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

  1. Facts coming out of the (free) Beyond Oil seminar.

    – Renewable power generation is now cheaper than FF and the price continues to fall quite fast.
    – New battery tech approaching production ready.

    “Governments all around the world are using the coronavirus crisis to get behind major initiatives in renewable energy, and reduce both their carbon output and their dependence on overseas oil.

    As the world comes out of this crisis, investing in new skills, jobs and physical energy infrastructure in the renewables space will boost economies and the fight against climate change.”

    Based on their material, our best hope to avoid fast collapse is a fast ramp up of renewables so we can preserve FF for critical uses.

    Gail’s figures say that’s not possible for everyone. Not enough net energy.

    Perhaps TPTB will cull a number of countries out of the current industrial civilisation group and leave them to go third world, so a smaller group can carry on with the remaining FF.

    That’s Orlov’s latest theory anyway.

    That means more colour revolutions folks. BLM?

    • The “facts” you are quoting in the beginning are not facts. Intermittent electricity from wind and solar is in no way equivalent to dispatch-able electricity.

      There might be new batteries, but the issue is storing electricity from summer to winter. This doesn’t work with any battery.

      • There are basically two approaches (extremes) for batt storage in offgrid or hybrid mode with backup:

        – rich people can afford to overspend on gargantuan seasonal buffer
        (having battery capacity ~3-5x larger than usually advertised)

        – while rest of the people must heavily under size their system
        (doing without – no drier or big oven etc, counting every kW/h and eliminating previous appliance dependency in several steps)

        • It seems like most people use something like burned wood for heating plus something like bottled gas for cooking. Gasoline or diesel is used for operating equipment of any kind. A solar hot water heater is used for heating hot water. Clothes are hung outside on a line to dry. The only thing electricity is used for is a few minor usages like operating a clothes washer, television, computer, and lights. Perhaps with such limited usage such as that, battery capacity 3 to 5 times larger than usually advertised might be useful for seasonal backup, especially if you are depending on a backup generator powered by diesel.

          If you are actually planning on doing very much with solar, then I expect that you need a whole lot more solar panels and seasonal storage becomes much more of a problem.

          People don’t stop to think that manufacturing is a heavy user of electricity. Food growing, transport, and processing is a heavy user of both oil processing and diesel. Doing a few minor things at home with solar panels doesn’t do a whole lot for the overall system, I am afraid.

        • I just got quotation for my house PV gear:
          – 6,75 kWp,
          – 3 storage modules 3.6kVA 4.8kWh each,
          – off-grid autonomous installation.
          Almost 19 k$ incl. VAT all together. Crazy.

          • You can get such gear for fraction of the cost (perhaps 1/3-1/2), installed diy and preferably not mounted on the roof (avoid other issues). As that price very likely includes some mark up for the storage system (OEM proprietary) as well as hefty installer fee..

            Besides you can’t run much on ~3.6kVA/5kWh anyway -> that’s very poor household (energy-power starved) situation.. relatively speaking.
            However, in some crazy regions-countries you can knock the price down via “green” subsidies. If the economy doesn’t collapse immediately in ~3-5yrs, it’s perhaps advisable to wait for better offers (and specs) down the road..

      • A possible system for storing electricity from summer to winter could be using surplus electricity to move electricity powered locomotives running off of catenaries like a trolly, to tow unit trains, perhaps filled with rock, to a significantly higher elevation, then use regenerative braking for the trains to bring them down to a lower elevation to put electricity into the grid. It would only require one set of tracks between the different elevations, although two might be more convenient. The storage area at the top and bottom could consist of as many parallel sets of tracks as needed for the storage capacity.

        This is essentially the same concept as pumped storage where the water is moved to a higher elevation, except that no dams or water are required.

        I originally thought of this in regards to west Texas, where there is limited capacity for pumped storage, but significant area for dry storage. And lots of wind power, which is more available at night, with limited spare capacity for peak generation to move in the electrical infrastructure. In addition, peak residential usage is for air-conditioning, which is not normally at night.

        Regards, Dave

        • You could never build enough trains to do this. The materials/cost of the trains would be very high. You would have to have trains to roll back down whenever you need electricity in the winter, which would be pretty much continuously.

          • Messed up my reply, wrong location. Milwaukee Road did this , used trains going downhill to move those going uphill, some losses of course, etc. Took it all out, went diesel.

            Dennis L.

            • A rather old idea. The Pharos of Alexandria installed an elevator (the world’s first). The tourists, of whom there were many, walked up to the top, and rode the elevator back down. The counterweight was a pile of wood, which of course on being raised to the top helped feed the fire. And after about 100 AD the tourists got to see the world’s first Fresnel Lens.

            • am interested in your comment about the fresnel lens

              i thought it was invented in the early 1800s?

            • For Norman: the mathematics underlying the Fresnel lens can be found in the Catoptera of Heron of Alexandria. Its realisation is problematic, granted, but contemporary accounts of the light emitted by the Pharos seem to admit of no other explanation.

              The key insight, by the way, was Heron’s “least time” (‘brachistochrone’) theorem: that light always adopts the path that takes least time. From that, the law of reflection falls out in one diagram, and Snell’s law of refraction falls out in three lines. We know Heron built a parabolic reflector; the Fresnel lens is simply an adaptation of that principle to refraction rather than reflection.

            • Norman and Robert,

              “We are a species with amnesia.”
              — Graham Hancock.

          • For a start, one could use all of the rail cars now used to haul coal to the coal fired power stations, the electric locomotives wouldn’t need to stay with the weight trains.

            And they would be a benefit if they were useful enough to balance out cloudy days for solar, or calm days for wind power. Right now, gas turbine have to be slowed or taken of line when renewables are plentiful relative to the demand, then be spun up again. Not only is it inefficient, it makes the gas plants hard to amortize, which gets passed through to the rate payers.

            If we are to continue to support our current world population, its clear no one thing will solve our energy problem. For any major base load electricity replacement we probably would have to use a major increase some type of nuclear power, except we are scared to death of it. I understand that at one point France got 80% of there electricity that way, reprocessed the fuel, and never had a noticeable incident.

