Today’s Energy Predicament – A Look at Some Charts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This entry was posted in Financial Implications, Introductory Post and tagged , , , by Gail Tverberg. Bookmark the permalink.

About Gail Tverberg

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

2,368 thoughts on “Today’s Energy Predicament – A Look at Some Charts

  1. With reference to the earlier jokey comments about eating people, I remember reading that Edgar Allen Poe wrote a short story in which two sailors and a teenage cabin boy were shipwrecked at sea. Eventually the two men killed the poor lad and ate him, in order to avoid starvation. Not many years later, an actual event ensued that was very similar in the details to Poe’s fictional story. Once more, this makes me wonder where intuition comes from.

    I mentioned elsewhere that I thought Poe had written a science fiction story, some of whose facts came true. Our commenter Robert told me I was wrong. I was probably thinking of this sea story instead.

    • I remember reading about a woman who was shipwrecked on a desert island with 30 men. After a couple of weeks, she was ashamed of what she was doing, that she killed herself.

      A couple of weeks after that, the men were so ashamed of what they were doing, that they buried her.

      (rimshot)

      • Well, I had to think about that. At first I thought ‘rimshot’ was the dirty bit until I looked that word up. (‘Ta-da!’ would’ve been better.)

        Now I’m just wondering if the police have looked under your floorboards lately. 😦

    • Malcopian, you were indeed thinking of the sea story: “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”, published in 1838. The act of cannibalism occurs near the middle of the book, and almost the same scenario unfolded in real life in 1884, on a ship called the Mignonette.

      The later chapters of the novel contain several occult themes, based in part on the “hollow earth” theory of John Cleves Symmes, which had previously been proposed by Edmond Halley, no less. Pym also encounters a series of caves shaped like “Egyptian hieroglyphs”, which of course looked nothing like Egyptian hieroglyphs. Perhaps this was suggested by Joseph Smith’s absurd “Book of Abraham”. The novel ends abruptly as Pym tries to navigate a passage to the South Pole.

      Several authors wrote “sequels” to the novel, with their own take on the South Pole. First was Jules Verne’s “An Antarctic Mystery, or, The Sphinx of the Ice Fields”, from 1897, which was entirely scientific. It was dramatised in an episode of the cartoon series “The Extraordinary Adventures of Jules Verne”, 24 episodes plus pilot, and highly recommended. Each episode links to a Verne novel, Episode 15 to this one.

      Next was John Taine’s “The Greatest Adventure”, of 1929, which had dinosaurs living in caves under Antarctica and is almost unreadable. Finally we have H P Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” (1931), where a now extinct race of intelligent beings built a civilisation there, but their genetically engineered servants survive them and cause mayhem.

      Antarctica perhaps indeed holds the last true mysteries to be found on our planet; and, as you might have guessed, it fascinates me.

      • Thank you, Robert. I did read in one of Graham Hancock’s books about the precession (lunisolar precession), a new concept for me. This means (correct me if I’m wrong) that the Earth’s poles shift about over thousands of years, and therefore Antarctica was at times in the deep past exceedingly verdant and presumably full of animals you’d associate nowadays with Africa. I think Hancock did mention something about fossils found in Antarctica – of trees, perhaps?

        Decades ago, there was some fellow in the House of Lords (UK) who showed photos of Earth with supposed holes at the poles, leading to an inner Earth. This myth crops up often enough in tales by ‘abductees’. Or perhaps there is indeed something going on that is beyond our ken: wormholes, other dimensions, etc. We can’t assume we know everything.

        • Ah yes, I remember that fellow in the House of Lords: William Francis Brinsley Le Poer Trench, 8th Earl of Clancarty, 7th Marquess of Heusden (18 September 1911 – 18 May 1995) .

          An example of what the House of Lords was originally designed for: independent thinkers who disdained politics and supported what they believed in.

          • The USA had a guy like that in the House of Representatives in the late 19th century: Ignatius Donnelly, who wrote books with titles like “Atlantis: The Antediluvian World”, or “Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel.” One of them argued for the Baconian authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s too bad Donnelly never made it to the senate, because he would have been awesome during a filibuster!

