Fossil Fuel Production Is Reaching Limits in a Strange Way

Strangely enough, the limit we seem to be reaching with respect to fossil fuel extraction comes from low prices. At low prices, the extraction of oil, coal, and natural gas becomes unprofitable. Producers go bankrupt, or they voluntarily cut back production in an attempt to force prices higher. As the result of these forces, production tends to fall. This limit comes long before the limit that many people imagine: the amount of fossil fuels in the ground that seems to be available with current extraction techniques.

The last time there was a similar problem was back in 1913, when coal was the predominant fossil fuel used and the United Kingdom was the largest coal producer in the world. The cost of production was rising due to depletion, but coal prices would not rise sufficiently to cover the higher cost of production. As a result, the United Kingdom’s coal production reached its highest level in 1913, the year before World War I started, and began to fall in 1914.

Between 1913 and 1945, the world economy was very troubled. There were two world wars, the Spanish Flu pandemic and the Great Depression. My concern is that we are again headed into another very troubled period that could last for many years.

The way the energy problems of the period between 1913 and 1945 were resolved was through the rapid ramp-up of oil production. Oil was, as that time, inexpensive to produce and could be sold for a very large multiple of the cost of production. If population is to remain at the current level or possibly grow, we need a similar “energy savior.” Unfortunately, none of the alternatives we are looking at now yield a high enough return relative to the required investment.

I recently gave a talk to an engineering group interested in energy research talking about these issues. In this post, I will discuss the slides of this presentation. A PDF of the presentation can be found at this link.

The Low Oil Price Problem

Oil prices seem to bounce around wildly. One major issue is that there is a two-way tug of war between the prices that citizens can afford and the prices that oil companies require. We can look back now and say that the mid-2008 price of over $150 per barrel was too high for consumers. But strangely enough, oil producers began complaining about oil prices being too low to cover their rising cost levels, starting in 2012. Prices, at a 2019 cost level, were at about $120 per barrel at that time. I wrote about this issue in the post, Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending. Oil prices now are in the $40 range, so are way, way below both $120 per barrel and $150 per barrel.

Interest rates and the availability of debt also play a role in oil prices. If interest rates are low and debt is readily available, it is easy to buy a new home or new car, and oil prices tend to rise because of the higher demand. When prices are too low for producers, central banks have been able to lower interest rates through a program called “quantitative easing.” This program seems to have helped oil prices to rise again, over a three-year period, after they crashed in 2008.

OPEC producers are known for their low cost of production, but even they report needing high oil prices. The cost of extracting the oil is reported to be very low (perhaps $10 per barrel), but the price charged needs to be high enough to allow governments to collect very high taxes on the oil extracted. If prices are high enough, these countries can continue the food subsidies that their populations depend upon. They can also sponsor development programs to provide jobs for the ever-growing populations of these countries. OPEC producers also need to develop new oil fields because the old ones deplete.

Oil production outside of the United States and Canada entered a bumpy plateau in 2005. The US and Canada added oil production from shale and bitumen in recent years, helping to keep world oil production (including natural gas liquids) rising.

One reason why producers need higher prices is because their cost of extraction tends to rise over time. This happens because the oil that is cheapest to extract and process tends to be extracted first, leaving the oil with higher cost of extraction until later. 

Some OPEC countries, such as Saudi Arabia, can hide the low price problem for a while by borrowing money. But even this approach does not work well for long. The longer low oil prices last, the greater the danger is of governments being overthrown by unhappy citizens. Oil production can then be expected to become erratic because of internal conflicts.

In the US and Canada, oil companies have been funded by bank loans, bond sales and the sale of shares of stock. These sources of funding are drying up, as many oil companies report poor earnings, year after year, and some are seeking bankruptcy protection. 

Chart 6 shows that the number of drilling rigs in operation has dropped dramatically in both the United States and Canada, as oil companies cut back on drilling. There is a lag between the time the number of drilling rigs is cut back and the time production starts to fall of perhaps a year, in the case of shale. These low drilling rig counts suggest that US and Canadian oil production from shale will fall in 2021.

Of course, unused drilling rigs cannot be mothballed indefinitely. At some point, they are sold as scrap and the workers who operated them find other employment. It then becomes difficult to restart oil extraction.

How the Economy Works, and What Goes Wrong as Limits Are Reached

Slide 7 shows one way of visualizing how the world economy, as a self-organizing system, operates. It is somewhat like a child’s building toy. New layers are added as new consumers, new businesses and new laws are added. Old layers tend to disappear, as old consumers die, old products are replaced by new products, and new laws replace old laws. Thus, the structure is to some extent hollow.

Self-organizing objects that grow require energy under the laws of physics. Our human bodies are self-organizing systems that grow. We use food as our source of energy. The economy also requires energy products of many kinds, such as gasoline, jet fuel, coal and electricity to allow it to operate.

It is easy to see that energy consumption allows the economy to produce finished goods and services, such as homes, automobiles, and medical services. It is less obvious, but just as important, that energy consumption provides jobs that pay well. Without energy supplies in addition to food, typical jobs would be digging in the dirt with a stick or gathering food with our hands. These jobs don’t pay well.

