrying about the countryside, it is not my problem. The British choose their government and they have to accept the consequences.

      The economy needs more workers to keep GDP growing and to maintain the capitalist system, and that is the end of it.

      > The final straw? Tory heartlands in revolt over planning reforms

      Despite the concerns, the planning white paper is an attempt to tackle serious problems. It is billed as supporting the prime minister’s drive to “build, build, build” Britain’s way out of the Covid-19 recession while meeting an urgent need for more housing.

      English housing stock grew by 241,000 homes in 2018/19 but 340,000 new homes a year are needed over the next decade, according to research commissioned by the National Housing Federation.

      The paper proposes that instead of each application being decided through an individual democratic process, councils will be asked to draw up multi-year plans that divide land into zones for development and protection.

      Outline approval would be automatic in growth zones and there would be a statutory presumption in favour of development in renewal zones. Local voices must be heard when the local plan is drawn up, the policy states, but how this plays out remains to be seen.

      Once the plan is fixed, the only say local people will have is over detail of developments, so-called reserved matters.

      The CPRE, the campaigning countryside charity, sees the proposals in more dramatic terms. “Policies that have allowed major housebuilders to trample over the wishes of local people will be reinforced with binding land release targets and reduced affordable housing contributions,” said Crispin Truman, its chief executive.

      “Developers will be able to build what they want, where they want and for the most part when they want.”

      • Chrome Mags says:

        “The economy needs more workers to keep GDP growing and to maintain the capitalist system, and that is the end of it.”

        That’s the trouble with having a model without the willingness or creativity to try a different model. The accepted model dictates what needs to happen to maintain the model. I have relatives that retired and moved to the country outside of London to relax in a peaceful environment. So much for that plan.

        • The model uses energy, whether it is capitalist or something else. Otherwise, we need to stop eating and stop having more children.

          • Dennis L. says:

            Given the demographics of the US, one would expect it to use less energy on a per capita basis, we older people don’t drive to work, etc. We would use more services such as medicine but that can be paid by cash from the Fed and is a low energy industry. I can only speak for dentistry as it was, for a given dollar of revenue it is far below say farming in energy usage/dollar revenue, I see the numbers in grain farming.

            The FANGS of stocks don’t produce anything of substance, they use electricity for the most part, uncertain of the energy in put to produce HD, etc. Looking at the stock indices, the Exxons are gone, FANGS can be priced at whatever price one wants as long as they pay their electric bill. In a way they are energy/resource insensitive but the only way to get a return that is spendable is to buy and sell.

            Zerohedge has an article on demographics and debt referring to work done by Jim Reid at DB, it has a graph of possible interest which is linked immediately below.


            Dennis L.

            • I agree that the Western economies have been able to keep their energy use down by offshoring manufacturing to Asian nations. This doesn’t really fix the world problem, however.

              Regarding the linked chart, economies have to keep borrowing more, if too small a share of the population is of working age (15-64 assumed in the graph). Actually, it is doubtful that such an economy can pay back more debt. It has the pensions of the old people to worry about.

            • Oh dear says:

              UK has 24,597,000 persons in full time employment out of a population of 66,650,000, which is 36.90%.

          • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

            “Developers will be able to build what they want, where they want and for the most part when they want.”

            the key word is “able”.

            by 2021, they will be able to build almost no houses.

            if they somehow are able to build 350,000 in 2021, they likely will not be “able” to sell them.

            the economic earthquake has struck, the coastal water has receded far from shore, and people in the UK (like many other places) are looking at the situation as being almost normal.

            the tsunami of economic destruction is coming soon.

            good luck to any “planners” who are planning on a return to the 2019 “normal”.

            • Xabier says:

              High immigration, of low-value people who breed intensively, has created such immense pressure on the UK housing stock -there would be none at all without it – that the level of sales may well surprise, despite adverse conditions.

              In particular, wealthier parents sitting on substantial savings earning no interest, are more than happy to help their offspring. It is now the norm.

              If they find that they can no longer travel extensively, as they all do, they will have even more cash to invest.

              The British find renting abhorrent if they can buy.

            • Oh dear says:

              Immigrants to UK have a wage structure and contribution to GDP similar to that of natives, especially on a regional basis. It is purely a matter of organised British capital getting the workers that it needs to grow GDP and there is no need to be hostile or rude to any of the workers. In no sense is it ‘their fault’.