            I recall seeing a book about the Hollow Earth, which traced the history of the idea from 19th century science, through Jules Verne and Tarzan, down to 20th century crackpots and channelers (and Umberto Eco). The Hollow Earth is way cooler than the Flat Earth, because it contains some combination of Nazis, dinosaurs, pirates, UFOs, ascended masters, and/or unspeakable monstrosities.

            • There are two main flavours of “hollow earth”. The former simply has very large caverns deep underground, and the classic source is, again, Jules Verne: “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, published in 1864. It has been made into a movie at least twice, in 1959 and 1993, and features in Episode 16 of the cartoon series “Extraordinary Adventures …”

              The second is the true hollow earth, with people (and unspeakable things) living on the inside, in violation of Newton’s proof that there is no gravity inside a hollow sphere. The classic stories this time are by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and are collectively called “Pellucidar”. The reference movie is “At the Earth’s Core”, from 1976, with Peter Cushing as the scientist, Doug McClure as the intrepid explorer, and Caroline Munro as a Pellucidarian princess not overencumbered with clothing.

              The number of hollow earth references in myth and legend is huge; it is an anthropological study in its own right.

            • I have read Donnelly’s “Atlantis” with great interest. It is pretty god for its time. I also read Churchward’s “The Lost Continent of Mu”, which in contrast was rather bad. Jane Gaskell’s “Atlan” series is good fun, once you get used to its seriously clueless heroine. But the definitive account of these forays into fantasy remains L Sprague de Camp’s “Lost Continents”.

  2. This is not energy related but it is funny. The president of Princeton University has been telling everyone Princeton is racist. The department of Education has just written to the president saying you have certified for the last several that the university complies with Title VI no discrimination. As you have stated Princeton is racist we have reason be to believe you are lying to us. We are opening an investigation. You have 21 calendar days to comply. LMAO

      • more JHK today:

        “You heard it here first: Joe Biden will call in “sick” to the presidential candidates’ debate on Tuesday, September 29, and within days the Democratic Party will be obliged to replace him. Enough said for now. Wait for it….”

        that would be something.

        entertainment!

    • Yes, spiked has an article about today.

      By their own confessions of ‘racism’, Princeton stand to lose millions in government funding. Maybe they will also have to pay plenty back.

      It is about time that this moral posturing and virtue-signalling had some negative consequences. Sanctity has a price, who knew?

      > …. If the Department of Education concludes – in line with Princeton’s own admission – that it has been discriminating against black students, Princeton could lose millions in federal funding. ‘Based on its admitted racism, the US Department of Education is concerned Princeton’s non-discrimination and equal-opportunity assurances… may have been false’, said the department.

      The department’s logic makes perfect sense. Presumably, if a university caught a student committing acts of racism, he or she would be expelled. A company would be quick to fire an employee overheard making racist remarks. So when a university leader ‘admits’ to a culture of racism, why should there not be consequences? In so freely admitting racism, woke institutions have made a rod for their own backs.

      https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/09/18/finally-woke-racists-are-being-held-to-account/

      • yes, they have given themselves two bad options.

        JHK:

        “Either they have to come up with proof that Mr. Eisgruber’s asseverations are true — that Princeton is indeed, and has been for a long time, a racist school — or that Mr. Eisgruber and his administrative colleagues have constructed a false narrative to please and mollify the “social justice” mob among its own faculty and student body. In the first case, they are strictly evil; in the second, they are lying cowards. In either case, Mr. Eisgruber must resign, and several vice-presidents and deans along with him. Notify the Princeton board of trustees.”

        Princeton will be trying desperately to wiggle themselves out of this straightjacket into which they have willingly placed themselves.

        entertainment!