Finally, Slide 7 shows an important equivalence between consumers and employees. If consumers are going to be able to afford to buy the output of the economy, they need to have adequate wages.

A typical situation that arises is that population rises more quickly than energy resources, such as land to grow food. For a while, it is possible to work around this shortfall with what is called added complexity: hierarchical organization, specialization, technology, and globalization. Unfortunately, as more complexity is added, the economic system increasingly produces winners and losers. The losers end up with very low wage jobs, or with no jobs at all. The winners get huge wages and often asset ownership, as well. The winners end up with far more revenue than they need to purchase basic goods and services. The losers often do not have enough revenue to feed their families and to buy basic necessities, such as a home and some form of basic transportation.

The strange way the economy works has to do with the physics of the situation. Physicist Francois Roddier explains this as being similar to what happens to water at different temperatures. When the world economy has somewhat inadequate energy supplies, the goods and services produced by the economy tend to bubble to the top members of the world economy, similar to the way steam rises. The bottom members of the economy tend to get “frozen out.” This way, the economy can downsize without losing all members of the economy, simultaneously. This is the way ecosystems of all kinds adapt to changing conditions: The plants and animals that are best adapted to the conditions of the time tend to be the survivors.

These issues are related to the fact that the economy is, in physics terms, a dissipative structure. The economy, like hurricanes and like humans, requires adequate energy if it is not to collapse. Dissipative structures attempt to work around temporary shortfalls in energy supplies. A human being will lose weight if his caloric intake is restricted for a while. A hurricane will lose speed, if the energy it gets from the warm water of the ocean is restricted. A world economy with inadequate energy is likely to shrink back in many ways: unprofitable businesses may fail, layers of government may disappear and population may fall, for example.

In the discussion of Slide 7, I mentioned the fact that if we try to “stretch” energy supply with added complexity, many workers would end up with very low wages. Some of these low wage workers would be in the US and Europe, but many of them would be in China, India and Africa. Even though these workers are producing goods for the world economy, they often cannot afford to buy those same goods themselves. Henry Ford is remembered to have said something to the effect that he needed to pay his workers enough so that they, themselves, could buy the cars they were making. To a significant extent, this is no longer happening when a person takes into account international workers.

The high interest rates that low-wage workers pay mean that loans don’t really help low-wage workers as much as they help high-wage workers. The high interest on credit card debt and personal loans tend to transfer part of the income of low-wage workers to the financial sector, leaving poor people worse off than they would have been without the loans. 

COVID shutdowns are extremely damaging to the world economy. They are like taking support sticks out of the dome on Slide 7. They produce many more unemployed people around the world. People in low wage countries that produce clothing for a living have been particularly hard hit, for example. Migrant workers and miners of various kinds have also been hard hit.

We Seem to Be Reaching a Major Turning Point

Oil production and consumption have both fallen in 2020; oil prices are far too low for producers; wage disparity is a major problem; countries seem to be increasingly having problems getting along. Many analysts are forecasting a prolonged recession.

The last time that we had a similar situation was in 1913, when the largest coal producer in the world was the United Kingdom. The UK’s cost of coal production kept rising because of depletion (deeper mines, thinner seams), but prices would not rise to compensate for the higher cost of production. Miners were paid very inadequate wages; poor workers regularly held strikes for higher wages. World War I started in 1914, the same year coal production of the UK started to fall. The UK’s coal production has fallen nearly every year since then.

The last time that wage disparity started to spike as badly as it has in recent years occurred back in the late 1920s, or perhaps as early as 1913 to 1915.  The chart shown above is for the US; problems were greater in Europe at that time.

With continued low oil prices, production is likely to start falling and may continue to fall for years. It is hard to bring scrapped drilling rigs back into service, for example. The experience in the UK with coal shows that energy prices don’t necessarily rise to compensate for higher costs due to depletion. There need to be buyers for higher-priced goods made with higher-priced coal. If there is too much wage disparity, the many poor people in the system will tend to keep demand, and prices, too low. They may eat poorly, making it easier for pandemics to spread, as with the Spanish Flu in 1918-1919. These people will be unhappy, leading to the rise of leaders promising to change the system to make things better.

My concern is that we may be heading into a long period of unrest, as occurred in the 1913 to 1945 era. Instead of getting high energy prices, we will get disruption of the world economy.  The self-organizing economy is attempting to fix itself, either by getting more energy supply or by eliminating parts of the economy that aren’t contributing enough to the overall system. Conflict between countries, pandemics, bankruptcies and economic contraction are likely to be part of the mix.

Coal Seems to Be Reaching Extraction Limits as Well 

Coal has essentially the same problem as oil: Prices tend to be too low for producers to extract coal profitably. Many coal producers have gone bankrupt. Prices were higher back in 2008, when demand was high for everything, and again in 2011, when quantitative easing had been helpful. 