            • The quote, “Developers will be able to build what they want, where they want and for the most part when they want,” seems to be from the Guardian article. I agree with you that if builders are somehow able to build all of these houses, they won’t be able to sell them.

    • Robert Firth says:

      “Humanity is at a crossroads”? That crossroads is over a century behind us, and there is no way back. These people are just posting green drivel to justify their inflated salaries (and excessive carbon footprints). Scrap this whole congeries of fools and knaves, and let Nature take its course. There is little else we can do, except prepare for the customary reward of folly.

      • Xabier says:

        Quite so: issuing warnings and peddling visions, they are wholly redundant.

        Lovely salaries and perks though in these international organisations…..

  4. Bei Dawei says:

    Taiwan’s economic news frustrates local doomsters and permabears:,6,10,15,18&post=183465

    • Taiwan’s economic growth is similar to the rate another article showed for China this year. Taiwan is at 1.56% forecast growth for 2020; China’s growth forecast is at 1.8%.

  5. Oh dear says:

    BON defends the controversial Cuties movie on Netflix.

    > In defence of Cuties

    Right-wing snowflakes are completely wrong about this film.

    Have any of the people who are bursting a blood vessel over Cuties actually watched it? Ted Cruz? Fox’s Laura Ingraham? Even the normally sensible Tulsi Gabbard, who has described it as child porn? They can’t have. Because if they had they would know that Cuties isn’t a movie for pervs that relishes in sexualising its child cast. On the contrary, it’s a sensitive commentary on the problem of sexualisation and how bad and sad it is that young girls feel pressured into roleplaying as sluts. If you’re worried about the sexualisation of kids, you shouldn’t be condemning Cuties – you should be watching it and taking it seriously….

    Doucouré herself has made it clear that Cuties is an effort to raise moral concerns about the cult of sexualisation, not a celebration of sexualisation. She says of her critics: ‘We’re both on the same side of this fight against young children’s hypersexualisation.’ She has also revealed that the parents of the four main actresses in the movie are ‘activists’ on the problem of hypersexualisation. A child psychologist was employed on the film set to assist the girls in the more difficult dance scenes. It is the height of idiocy for Ted Cruz to call on the Department of Justice to investigate Cuties as ‘child pornography’. Doucouré, with this movie, has done far more than Cruz ever has to alert people to the problem of sexualised children in 21st-century culture….

    To rage against this film rather than focusing on the real process of cultural sexualisation is a bizarre displacement activity. Some on the right are behaving like the left-wing snowflakes they love to condemn, furiously trying to ‘cancel’ a film, or even Netflix itself, for doing something they disapprove of (and which they do not understand). They risk censuring and punishing one of the first movies to seriously address the problem of child sexualisation, which surely takes self-defeat to a whole new level.

    • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      so the movie is blatantly sexualizsing four very young girls in order to protest the sexualizsation of young girls?

    • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      so the film is an example of what the filmmaker is protesting against?

      then the filmmaker “takes self-defeat to a whole new level”.

    • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      from spiked-online (interesting site with lots of good reads):

      “Does Cuties accidentally, or perhaps inevitably, seckxualise the actresses in the very process of having them act out what it looks like to be a seckxualised child in our warped, pron-saturated culture? Perhaps. It struck me that some dance scenes lingered more than was necessary. This would be an interesting discussion to have: the moral conundrum of condemning something while simultaneously depicting it.”

      yes, exactly: the immorality of depicting it.

      • Tim Groves says:

        It’s all those plain, homely and ugly pre-pubescent girls that I feel really sorry for. This lookist movie will only send them the message that they aren’t cute enough to be contraband sex objects.

      • Oh dear says:

        Even discussing a subject is liable to invite or provoke mental images, but an adult society needs to be able to discuss its problems. The movie contributes to that. Who even cares if a few old pervs get off on the movie? They have plenty of occasion to do that sort of thing anyway. Such a movie is always going to be a trade off and its justification would lie in its positive contribution to the debate. It is not a perfect world and often there are no perfect ways of addressing its problems. The consumption of more serious inappropriate images is largely out of control in UK according to the police and it would be absurd to ban this movie for dramatising behaviour which is commonly observed in public anyway.

        • Dennis L. says:

          First, thank you for helping me understand philosophy which is introspective in terms of reality. Reality is what is and is perceived – hit your thumb with hammer, pain is a reality. Philosophy starts inside out and tries to understand reality. It is backwards logic, confusing the if from the then.