  3. Some of you have noted the value of gold, I offer the following off a MS web page along with a reference link.

    “On a steep cliff along the Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria are the ruins of a medieval fortress once ruled by the Despot Dobrotitsa. For those who love a good buried treasure story, Kaliakra Fortress recently delivered. Nearly a thousand 14th-century gold, silver, and bronze artifacts were unearthed here in 2018. The relics, found in a large pot, range from belt buckles, buttons, and earrings to heaps of Byzantine, Venetian, and Tartar coins. The moody Kaliakra Cape offers more than a cache of worldly riches—the area is a nature reserve where dolphins ply the waters just offshore and rare birds gather during stops on their long migratory flights”

    https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=black+sea+coast+bulgaria&filters=IsConversation:%22True%22+BTWLKey:%22KaliakraFortressBulgaria%22+BTWLType:%22Trivia%22&trivia=1&form=EMSDS0&first=1&scenario=ImageBasicHover

    The gold held its value, but six hundred years is a long time.

    Dennis L.

    • Yes! Who should be the new Supreme Court justice is the big question. Ginsberg was known for being liberal. Trump would no doubt pick a conservative, if his pick could be approved.

      • There should be no pick based on what McConnell said when the black man was president,”. Gail i’ve been following you for so long but I’m so disappointed in your political bias. These days I only follow people who are only a political that’s only where the truth is. If you were getting money or financial backing to manipulate your site; you need to disclose that to the rest of us it is only fair.I guess I’m more disappointed in myself for following you when you have become nothing more than a charlatan for one side or the other you don’t speak the truth.

        • I quite frankly have no idea regarding what you are talking about. I certainly did not say, “There should be no pick based on what McConnell said when the black man was president.” I don’t follow politics enough to know what McConnell said, when. At the time I made my one comment on the issue, I hadn’t even looked up any article regarding what the procedure for replacing a Supreme Court justice might be. This is not something I follow closely. I was getting ready to turn off my computer for the evening, when I saw the comment about Ginsberg’s death.

          What possibly makes you think I am taking money from anyone? I don’t even sell ads on my site!

        • Dan,

          These are the only quotes I found,

          “Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for saying former President Barack Obama “should have kept his mouth shut” and not criticized President Donald Trump.

          “I’m sure Mitch is aware that a grown ass black man who happens to be a former president has agency to speak his mind on how his successor is managing this crisis,” Steele said Tuesday on Twitter. “Especially since his successor has yet to ‘keep his mouth shut’ about him.”

          https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/ex-gop-chairman-michael-steele-blasts-mcconnell-remarks-obama-n1206221

          I find “grown ass black man” when referring to a former president disrespectful to the man and the office, but do not comment on the person who stated those words.

          This opinion in the “courier journal” does not mention McConnell saying that.

          https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2020/05/13/mitch-mcconnell-told-barack-obama-shut-up-white-men-cant-do/5185802002/

          Again, an opinion in “Miami Herald” by Leonard Pitts, Jr. a journalist for the “Miami Herald” does not mention your quote.

          https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article242772876.html

          Could you source “There should be no pick based on what McConnell said when the black man was president,’? ” Your punctuation, not mine.

          In general, most of us have benefited greatly from this site as a place to freely express ideas and have others comment on those ideas. We refrain from ad hominem attacks and generally welcome learning from each other. Remain here long enough and a certain humility arises as many self predictions turn out not to happen. Reality trumps philosophy, and that was not meant to be a pun.

          There will be no further comments from me on this subject.

          Dennis L.

          • Very well layed out dennis! that Gail is assailed on some ridiculous bs claiming political bias just shows how intolerant people are. As soon as the PERCEIVED message is attributed to a “side” it is attacked. The attacker pats themselves on the back for their astuteness and doesn’t have enough self awareness to realize they have become a tool of conditioned response.

        • People can’t see their superstitions and delusions.
          I’m with you on this, but lets just let Darwin sort this out.
          The virus could care less (not being alive).
          But the ignorance is an eye opener.
          Until a vaccine is available, or millions die from herd immunity, this is a wait and see event.

        • JoeBiden in 2016: “I would go forward with a confirmation process as chairman, even a few months before a presidential election, if the nominee were chosen with the advice, and not merely the consent, of the Senate, just as the Constitution requires.”