            There are many small things that could be done, but we would have to increase the incentives substantially. For example, a fossil carbon tax sufficient to replace the payroll tax for social security would result in about a $5 increase in gas prices at the pump, with similar increases for electricity generation. However, none of the politicians would ever off-set such a tax, they almost immediately start talking about all the good new things they can do with the new source to money. And I don’t trust them as far as I could through them!

            Wish I could stick around to see how it all turns out!

  2. Gail

    UFO information is classified Top Secret.

    I don’t have access to the information…for obvious reasons.

    James Fox was told by his secret contact (Bigelow?) who was told by a Pentagon big wig (Deputy Secretary of Defence?) that They Are Walking Among US.

    Dr. Kit Green’s paper is on line…

    Clinical Medical Acute & Subacute Field Effects On Human Dermal & Neurological Tissues

    …but it only deals with unclassified information.

    The phenomenon is secretive with a clandestine agenda.

  3. Can you imagine just lying in bed for 5 years, scoffing deliveries of fast food all day?

    They had to use a crane to get him to hospital lol.

    > Britain’s 50-stone fattest man is hoisted out of his flat by CRANE for treatment after takeaway addict’s 10,000-calorie-a-day eating habit left him stuck inside for five years

    Jason Holton, 30, from Camberley, Surrey, (left, in his hospital bed) signed up to JustEat in 2014 and spent £30 a day on takeaways, including doner kebab meat, chips and chicken chow mein washed down with 1.5 litres of orange juice and five cans of diet coke. He became depressed and ‘waited for my heart to give up’, but eventually called the emergency services and was winched out of his two-bed maisonette (right – with the window he was removed from circled in red) in a seven-hour operation that involved structural engineers propping up the floor in case he fell.

  4. Re: consciousness

    It has always been my own intuition that consciousness is in some sense an activity of energy. After all, if consciousness is not a ‘property’ of matter, which seems a not entirely unreasonable assumption, then that only obviously leaves energy. The human body is a dissipative structure and consciousness is a byproduct of that energy dissipation.

    It is unclear whether the present neuroscientist sees consciousness as epiphenomenal to the electromagnetic field that is produced by electrical signal transmissions in the brain. He seems to call the field a ‘byproduct’ and yet he seems to attribute agency or causality to it, which seems to be a confusion of language. Presumably he knows what ‘byproduct’ means.

    > Human consciousness is created by the brain’s ‘energy field’ which comes from the electric signals of the organ’s neurons, claims scientist

    A professor of neuroscience at the University of Surrey claims to have solved the long-standing mystery of what creates human consciousness.

    According to Dr Johnjoe McFadden, the electromagnetic field produced by the brain’s neurons is what produces this uniquely human trait.

    Vast amounts of research has gone into deciphering why humans have awareness of one’s own existence, whereas other animals do not. [?]

    Previous attempts to understand this have involved the spiritual and supernatural, including suggesting it comes from a soul.

    But Professor McFadden is basing his theory, published in the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness, on well-known scientific fact.

    ‘How brain matter becomes aware and manages to think is a mystery that has been pondered by philosophers, theologians, mystics and ordinary people for millennia,’ he says.

    ‘I believe this mystery has now been solved, and that consciousness is the experience of nerves plugging into the brain’s self-generated electromagnetic field to drive what we call “free will” and our voluntary actions.’

    Much of the brain’s function remains a mystery but scientists do know that messages are passed around by tiny electrical signals via specialised cells called neurons.

    As a result, the brain creates a small electromagnetic field, also an established fact.

    It is routinely detected by brain-scanning techniques such as electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) but has been dismissed as irrelevant. [emphasis added – maybe that is what consciousness is in a causal sense]

    But Professor McFadden believes it is far from irrelevant and is instead the answer to one of the most enduring riddles in science.

    In his article, he explains that this field is created by the very messages which constitute a person, a byproduct of every thought, movement and process. [emphasis added]

    As a result, he suggests, it is the very core of what constitutes consciousness, driving free will and all voluntary actions. [emphasis added]

    It remains purely theoretical and it is currently completely unknown as to how this could be proved. [an important point. presumably by playing about with the electromagnetic field itself in an isolated manner, if that is possible, and report what happens]

    However, Professor McFadden is bullish about the potential of his theory, saying it could lead to the development of consciousness in robots….

    • A bit more on the McFadden theory.

      > New Theory Suggests Consciousness Is the Brain’s “Energy Field”

      …. Most scientists today have discarded this view, known as dualism, to embrace a ‘monistic’ view of a consciousness generated by the brain itself and its network of billions of nerves. By contrast, McFadden proposes a scientific form of dualism based on the difference between matter and energy, rather than matter and soul.

      The theory is based on scientific fact: when neurons in the brain and nervous system fire, they not only send the familiar electrical signal down the wire-like nerve fibres, but they also send a pulse of electromagnetic energy into the surrounding tissue. Such energy is usually disregarded, yet it carries the same information as nerve firings, but as an immaterial wave of energy, rather than a flow of atoms in and out of the nerves.

      This electromagnetic field is well-known and is routinely detected by brain-scanning techniques such as electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) but has previously been dismissed as irrelevant to brain function. Instead, McFadden proposes that the brain’s information- rich electromagnetic field is in fact itself the seat of consciousness, driving ‘free will’ and voluntary actions….

      • The “theory of consciousness” seems to be a crowded field. I find lots of entries when I look for it on Google.

        Even “McFadden Theory of Consciousness” leads to a huge number of hits. Apparently, McFadden’s theory is from 2002 and later (2013), and others have been writing on related subjects.

        One that sounds interesting:

        The Electromagnetic Brain: EM Field Theories on the Nature of Consciousness
        By Shelli Renée Joye · 2020 (Available November 10, 2020)

        • Details, in nontechnical terms, 12 credible theories, each published by prominent professionals with extensive scientific credentials, that describe how electromagnetic fields may be the basis for consciousness

        • Explores the work of William Köhler, Susan Pockett, Johnjoe McFadden, Rupert Sheldrake, Ervin Laszlo, William Tiller, Harold Saxton Burr, Sir Roger Penrose, Stuart Hameroff, Mari Jibu, Kunio Yasue, Karl Pribram, Alfred North Whitehead, and James Clerk Maxwell, as well as the author’s own theories.

      • Mmm, yeah, some more “magic” attributed on what conciousness is.

        It’s about time to come to the realization that not all manifestation have a measurable property.

