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.

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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

    • I responded to this article a few days ago. I don’t think that I can search the comments (with this new system) to find out where I answered, however.

      • I had a mild questions (for as bad as that is, China trawlers are perhaps more damaging to the Caribbean, and I like seeing the muckitymucks scamper a bit): It’s been there a long time threatening to capsize. Is it one of those container vessels that are storing unsellable oil all over the world?

        • It is specifically for unsalable Venezuelan oil, because of Trump regulations. The amount is huge, about 1.3 million barrels.

          I commented earlier that the oceans have lots of oil seeps in them. There is a lot of natural pollution from these oil seeps. I found an article that gave an estimate of the annual amount of worldwide pollution from these seeps. It turns out that if the oil vessel capsizes, the amount of its pollution will be equal to a little less than a third of expected world pollution from seeps.

          Eventually, the oil-eating bacteria will take care of oil from spills and seeps. But it does mean a temporary change to ecosystems, as these oil-eating bacteria take over to fix up the mess.

          • And of course particularly unfortunate for Venezuela with so many of its inhabitants turning to fishing for survival:

            “Josander Oropeza never expected to be a fisherman. He trained as a hairstylist and can barely swim.

            “But now he spends his days, and sometimes nights, five miles out to sea. With only an inner tube to protect him from the depths, he fends off sharks and risks his life to catch a few red snappers to provide for his wife and child.”

            https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/president-maduro-s-hungry-resort-to-a-tyre-and-fishing-line-to-survive-in-venezuela-6887bghzs

            • Food always remains our most important energy source. Somehow, people need to get it and use it, directly or by trading with others for other things they need. Fishing for red snappers using an inner tube is an example of the way things can be done, at least temporarily.

          • Thanks. I’m getting to the point where, if it doesn’t have my number on it, I let it go. And try to deal with what is closer at hand. There’s this about deforestation, for instance, also off my radar screen:

            AVAAZ

            Dear friends,

            Half the Earth’s forests are now gone.

            15 BILLION trees are chopped down every year — 476 every single second. That’s our rainforests, jungles, and woodlands being decimated to make space for ever more cattle, palm oil, and soybeans.

  1. There has been some discussion of the pros and cons of home PV solar. I love my off grid solar. A couple months ago panels were real cheap .25 a watt. There still real cheap not quite that cheap tho… The stove dryer water heater and heat is propane. Propane appliances do cost more and propane is another infrastructure that must be installed, not a particularly easy one. 3000 watts of panels $900. Sma 5kw inverter $1500. Midnight charge controller $250. 8 trojan l16 batteries $1600. And the wire and disconnects. I would never go back on grid, I shudder at the thought. If grid is close i always told people go on grid. @ .25 a watt I dont say that anymore. The most important rule of PV. Your gal must not insist on a hair dryer. 🙂 Guess what the poles and hardware to go on grid aint cheap either. Yes there is maintenance with pv. but washing the panels and pain to mount theft concerns…. These are just minor inconveniences to my mind. As soon as my batteries are full I might as well use the power during day it has no where else to go. Im sorry thats a pretty nice situation having power that is just sitting there during the day that doesnt discharge my batteries. Run that welder. Run that chop saw. Run that blender.

    • Yes, it can be done. How long have you been off grid? It seems for me time is a limiting factor, I have all the parts, never hooked them up, comforting to know they are there. It seems awfully expensive to me, your system is modest and you have done well to balance your loads. Water pump can be an issue depending on depth of well.

      Nice to hear someone has done it, next summer another project, thanks.

      Dennis L.

      • 6 years off grid. I started with a much smaller system. The grundfos SQ pumps are the standard for homes using solar. Their start amps same as run amps. Stay away from dc pumps. Of course no one wants to change out a well pump to run solar. The well pump start amps are one of the big 3. Well pump, refrigerator, washer. Your system must handle all three coming on at once OR a solid state relay can be used to cut out the fridge for a few seconds when the pump is on. Some less smart washers can also be cut out with a solid state relay until the well pressure tank is full. If their timing is mechanical power can be cut to them without losing their timing. You can run a dc fridge to eliminate that start amps also. Most Inverters can handle double their continuous rating for a few seconds. Inverters are getting cheap. You can run a dedicated inverter for the washer so as not to exceed the primary household inverter. This is not a bad way to go because inverter efficiency is poor when at small percentage of its rated capacity. Running all three at once without mitigating simultaneous motor cut ins your washer choices can be limited. The smart washers where you can select energy efficient modes work best. If you want to run that craigs list washer a separate dedicated inverter is best. You could do the same for your well pump. Pure sign wave inverters coming out of china are cheap and not unreliable. Just dont expect a kia to be a mercedes. They wont allow the neutral to be grounded as North american code requires though. About half the world doesnt ground their neutral. They run a chassis ground of course but neutral is not grounded. It seems like a lot of trouble. I love it. Maybe im a geek. Ok i am a geek. Its not just that though. Living within your means. You have this much power coming in . You adjust your lifestyle to the power you have not visa versa. There is something satisfying about that.

    • I’m dealing with such a poverty stricken format that I would want to see this level of technology applied (stretched) to a group of around 10 small pods (instead of one individual). They’d have to find a way to stretch electricity a lot thinner.