          My screen at first didn’t show to whom Gail was responding, but I knew it was Dan! I think Gail does an excellent job of being very even-handed on this site.

  4. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, God bless her atheistic soul, has died of cancer at the age of 87, it has just been officially reported.

    She had wanted to hang on long enough for President Trump not to be the guy to pick her successor, and with less than two months until the election, her wish may be granted. It’s too late in the term for Trump to put forward a successor, although I wouldn’t put it past him to try.

    There was a time when the issue of who’s going to pick the next Supreme would have galvanized the voters, but with the mess that politicians, activists and the media have made of the entire election process, this is likely to get lost in the noise. Nevertheless, who gets to pick the nation’s top judges has an enormous effect on the longterm state of the nation.

        • Trump in the past week just put out a list of names who he would consider (he dared Slow Joe to do the same).

          so Trump will be ready within a day or two to nominate someone.

          • Love him or hate him, Trump seems always to be onestep ahead in the game. I am reminded of chess master Charles Jaffe, who after he had beaten the supposedly invincible Capablanca in 1946, was asked by a reporter how many moves ahead he looked, replied, “Just one, but the best one”.

            But Trump is also a master of the gambit. By challenging Biden to issue his own list of candidates, he put the latter into a classic Zugzwang, where either move was destructive to his position.

            • A careful study of the great military campaigns also conforms that truth: whatever the staff planners have devised, the effective response of just one unit at the right time can alter the whole course of a battle, and even a war.

              As unpalatable as he can be, I sincerely hope that Trump wins clearly, as the Democrats at present are the greatest threat to the US Constitution and civilized life.

            • For Xabier: a most telling and informative comment; thank you.

              One unit won the battle of marathon, and it was not the Athenians, it was the one thousand Plataeans. The former were intimidated by the Persian army, and vacillating over whether to attack or retreat. The arrival of the entire Plataean strength gave them the heart to chance a battle, decided on by just one vote, and Greece was saved, at a cost of just 203 men.

              Xerxes’ invasion was similarly defeated, and we all know the story of Thermopylae. They died to the last man, but they bought Themistocles enough time to prepare the navy and position them in the Gulf of Salamis.

              “A king sate on the rocky brow
              Which looks o’er sea-born Salamis; 20
              And ships, by thousands, lay below,
              And men in nations:—all were his!
              He counted them at break of day—
              And when the sun set, where were they?”

              Byron, of course, “The Isles of Greece”.

              Moving on a couple of Millennia, Wellington himself called the Battle of Waterloo “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life”. And it hinged on two events: the moment Wellington was saved from defeat, and the moment the French broke. The former was achieved by not a unit, but by two men: the men who closed the gates of Hougoumont Castle. Had they failed, the French could have rolled the allied right up like a carpet, and even a Prussian arrival would not have helped, because they would have arrived behind the allied line rather than on the French right flank.

              The second event was the famous “up guards and at ’em”, when the British 1st Foot Guards rose up from behind the hill and opened fire at point blank range on the French “Old Guard”, believed by all in their army to be invincible. They broke, and at the cry of “La garde recule” most of the others turned and fled. At such great cost, and by such small chances, Europe was saved.

            • A couple of month’s ago I re-read the novel Vanity Fair, a fair chunk of which takes place at the time of Waterloo.

              Becky Sharp, her friend Amelia, and Amelia’s elder brother Josh are in Brussels while the two women’s husbands are fighting in the British Army.

              Becky’s husband gets a mention in dispatches for bravery and later a promotion, Amelia’s husband is killed in the battle. Becky sells her two horses to Jos at an exorbitant price as he decides to flee from Belgium thinking the battle lost.

              Vanity Fair is undoubtedly racist, sexist, lookist and ablist by today’s standards. I cannot think why the woke mob have not called on it to be banned from our bookshelves and burned in the streets yet. Perhaps because their attention spans are too short for them to make it as far as the juiciest bits? Nonetheless, it has been rated by some literati as the best novel in the English language, and although I think its ridiculous to attempt to rate works of literature so precisely, I found it a very entertaining story.