        Mathematics is a manifestation of human affairs. Can you measure mathematics? Is it possible to measure a great book? How about a good song and movie? It depends on the context, right?

        Natural Law does not depend on context. It simply just is. And it is ulitmately beyond our comprehension. Because a hallucination isn’t a manifestation of objective reality. It is a phenomenon of computation.

        We’d be stuck in infinite recursion and regression trying to reverse engineer the brain and the computation that give rise to subjective experience.

    • Google-translated from French:

      > Our consciousness could come from electromagnetic waves

      …. At the root of all reasoning about consciousness is what McFadden refers to as “the linking problem” – understanding our ability to integrate information across time, space, attributes and ideas in a conscious mind. Concretely, how are the disparate components of a visual scene (colors, textures, lines, movements, etc.), which are nevertheless processed in distinct regions of the brain, brought together to form a unified conscious percept? This type of problem, involving the planning and execution of several sequential steps, is nevertheless instantly grasped and resolved in its entirety as integrated information. The challenge is therefore to understand how the brain achieves this integration.

      McFadden points out that according to physicist Rolf Landauer, “information is physical”, so integrated information, if it exists, must be encoded by a physically integrated substrate. However, there are physical systems which encode information integrated in space in a single instant: force fields. For example, the electromagnetic field represents at any point in space an integration of information concerning the type, distribution and movement of local charges. Unlike temporal integration, force fields physically integrate complex information that can be downloaded simultaneously from any point in the field.

      This is what led McFadden to his theory. “The idea that the seat of consciousness is simply the electromagnetic field of the brain may initially sound bizarre, but is no more extraordinary than the claim that the seat of consciousness is the matter of the brain,” he points out. According to him, it is therefore in the electromagnetic field of the brain that the information encoded in millions of physically separated neurons would be gathered. It is in this energy field that the problems would be understood in their entirety.

      The author recognizes that many questions remain unanswered, such as the degree and extent of synchrony required to encode conscious thoughts, the potential influence of drugs on the electromagnetic field, etc. In the meantime, McFadden believes that the fact that we have not yet succeeded in creating robots with conscience, or “sentimental” artificial intelligence , is proof that the models of conscience proposed so far are incorrect. According to his own theory, it would suffice to recreate in a machine the field of electric waves generated in our brain to breathe a bit of consciousness into it….

  5. You don’t have to agree with me, but then you soon discover how it feels being wrong.

    Yes, it is happening everywhere, even in Russia.

    “The massive surge in demand for bicycles during the Covid-19 shutdown has caused shortages of bikes worldwide, with the industry warning that anyone leaving their shopping too late is likely to be disappointed this holiday season.”

    It’s about time for the OFW crowd to place the orders filling up those empty, oh well, they aren’t so empty after all, container ships with bicycles and tricycles.

    Then it is simply a matter of following the #Rules.

    • Yes, even if we get some sort of very interim period of quasi UBI – say from months upto few years only – the changes in attitudes (and consumption habits) will be significant.

      Similarly shocking could be a scenario in which Asia goes suddenly circular autarky, shutting down exports etc..

      I recall debating elderly gentleman on the street this very summer, discussing pros and cons of his new shiny ebike (model/brand) choice.
      I was quite perplexed how informed he was on the complex subject.

        • As they report in the article, it’s a combination of factors: large spike in demand (buyer’s mania) people having more free time, also perhaps urge wanting “to have a nice thing” in depressing times, and $50k pickup is out of question, so lets have a nice bike instead.. plus as they explained the supply chain is somewhat broken. And I can verify many shops have very little to choose from, there is always the wrong color/model/size available only etc..

          It’s a bit similar to previous manias in weapons/bullets, low production volume sports cars from the big auto, various seasonal gardening supplies if/when the weather is off several months suddenly etc..

          • Yes, a shortage does not equal an absence of bicycles. But finding one that is half-decent and according to your size and intended use isn’t easy.

            The upper mid-range and high-end bicycles are still somewhat available due to their fatter margins. I got my carbon fibre gravel bike in two weeks some time ago and now it is out of stock.

            Bicycles, parts, accessories and clothing seems to fly off the shelves as we are approaching the holiday season.

    • Vegetarian food from India is absolutely fantastic.

      I gotta play that tune on my stereo rig.

      The best part of India is Hinduism adapted for export – Buddhism.

      “I am not the first Buddha who came upon Earth, nor shall I be the last. In due time, another Buddha will arise in the world – a Holy One, a supremely enlightened One, endowed with wisdom in conduct, auspicious, knowing the universe, an incomparable leader of men, a master of angels and mortals.”
      — Siddhartha Gautama

      Now, what, not who, will Buddha 2.0 be? 🤔

    • I suppose one aspect of this is that Evangelical Churches in Latam dislike gays, so CC must differentiate itself. Good move, I suppose it will pay back

    • RCC is still saying that gay s/x is a mortal sin, in so far as it ever says anything these days. The official ‘Catechism’ still calls it ‘gravely disordered’. Nothing official has been changed.

      This is all about PR for RCC. Not even RC take this pope seriously.

      Civil unions would have been considered ‘a near occasion of grave sin’ in the past, a situation of temptation. RCC could not care less about ‘souls’ any more, only about its only status, money and influence in a secularised world.

      It should do the world a favour and just shut down, but then they would have to get proper jobs.

          • To say it is legal in locations might be misleading. I mean, do you really need to have a law against it?

            • Such p/rn is legal in nearly all of USA. It is not a good international image.

          • I like how “Fine” is one of the labels. Hooray, Wikipedia says bestiality is fine in Russia!

            • (Never mind, no I didn’t.)

              I always thought that if Greece, Wales, and New Zealand formed some kind of alliance, they could be the OPEC of sheep-shagging!

            • This reminds me of a story: A Kiwi farmer is on holiday in Aus when he meets an Oz farmer. They start talking and after a while the Oz farmer invites the Kiwi back to his farm to have a look around and compare notes. Whilst out down the back paddock they come across a sheep with its head caught up in the wire fence. The Kiwi farmer says “Hey mate, do ya know what we do in NZ whun we find a sheep like this?” Then he drops his trousers and starts rooting the sheep. After he finishes he turns to the Aussie and says “Wuld ya like a turn, mate?”. “Hell Yeah” says the Aussie, who then drops his trousers, bends over ,and sticks his head between the wire.