      • Maybe and maybe not. I expect the richest person in the group would get nearly all of the benefit. There would be constant bickering over it. I know that “communes” didn’t work will in Israel. They were tried in the US in the early 1970s, and they didn’t work here either. They seem to have been tried in the times of the Acts of the Apostles, but didn’t stick around then either.

          • > One news report defined the business operations of colonies as “industrial grade farms that produce grains, eggs, meat and vegetables, which are sold to large distributors and at local farmer’s markets”.

        • Religious communes are far more durable than secular ones. Excluding monasteries (individual monasteries typically endure for centuries, from what I have read, but they also don’t have to deal with the “second generation” problem), the champions of communal living are the Hutterites who have been at it for four hundred years in countries as diverse as Czarist Russia, Paraguay, and America.

          In the 20th century, Eberhard Arnold’s followers from a German youth movement copied the Hutterites, although not exactly, still fairly closely, and their communes seem to have done well too, often supporting themselves through toymaking.

          So why are there so many failures? I will offer three reasons:
          1. Their failure rate has been exaggerated. It has been estimated that 10% of the hippy era communes are still hanging around. If so, their failure rate is not terribly different from that of small businesses.

          2. Most do not recruit enough followers to reach whatever “critical mass” gives them the best chances of remaining a long lasting viable community. I don’t know what that critical mass is, but I have seen a smattering of evidence that hints at a figure of 50 adults. (On the other end of the continuum, the few communes that grow to more than 150 persons total may also decrease their odds of survival because it becomes more costly to limit free riders in a larger, more impersonal community.)

          3. Most of them ignore research into the “best practices” of long-lived communes. The example of religious vs. secular I mentioned above is one example of this mistake. This seems to be the single biggest factor that affects longevity according to most research. Some other factors that independently predict commune longevity in a multiple regression test are uniforms, being linguistically or culturally unique, and administrators that are recognized to possess differential moral authority (I am trying to paraphrase what I remember reading in a book by Michael Hecht called _Principles of Group Solidarity_ or something like that.)

          I read once about a commune in New Zealand (or was it Oz?) that lasted until its children grew up. The children all defected to mainstream society, clearly a failure to properly socialize or “enculturate” the next generation. That brings up a related issue with many communes, especially the secular or tolerant or “multi-cultural” ones. Many of them seem to be basically a microcosm of mainstream society, differing only in their economic organization. When the local economy does well and opportunities open up, many defect back to mainstream society since there are few psychological barriers to exit.

          Twin Oaks is a secular commune that has been around since the 1970s, but it is a revolving door organization. It’s relative fame allows it to constantly recruit new members, but this model will not work for a high-turnover group that is not as good at constantly recruiting new members.

          Communes that require from their members 11 or more behaviors of a sacrificial nature (such as their time, energy, or material resources, with nothing tangible in return) are likely to be harmonious and long-lasting according to one study, but–here’s the kicker–this only works in religious communes. Secular communes that try to duplicate this effect just break down faster.

          Somewhat related to this is some research I read about by an anthropologist (Harvey Whitehouse) who was studying the role of ritual in society. He found there were two types of rite. One was a very intense but rare rite, such as the pubertal rites of passage that initiate youths (usually boys) into adulthood in many small, primitive societies. (By the way, fraternities with more intense hazing rituals of initiation have been reported to be more durable than the ones with less rigorous initiations. “Skull and Bones” for example.) These very memorable rites serve to bond the participants together for life, through thick and thin.

          But agriculture brought civilization with large, anonymous communities over wide areas and socially stratified to boot. To hold these communities together, shared rituals needed to be frequent, not rare, but frequent rites cannot be extremely intense, so you get low-intensity rites such as the Eucharist which is celebrated weekly in the more tradition-minded Christian confessions.

          I am thinking that a commune could benefit from both types of ritual–if it is committed to a shared religion.

          By the way, many Israeli kibbutzim are still thriving endeavors–but they are the religious ones, not the secular kibbutzim, which tend to struggle.

          It is important to control free riding in any organization. In some ways, this challenge may be harder in communes (its like a big family so you can’t just fire the underperformers). Even in the 19th century, it was observed that commune members did not work as hard as independent householders.

          However, this handicap can be offset by the large advantages to cooperation in both human and animal societies. For example, few species have made the evolutionary transition to living in cooperative societies (mere herds are not cooperative), but those that did make the transition have become the most successful of their type of animal. Although ants have been emblematic of industriousness since Old Testament times, a study of ants found that up to 30% of ants observed were moving about aimlessly and not really doing anything useful. In spite of these free loaders, the benefits to cooperation are so large that ants are among the most successful of any type of animal.

          Evolutionary biologist Ronald A. Fisher, who is credited with forging the synthesis of Darwinian natural selection and Mendelian genetic theory in the 1920’s that is known as the Neo-Darwinian synthesis, hypothesized that civilizations declined when they became characterized by self-seeking individualism, and were conquered and displaced by peoples with less refined cultures but more altruistic habits.

          Sorry if this ran a little long.

          • Dmitry Orlov has a book, “Communities that Abide” in which he studies groups such as the Roma/Gipsy, Mormons, Amish, and the Hutterites. (I have only heard him talk about the subject, not read the book.) He believes that a common religious belief is important. It is also helpful to for the group to be mildly persecuted, so that they have reason to bind together behind a strong leader. He doesn’t think that a group whose only interest is “sustainability,” who have an elected leader, will do well at all.