There have been stories in the press in the past week about China limiting coal imports from Australia, so as to make more jobs for coal miners in China. The big conflict among countries relates to “not enough jobs that pay well” and “not enough profitable companies.” These indirectly are energy issues. If there was more “affordability” of goods made with high-priced coal, there would be no problem.

Coal production worldwide has been on a bumpy plateau since 2012. In fact, China, the largest producer of coal, found its production stagnating, starting about 2012. The problem was a familiar one: The cost of extraction rose because many mines that had been used for quite a number of years were depleted. The selling price would not rise to match the higher cost of extraction because of affordability issues.

The underlying problem is that the economy is a dissipative structure. Commodity prices are set by the laws of physics. Prices don’t rise high enough for producers, if there are not enough customers willing and able to buy the goods made with high-priced coal.

We Have a Major Problem if Both Coal and Oil Production Are in Danger of Falling Because of Low Prices

Oil and coal are the two largest sources of energy in the world. We can’t get along without them. While natural gas production is fairly high, there is not nearly enough natural gas to replace both oil and coal.

Looking down the list, we see that nuclear production hit a maximum back in 2006 and has fallen since then.

Hydroelectric continues to grow, but from a small base. Most of the good sites have already been taken. In many cases, there are conflicts between countries regarding who should get the benefit of water from a given river.

The only grouping that is growing rapidly is Renewables. (This is really Renewables Other than Hydroelectric.) It includes wind and solar plus a few other energy types, including geothermal. This grouping, too, is very small compared to oil and coal.

Natural Gas Has a Low Price Problem as Well

Natural gas, at first glance, looks like it might be a partial solution to the world’s energy problems: It is lower in carbon than coal and oil, and it is fairly abundant. The problem with natural gas is that it is terribly expensive to ship. At one time, people used to talk about there being a lot of “stranded” natural gas. This natural gas seemed to be available, but when shipping costs were included, the price of goods made with it (such as electricity or winter heat for homes) was often unaffordable.

After the run-up in oil prices in the early 2000s, many people became optimistic that, with energy scarcity, natural gas prices would rise sufficiently to make extraction and shipping long distances profitable. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that, while prices can temporarily spike due to scarcity and perhaps a debt bubble, keeping the prices up for the long run is extremely difficult. Customers need to be able to afford the goods and services made with these energy products, or the laws of physics bring market prices back down to an affordable level.

The prices in the chart reflect three different natural gas products. The lowest priced one is US Henry Hub, which is priced near the place of extraction, so long distance shipping is not an issue. The other two, German Import and Japan Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), include different quantities of long distance shipping. Prices in 2020 are even lower than in 2019. For example, some LNG imported by Japan has ben purchased for $4 per million Btu in 2020.

The Economy Needs a Bail-Out Similar to the Growth of Oil After WWII

The oil that was produced shortly after World War II had very important characteristics:

  1. It was very inexpensive to produce, and
  2. It could be sold to customers at a far higher price than its cost of production.

It was as if, today, we had a very useful energy product that could be produced and delivered for $4, but it was so valuable to consumers that they were willing to pay $120 for it. In other words, the consumer was willing to pay 30 times as much as the cost that went into extracting and refining the oil.

With an energy product this valuable, a company producing it would need virtually no debt. It could drill a well or two, and with the profits from the first wells, finance the investment of many more wells. The company could pay very high taxes, allowing governments to build roads, schools, electricity transmission lines and much other infrastructure, without having to raise taxes on citizens.

Besides using the profits for reinvestment and for taxes, oil companies could pay high dividends. This made oil company stocks favorites of pension plans. Thus, in a way, oil company profits could help subsidize pension plans, as well.

Now, because of depletion, we have reached a situation where oil companies, and in fact most companies, are unprofitable. Companies and governments keep adding debt at ever lower interest rates. In fact, the tradition of ever-increasing debt at ever-lower interest rates goes back to 1981. Thus, we have been using debt manipulation to hide energy problems for almost 40 years now.

We need a way to counteract this trend toward ever-lower returns. Some people talk about “Energy Return on Energy Investment” or EROEI. I gave an example in dollars, but a major thing those dollars are buying is energy, so the result is very similar.

I think researchers have set the “bar” far too low, in looking at what is an adequate EROEI. Today’s wind and solar don’t really have an adequate EROEI, when the full cost of delivery is included. If they did, they would not need the subsidy of “going first” on the electric grid. They would also be able to pay high taxes instead of requiring subsidies, year after year. We need much better solutions than the ones we have today.

Some researchers talk about “Net Energy per Capita,” calculated as ((Energy Delivered to the End User) minus (Energy Used in Making and Transporting Energy to the End User)) divided by (Population). It seems to me that Net Energy per Capita needs to stay at least constant, and perhaps rise. If net energy per capita could actually rise, it would allow the economy to increasingly fight depletion and pollution.

Conclusion: We Need a New Very Inexpensive Energy Source Now

We need a new, very inexpensive energy source that buyers will willingly pay a disproportionately high price for right now, not 20 or 50 years from now.

The alternative may be an economy that does poorly for a long time or collapses completely.