      • dear,

        I really hope they do not shut down, much does not work, much does, better to have what works than nothing. Seems social/political life is much like evolution, most mutations don’t work, social is a much larger scale, affects many more people in real time. We are having a heck of a time here in the US, seems like grasping at straws.

        Dennis L.

        • I doubt that it would make much difference to UK if RCC shut down here. Only about 1% of the population goes to weekly mass anyway. And RCC is thoroughly ‘liberal’ in UK. Polls show that RC statistically have the same attitudes as everyone else.

          More concerning is the establishment of the Anglican church, which continues to sit in the House of Lords and to assert a ‘right’ to interfere. It is surely time that was ended, simply because it is obnoxious to democracy. In fact the whole unelected second chamber needs to go – and the monarchy.

          A broader problem is that parliament thinks that it has a magical ‘moral compass’ that allows it to override the demos. Eg. 86% of UK support to right to end one’s life with assistance, but parliament refuses to allow it. 2/3 of the UK public supports the legalisation of recreational cannabis but parliament refuses it.

          At some point parliament needs to either accept democracy or admit that we do not live in one. A system whereby the demos can call a referendum on any matter whatsoever, if they get a set number of applicants, maybe 2 million in a petition, and the democratic decision is binding on parliament by law, would be more congruous with democracy.

          Of course conservative Christians must have a voice the same as everyone else, but democracy must rest on the majority decision in any democracy worthy of the name.

          In reality, the British state is a capitalist state that exists to represent the interests of organised capital, and the fake two-party ‘democracy’ is just window dressing for that.

          • While I am all for finding a way to get better men in government, the path to good government does not run through enacting into law the popular will on every question. As Churchill quipped, “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” The older I get, the more elitist I become, but I have in mind an elite of wisdom and ethics, not of wealth. If that is not a “democracy worthy of the name,” then we can just call it something else.

            I also like Chesterton’s “democracy of the dead:”
            “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”

            • My ‘elitist’ view is that the productive shall be the voters.

              Rocket scientists, carpenters, plumbers, engineers, nurses, artists, doctors, welders, roughnecks, etc.

              You know, the glue that makes BAU (s)tick. A.k.a. providers of bread and circuses.

              Can’t show that you are DIRECTLY useful for another person or participate in the competitive collaborative process called market economy – you’re out.

              Governments shall be downscaled to the bare minima with computers doing the menial paper “work”. Otherwise they inevitably go bonkers with various socialist engineering projects with the herd. Overly educated and spiritual halfwits can not be trusted as their sanctimonious hypocricy gets the best of them and mankind in general.

              For the unemployable and useless eaters: UBI. If you’re on UBI – no right to reproduce and not enough money to raise children anyway.


    • Kind of good news, but surprising too.
      I would have been happy about it a few years ago when I used to live with my partner.
      But now I am single and happy about it!
      Thouh I would like to share some thoughts: Most christians are unhappy whtih that decision, including my parents! I guess they won’t accept it easily. So my opinion now is that the Pope and the Church have an agenda of their own and I am much skepical about their sincerity.

      • Many say that it is a RCC strategy to prevent same-sex marriage.

        > …. But for others, including many advocates in the LGBTQ community, the pope’s focus on civil unions shows how little has actually changed in the Catholic Church’s stance on same-sex marriage.

        “It ends up being an obstacle to reaching equality,” said María Rachid, a politician and LGBTQ rights advocate in Argentina who played a leading role in the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in the country in 2010, when the now-pope led the Catholic Church there.

        Rachid said Pope Francis, then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, took a similar position in support of civil unions as he opposed same-sex marriage in the country. “It’s a strategy to prevent marriage,” Rachid said…

        • So the Pope has staked out a position intermediate between those who think it goes too far and those who think it does not go nearly far enough. As a US congressman once remarked, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but dead dogs and yellow stripes.”

      • Another aspect of the ‘politics’ of this documentary:

        > …. Some Vatican critics are cynical about the timing of the new documentary, seeing it as a ploy to divert attention from a growing financial scandal in the Holy See.

        Last month, the Pope effectively fired Cardinal Giovanni Becciu, the powerful head of the office that oversees the canonisation of saints. He has been accused of embezzlement of Vatican funds, which he denies. Last week, a 39-year-old Italian woman linked to the Cardinal was also arrested.

        Francis, his critics say, is a shrewd political operator who knows a controversy over civil partnerships will overshadow the stench of financial corruption at its heart….

  6. As usual, a wonderful analysis by Gail. I still say we can respond to this problem easily while providing lots of jobs. Life will look a little different, but at least two big problems could be solved. The number 1 energy sucker on the planet is buildings. If we renovated/rebuilt and built our buildings in a passive solar design, we would not need an AC/heating unit anywhere in the world! The indoor temp stays the same year round no matter where you live.

    The second most energy intensive/sucking activity is the animal slaughter industry. If we can feed 50 billion animals a year, we can feed 10 or 20 billion people a year. We just can’t afford to grow food to feed to animals for slaughter, and we can’t afford it in so many ways: water, soil, pollution, karma, etc.

    The third most energy intensive/sucking activity is transportation. If we developed walkable communities where the public’s needs were all within a five or six mile radius, there would be much less need for individual transportation for every little thing. Imagine if the country lived in walkable communities?

    Revamping homes and office buildings would provide soooo many jobs. In a home, if we don’t use an electric stove, dishwasher, water heater, or AC/heating unit, then a couple of solar panels or a mini wind turbine would provide the electrical needs of the household. Each building could capture water by way of cisterns where it’s easier to pump water from than to purify or pump up from 100+ feet underground.

    I think we can do it. But this would be a smart scramble and not what the World Economic Forum or the Rockefeller Foundations wants for our futures.

    • Being polite, not trying to win arguments:

      “The number 1 energy sucker on the planet is buildings. ”

      According to eia, residentail uses 21% of total end use energy.

      Passive homes depend on siting, there are air quality issues, they are very difficult and expensive to build. Near my farm a building on a park site was converted to passive, solar I believe for a cost of $500K and based on my personal experience, that seems about right. If you are going to build that way, do it in a recession when labor is cheaper, it is still an expensive home.