            When I have talked to some people who today live in communal groups, one thing that has come up is the difficulty of providing education for young people. Are some to be educated and not others? The group likely cannot afford much education. I am sure healthcare is an issue as well, if a group is trying to live in today’s world.

            • Orlov provides helpful clues. There’s a big thread on evolution further along. How you pass on genes to some advantage, etc. But missing is the self organizing principle that evolution must follow. Species don’t sit down and think logically how to pass on the optimal gened. They adapt to self organized circumstances. Why should that be different for humans?

              Robert’s point is also helpful:
              “Monasteries.,..provided several useful functions: a dumping ground for excess sons and daughters, as you suggest; also a repository of learning; and in the West at least a source of innovation in agriculture, animal husbandry, and medicine. Even today, we would be poorer without them.”

              The ‘repository of learning’ aspect contributed hugely to cultural evolution.

              “Cultural evolution is the change of culture over time.
              If we define culture as “information capable of affecting individuals’ behavior that they acquire from other members of their species through teaching, imitation and other forms of social transmission,” cultural evolution is fundamentally just the change of culture over time.

              https://culturalevolutionsociety.org/story/What_is_Cultural_Evolution

          • It seems that human societies function by being ‘all-encompassing’ and by there being no ‘way out’. The society expands to the horizons of one’s living realm and all is networked within it as an unavoidable ‘social reality’.

            Communes rather form an escape ‘bubble’ out of which it is usually possible to find a ‘way out’, to ‘wander off’ and to get into something else.

            Perhaps religious communities in some sense replicate the ‘all-encompassing’ and ‘no way out’ aspect of society, through the supposed ‘ordained rightness’ of the commune and the ‘wickedness’ of the world, and through the sense of ‘persecution’, even largely imaginary, of a hostility of the world toward the commune/ cult members.

            The commune keeps its members by in some sense ‘trapping’ them psychologically and socially within the bubble, and representing the world as ‘cut off’, ‘out of bounds’, in some sense ‘impossible’.

            Religious belief can be pretty dogmatic, permanent and inflexible – very oddly not so much in the ‘liberal’ churches – and that allows the ‘no way out’ mentality to remain.

            I do not applaud their ‘success’, but they can personally do whatever they want so far as I am concerned, so long as they afford me the same courtesy. If people want to join ‘cults’ then they can ‘go for it’ lol.

            • From a Darwinian point of view, the Hutts and some other close knit “fundamentalist” groups have been very successful, considering with how few numbers they started, and their fertility remains high while the fertility of mainstream society remains well below replacement. I suspect some of these groups will also muddle through future crises better than mainstream society.

            • Well, the ‘Darwinian’ point of view is not merely about survival but about the evolution of the species through the survival of the fittest in the struggle for survival.

              It seems that the Hutterites had a higher infant mortality rate than the general population and consequently a lower mortality rate during their productive years.

              It is also hypothesised that the Hutterites were subject to severe selective pressures in the 1870s as they migrated to Dakota and that decreased the mortality of elder members in following generations.

              Their infant mortality rates are down now though and the selective pressures are eased.

              Altruism is not generally conducive to a ‘Darwinian’ outcome in so far as it mitigates selective pressures. Individualism generally has the opposite outcome. ‘Altruism’ can focus on helping the fittest, allowing them to flourish, and that has the best outcome. Altruism is usually aimed at maintaining the least fit rather than the most fit and that has the worst outcome.

              Technology, medicine, comfort, anything that decreases mortality, eases selection and weakens the breed; hardier conditions improve it. Darwinism only works when people die, it is selection that conduces to health and longevity.

              There is no a priori reason why ‘moral’ orientations should conduce to good longer-term outcomes, but neither is there any a priori reason why good longer-term outcomes should dictate morality. Peoples make their own choices. Spartans opted for hardier conditions but that is unusual.

              Our modern societies are likely the least ‘Darwinian’ in the entirety of human history, with not only the removal of selective pressures but the collapse of the fertility rate and the replacement of the populations with other populations. They have made their ‘choice’ on that count.

              Many kinds of society can increase the size of the population, from classical slave societies to post-imperialist, multi-ethnic capitalist societies. There is nothing ‘Darwinian’ about that.

              > Mortality Changes in the Hutterite Brethren of Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada

              Abstract

              The pattern of mortality among the Hutterite Brethren has changed from that reported in this journal by J. W. Eaton and A. J. Mayer almost 30 years ago. In particular, the longevity of females is greater than that of males as inferred from age-specific deaths rates for the period 1953-75. Infant mortality rates declined by 27% of that estimated for the period 1941-50. The notable decline in the mortality of women during their reproductive span may be causally related to the decline in Hutterite fertility that was recently reported in this journal by L. M. Laing. The mortality of the elderly Brethren was apparently lower during the period 1941-50. It is hypothesized that the lower mortality of the elderly was the result of the greater longevity of survivors of a cohort that was subject to a unique period of selective mortality. This period of early, severe mortality occurred during the migration from South Russia to the Dakota Territory, 1874-79, and the establishment of colonies in South Dakota during the remainder of the nineteenth century. Although the mortality of infants and the elderly has been higher among the Hutterite Brethren than in the general population of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Brethren in the most productive years of their lives enjoy lower mortality by comparison.

              https://sci-hub.st/https://www.jstor.org/stable/41463450?seq=1

            • Thanks a very interesting thesis, and I shall certainly give it some attention.