The one ray of hope, from a researcher’s perspective, is the fact that people are always looking for solutions. They may be able to provide funds for research at this time, even if funds for full implementation are unlikely.

This entry was posted in Financial Implications 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.

2,885 thoughts on “Fossil Fuel Production Is Reaching Limits in a Strange Way

    • This story has been going on for years, at least 2016, perhaps even 2014. It seems to have started in Cuba.

      It seems to me that today’s “war” is being fought in different ways than the hot wars of the past. This kind of micro wave problem could be one of the ways. The COVID problem that was passed around from China, perhaps preceded by some US viruses passed around to animals. Also, the many intrusions into personal records and financial records by foreign countries.

      • A direct conflict between two nuclear powers is out of the question.

        I know that the Soviets looked at other ways to wage war: proxy wars, using terrorist to launch attacks and so on…

      • I wonder if the NRA is going to demand that people have the right to own a microwave weapon, whatever that looks like? Even if someone can do physical harm to their neighbors without them knowing where it’s coming from. But really owning such a weapon may fit under gun rights.

        • The second amendment protects “arms” suitable for a combat infantryman, not advanced weaponry. The founders wanted the “militia” (all able bodied adult male citizens) to be well practiced (“regulated” in the parlance of the time–as in regular, i.e., trained, versus irregular troops who are just “winging it”) in the use of firearms suitable to an infantryman, so they could be called up in an emergency and already know how to shoot. There was also some concern that their own government might one day, as London had done, turn tyrannical, and the armed citizen in that case would be a last ditch “check” on unbridled government power.

    • How soon we forget. Soviets did the same thing in the Cold War:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509929/#:~:text=From%201953%20to%201976%2C%20beams,other%20Eastern%20European%20US%20embassies.
      From 1953 to 1976, beams of microwaves of 2.5 to 4.0 GHz were aimed at the US embassy building in Moscow. An extensive study investigated the health of embassy staff and their families, comparing Moscow embassy staff with staff in other Eastern European US embassies. The resulting large report has never been published in peer reviewed literature.

      • Actually, the link provides a fairly long write up about this study. It seems to conclude that there is some evidence that the risk of cancer was a higher than normal, but the number of actual deaths was small because mostly young people were exposed to the microwaves.

        The “dose” of microwaves was relatively low back in this period, perhaps more like what we get from our phones today.

    • Absolutely true. The damage is indeed caused by microwaves, and the fearful weapons in question are … cellphones. But then, if rats developed a taste for Warfarin, why shouldn’t the same tactic work on humans?

    • Those energy weapons can’t cause much damage for Swedish politicians and “diplomats” that is for sure.

      A hohlraum between the ears are mostly oblivious to nefarious microwave frequencies.

  1. This seems to be an economic anomaly:

    ““The ships are 100% full. The containers are 100% full. You can’t get a container built. You can’t pick up a ship from the spot market. The whole container-shipping cycle is at absolutely full pulse,” said Jeremy Nixon, CEO of Ocean Network Express, the world’s fifth-largest container line, during an International Chamber of Shipping virtual event last week, cited by FreightWaves. October’s ocean container market is “unbelievable,” he said. “We are sold out.”

    https://wolfstreet.com/2020/10/19/trucking-container-carriers-fedex-ups-other-freight-firms-warn-of-capacity-shortage-expect-americans-to-keep-splurging-despite-jobs-crisis/

    If everything is falling apart, who is buying all the stuff?

    Dennis L.

    • The well-to-do. The businesses that make money from cleaning supplies. Wishful thinking of stores stocking up for Christmas buying that won’t really happen.

          • Full stores may at least be good for the second wave of looters, following in the wake of the second wave of corona lockdowns…

            • Most Americans support lockdowns by a generous margin. Even in places like Arizona and Texas. That may be why Trump has not tried to reopen the economy before the election.

        • This what the local hardware store owner told me when we were discussing $30 sheets of osb. She said her suppliers would only quote for 24 hours.

    • “But this spending and the shift early on in the Pandemic put massive pressures on unprepared supply chains, and retailers ran out of stuff, and supply chains ran dry, and now companies, haunted by supply shortages and lost business and increased lead times and chaos, are trying to load up for a monster stimulus-fed holiday shopping season.

      Everything now depends on stimulus, extra unemployment benefits, eviction bans, foreclosure moratoriums, forbearance, and deferral programs that all rechannel funds into purchases of consumer goods, and a lot of these goods, or their components, are imported. Somebody better produce another big-fat stimulus bill and keep eviction bans and forbearance programs going, or else these companies will face economic reality.”

      or else the average American will face economic reality.

      the big-fat stimulus cannot continue much longer.

      consumer spending will revert downward in 2021.

    • With air travel and air “shipment” hit hardest by covid, it is not to wonder why container ships are fully booked.