      Solar panels? Mounting is a headache, space is a headache, keeping the grass cut around and under them is a headache, putting them on the roof is a headache, keeping the snow off them is a headache. I must have forgotten something.

      Wind turbines are interesting, they are a function of the cube of the air moving through them, the swept area a function of the square of the swept area, they are a pain to erect, a pain to service and the damn magnets rust. Small ones make a comforting noise for some, not much electricity. What would have been exciting was climbing the tower at MREA in Stevens Point and helping with the servicing, 100 foot or so climb. Those who did it told of returning to the ground covered in grease, sort of a guy thing.

      Cisterns may be an idea, given high water/waste water costs in Rochester thinking of using one for the house, but then I don’t water the grass now, so maybe not. In colder climates, maintenance of the piping is a pain, trenching is a pain, need I go on about pain?

      Been there, done that, currently sitting in a very nice, warm home heated by natural gas. An old man, paid my dues, living out my days in some comfort.

      Feel free to try your ideas, they are not cheap and sooner or later one finds an automatic washing machine and dryer are wonderful conveniences – they freed the modern housewife from the drudgery of manual Maytag machines with ringers that broke all the buttons and manual rinse tanks which required filling and emptying and carrying out the clothes in the summer, up the basement stairs only to have birds poop on the sheets, rinse and repeat. We lived that way, mom bought an automatic sometime in her sixties, still carried clothes up and down the stairs until all that work killed her at 98.

      Hope that helps, nice ideas.

      Dennis L.

      • If you live in a smoggy area, or where you have smoke from forest fires, you have to keep washing the solar panels to keep them sort of clean. Even at that, the smog interferes with making solar electricity.

        • Nothing will work as well as the system we have now, and many third world countries already have intermittent power. In the Dominican Republic they have regular power outages, it’s part of the service and scheduled in. Better to have intermittent power than no power!

          It’s’ about work arounds and best substitutes. If the homes we live in do not require AC or heating because the buildings stay the same temperature year round no matter where you live, then at least we could shelter in our homes during bad weather (heat or cold) in the absence of a grid.

          • Most likely correct for going off the rail grid, the Milwaukee Road had an electrified section through the mountains, trains going down hills provided electricity for hose going up hills. It proved more expensive than diesel and was abandoned, one of the Rockefellers financed it in the early 20th century.

            Dennis L.

      • Yes it’s expensive to renovate or retrofit a building into a passive solar design, but starting from scratch would not be much difference in price. I’m thinking of the earth ship design, but cob can work in most climates. Am working on a passive solar green house that could function as shelter from sweltering heat here in Florida during the summer months if we ever lose power for real. Already hang my clothes to dry, have not owned a dryer in maybe 6-7 years and don’t have problems with bird poop.

        • What do you do for food and for a job? How do you know that your passive solar house is in the right place to meet your need for food and a job?

        • I built a passive solar house in SC in 1990. It was wonderful in winter when the sun was shining. I couldn’t get a mortgage without installing an HVAC system (I intended to anyway), and it is essential for a reasonably comfortable life in summertime. It is too humid here. There’s no way my thermal mass could cool and dehumidify the house.

      • Hello Dennis. I’m thinking in terms of the earth ship, cob house, partially underground home, and also in terms of small, local and individual efforts. For instance, on my ‘to do’ list is a passive solar greenhouse, where I could take shelter from the heat in the summer if there was no power. I have no hopes of a national response, but I do have hope for individual responses.

        Have you read this?

        The document is called “Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the US from EMP Attack.” Congress created a commission to research and report back the findings of an EMP or large solar flair, and the findings are ugly. So ugly in fact that the US would face an 80-90% fatality rate in short order.

        To all the visitors of this site, I highly recommend reading the report in the above link – especially the chapters on food and water. Shelter from the elements would come in third for necessity after water and food.

        Rebuilding and retrofitting buildings/homes does not mean we’ll get the same house/office building. Everything would have to be smaller based more on need rather than desire; for instance a 10×15 space of life saving heat without the need for an energy source in -20 degree weather would be well ….. life saving, right?

        BTW, have lived without a dryer for about 6-7 years and very few issues with bird poop. I still use my $100 used washer bought 6 years ago though.

        A final resource for anyone who is interested- created by a guy who read the report in the link above:

        The site is a broad and large compilation of books from 18th and 19th century technology in PDF format.

        I wonder what Gail would think of that report?

        • Lots of concerns expressed regarding what is ahead. I didn’t see many who thought about loss of jobs, going ahead, or inability to buy/afford food.

          I talked to my sister Lois today. She has a friend in Uganda, who lost her job teaching at a university, as a result of the shutdown. The friend said that those in Uganda are used to epidemics, since epidemics are frequent in Uganda. They have set up a small school, presumably to get a little income. They are also growing manioc root (tapioca) in the forested area to eat. That, plus a few vegetables grown in the margins will provide enough food for them to get by.

          In a warm climate, if land is more or less “free,” this kind of solution might work. In a cold climate, most of us cannot grow enough food to sustain ourselves. We don’t have a 12 month growing season. Grains store well, but they require a lot of processing–the processing seems to have been a major reason for slaves, long ago. Tuberous roots, grown year around, don’t require as much complexity.

          It sounds like at least a few people in the poor, warm countries will have the skills that they need to survive. People in rich countries keep looking for solutions. They seem to think first about how to keep their cell phone charged, and the possibility of electric automobiles running off of solar panels. But not about the essentials of life, like food and a way of cooking the food.

          • Slaves were needed on large land holdings in pre-industrial times. It was not due to intrinsic difficulties in grain processing; a single farmstead can do that without slaves unless the husbandman is rich enough to own more land than one household can farm. Then he needs slaves or serfs or peons.

        • Thank you, Lorraine, I suspect this is exactly what will be needed. Not by me, but surely by my children and grandchildren. I shall recommend it to the family. But please have it converted to durable, survivable, human readable form, such as metal tablets stored in a cave in the Andes.

        • Lorraine wrote: “I have no hopes of a national response, but I do have hope for individual responses.” — Yes, the elites will build their getaways in New Zealand and Paraguay and Patagonia, to which their private jets will whisk them away if the need arises, but until then it is business as usual. When the brown stuff hits the fan, they and the rest of us will all be on our own.