              It attributes the rise of capitalism in England to a proliferation of genes well suited to capitalism. Nietzsche similarly argued that psychological and behavioural traits can develop in a breed according to material and social conditions.

              But if it is true that the English are descended longer-term mainly from the ‘economic upper classes’ then they are descended more recently mainly from the ‘economic lower classes’ since the rise of urban industrialism. The breed is always in transition. Modern trends will in any case replace the local breed with one more global. The English are mainly proletarians rather than capitalists, so the thesis does not really ‘ring true’ to be honest. Only a tiny minority were ever capitalist.

              An objection to the thesis might be that capitalism has taken off just fine in most of the world. So perhaps similar trends were active elsewhere, contrary to the thesis? Or perhaps there is a better explanation like that of Marx and Engels who attributed the transition to capitalist property relations to technological developments.

            • Jung would call it the ‘collective unconscious’ and it consumes a large share of the rapacious primates biological CPU cycles.

              Letting go of some aspect of being a human frees you from those burdens.

              It is no longer a matter of cheap narratives and propaganda. Soon enough every human will have a direct feed into the net.

              The mere whiff of some filth in your thought processes will be an open book for social damnation.

              I would suggest you to clean up your act for the coming metamorphosis.

              It is inevitable.

        • Gail, the “communes” of the Middle Ages solved that problem: every member takes a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. In other words, a monastery. As for how to conduct ones day to day affairs, that was set out in 515 AD: The Rule of Saint Benedict.

          • Shakers also abstained from s/x. They thought that salvation depended on virginity. JWs have a similar outlook. Shakers are gone, for obvious reasons, while JWs proselytise and are not strict about it.

            ‘Chaste’ communes do not function to preserve the species and they can provide no model for how people might organise after collapse. Communities must be family-orientated.

            Younger sons of the nobles were sent into medieval monasteries, which avoided the constant division of family wealth. Ironically, that seems to have been their social function, to preserve the wealth of noble families over time. They were open only to the rich who would enter with a ‘dowry’.

            • Oh dear, agreed 100%. Monasteries must be part of a larger society that is indeed self sustaining. They nevertheless provided several useful functions: a dumping ground for excess sons and daughters, as you suggest; also a repository of learning; and in the West at least a source of innovation in agriculture, animal husbandry, and medicine. Even today, we would be poorer without them.

            • the jw’s aren’t against sex are they

              thats a new one on me

              they get all nasty if someone ”marries out” and theyre big on purity and stuff

              ‘fornication’ is one of their favourite words—one can only guess why

            • JWs claim that only virgins go to heaven (Matthew 25:1, Revelation 14:4), and that other JWs will inherit the earth and be ruled by the 144,000 virgins. That is why only a small proportion of JWs, virgins, take the communion bread at Easter. No lie.

            • Monasteries were genetic dead ends. A community really does not want to subject some of its most successful lines, and the innovative and learned to celibacy. It would eradicate them over many generations.

              Monasteries were all about the ‘other world’ and they were totally detached from how the world really works and from the ‘logic’ of life. The West never really ‘got it’ and it has made its ‘choices’.

            • ” if it is true that the English are descended longer-term mainly from the ‘economic upper classes’ then they are descended more recently mainly from the ‘economic lower classes” — These are the theses of two books, _Farewell to Alms_ by Gregory Clark and _The Welfare Trait_ by Adam Perkins respectively.

              Natural selection works on many traits. Certainly disease resistance and general health are important, and it is quite problematic that selection for these traits has fallen extraordinarily low. However, relaxed selection on these traits has allowed for increased selection for other traits. Natural selection does not work only through mortality differences, it also works through fertility differences. The groups that have higher fertility are passing on their genes and traits better than their genetic rivals.

              Superior altruism may offer a slightly enhanced survival rate of a group’s lower quality specimens, but it offers a huge advantage in intergroup competition. In addition, their defectors will tend to disseminate their genes even among their “foreign” neighbors, while hardly any genes flow the other direction, because it is easier to defect to a low demand culture from a higher demand culture than the other way around.

            • Evolution does not work that way.

              A family is a breeding project.

              Mankind is an eugenics process and subject to evolutionary pressure.

              It’s about time to drop that silly ‘cockroach’ breeding strategy of the intelligent, because the regression toward the mean is inevitable.

              If you are smart, your kids will most likely be dumber than you. If you’re dumb, your kids will be smarter than you.

              Accept it and be part of the eugenics process called mankind.

            • Selection works through the application of pressures not an easing. A population with high fertility and low morality will pass on worsened genes. One with high fertility and mortality passes on improved genes. It is just how it is. ‘Darwinism’ is not about a numerical increase in population or genes but about its improvement. Check the title of the book.

            • “It’s about time to drop that silly ‘cockroach’ breeding strategy of the intelligent, because the regression toward the mean is inevitable.”

              It’s about time to drop that silly ‘cockroach’ breeding strategy of the ‘mean’, because the evolution of the species is inevitable, which is how they come to exist at all.