  2. Meanwhile in .pt the Order of Physicians (the public entity that serves as the regulatory and licensing body for medical practitioners) is now trying to muzzle a group of Doctors for the Truth, in a thorough spanish inquisition style.

    https://observador.pt/especiais/medicos-pela-verdade-ordem-abre-processo-contra-movimento-que-nega-a-gravidade-da-covid-19/

    And here’s an epidemiologist clown saying two completely contradictory “scientific truths” in three months. In April he said masks were useless in open spaces, and that he himself never uses it in his hospital except for surgical procedures. In September the science had apparently changed and the same clown considers now that masks must always be mandatory. It’s 21st century science!

      • During these last few months I have come to believe that surgical mask are mostly lore …

      • I’ve read several studies similar to this one recently. Some showed masks make a difference in the operating theater and some show they don’t.

        That apart, there is a growing list of specialists who have been coming forward with the opinion that wearing masks in the street or in shops, offices and restaurants is not something that needs to be mandated. But tell this to your normie friends and they will go red in the face and the veins start throbbing in their temples.

        There is a huge Leonardo stick dome of mutually reinforcing pseudo facts that support the world view of the average normie. Start knocking away those sticks and pretty soon the entire edifice will collapse leaving said normie pounding their fists surrounded by a pile of cognitive dissonance. Instinctively every normie knows this, which is why they will stick their fingers in their ears and close their eyes in the presence of heretics and grit their teeth at the task of defending the faith, the philosophy and dogma propounded by their mass-media mind controllers. Anything is better than having to do their own thinking.

        The “authorities” have flip/flopped quite a bit on wearing masks. And the normies flip and flop in concert, trained as they are to respond to any injunction from above like a dog to its master or like kindergarten kids playing a game of “O’Grady says”.

        Bottom line, masks work a bit, but not enough to make a difference to people’s ultimate risk of catching Covid-19. We are all going to get it. 99% of us will be fine.

        Free sovereign individuals should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to wear or not wear face coverings. If you are living in a place where you are not free to choose whether to wear a mask in public, you are living in a totalitarian dictatorship, period.

        First they came for the Muslims, telling them they were not allowed to cover their faces. But I did nothing because I wasn’t a Muslim.

        Then they came for me.

        But on the up-side, New Zealand reports that they didn’t have a single case of influenza last winter. First Time Evah! Wonderful!

        • An actual experiment (on animals to keep it ethical) showed that masks are indeed effective. I am unaware of any carefully controlled experiment that got different results.

          BTW, the purpose of masks is not to protect you as an individual (although it does of course do that to some extent), but to reduce the number of people who retransmit it to other people, either because they are already infected, or because, if they do get infected, they are likely to infect 1 or more persons later. It’s all about getting that transmission below 1.

          You have to think about the population level effects, not your individual risk/reward ratio. This is not like smoking or seat belts where you may kill yourself but you are not a threat to society. The health authorities want to reduce the risk that you will become a carrier. Think mathematically.

          To control an epidemic, you need either a smart population or an obedient population. God help everyone if you have neither.

      • Lydia,

        When working on people, there are fluids splashing, if electrosurgery is being done there are tissues being vaporized and going into the air even with suction. Were it not for the fact surgical personnel are working on people and instead working on similar chemicals, bacteria, and viruses, there would be many regulations for the protection of the staff.

        In the ER, when people come in injured, the staff goes to work, it is risky work, it is easy to slip, people move around. In both the OR and the ER if people need intubation it is done, patients can cough or buck during this procedure. Health histories can be sketchy at this time.

        Patients can be infected with all the hepatitis viruses, TB is now in some cases not treatable, herpetic lesions on the lips can be blown into the eye or eyes.

        Getting things to work well is tough enough without playing cowboy in surgical suites. Open some one up, there are real risks, when something does not work as planned(they are called complications) one of the first things done is to review the procedure, it is very stressful.

        “Is a mask necessary in the operating theatre?” Doing something like this is a dumb risk, medico-legally, it is nutz.

        Dennis L.

      • What this sold-out portuguese epidemiologist is doing here it’s only the same as many others are doing around the world: following orders from their (and our) masters.
        I don’t follow Egas’s legend, but i would bet that hearing his name most portuguese would say “who?” Honestly, i never got the impression he is idolized here. Anyway, what’s wrong with bringing peace to a disturbed mind with a steel pickaxe?!

  3. As I receive these notes I post copies fyi, I have a WI license which is why they are sent.

    This C-19 is terrible for social interaction, in Rochester we have a wonderful senior center, 125 Live, which I am back to using with a trainer. I can let my body irreversibly decline faster or more slowly, heck of a choice with C-19 thrown into the brew.

    Dear DSPS credential holder,
    The state continues to record a high number of positive COVID-19 tests every day, and our seven-day average is above 3,000. An alternate care facility at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in West Allis has been open since last Wednesday. Earlier this year, our agency helped stand up the site. Now, some COVID-19 patients will move to the field hospital to continue treatment when the hospitals where they began their care need to make room for more acute patients. Governor Evers has said that we developed the alternate care facility so that it would be there if we needed it, but he had hoped we never would. Yet here we are.

    Every county in Wisconsin is experiencing high levels of COVID-19, and several of our communities are among the worst in the country for disease activity. We are setting records for numbers of cases and hospitalizations, and the health care system is bracing for things to get worse before they get better.