          Individual responses are the only way to go for most people, not only because it is probably too late for a state-led response, but also because those who control the state have no interest in being proactive unless it serves a political or financial purpose.

          However, much better than an individual response if you can find a way to do it is to prepare as part of an organized group so that individual members of a community can specialize, among other advantages. However, that is not easy to arrange in a highly individualistic culture. Also, most people really seem to believe that the industrial system can carry on in the familiar way indefinitely. When I tell them it can’t, most people just smile politely. If they would argue with me, at least I would have them thinking.

      • Good thing about the colder/snowier areas of the world is that there usually exists hydro power, there is little heating and cooling requirements during summertime when it usually rains a lot (Norway!) and fills up the reservoirs. Furthermore, insulating houses isn’t expensive. Snow is an excellent insulator. You should have seen the “walls” of the house I grew up in the month of Mars. There was cutouts in the wall of snow for the windows, need I say more? At spring all that snow melts and tops up the reservoirs.

        In warmer areas, salt storage for the intermittent solar and wind with some dispatchable service from the north to cover for the fluctuations and occasional shortfall.

        Besides, nuke those silly domestic airports from orbit and install HSR and regular service rail side-by side (jobs programs). Bicycles as a main mode of personal transport. Grocery deliveries by route and on lorries. No need for every goddamn pleb to take the car/truck to the grocery store.

        IC 2.0 – a bit less obscene.
        Should be good to the end of this century.

        • humankind evolved to something akin to its present form in sub tropical regions of the world

          ie—where the sun delivered sufficient free heat to guarantee a reasonable chance of ongoing survival of our species.

          For ‘ongoing’ proof, all the major civilisations of ancient times evolved around the tropical line of the Earth. Nature delivered pretty much all they need to live in reasonable comfort.

          We expanded out of those regions to ‘grow’ our own kind. We did it at the expense of ‘other kinds’

          People can live in snows and deserts, but not in sufficient numbers to create large communities. You can live ‘snowed in’ for weeks on end, but only if you have managed to store sufficient resources at other times to allow you to do that. It may look pretty, but without modern amenities it is a constant fight to survive day to day.

          Hydropower?—Where did that joke come from?
          If you are relying on hydropower for survival. you’re dead.

          The smallest worn out part in a hydro power station stops the whole thing.. (to say nothing of the big bits).

          It requires sophisticated machines and expertise to keep up supply of such parts, to say nothing of cables etc.

          but riding a bike in snow like that looks like fun. (for a sunny afternoon)

          • I am sure the Inuit agree with you.

            What do they know about cold weather.

            And the steppes people from the good old days of Stone Age Siberia. Warm and cozy all year around.

            I’m sure Africa was warm and cozy in the middle of the ice age.

            Surely it didn’t snow there during winter for thousands of years when the Northern and Southern Hemisphere basically was a gigantic glacier. Then those two behemoth space rock struck earth and sent it into a frozen tailspin.

            Warm and cozy. Indeed.

            But Britain, oh, boy. Gunna’ be a rough ride down the Hubbert peak without access to French nukes, Norwegian hydro and gas.

            • I tried to make the point that ‘major civilisations’ grew where it was warm enough

              extreme northern people did not create the structures of civilisation, or invade south

              there wasnt enough energy available

            • The civilization came from the north and the steppes.

              What is this obsession with civilization arriving from the south? The Western Hunter Gatherers was just a genetic cul de sac. The storm arrived from the east and north as the ice subsided. Hardened mofos living at the edge of the glacier and along the coast of Norway.

              The oldest specimen that shares 99.9 percent of the European genome have been found in goddamn russia. Look up the Kostenki man.


      • I did watch the film but I’m not talking about solar and wind to scale – just for personal use at a much reduced need for energy to run lights and low energy use frig, washer. Compare the solar/wind turbine for a passive solar home to a PC. When computers were first invented they took up entire basements, now they fit in the palm of our hand. Shouldn’t each building generate some of it’s own energy needs?

        • Some years ago MREA had a very nice tour of solar homes in WI. One I visited which seemed to work was inhabited by a single man with occasional company, a woman. His bed was arranged such that it was over a wood burning stove on a lower level, the heat rose. I think he had a hand pump in the kitchen, maybe a ram driven pump in a small creek, he did have some solar cells which he could tilt to match inclination of winter/summer sun, some lead acid batteries and I think a composting toilet. Generally these homes are built into the side of a hill and face south. He had a moderate sized garden which did not look like it was doing very well, gardening is a real talent and requires considerable work.

          It is a young man’s project and maintenance is a pain. Not being negative, my farm house has provision for solar heat, radiant in the floor, controlling the zones is expensive, having storage requires doing so before the house is finished, I used a 1200 gallon waste water tank wrapped in 4″ of foam and have lines to the south side of the garage for solar collectors which I am going to install real soon now, right after I install a 120000 btu LP boiler next summer. It also has a heat pump. Frankly, it is a fiasco.

          My winter solution, a house in Rochester, natural gas, pay the bill.

          Build a net zero house and it will cost, it requires a heat/air exchanger which will plug with lint, dust, whatever, one more thing to maintain. It is hell to find the correct lot for this sort of thing, purchased one in the Quad Cities, best thing I did was sell it having never used it. If you go for it, purchase a book by Joseph Lstiburek, he has a website

          Joe wraps his homes in insulation, did that, then wrapped the insulation in plywood so could hang siding which required screwing it as otherwise the nails don’t hold. Hope you are starting to get the idea.

          If you find something which works, post it, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to do it, even slow it isn’t cheap. I have tried to give you two real world, actual examples that were actually built.

          Lisbon is very nice, climate is lovely, Gail has the right idea, move to a moderate climate.

          Smiling and laughing quietly, going to the moon seems easier. Good luck.

          Dennis L.