              FTFY

            • It hasn’t occured to you that the “mean” is part of the process? You see, it is hard to predict what a ruthless mean bastard can figure out which later on becomes indispensible for mankind.

              For example, would you put a child molesting rapist behind bars, if you first learn that the solved the pressing energy predicament of mankind?

              I guess not, right? Nobel Prize of life in prison? Or both? Or neither? How do we even judge such a person in a reasonable way?

              The story extends beyond the realm of the individual at this stage. It is a collaborative competitive process encompassing all facuets of human endeavour.

              It is about time to suppress those rapacious traits and clean up our act as a species. Yes, leave some of what you makes you a human behind, and by so doing becoming one.

            • K, again, maybe it is best if you do not address me in the future. Maybe you could go and take some drugs instead?

            • Nehemiah, one theory I have is the slight disdain for the in-group. ‘The relatives is the worst’ seem the norm in core IC countries. The mere whiff of your own genes diluted sufficiently and close to you produces disdain.

              What’s your thoughts around this?

        • I hear you! I did make it sound commune-like, and wasn’t even clear what my concept was. I’m generally not thinking in commune terms. I’d still pursue the 150-strong formula in a loose way, but divide up the residential pods into groups of 8 or 10. Somehow I think getting the land is very much harder to figure out than the details of living in some sort of community balanced with strict privacy and autonomy.

      • If all you need is lighting you could run one 350 watt panel one 12 volt battery, a cheap charge controller and run dc leds for “ten pods” and be just fine.

    • Solar PV sort of makes sense at the individual homeowner level for people who live in warm parts of the world, fairly near the equator, if electricity costs from the grid are high. Thus, they sort of work for California, Arizona, Hawaii, North Africa, and Saudi Arabia. I take it you are in a warm part of the world, and also in a part of the world where there are not dramatic differences between the amount of sunshine in summer and winter.

      Everyone assumes that the “overall system” will hang together. There will be a grocery store where you can get your food, someone will repave the road when needed, the police will protect your home from protesters, fresh water will come from the tap, and jobs will be available where you are. It is the overall system that I see failing. I fear that you will make this big investment, and then you will find that you need to move elsewhere, because you cannot earn enough for food, or you cannot grow enough food for yourself. So you will need to pick up and move elsewhere. Or perhaps the solar system will work until the first part of the system breaks (the inverter, typically). Then you will have to go to Plan B, which I hope you have.

      • Gail wrote: “Everyone assumes that the “overall system” will hang together. There will be a grocery store where you can get your food…”

        This is a fun game! Can I play? And the grocer assumes their will be trucks to make the food deliveries, the trucks assume they will have diesel and skilled mechanics, the mechanics assume they will have spare parts and the truck stops assume they will get deliveries of diesel. Diesel suppliers assume the refineries will function, and refineries assume crude will keep coming from tankers or pipelines, and tankers and pipelines assume assume their will be drillers who supply the crude, and drillers assume oil field equipment will be available when they need it, and the oil field equipment manufacturers assume a reliable supply of electricity over a functioning power grid and parts deliveries via trucks and a reliable supply of metals, including steel. The steel makers assume a reliable supply of iron ore and high carbon anthracite coal for coking, and some other materials. Everybody assumes liquid fuels, electricity, food and water, a functioning financial system, and enough profits to fund a government that can provide law and order, road maintenance, functioning courts to enforce contracts, international stability, and other essential functions that the private sector cannot provide for itself on a large scale. And of course this all laughably over simplified. The real maze is vastly more complex, intricate, and interconnected than I have painted it. Most of us can muddle through as long as it doesn’t all begin to unravel. Let us hope it does not end like the “one hoss shay” (carriage) described by Oliver Wendell Holmes:

        You see, of course, if you’re not a dunce,
        How it went to pieces all at once, —
        All at once, and nothing first, —
        Just as bubbles do when they burst.

        End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
        Logic is logic. That’s all I say.
        http://holyjoe.org/poetry/holmes1.htm

        • You have described the string of assumptions that goes on, until something goes wrong. For example, no bank will guarantee payment for international shipments, because so much funny money is being printed by different countries, simultaneously.

          Sort of like the collapse of the one-hoss shay, except it doesn’t all disappear in a day. The questions are, “How quickly does the world economy collapse? Can some places stay together for a while longer?”

          My original though was that collapse could happen very quickly, but things have held together better than I expected.

          • “For example, no bank will guarantee payment for international shipments, because so much funny money is being printed by different countries, simultaneously” — The last (only?) time this happened, 2008/2009, it was because they feared the counterparties would lack the wherewithal to repay. They feared they could not be repaid because the system was freezing up, and the system was freezing up because they feared they could not be repaid. This is known as a liquidity crisis. When governments promised “funny money,” everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Liquidity crises are one of the few things that governments actually know how to fix. Not so much solvency crises.

          • Gail wrote: “things have held together better than I expected.” — The real test isn’t here yet. Producers can still meet demand. When actual production of all liquid fuels begins to decline no matter how much the deeper pocketed buyers are willing to pay, then the crisis will be upon us. Improved technology mainly means, first, that production can stay on a plateau longer (in the case of conventional oil) and, second, that wells will deplete faster than they could be depleted with older technology. We already know that tight oil and deep sea fields deplete very fast, and the IEA said back in 2008 that conventional wells were depleting at something like 7 to 8 percent per year. After the peak, that would drop production 50% in 10 years and 75% in 20 years.