    Governor Evers and the entire administration are taking steps to respond to this crisis. He recently issued Emergency Order 2 to give the Wisconsin health care system the flexibility it needs to quickly augment staff and to treat patients outside of traditional clinical settings. Licensed providers from other states can obtain temporary licenses to practice in Wisconsin during the public health emergency, and Wisconsin licensees who left practice can renew their licenses with no continuing education requirements or late fees. Forms are available on our website.

    We are also supporting the Department of Health Services and their efforts to recruit health care volunteers. The state is using the Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer Registry (WEAVR). WEAVR is a web-based online registration system for health professional volunteers willing to serve in an emergency. The state uses WEAVR to facilitate health and medical response through identification, credentialing, and deployment of volunteers. We have asked health care professionals to consider registering to volunteer.

    At our agency, we have been taking the steps to adapt to our new environment and to offer flexibility to credential holders seeking renewal or individuals seeking initial licensing. We are working with boards to address testing requirements while examinations are postponed, and we are extending continuing education deadlines when we have the authority to do so. We want to do what we can to ensure that our licensees can remain in the workforce.

    We have implemented virtual building inspections to minimize the interaction between our staff and our customers. We are encouraging electronic plan submission, again to limit in-person contact between customers and staff, and we have created several tools to assist individuals as they transition from paper to digital submittal. We have also developed safety resources for public employees using PPE for the first time and for facilities departments that are adjusting their cleaning and disinfecting protocols and adding new supplies.

    We are also supporting the administration on recovery efforts. The economic impact has been profound, and many of our customers are struggling. Governor Evers continues to look for ways to help Wisconsin businesses to stay afloat, and he recently announced round two of the We’re All In grant program. This round of grants will award $50 million to Wisconsin small businesses that have been hurt by the pandemic. I encourage you to review eligibility and consider applying.

    We will continue to work closely with the governor to identify other programs and efforts that will help businesses and individuals survive these difficult times. You can expect to hear about more opportunities in the coming months.

    Otherwise, there are things we can all do to help turn the tide on the pandemic. We can do the simple things like washing our hands and wearing masks. Governor Evers issued a statewide mask mandate, and it requires us to wear masks indoors (in most instances) when we are not at home. Science shows that we can reduce COVID-19 transmission when we all wear a face covering.

    We also must do some harder things. As much as we all want to be together again, we still should avoid indoor gatherings and minimize our contact with people who do not live in the same residence. We should also maintain at least six feet of physical distance when possible, especially—but not only—inside. There have been incidents of outdoor transmission between individuals who did not maintain physical distance.

    The loss of our usual gatherings continues to be among the bigger sacrifices for many of us. We want to go to restaurants, take vacations, and invite friends and family to join us in celebrating birthdays and weddings and holidays. We want to return to movie theaters, concert halls, and sports stadiums. Sadly, we cannot do any of those things safely until we get the coronavirus under control, and it is not under control.

    I want our DSPS customers to weather this storm, and I will keep working with you and for you. And I ask you to do whatever you can to keep yourself, your family, your customers, your employees, and your community safe. The fastest way out of this pandemic is for us to follow a plan based on science and for us all to work together.

    Sincerely,

    DawnCrim

    Dawn B. Crim

    Secretary-designee

    End of Email from DSPS.

    “The fastest way out of this pandemic is for us to follow a plan based on science and for us all to work together. ”

    I don’t really know what a plan based on science looks like, every scientist seems to have an opinion.

    I am on a list to receive Covid updates in Zoom meetings from Mayo, that is helpful.

    Dennis L.

    • Deaths haven’t happened in the US either. Actually, worldwide.

      Looks like a combination of more complete reporting of cases and younger people affected. Improving treatments may play a role as well.

      • Yes, treatments have improved. And maybe mutations in the virus are making it less lethal, but I don’t have any recent info on that. If Trump had gotten sick in March instead of October, Biden might be running against President Pence.

        • Sleepy is not running at all, he is hiding for months in a cellar somewhere, only on few occasions venturing outside into uber tiny mini crowds, compare contrast to incumbent touring public mega rallies on the campaign..

          Now the leaks from the Sleepy Inc. criminal enterprise suggest they even had ~ $1B throughput in trading/bank accounts for various kickbacks from Chinese MNCs.. ; so in that light my previous assessment was not correct, he/family/gang is not of such subpar pedigree vs. say Clintonoids; perhaps and very likely there is some overall umbrella racket organization for the Dems, as Kerry is listed as partner in this scheme as well.. so part of the money is financing various dirty plays in domestic politics, and some portion is used on personal consumption..

        • “Yes, treatments have improved. And maybe mutations in the virus are making it less lethal, but I don’t have any recent info on that. If Trump had gotten sick in March instead of October, Biden might be running against President Pence.”

          … or maybe this virus isn’t so dangerous after all?

          • It is for Trump. He is 74, male, overweight, and has a less than exemplary diet. Luckily, he was tested immediately (no waiting!), it was detected immediately, he was immediately swept off to a hospital, and he received first class medical treatment with no expense spared.