          Cutties is basically an attempt to elicit a dopamine hit from outside – the neurological hit is from reality.

          A hammer on the thumb is reality perceived, no rationalization is necessary. Perception here is finding a rationalization to explain away the dopamine and ignore the harm to children and in turn to our society. It is not a victimless crime, we are the victims.

          Cutties is crude and vulgar, I will not pay a cent for it and will not watch it, but if enough people on this site think it is crude and if they have a history of reasonable contents, that is good enough for me.

          Dennis L.

          • Oh dear says:

            No worries, maybe you could set up a political party to push for absolutist sexual norms, like banning contraception, abortion and homosexuality. I doubt that you will get many votes in UK though. You could include a footnote on your new ‘understanding’ of philosophy in your election materials. Xab can pose with his bat for the party photo.

            • Tim Groves says:

              We’ve already got our manifesto, thanks!

              Down with sex and sin
              Down with pot, heroin
              Down with pornography
              Down with lust
              Down with vice lechery and debauchery
              We are the new centurions
              Shepherds of the Nation
              We’ll keep on our guard
              For sin and degradation
              We are the national guard
              Against filth and depravity
              Perversion and vulgarity
              Keep it clean


          • Robert Firth says:

            Thank you, Dennis: but I think Magritte expressed it better, which is why I posted his painting, The book on the mantlepiece, by the way, is Poe’s “Arthur Gordon Pym”, which also said it better.

    • Kim says:

      Ah, disingenuity…

      Remember back in the sixties they used a similar excuse, screening movies that claimed to be Swedish sex education movies but were really just for the raincoat brigade.

      Nobody needs to see closeups of children’s crotches as examples of why child serialization is repugnant.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Yes, I remember back in the sixties. “I am Curious” was the rage, and it came in two colours, blue and yellow. It was also terminally boring. Now Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, on the other hand, …

        • Dennis L. says:

          Hmm, saw the yellow version in the sixties, college town, artsy type theater with a young lady. Film was indeed boring, evening not so much.

          Dennis L.

  6. Herbie Ficklestein says:

    JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE: JPM) says it has noticed a troubling pattern with its work-from-home employees, particularly those who are of a younger age, Bloomberg reported Monday.
    What Happened: CEO Jamie Dimon told analysts Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in a private meeting that productivity was particularly affected on Mondays and Fridays, according to Bloomberg.
    “The WFH lifestyle seems to have impacted younger employees [at JPMorgan], and overall productivity and ‘creative combustion’ has taken a hit,” KBW Managing Director Brian Kleinhanzl wrote to clients in a note, citing the meeting with Dimon.
    JPMorgan spokesman Michael Fusco told Bloomberg that the productivity of employees was affected “in general, not just younger employees,” but added that younger workers “could be disadvantaged by missed learning opportunities” as they were not in offices.
    Why It Matters: The New York-based lender informed most senior sales staff and trading employees that they would be required to return to offices by Sept. 21, Bloomberg noted.
    Workers in other roles are reportedly being encouraged to return to their desks up to a maximum of half building capacity in New York.
    CEOs across the corporate world have a different take on the work from home environment.

  7. Dennis L. says:

    Pandemic and higher education:

    GW reports a 17% drop in enrollment after going to on line education.

    One wonders if the student needs pay for the rented apartment, whatever, could he/she gift it to a homeless person and deduct it as a charitable contribution?

    Dennis L.

    • At the same time, the university closest to my home is seeing a big (8%) increase in enrollment, with in-person classes. Students seem to be making a choice regarding what they want.

  8. Dennis L. says:

    I have the GW post awaiting moderation, generally I skim these articles to see that they contain what the headline suggests, this one has a video which is scary, I skipped it first time through.

    Synopsis of the embedded video: Students will have robots at their side which can read facial expressions, which can do real time evaluation of how the student is progressing and ear buds which can literally read the student’s brain waves.

    There seems to be a correlation with what has happened in sports, athletes can be measured and perfected in movement, drugs can be taken which enhance performance; in the end only a very few excel and a great cost, the rest of the population watches while eating the latest junk food.

    Who can keep up? Only the best?

    Dennis L.

  9. MG says:

    The role of misleading terminology in today’s language that aggravates our situation.

    We live in the world that becomes crippled by the misuse of the language: we know that the situation is bad, but some people want to persuade us that if we let machines and technology do the things instead of us, we will be saved.