              The Battle of Waterloo is not depicted in Vanity Fair, but the protagonists in Brussels do receive reports of it from retreating, retiring and injured soldiers and they hear the sound of cannon getting ominously close; and the account they form accords well with what Robert has described.

              Did Waterloo save Europe? Certainly it saved the place from Napoleon, who had become a tyrant, corrupted by his power. On the other hand, for decades after, the Europeans had to put up with cocky English lords and ladies making extended visits to towns and cities all over the continent and even taking the Grand Tour—another activity that is woven into the narrative of Vanity Fair. A good read and a nice study of what the Book of Ecclesiastes describes as Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas—Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

            • Whenever the plumes and fires of war is on the horizon, run, yes, run for your life. Let the genetic trash sort out their differences in an evolutionary quite “effective” way.

              Gaia looks upon the lunacy with a planetary sized smile on her immense behest.

    • That’s right, that person is putting the person in the wheelchair at risk. All people in public should be wearing masks to protect themselves and others (and it should have been mandated nationally by the president back in Jan. 2020 but never was), because it’s primarily an airborne transmitted virus, from an infected person to another person’s lungs.

      Yes, many people are overweight/obese (although I’m not one of them) that are more vulnerable to the Corona Virus, but does that mean we shouldn’t wear masks?

      • With all due respect, people are carrying around all sorts of viruses and bacteria that can be spread by contact or in the air that we all share, and many of these bugs are more dangerous to the old, infirm and obese than the one the authorities are obsessed with this week.

        The infections you can look forward to picking up include norovirus, influenza, meningitis, HFMD (Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease), pertussis (whooping cough), MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), and TB (Tuberculosis).

        And if you can remember that far back, until Covid-19 appeared on the scene, the media in the US were salivating over the dangers of measles, which—they were at great pains to inform us—is highly contagious and deadly in some cases.

        If were to follow your logic to its logical conclusion, we would all need to wear masks in public permanently, forever, in perpetuity and never get on a train, boat, bus or plane or attend a live concert, theater play, movie or sporting or cultural event ever again.

        As I noted at the beginning, I say this with all due respect for you and your opinion. I am not trying to ridicule or troll you—far from it. I merely see where your suggestion that people in public should be wearing masks to protect themselves and others.

        And I haven’t even mentioned the potential downsides to health of wearing masks, which won’t go into here but which can also be deadly.

        On the subject of POTUS mandating the wearing of masks, does he have the power to do that? Would Congress, the Courts, the Dems, the State Governors and City Mayors have stood for it? Wouldn’t the media have ridiculed and condemned him for being Hit-ler, Stalin and Genghis Khan rolled into one? When he imposed a ban on flights from China, he was attacked from all sides.

        When Nancy Pelosi went to Chinatown SF in late-February to encourage people to visit the place and reassure people that shoppers were safe there, neither she nor anyone else in Chinatown was social distancing or mask wearing. If Nancy didn’t know or care that masks were necessary in late February to deal with this virus, how was Trump supposed to have known in January?

        Let’s look at a news video of that event. It was only seven months ago but it seems like a different era.

        https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2020/02/24/coronavirus-speaker-house-nancy-pelosi-tours-san-franciscos-chinatown/

        • ….I merely see where your suggestion that people in public should be wearing masks to protect themselves and others is leading.

          I see it leading to a total and permanent loss of personal liberty for almost everybody. It may not be a problem for the many people who are souless, conformist, or devoid of all intellectual curiosity or imagination, but sensitive souls like Van Morrison and me will suffer endless tortures.

          • “Watch out. There’s a GERM about!”

            But I can’t SEE it! OOH, I’m SCARED!

            The partial lifting of the lockdown here in England allows us to eat in cafes and restaurants again. Thankfully, you can’t eat while wearing a mask. But perhaps Boris will orders special masks to be made with mouth-holes in them.