          • Joe Lstiburek AKA uncle Joe is a legend in the “green” building community. He is a for real dude not scared to use modern materials. Hes forgotten more than most know. I still like Robert Riversongs work better although I prefer double stud to that truss thing wall assembly he likes. Nothing wrong with 12 inch walls filled with fiberglass B CUZ u can find glass real real cheap! Riversong is a bit more on the “natural” side of things but is still very very very practical. The dream has to have its roots in reality or its just more BS. Just my taste I suppose. The truth is a modern truss/framed house uses a minimum of materials and is very strong. As commonly built its underinsulated and strength is just good enough. Double stud walls too allow more cheap insulation to get decent r values , beef up strength. there is a reason why ventilated attic truss roofs constitute 99% of the structures made. Lstiburek once said ” the ventilated attic is the most underappreciated building assembly” .
            Above all if your looking to do things on the cheap you are looking for contractor excess. The contractor just made 1.8 milllion he doesnt care about those excess materials. He would rather sell it to you for nada rather than take it the dump. And that stuff is CONVENTIONAL BUILDING MATERIALS. You take those cheap wonderful material and craft a superior structure. Lots of glazings on the south side. Your done in 2 years not 5. Or ten. Or never. Framing with a nail gun. Yeah baby!

          • I ll just say. Pause. look left right. No witnesses. Anyone being caught up in the “thermal mass: thing… Thermal mass works alright in hot climates. Cold climates not so much A 4” concrete slab provides all that is effective, Oak ridge laboratory tests.

            • Thermal mass is ideal for places with hot days and cool nights. Not hot/hot or cold/cold.

            • Molten or hydrated salt works for community sized “heat” reservoirs.

              The localized thermal mass is called “heat pump” and exist in unlimited amount under your house. It warms your house during winter and cools it during summer.

              If it works, reference case: Sweden.


              “A heat pump with an optimized rating can meet 80–95 percent of the heat and hot water needs of the dwelling. The marginal demand beyond this value is covered by electricity or some other source of heat.”

              The frackers need something to do. How about drilling for residential area heat pumps all over US?

        • manipulation of electrons (computers) and the manipulation of energy resources (power stations) cannot be put in comparison to one another

            • As I understand it, the main physical product of data centres is heat, which must be dissipated to atmosphere

              but perhaps there is a way to explain my point more clearly:

              Set up 2 window boxes

              fill them with food producing plants, (potatoes, wheat, cabbages)—you choose, but remember it’s still confined to window box size, and it is your food source


              Set up the most complex soil watering feeding system you can find (you are not limited to size or cost, use an entire data centre if you wish), and program it to operate it automatically throughout the growing season on one window box.

              On the other window box, water it from a can, and sprinkle a bit of fertiliser on now and then

              Let me know how much calorific energy (food to table) each window box produces in a season

        • Solar panels are almost a joke. They generate electricity when you need it least, when it is light outside during the daytime and during the summer, when it is already warm. So you need to store the electricity, and lose part of it in the process. If you are planning to run existing AC appliances (like clothes washer, dish washer, and air conditioner), you will need an inverter.

          We have been in the business of trying to make wind and solar for a long time, and the problems still remain. In theory, if a person overlooks a whole lot of things, it looks like they would work. As a practical matter, they don’t give you very much for the money you have to spend for them.

          • Gail, once again we learn that the Achilles heel of solar is storage. The best we can do is passive storage in the form of retained heat, which works between day and night and perhaps between a fine day and a cloudy day, but that’s it.

            Here in my village a lot of people spent tons of money on solar panels, but the strong Winter winds tend to blow them off the roof (happened to the previous owners of this house) and the South winds blow sand from Africa all over them. They are perhaps insurance against the occasional power cuts, but surely an expensive and barely practical one.

            I didn’t bother. My last electricity bill was EUR 65 for two months, so you workout the payback time for EUR 6000 of solar panels and EUR 6000 of the other equipment.

            • The cost of solar does not bother me as I install myself. Resulting in an effective 8-10 yr payout and free power afterward. However, grid power is reliable for now and still relatively cheap. I look at solar as insurance of power when the grids start failing, as they will.

    • My concern is that the economy, as we know it, is on the edge of collapse. Reorganizing things the way you suggest would take a lot of materials, including energy products. It would be necessary to tear down a whole lot of buildings that are not functioning fairly well. We are not in a position where we can do what you are asking the system to do.

      Also, our economy works quite well as a self-organizing system. It doesn’t work well with someone (you or someone else) dictating. the citizens need to be able to afford all of this stuff. The buildings need to be convenient to jobs. There probably needs to be international trade and a functioning financial system to make this work. There is already a huge debt in the world. It wouldn’t be possible to just pile more debt on top of what we have.

      • The Tiny House guy in Texas said this: “Everything we’ll ever need has already been made.” The future of industry will be salvage. I see it happening in small communities of ‘survivors’ who pull together and rebuild together, like the old barn raising events of yesteryear. I’ve seen it in the Bahamas in recent times where families and friends get together and build their homes as a group.

        I see a grim a future too, so I’m with you on that note Gail. I think we could re-vamp nationally with a visionary leader at the helm ( maybe using the military for labor), but that’s not likely to happen.

        No, any revamping will be done at the local level and hopefully spread out from there. One way or another re-organization will happen………… time will tell what kind of re-organization.

      • Gail, I’m not about dictating at all. And there has been international trade for centuries, long before oil and gas. I believe if we did have a collapse, international trade would resume eventually. As for paper debt, it will eventually blow away. Any future honest system will require honest money. I hope the public comes to understand how vicious inflation is and that it’s due to unbacked fiat currency that has no intrinsic value other than confidence. After the US default on the gold standard in 1971, we relied on oil as the backing for our currency. Unfortunately the US has weaponized its currency and the other kids on the block don’t want to play anymore. Of course printing and continuous debt creation does not inspire confidence in the currency either.

        So we are in agreement, under the present system the re-vamp I’m talking about could not happen.

        • “there has been international trade for centuries, long before oil and gas” — Yes, but on a vastly smaller scale than today, and much slower. And only luxury goods could be affordably transported overland for a significant distance.

          • Agreed. In fact, most economists in the 18th and 19th centuries advised that trade should be confined to luxury goods, that is, goods cheap at the production site but expensive at the delivery site. The twentieth century discovered labour arbitrage, get the widgits made by peasants for $2 a day, and it has been a disaster.

            • in the UK in the 1700/1800s the steam pump made deep coal mining practical, canals made cheap coal transport possible, and with cheap transport the universal domestic/industrial consumption of it.

              This went on until the railways pretty much put the canals out of business

      • @Gail Tverberg

        Lots of buildings will have to be scrapped. And all its materials that could be recycled be recycled.