    The point is that there is no “autopilot” in car driving, only “computer-assisted driving”, there are no robots producing instead of the people, but only “robot-assisted production” etc.

    The humans are assisted by the machines. When it becomes “human assisted machines”, it means that something goes wrong.

    The human-assisted artificial reality collapses because there is not enough people to support its existence.

    • Robert Firth says:

      MG, as a former IT person, I agree. For that matter, there is no “autopilot” in an aeroplane. There is a computer that can respond to deviations it has been programmed to recognise, and restore the status quo. But given a novel deviation (a loss of a wing flap for instance) and it is clueless. Most autopilots have the additional, often fatal, error of trusting the sensors that feed them data; that’s what killed two 737 Max aeroplanes, you may recall.

      The big problem with “human assisted” machines is that the humans have not been fully trained. In an emergency, for instance a failure in the “automatic” landing system, it turns out the pilot has never actually anded a real plane manually, and of course his simulated training never covered an unexpected contingency.

      As for motor car autopilots, forget it. Does anyone believe a Tesla driving itself on a Maine road would know how to avoid a deer in the headlights? Well, perhaps we could test that, but with Elon Musk instead of a deer.

      • D3G says:

        “Most autopilots have the additional, often fatal, error of trusting the sensors that feed them data; that’s what killed two 737 Max aeroplanes, you may recall.”

        Hi Robert. You are right in that a failed sensor started the chain of events, but, if I understand the MCAS system correctly, the pilots could not manually override it. If they had only known that MCAS was installed and wired thru the ‘stab trim’ system, the outcomes might have been different. You can quickly turn off the stab trim. Point being, systems need to allow for human intervention.

        Auto land systems allow for approaches and landings under weather conditions we were not otherwise permitted to try. If the weather conditions were reported to be below approach minimums, we were not permitted to ‘go down and take a look’. A private Cessna pilot could, however. We could either ‘handfly’ or fly a coupled approach (1 computer and 1 autopilot) down to 200′ and if able to see the runway, continue for a manual landing. Autolands required that all 3 autopilots and all 3 computers be engaged and in agreement. So, descending below the usual 200′ without seeing a runway sort of made us all passegers. You know, a point beyond which a pilot could not go on his own because we need visual references.

        Anyway, I don’t mean to get long winded here, but would like to leave you with the knowledge that these systems (with their failure modes) have been very well thought thru. I have every confidence in them. As for self driving cars, maybe not so much.


        • Robert Firth says:

          Hi D3G, thank you for your most interesting thoughts. However, I am not sure these systems have been properly thought through.

          To return to the 737 Max: the attitude sensor was wrong, and reported nose up. The MCAS kept trying to force the nose down. But that same aircraft has two altimeters, reporting continuously. If the plane is moving, and the nose is up, it must be climbing, right? But according to the altimeters, it was not climbing. That inconsistency was a clear red flag, but the computer *didn’t even notice it*, because it had not been programmed to notice it.

          Turkish Airlines 981 was the victim of a similar piece of idiocy. The cargo door opened outwards (another piece of idiocy for which a few managers should have faced the noose). It had to be locked from the outside, but of course the lock was on the inside. The status light in the cockpit duly reported “locked”, but the door was not locked, because the sensor reported the state of the locking levers, but not the state of the lock itself. In other words, there was no proper feedback loop, and that is surely engineering idiocy.

          You may recall that a similar piece of malpractice almost doomed Three Mile Island: the control panel reported that a valve had been closed, but in fact the report meant only that it had been *ordered* to close, not that it had actually obeyed the order. And the valve was open. Incidentally, throughout the incident the computer dutifully logged thousands of error messages, all of them useless because the printer was unable to keep up, and its hard copy was soon over 70 minutes behind events.

          In sum,I am not quite as optimistic as you about the automation of safety critical systems.

      • Robert Firth says:

        The incident I couldn’t recall occurred on 6 July 2013 when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed on final approach into San Francisco Airport. It turned out the pilot had never performed a manual landing, and came in too low. It featured in an episode of “Air Crash Investigation”, which I was able to retrieve.

    • Xabier says:

      Brilliant identification of the problem: the decay and misuse of language itself is of the greatest importance.

      Visions of the future, machine-led and super-efficient and safe, without any real foundation.

      • Robert Firth says:

        “For words are wise men’s counters, they do but reckon by them: but they are the money of fools, …” (Thomas Hobbes, 1588 to 1679)

  10. says:

    The calm before the storm?

    Zero volatility.

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