            Here in England the effect of the lockdown has tanked the economy and meant that lots of people have lost their jobs and been made homeless as a result of having little or no money coming in to pay the bills. To paraphrase Churchill, ‘Never before in the history of human peacetime have so many sacrificed so much to save so few’. And that is a result of Churchill’s fan Boris indulging in short-termism and having no understanding of strategy: that you can take more hits now in order to suffer fewer deaths later. It’s just as well we Brits didn’t have a pandemic and a lockdown in 1939. The other fellow certainly wouldn’t have had one, and we’d never have won the Battle of Britain.

            • The virus is hungry for humans, and so far it hasn’t even finished breakfast. Every time we lift the lockdowns and the masks, it will be back for the next course. Wouldn’t it have been better to get it over quicker, without lockdowns? Herd immunity, anybody? Then we would have had a quicker return to normality.

            • How about telling everyone to start taking vitamin D? Or at least, spend much more time out in the sunshine. Then, at least, they will have a decent chance of fighting it off easily. Herd immunity won’t stick, even if we get it, I am afraid.

            • Winston Churchill is considered to have had a hand in the deaths from starvation of around four million people in Bengal in 1943. Sources for this claim include The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food by Lizzie Collingham, and Churchill’s Secret War by Madhusree Mukerjee.

              Perhaps, given enough time, Boris will outshine his idol in this respect.

            • How about simply copying the strategy and tactics of Taiwan and call it a day?

              Too easy perhaps? A perpetual pandemic is so much sexier than the mundane affairs of BAU.

          • I wonder about babies and small children growing up in this strange world with masks. How do they understand the emotions of others, especially if care givers wear masks.

          • “I see it leading to a total and permanent loss of personal liberty for almost everybody. It may not be a problem for the many people who are souless, conformist, or devoid of all intellectual curiosity or imagination, but sensitive souls like Van Morrison and me will suffer endless tortures.”

            And me!

        • Probably 25% or so of illegal immigrants to the UK have TB, for instance.

          Given their habit of beaching and scampering off without any contact with the authorities whenever possible it’s rather more alarming than COVID.

      • By your logic, when you cough you put someone else’s health at risk. That is utterly stupid. The obese, unhealthy person has chosen their own poison. They will die of it.

        • Actually, the obese, unhealthy person has simply chosen to follow what television and the popular media says is the “right way to eat” and the “right amount of exercise.” It is perfectly OK to spend most of the day in front of a computer screen or television. And eating a whole lot of fast food, plus excessively processed other foods, is what everyone else does. These folks have a hard time imagining any other way of doing things. They may not have the budget for it either. If they live in the inner city, food choices may be very constrained.

          • Gayle, even the poor can eat nutritionally if they desire to. I used to make a lunch for work when I was poor at one time in my life. It consists of a raw carrot or two, a raw stick of celery, a simple sandwich, a pear or apple and a piece of cheddar cheese. No cookies. Water to wash it down. The carrot was filling, plus it required chewing which helped satiate my appetite. All in all, a quite healthy lunch for very little money. It was cold and not tasty with fat, sugar or salt, but good for me.

            They have to want to eat healthy and they don’t.

            • I think a lot of obesity could be curbed if people just stopped drinking flavored
              sugar water. Just drink water, or coffee or tea. And no Starbucks milkshakes either.

              Drinking sugar is so bad for your liver and pancreas.

            • There are a lot of inner city food deserts in the US. There are no grocery stores for miles; public transport is difficult for getting to them. People live on food from convenience stores and fast food places. These don’t sell celery or carrots. With a lot of luck, you might find an apple.

              If you are poor, and you file the right paper work, you can get food stamps (or whatever the program is called now). But not everyone does this. It is helpful to have a phone or transportation for filing, I believe.

              If a person is living on donated food, they often don’t have much choice of what they get.

          • Even the states considered the “best” have around a quarter of the population or more living with obesity . . . and that’s not counting the simply overweight.