        • Ideally, the buildings could just be reused for another purpose, until the fell apart. For example, unused malls could be used for housing

          Reusing concrete (or worse yet, reinforced concrete) doesn’t work well.

    • 50 billion animals? I googled this and got about 23 billion or a little less, not 50 billion, but 20 of that 23 are chickens, most of whom must be young chickens killed early for fryers. Using some back of the envelope calculations to adjust for differences in body mass, I figure this is the equivalent of about a half billion humans. Of course, cows weigh a lot more than a typical human, but animals also need little besides feed (grown with fossil fuels), water, and prophylactic antibiotics (which also make them grow larger, not an authorized use of antibiotics, but surely farmers take this valuable side effect into consideration). Humans consume a lot more resources, not just food, water, and minimal medical care.

  7. Back to economics, jobs.

    “The automotive tool industry faces a shakeout as automakers confront the need to simplify manufacturing and cut costs, an industry consultant said.”

    Laurie Harbour
    “We are going to lose a lot of our manufacturing base,” Laurie Harbour, president and CEO of Harbour Results Inc., said in a presentation this week. “We could lose 30 percent” of the automotive tool making base.

    The consulting firm estimates that 30 percent of auto tool makers are doing well, 30 percent are in trouble and 40 percent are “on the bubble.”

    Automakers are under pressure to invest in new electric and self-driving vehicles. To do that, Harbour said automakers are going to need to pare their lineups to concentrate on profitable cars and trucks.

    Habour Results estimates only 6.3 percent of General Motors Co.’s fleet and 9.4 percent of Ford Motor Co.’s fleet actually make money. The companies rely heavily on large pickups for profit.”

    Further along in the article:

    “Also, she said, electric-car makers such as Telsa Inc. have fewer design updates and use “very simple tools” for production.”

    Further, further along in the article:

    “’We’re definitely seeing a move of tools back here in North America,” Harbour said. “The challenge is coming here at China prices…My fear is it’s short-lived.'”

    OEM manufactures support a vast industrial base with jobs and embedded knowledge. Easy to lose, hard to regain. A guess is things can be done here at China prices excepting pollution, the problem for society is the robotization of the jobs leads to increasing skill requirements leading to a smaller percentage of the population able to compete based on meritocracy, them that’s got, get.

    Dennis L.

    • The article talks about manufacturers needing to simplify manufacturing of gasoline powered vehicles, because adding electric cars adds a whole new set of required parts.

      I am having a hard time believing that the plug-in electric car craze will last much longer. China can push it, because it has a much more coal for electricity than oil for gasoline or diesel. But the UK would be crazy to have electric cars, because of its lack of electricity. In fact, most of Europe is headed toward inadequate electricity because the nuclear power plants are coming to an end, and there isn’t much to replace them with.

      It seems like one of the reasons for moving manufacturing to Asia was to make use of Asia’s cheap coal. This brought manufacturing costs way down and reduced Europe’s electricity needs. Now, Europe is in no position to bring manufacturing back home.

      • The coal story is compelling, so is the pollution story, the west moved it to China, horrible problem from what I gather, Hong Kong on Causeway Bay was pretty bad in the 1980’s. Cheap labor in China was another factor, that can now be ameliorated with robotics and is being done.

        Were one a conspiracy theorists one might think using up China’s coal and leaving all that pollution behind was not an accident.

        No easy solutions.

        Dennis L.

  8. I see a broad analogy between corona and Islamic State. 90% of world military was supposed to fight ISIS (NATO, Russia, Iran, KSA, Israel, Damascus, the Kurds and Baghdad), but it thrived many years. Similarly, corona defeated everyone except a few. ISIS started to wind down when the Russians believed the time had come, in 2015, but I’m not sure this time they have the vaccine as well. It’s like mankind has lost the ability to properly fight its enemies… Or perhaps some people are happy with this. Way too much manipulation. ISIS was defeated, but at the time I thought it will never happen; not impossible this time it occurs too

    • In a finite world, nothing stays the same indefinitely. At some point, humans will no longer be “on top.” Losing the battle to COVID is a sign that humans are not as invincible as they thought the were.

      It is true that ISIS went way after a while, or became easier to defeat. Maybe this will be true for COVID, but I wouldn’t count on it.

      • Be positive, Gail, be positive, for once

        Some times Pink Floyd’s song Welcome to the Machine is appearing in my mind in this days as Welcome to the Vaccine…


      • Mere chatter, my bet is on humans, nothing has stopped us yet. The first few times there is a great deal of low hanging fruit for the virus, as it goes forward not so much.

        Dennis L.

        • Yeah, and here we are worrying about global warming when we recently, relatively speaking, have experienced a goddamn ice age while bombared from orbit with space rock sending the ecosystem into a frozen tailspin.

          Now that was a disaster for mankind? Obviously we are still here. And some people dream up that a collapse of the finance racket will send the “system” into a tailspin.

          How about waking up and taking a sip of some morning coffe and get used to some austerity? I’m thinking so that we got some juice left for tomorrow and a future for the children you guys have produced. With time and advancements in technology, perhaps fusion power will come online.

          Just not yet. Maybe never.

      • NZ did a fantastically effective job fighting covid, and some other countries in that part of the world did very well too. Europe not as good, and America, well, we have been a joke, with politicians in both parties and technocrats in the CDC all reacting late and often wrongly, with the preferred political values of each party and the profit motive both taking priority over public health. Luckily, this was not a super-lethal disease. The good news is that it can be beat with common sense tactics, just not by us apparently. Vaccines have protected us for so long that we have forgotten how to fight contagions without them. “Darwin Awards” time!

        ISIS: both Israel and US wanted to overthrow Syria and install a more compliant government, ISIS was not a priority for them (especially not under Obama). Of course, we claimed to support the “moderate” rebels, but a lot of those “moderates” kept taking their US supplied weapons and defecting to ISIS. Russia finally came in with the attitude that maintaining stability should be the first priority, and that meant priority number one was defeating all rebels, ISIS and the “moderates” and the intermediate factions alike.

        The neocons in the state dept. hated it and tried to hoodwink the poorly educated Trump into opposing Russia’s assistance to the Syrian government, and they did get him to waffle for a while, but ultimately he seems to have disengaged from the Syrian morass.

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