      • As I understand, improved treatments mainly means that bad treatements that worsened the situation were discarded and not much is done now

        Btw, I’ve seen Spain’s deaths counts, and while in april deaths tripled the total ytd count suggests total yearly deaths will be lower than 5 yr average

        • @avocado, Total death rates always go down as unemployment goes up (even though more people “off” themselves). Also go down when fewer people make unnecessary trips to the doctor or hospital. And of course respiratory infections generally are going to be down. The effect may well be big enough in some countries to offset covid deaths by year end.

          • As the US military experienced.

            The covid precausions reduced the overall sick leave.

    • because the 2020 excess deaths have been so high, taking away so many older persons with comorbidities, the 2021 deaths will probably be below the baseline average.

      I could make that a prediction, but human intervention in the natural progression of the spread of this virus has skewed the data, so it’s hard to predict because 2021 human intervention is unknown.

      but yes, 2021 deaths below the baseline average.

  4. Meanwhile on an asteroid near you, looking for the good stuff. Maybe a solid lump of titanium would be nice, skip iron, stuff rusts, lower melting point, hey, maybe drop it on earth without a chute?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6K2dqCoin8

    And, currently it is live, live from an asteroid with a slight delay secondary to the speed of light, we are working on that one and will have a solution shortly.

    Dennis L.

  5. Not going to watch this very long, they had a blurb about locational accuracy, about .6m, well, do it a few times and they will get it right, eh?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6K2dqCoin8

    Look mom, no spaceman! Technology marches on.

    Ah, they are learning, latest positional accuracy is 0.5m, practice a bit.

    Now, back to our regularly scheduled doomer programing – it is a joke, please, nobody take it seriously.

    Dennis L.

    • you are a good counterbalance to the Doomers.

      from Wikipedia:

      “OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is a NASA asteroid-study and sample-return mission.[10] The mission’s primary goal is to obtain a sample of at least 60 grams (2.1 oz)…”

      “The cost of the mission is approximately US$800 million not including the Atlas V launch vehicle, which is about US$183.5 million.”

      so about $1 billion for 2 ounces.

      $8 billion per pound.

      perhaps as the technology improves, they can get that cost down a bit.

        • Connecting the two cables directly onto the chassis. A dead short. 🤔

          I’m sure that’s the way I sound to the common man when I’m discussing some intricacies and detail with other engineers. 😳

          The world is a magic place for most people. A magic that is expected to work every time while being completely oblivious to its workings at every step of the process.

  6. Came back to video, went about 50 minutes in, this is incredible, the size of this asteriod, finding it 330 million KM from earth, moving at 50 km/sec from earth, at 54 minutes in video positional location within .4m.

    Communication time one way is close to 19 minutes.

    Skipping ahead to see if they can snatch a sample, they are matching rotation of the asteroid, that is impressive orbital mechanics.

    1:07 touch and go mode, kiss the asteroid and snatch a sample. 1:13, going in, touch down, sampling in progress, now a return trip of say 330 million KM back to earth.

    1:14 sampling complete

    1:15 they are thrusting away from the planet.

    In the video is mentioned a team of students at MIT designed part of the experiment.

    1:21 Mention made how close this asteroid is to earth. 1.2B mile total trip, close neighbor.

    1:23 asteroid 300 meters long(may be wrong on that), rich in iron oxide, nope, trial run only, we want titanium, end of iron age start of titanium age.

    Build a thousand of them, on the moon, launch and go exploring to determine which ones can be mined economically.

    During the mission time to explore for suitable asteroids, technology moves on, build the next parts guessing things of value will be found.

    1:26, sample will return to earth in 2023.

    My thesis is a 100 year project for man, current thinking without breakthroughs has civilization failing by 2021 – for me that is not an option.

    If this does not cause you wonder, nothing ever will.

    Dennis L.

    • yes, it is absolutely amazing (really, no sarc).

      a billion dollars can do amazing things.

      the two ounces of material is a good start (yes, sarc)!

      2021 looks good to me.

      as long as we maintain our health, we should make it through.

      within a decade or two, failure is the only option for IC.

      yes, I am a slow Doomer.

  7. re artleads
    “Finally, crisis housing isn’t a “real” problem? Check in with a homeless person.”
    I was homeless as a adolescent. Two years. Im dating myself but the salvation army used to have these big collection bins for donations. I would drop myself in the hatch and snuggle up with all the clothes people donated. Ive slept in a Montana rest stop in january in 2 foot of snow in a Vietnam body bag with a ECW sleeping bag.
    Im fond of shelter.
    owner builder
    Ive been at it a bit.
    Ive built or participated in building omost all of the methods shown here
    http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/index.htm
    Ive built a few primitive shelters. I would put anything in the $500 class in that catagory.Built one with a good friend . 100 square feet. And the house with all amenities was 200 yards away. He actually met his wife living there. Then it didnt fly anymore.
    What sustained him was the house. Food from town.
    There is a guy around who does it for real. camps 12 months a year. Climate zone 7. he is a tough dude. but he comes into town everyday.
    What sustains him is town