            The ten states with the lowest obesity rates are:

            Colorado (23%)
            District of Columbia (24.7%)
            Hawaii (24.9%)
            New Jersey (25.7%)
            Massachusetts (25.7%)
            California (25.8%)
            Montana (26.9%)
            Connecticut (27.4%)
            Vermont (27.5%)
            New York (27.6%)

            https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/obesity-rate-by-state

            • From Finch’s site:

              “Obesity is the result of several factors such as overeating, lack of physical activity, poor diet choices, genetics, metabolism, and culture.”
              —————————-

              That’s a lot of fat people. The verboten topic of the quality of GMO foods was conveniently left out, I noticed.

      • Another approach would be to have the person in the wheelchair wear a mask plus a face shield. The combination would protect him fairly well, even if others aren’t wearing masks, I would think. Then the person in the wheelchair should also be taking vitamin D, so that the disease is far less something to be afraid of. The combination of these things would allow the person in the wheelchair to be in charge of his own protection. He no longer has to depend on upsetting a huge share of the economy to provide protection for himself. Isn’t this latter approach pretty likely to fail?

      • Chrome Mags, to answer your question: Yes, I believe it means we shouldn’t wear masks. We have a clear moral duty, a categorical imperative if you will, to care for those who cannot care for themselves. But do we have a similar duty to care for those who could care for themselves, but choose not to? I do not believe so.

        • The double edged sword of responsibility swings both ways. If you don’t care about yourself, you’re not entitled to the care from others.

          However, one should not ignore the social engineering programming of the people not quite intellectually fit to see past the smoke and mirrors of BAU. The cold hard truth is a bitter pill to swallow when the hallucinations of the brain and society is that convincing.

          This is the great divide as I see it. It is intractable to be compassionate about morons, however, that is the conditioning they have been subject to become useful consumers and deliver offspring as cannon fodder.

          I hate the situation.

  5. Debt Jubilee….as Gail wrote..it just doesn’t work!😳
    While largely sympathetic to renters, who make up 73% of Ithaca’s residents, several members of the council worried about the well-being of small landlords as well. What happens to the landlords who still have mortgages to pay? What happens to contractors who are employed by those landlords? What happens to the city’s budget, which relies on those landlords paying their property taxes? “I don’t understand why we would want to take the pain and economic hardship of one group of our citizens and put it on another group of our citizens,” Ithaca Alderman George McGonigal said at the meeting. “We may create a bunch of problems for everybody in the community, including ourselves.”
    Myrick saw the flaws, too. He too worried about Ithaca’s smaller landlords, in addition to the city’s already meager budget. “If you just cancel rent, there will be some landlords that lose money, there’ll be some landlords that lose so much money they can’t make their mortgage or tax payments, which could lead to defaults, and tax foreclosures would lead to less revenue for the city, which would mean we could support fewer social services,” he says. “This kind of thing can trigger [an economic] depression.”
    Myrick says his preferred policy would have been “a robust universal basic income of $2,000 a month to every American.” Under such a plan, “people have all their basic needs, not just rent, and it would make it easier for people to make choices in the interest of public health, staying home if they can, et cetera.” (Though the idea would provide greater flexibility to cash-strapped Americans, it too would come with major challenges: It would cost trillions of dollars if provided nationwide, and the chances of such a proposal getting past a GOP-led Senate are nonexistent.)
    Ultimately, after 30-plus minutes of contentious debate on June 3, the rent cancellation measure passed, on a 6 to 4 vote. The Ithaca Tenants Union, which coordinated with a couple city council members and Myrick to conceptualize the order, celebrated. “When your business is in providing people housing, that’s a certain responsibility you take on if it goes under to not put people on the street,” says Ary Stewart, a 24-year-old member of the renters coalition. If this results in landlords falling behind on their own debts, Stewart says they should “take it up with the bank.”
    Myrick, despite his misgivings, helped lead the charge. And in the months since the measure’s passage, the mayor says his office has been calling New York’s Department of Health approximately once a week for an update on the proposal. As the federal relief benefits have dried up, the Ithaca Tenants Union has also taken action into its own hands, orchestrating “phone zaps” where members clog up the New York Department of Health’s phone lines for days on
    .,…..Whether, or how, such an untested measure might have worked remains to be seen. In the meantime, Myrick insists the unprecedented plan was worth a shot—even if it wasn’t perfect. “The truth is, it is a bad policy,” he says. “But it’s better than doing nothing.”
    https://news.yahoo.com/cancel-rent-become-rallying-cry-154601251.html
    Free money….it’s working up👍to this point…until it doesnt