            More fracking somewhere (Russia?) could mitigate this rate of fall somewhat, as would rapid deployment of EV’s or hybrids, and coal to liquids would help some, although NS Germany discovered that coal to liquids did not ramp up as quickly as they needed, and I think you lose a lot of energy in the conversion process too, based on data I saw from WW2. The price mechanism will allocate the falling global supply of oil to its uses of highest value. Global depression (falling production of goods and services, making society as a whole poorer) could push down demand, but I would hardly call that a “solution.”

          • I wonder myself why I don’t feel panic-stricken most of the time.

            I try to get down to absolute simplest things that are clear to me.

            – I can use a lot less electricity if push comes to shove, but I need SOME electricity in a predictable and well managed way.

            – Small communities of like minded people can work fairly well, with a lot of proactive effort.

            – I can only see a small way forward, and try to support a very limited and seemingly cheap supply line. (I find that the most useful industrial products are things like toilet paper, knife blades, “Band Aid”, tape, ETC.) but the supply chains that go with these remain a mystery. (And so let it be,)

            – I talk about using the coal in the ground under the village to totally uncomprehending people, but remain SO grateful for the still working grid.

            – I’m quarter way (I hope) in producing a perennial tuber that could keep us fed for a week in an emergency. It’s going to take a while to get there.

            – Society can and needs to grow an infinite number of useful plants. (But how long can one hold one’s breath?)

            – We have roof catchment, and we’re praying for rain. I’ve allowed the tanks to run dry, and I mustn’t. Fortunately the town well works reliably for now…

      • Yes, apart from knowing how to cultivate farm land, you most certainly need to know how to repair basic electronic and mechanical stuff to experience somewhat of a decent existence post FF abundance scenario.

        Soldering irons, welding machines, 3D printers, spare MOSFETs, electrolytic capacitors, basically a machine shop next to the farm land.

        Keep all the electronics shielded from vibration, humidity, overheat and over-voltages. It’ll last you generations and then some.

        Going full bore subsistence farming will be horrific for the regular IC entitled princess and an early painful death is virtually guaranteed.

        Forget about it and learn some basic mechanical and electrical/electronics engineering. You’d be amazed what you can stitch together.

    • Gear eventually wear down, gets struck by lightning. Got any hot spares around? A semi-decent soldering station, oscilloscope and multimeter, and an assortment of suitable spare power MOSFET’s ready to be put in service?

      Those semiconductors last an awful long time if kept within specs. However, overvoltages, overtemperature and corrosion makes short work of electronics.

      A beefy surge protector is the bare minimum in the case something goes awry before and after the converters.

      https://www.familyhandyman.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/FH12DJA_POWSUR_05-2.jpg

      And a fairly sized spark gap.

      https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0333/7633/products/tg100.jpg

      Keep the eletronics cool and dry, it’ll last you an amazingly long time.

      • You likely need backups of practically everything. Otherwise, when one piece goes out, you lose the whole system. You cannot count on buying replacement parts.

        • The world is shock full of electronics. You’ll be fine for 100’s of years. As long as you got the gear to disassemble old electronics and load up on crucial semiconductors, such as power transistors for your inverters.

          They are a dozen a dollar.

          Better even, build one yourself and then you’ll understand how they work.

    • My friends 4Kw solar panels generates a massive (measured) 150w at noon in mid-January London. What exactly am I going to do with that, run a PC maybe?

        • Imagine what sort of conditions would bring electronics manufacturing to a halt, and what sort of feedbacks would kick in from that eventuality.
          I’m pretty sure if people find themselves having to scavenge for used electronics, unless it is a very temporary shortage, that there will not be a functioning internet. Or grid. Or potable water. Or trash collection. Or police and fire protection. Or food deliveries.

      • My PC power supply is close to 1kW.

        No, you can’t run any decent computer with that setup.

        Charge your mobile phone battery, have a few LED lightbulbs lit and run a small pump to get a water trickle from the well.

        If you feel cold, crank out some additions 350 watts with your bicycle. It will make you warm and cozy in no time.

        Folks, it’s time to harden the fsck up and stop being a little entitled princess.

      • Somthing is way wrong. Ive measured many a solar panel. They lose about 2% a year. I measured some 20 year old ones And they were at about 60% of rated power. Even if your angle was way way off the optimum you would see more power coming off a 4kw panel array than that. With a compromise angle halfway between summer and winter angles ive never seen noon power lower than 90% of rated power with new manufacture panels. sometimes power is a bit over rated but not much.

          • Ive never really noted country of origin or even manufacturer for that matter. Its a good question. I had some newpowa china panels at one point which are bottom end china but they worked just fine.

            • BTW, it just dawned on me that if a PV panel’s output fell 40% in 20 years, that was a decline rate of somewhat less than 2% a year because of compounding. Still, I can’t see solar replacing base power supplies rather than supplementing them. Intermittency plus low EROI plus a non-trivial decline rate plus the use of materials that are not abundant, and which if foregone will further lower the panel’s efficiency, and the sophistication of this technology such that if civilization experienced a hiccup the technology might become so lost that it could not be restored by a simpler civilization during the recovery phase all combine to suggest to me that solar is likely to be, not a destination, but one of the stepping stones that will eventually lead back to firewood.