    I would put the success rate at about 10% for owner builders. Stage 1 is talk. stage 2 is acquiring land.
    Most then just end up in a tough shed or a shipping container their talk of a fiber modified yurt or whatever just that. talk.
    Stage 3 is busting ass.
    Everyone has there ideas. I certainly did/do. Nowadays I I dontreally care. Design doesnt matter. Stick frame. Straw bale. earth bag whatever. It doesnt matter.
    What matters is busting ass.
    Like I said i have my ideas. r60 walls r80 roof. passive solar. under1000 sq feet. Passive solar. recycled materials. I have 3 to my name. each one got better. I may still judge somones design but respect comes from busting ass. busting ass makes it happen.
    Forgive me if I am unexcited about this or that idea. Ive seen a million ideas expressed. Making it out of this or that and its “sustainable”. If its any consolation when I look at the ones I did even as sustainable as they are.. Houses are not what sustains us. We could have ten people living in a 1000 sq foot house not .2. I feel the wear and tear on my body. Was anything really accomplished? Did my actions lead to a real path of a relationship to the planet? It is what it is. Is what I did that much more sustainable than a hillbilly hauling a 1968 manufactured home out to his piece and stacking straw bales around it? My builds are way nicer to live in. But more sustainable? My body hurts.

    • Thanks for your “on the ground” report of what really happens.

      With jobs disappearing and food supply chains being uncertain, it seems to me that quick movement to new locations and quick build times are likely important. Homes that can be put together with local materials in a day or two, with the help of family and friends, are to be preferred. Return on “energy invested” will be very high.

    • @ misanthropr#7

      I don’t rule out any form of help. I’m pretty sure the average homeless person will do a much less presentable and sustainable job than an organization which included folks with your kind of experience. I’m focused on the Tropics, where shelter can be much more simple. Oversight by a somewhat centralized (but non bureaucratic) organization is needed for commonsense but very thorough management. This is not about individual solutions.

  8. UFOs and Evolutionary Psychology:

    one idea in EP is that the human mind evolved with a bias towards false positives. A person might think that the human mind would evolve with as close a connection to reality as possible, but the bias towards false positives is thought of as a survival benefit.

    the human tendency to see faces in many objects is one detail. We all have done this: in the shape of a cloud, perhaps the appearance of bark on a tree trunk.

    example: a tribesman thinks he sees the face of a lion in a bush up ahead. If there is no lion, that is a false positive and probably inconsequential.

    if there is indeed a lion up ahead and a person does not see the face in the bush, that is a false negative and could have grave consequences.

    so because the mind cannot grasp reality perfectly, evolution has favored this bias towards the mind creating mental patterns of false positives.

    UFOs:

    a person sees what he considers to be an unidentified light in the night sky. His mind does its usual thing and tries to make sense of what has been seen. Since the bias is towards false positives, he considers the light to be a flying object. This thought pattern is probably going to be inconsequential, as most false positives are usually inconsequential.

    The mind creates the false positive that it is indeed a UFO, and no big deal.

    a last thought, perhaps many or even most con.spear.acy theories are mind patterns that are false positives and therefore usually inconsequential, but the human mind inescapably produces these false positives nonetheless.

    • david… I agree entirely. We accept false positives for precisely the reasons you give, formally called the “precautionary principle”, ie ‘just in case it’s a lion … better run’.

      We also have another mental quirk: we tend to see agency even where it is not. So lightning is not random; it is Zeus being angry. My cow getting sick is not bad luck; it is a witch. My recovering from being turned into a newt is not good luck; it is the intervention of the Blessed Stellio. And, of course, Tump’s victory was … Russian meddling.

      Again, that may in some cases serve a useful purpose, but in most, as you correctly point out, it spawns conspiracy theories.
      And conspiracy theories are useful only to conspirators, who hide behind them.

    • Very interesting, thanks.

      ‘Faces’ in clouds suggest a basic ‘truth’ about our ‘humanisation’ of reality.

      Arguably the entire ‘moral world’ is a projection of subjective sentiment, in which case ‘false positives’ or something like it is very much structural to evolved human experience.

      We have evolved not to see the world ‘as it is’ but in a manner that ‘suits’ us. The purpose of evolution is to adapt the species, and any ‘objectivity’ is a by-product of that adaptation. In practice, the result is a ‘meld’ of the subjective and the objective.

      The ‘world’ is our own ‘representation’ of it, a product of the brain, and we have adorned it with our own sentiments. The whole of aesthetics is a subjectification, an embellishment of reality and so is morality.

      It is ‘faces in the clouds’. But it all helps us to ‘adapt’, so it is fine. Indeed it gives us something to ponder and thus it has leisure value too. Humans are our very own ‘curiosity’ object – the subject as object to the subject.

    • People are looking for broader patterns as well. People who put together religious documents looked for truths that they could pass on to others. They, too, wanted to give a reason for hope, so might have a bias in that direction.

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