    • Someone has to get shorted. People who own properties that they rent out tend to be “rich,” in some sense, since they likely have their own home as well. Also, they can short the bank or other lender with respect to the mortgage payment. Let the mortgage holder try to get the money from the renter, or try to sell it on the open market. I am sure laws vary. I am doubtful that the laws would allow the person owning the rental property to be thrown out of his own home, if a renter could no longer pay. But perhaps this could happen some places, if the owner has, for example, a three-flat, and is renting out two of the units and living in one.

      Ultimately, these properties are no longer worth much. The lack of payment is simply reflection of this fact.

    • Herbie, I’m no Bible scholar, but I think the idea of a “debt jubilee” is that all debts are cancelled. So renters don’t pay landlords; landlords don’t pay apartment owners; they don’t pay mortgage companies, … and so on. The only ones left carrying the can are the moneylenders, and I do remember the Bible has a rather low opinion of them.

    • I guess the big question is, “Is this statement true?”

      The heat ray weapon uses a microwave beam to make human skin feel like it is burning. Authorities say it causes no permanent damage.

      • 2012. Electromagnetic beam: a new non-lethal weapon for US military.

        See also DEW – Directed Energy Weapon. Dr Judy Wood thinks DEW was implicated in nine eleven, if you watch her videos.

        • not 9 /11 again please

          I’m incurring too much expense already by being sued for walls damaged by my head.

          Whoever Wood is, she destroys any shred of logic by 9’11 idiocy

          I hope OFW isn’t going down that black hole again

          • Not Norman Pagett again, please.

            “Whoever Wood is, she destroys any shred of logic by nine eleven idiocy.”

            Dr Judy Wood is a former professor of mechanical engineering. She looks at the compelling forensic evidence that the story told by the Bush government of the day does not hold up in many respects. But you have a closed mind and will never look at any of her excellent videos, as evidenced by your not knowing who she is.

            But no, I do not wish to reopen that case. But we should know that there are many hi-tech weapons out there, and that some will still be so secret that they have not been revealed to the public. Have you never heard of the military-industrial complex? We are into the Fourth Industrial Revolution now. Think about that. But no – you are as complacent as the Japanese were before the atomic bomb hit then. 75 years on, weapons technology has moved on massively since the atom bomb, but don’t expect the powers to give you a guided tour of it.

            • as i’ve pointed out before

              logic and intellect are not fruits of the same tree

              In deference to our hostess, I won’t restart the 9/11 rubbish, I thought that was consigned to the dustbin of history, (in here at least) along with FE

            • What a shame, Norman! I was hoping you would post a photo of the hole at Shanksville and point out the wreckage of the downed plane lying in it for us skeptics.

  6. Eric Holthaus, environmental journalist, father of two young boys [oh, the irony, but he is on the autistic spectrum] :

    Quote:

    It’s 2020, the world is on fire, and rich people are taking 7-hr long “joy flights” to see the Great Barrier Reef they are helping to destroy.

    I’ve dialed way back on intentionally shaming people for flying, but these people deserve to be shamed.

    https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2020/sep/18/climate-campaigners-condemn-joy-flights-for-travellers-who-miss-flying

        • The reefs—there are 2,900 of ’em— that form the Reef have died and been reborn dozens of times.

          The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) considers the earliest evidence of complete reef structures to have been 600,000 years ago. According to the GBRMPA, the current, living reef structure is believed to have begun growing on the older platform about 20,000 years ago. However, The CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) Reef Research Centre estimates the age of the present, living reef structure at 6,000 to 8,000 years old.

          I wish these Aussie government organizations would get their stories straight.

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