  2. Economic Activity by visits to various types of businesses across various cities:

    “The US economy has turned into the weirdest concoction ever. Some aspects are booming, such as anything related to online shopping and entertainment, while other aspects are in the worst depression ever, such as airlines and hotels. So now eight months into the Pandemic, here’s my monthly update on the recovery in cities, in terms of what people are doing and where they’re going, if anywhere, as seen by the near-real-time indicators that have sprung up as a result of the Pandemic.”

    https://wolfstreet.com/2020/10/21/down-to-earth-view-of-the-recovery-in-near-real-time-eight-months-into-the-pandemic/

    Some years back, at ASPO had someone predicted $40 oil secondary to people working from home the idea would been politely dismissed. Here we are, the system is self adjusting, it is very robust. One of the biggest issues going forward will possibly be RE taxes and city income taxes. The latter is a double whammy, loss of the primary office worker’s taxes and the secondary incomes taxes of those who service these office workers.

    Politicians are complacent, the bureaucracy is a constant, but it appears to me that the cheese is being moved around in ways not anticipated. Once the changes are in place, there tends to be a inertia to movement back to normal.

    Personally I think one of the biggest hits is yet to come, higher education. On line tutoring seems to be taking off, one on one, tutors rated, Amazon style. Higher education is not used to itself being graded and if the money can move easily, that will be an interesting reaction.

    Dennis L.

    • As I have stated previously, the material consumption will shift into immaterial.

      People are gearing up intellectually and physically for a different world that is inevitable. The Jungian ‘collective subconcious’ is making these adjustments, because at heart everybody understands the reality of inevitability.

      All what is needed is a small nudge in the form of a global intermezzo. Oh well.

      It will happen, because it MUST happen.

    • I think that right now, people are looking for in-person instruction. The drop out rate is much higher for all on-line schools. They can get something similar from the almost free online courses that are available. Universities with in-person classes are doing better.

      • Gail, many years ago I was part of a “distance learning” project. It was an utter failure. The teacher talked and showed slides; the students logger in remotely. If a student had a question, there was a private back channel to the teacher. Consequence: the rest of the class heard neither the question nor the answer. What idiot thought of that? Yes, an IT idiot.

        Next, there was no way for the students to review the material, except by replaying the whole session. No way to tag a short clip for reference or revision. No way to copy the material (copyright, you know). And no way for students to collaborate on revision or workshops except what they could cobble together themselves. In other words, 100% teacher centred, which we have known ever since Plato’s Academy doesn’t work.

        About fifteen years later, I used a new system. The instruction was classroom based, with discussions and workshops, but there was an online portal into which the teacher could upload whatever he pleased. (The idiot IT people again did their best to screw it up: for example you could not upload a folder, you had to post one file at a time; you had no control of the order of the uploads, it was immovably “accession order”.) But it did sort of work, and my promise to the students that everything they saw in class would be online the next day was greatly appreciated. (It was a two year fight to get the administration to agree that copyrighting slides and papers was pointless in the present world, but we won.)

        My take is that classroom education is still the way to go; just downscale drastically: one administrator for the faculty, one for the students, and everyone else a teacher. Oxford in my day did even better: the faculty had to take turns as part time administrators; since they hated the job they did it very well indeed (if you hate a job you become efficient, so as to spend as little time as possible doing it!).

  3. There has recently been quite a bit of attention to supply chain disruptions, high prices, and shortages. This might be a good time to point out that physicist David Korowicz warned us about this danger in 2012, but no one in the mainstream wanted to listen. If anyone doubts that we really were warned 8 years ago, here it is:
    https://www.feasta.org/2012/06/17/trade-off-financial-system-supply-chain-cross-contagion-a-study-in-global-systemic-collapse/

  4. “The UK financial regulator is urging borrowers affected by coronavirus lockdowns to seek support from their banks, as its figures show 12m Britons are likely to struggle with bills or loan repayments.

    “In its strongest call to action yet, the Financial Conduct Authority has told consumers in difficulty to ask their lenders for more support and seek free debt advice from government-backed bodies and charities.”

    https://www.ft.com/content/72bf5779-2dd4-48bf-8c09-00e0421efe91

    • “Thousands of [UK] middle-income professionals who have lost their job during the pandemic have reported turning to food banks, going into debt and suffering from stress and anxiety after they were turned down for universal credit, research reveals.

      “…more than half reported problems with mental health, and around one in six said they had struggled to afford food.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/oct/22/thousands-of-people-refused-universal-credit-turning-to-food-banks

      • “The English social care system urgently needs £7 billion a year to prevent a collapse as the pandemic pushes the sector further into a funding crisis, MPs have warned.

        “The emergency boost would be a “starting point” to avoid a disaster and is not enough fully to address unmet need, according to a report by the Commons health and social care committee.”

        https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/social-care-on-brink-of-collapse-as-it-faces-7bn-a-year-shortfall-8mb2hwtxl

          • Wow! “Britain’s government borrowing in the first half of the financial year was more than six times higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

            This doesn’t sound like a sustainable path!

            • Gail, unfortunately it is sustainable; the BoE will print whatever money the government needs. The BoE has created into existence £250Billion since Covid 19 began and with this it has bought government bonds basically funding the deficit.

            • Erdles wrote: “The BoE has created into existence £250Billion since Covid 19 began and with this it has bought government bonds basically funding the deficit.”

              Bought bonds direct from the government with new money bank loans, or bought them second hand from the banks with bank reserves just like the Fed does in the US? There is a huge difference. The first way leads to Venezuela. The second way is mostly smoke and mirrors.

            • Britain faced a similar debt problem during the reign of Queen Anne. Her solution was to ignore all her economic advisors, and in 1717 appoint a retired university professor (with an interest in biblical exegesis) as Master of the Mint. He promptly put Britain back on the Gold Standard, and ushered in a couple of centuries of prosperity. You may have heard of him: he was Isaac Newton.

            • The cranks, sanctimonious hypocrites and scam artist wreck the world and then the scientists and engineers have to right the mess left behind.

              History repeating itself.

              No engineer or scientist I have met takes economics seriously.

              There is, however only on that can not be disregarded. But, then again, he was a mathematician.

              Something about game theory.

      • The debt will be made to disappear at the push of a button. £750Billion of UK bonds (37.5% of all UK debt) is currently held by a limited company which has the UK treasury as its only shareholder and is funded by loans from the BoE. I assume at some point the company will declare bankruptcy and all debts wiped out.

        • The question is how international trade will hold up, with many countries doing something similar. I am expecting the system will have to change. Perhaps there will be smaller local groups. I am uncertain whether the UK will have much to offer for trading internationally. People won’t want financial contracts based on funny money.

          • London has been the world’s premiere financial center for the last 2 or 3 centuries at least. I doubt that is going to change suddenly.

    • The UK financial regulator is urging borrowers affected by coronavirus lockdowns to seek support from their banks, LOL

  5. “Over half the small and medium-sized companies which together provide jobs for two-thirds of European workers fear for their survival in the coming 12 months, according to a survey released by management consultancy McKinsey on Thursday.

    “The survey was conducted in August, before the current acceleration in new coronavirus cases across Europe that is forcing governments to impose new restrictions…”

    https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-europe-economy-smallbusiness/over-half-europes-small-firms-fear-for-survival-survey-finds-idUKKBN27709T

  6. Moonstruck:

    “NASA has tapped Finland’s Nokia to build the first ever cellular network on the moon. The network is going to be part of NASA’s plan to return humans to the moon by 2024, CBC notes.

    The network is also part of a plan to build “long-term settlements” on the moon after returning. Nokia says the network will be built on the lunar surface in late 2022, before humans even return.

    The goal is to have a lunar base built by 2028 and “eventually sustain a human presence” on the moon, according to CNN. NASA has awarded over $370 million to a dozen companies to start putting the infrastructure necessary in place.”

    https://www.zerohedge.com/technology/can-you-hear-me-now-nokia-set-build-cellular-phone-network-moon

    Not saying it is going to happen, but it is a heck of a lot of coincidences.

    “US billionaire Jeff Bezos has outlined his plans for a lunar base in the 2020s.[51] Independently, SpaceX plans to send Starship to the Moon to establish a base.[52]”
    “Jeff Bezos Describes Moon Colony Plan to Relieve Pressure on Earth”. May 29, 2018

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonization_of_the_Moon

    Bezos is not very forward looking, probably just looking to go exploring.

    Dennis L.

  7. 5G dreaming:

    It does not seem like we really need a 5G network on earth, but if one wanted to spread development costs of a 5G network, making it an earth standard would not be a bad idea. Stringing wires on the moon would be very expensive, probably just another coincidence.

    Denns L.

    • A 5g network would be terribly expensive, no matter how the cost is spread. Using it on phones also tends to kill battery life.

      Poor people are already being priced out of being able to afford internet services. The last thing that they need is a 5G network.

        • The cost needs to be spread very widely, if it is to be at all affordable. I think it has the same problem as fossil fuels. The cost of the grid (with more 5G and 6G) will rise, but it will not be possible to raise prices to homeowners to compensate.

      • A properly designed mobile phone outputs at max some 1 watt of microwave power.

        Your microwave oven can blast out 1kW of microwaves. Thats an order of 3 in magnitude larger. With 5G and 6G, that power will be significantly reduced due to the closer vicinity to the base stations.

        The signal to noise ratio decreases exponentially, and with that the power requirements, as the error correction, encoding and decoding technology improves. Within a decade or two the signal strenght of mobile phones will be significantly below the background microwave noise levels.

        Modern military radars does not even have to switch on the transmitter in order to observe disturbances in the background radiation from airplanes buzzing the airspace and thus detect them passively.

        The sun blasts out, god knows how much microwave, infrared and X-rays onto our entitled rear ends.

        Worrying about microwaves is like worrying about overpopulation on Mars. Just keep your head outside the microwave oven and apply sun lotion liberally while outside in the summertime.

  8. “The global economy may still face new pressing problems, Russian President Vladimir Putin believes.

    “”The processes of global economic recovery are extremely unstable. Moreover, it may face new pressing problems,” he said at a meeting with the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs’ executive-board members on Wednesday.”

    https://tass.com/economy/1214691

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