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. modern myths:

    aliens are flying around and if people just make more effort then there will be real evidence.

    the human race will someday inhabit other locations like the moon and Mars.

    the moon has resources which can be obtained by humans in an economical manner: cheaply and profitably.

    there is an energy source that is better than FF but the physics has not been discovered yet.

    the human race will never revert to being uncivilized hunter/gatherers.

    there.

    I feel better now.

    as has been said recently, OFW is a great place to share facts and opinions, so take your pick on which are facts and which are opinions.

    • A few years after the Cold War ended, the “aliens” relocated their center of UFO activity East Asia, close to China.

    • A few years after the end of the Cold War, the “aliens” relocated their center of UFO activity to the Asian countries ringing China. I wonder why.

  2. Lydia18 posted:

    “Dennis, why do we “have to have hope”? Do you hope to live to be 200? I don’t. The only relief to be found (imo) is an understanding of limits. Otherwise, nothing but pain and confusion when cornucopianism doesn’t pan out.”

    Lydia, it is a good question and I appreciate it being asked. It is also important to make posts short so short answer from my point of view at this time and place.

    We all have limits, my experience is accepting them helps with acceptance, Kubler Ross. What we need is hope that should we so desire to pursue our dreams we can take them to our personal limits.

    Gail makes the point of limited/capita energy, it limits our dreams and lessens hope. Maybe most important is the journey and the hope we will achieve our personal goals. Overall I think we need to be part of a society that offers hope, the opposite is despair, the former USSR had much of that, but paradoxically the arts were incredible, think ballet.

    Disclaimer: I was and am an entrepreneur, it takes will(dear again) beyond belief, optimism as well as a good skill set and a willingness to work with others, compromise, remember the goal, move it when necessary and hope it all works out.

    Live to be a two hundred? Yes, have you seen the online courses offered by MIT? Incredible, across an incredible range of subjects. Dances have wonderful people yet to be met, studying dance one begins to see a common set of human movements. It is a beautiful world, there are more things to explore and see than can be done in one lifetime – current one that is. The hope is not being done working, being useful is wonderful, the hope is being able to walk away from miserable situations, this is part of the gift of energy. Not everyone will want it, not everyone will use it, it seems to me that what is necessary is everyone has hope of access to this should they so desire.

    Your thoughts?

    Dennis L.

    • Dennis, my thoughts are that I attended MIT IRL for four years (1977-81) and walked away with Enormous Relief from that “miserable situation”. Nobody there was ever done working, but I could never understand WHY they wanted to do what they were doing. Yes, the courses there are In-credible, in that there is just as much NOT to be believed as to be believed. I didn’t find anything they were doing there to be “useful” at all, when it comes down to it. I didn’t like the idea of GMOs or nanotechnology or modern architecture or data mining or special evolved switches for bombs or leveraged buy-outs or pointless space stuff or computer recognition or microwave weapons or surveillance technology or A.I. when we didn’t even have non-A.I. My friends went on to work on all those things. It seemed to me to be Garbage In, Garbage Out. The things they wanted to explore left me entirely cold.

      It was an expensive education. I had always wanted to study science but, looking back, as a tender teenager I insufficiently understood the difference between science and technology (perhaps there really isn’t one). Perhaps there isn’t a difference between anything and anything else.

      Forgive me if I repeat the story of an acquaintance who ran a biology lab there, before moving on to Tufts. He wanted to have his head cryogenically preserved (like Ted Williams). He really thought someone somewhere down the line would be interested in resurrecting his freezer-burnt head and that he would have the possibility for a second life. If you haven’t been around a lot of people like this (we have a stellar example who graces us here with his presence from time to time), you may not be able to imagine how profoundly idiotic they can be.

      ((Arrogance+Narcissism) ^ Autism) + Application of Energy = a bad prescription for the human race. I feel a visceral sense of relief when I contemplate that all of their hopped-up space-mining and social credit schemes will come to naught when the grid ceases to function. I’ll even take mass starvation and nuclear-waste-release (which are coming anyway) if we can get these tech monkeys off our backs sooner rather than later.

      I have also done the entrepreneur thing, and walked away from that, too (along with my cell phone), when I had enough saved away to live in (for the moment genteel) relative poverty. The more go-getters I ran into, the less go and less get I wanted. While you are trying to add busy-ness, I am trying to pare it away.

      =======
      I think I remember seeing that someone in this thread has recently rifled around in the kollapsenik kloset and pulled out Paul Chefurka. Perhaps a review of his Stages of Awareness would be appropriate here:

      When it comes to our understanding of the unfolding global crisis, each of us seems to fit somewhere along a continuum of awareness that can be roughly divided into five stages:

      1.) Dead asleep. At this stage there seem to be no fundamental problems, just some shortcomings in human organization, behaviour and morality that can be fixed with the proper attention to rule-making. People at this stage tend to live their lives happily, with occasional outbursts of annoyance around election times or the quarterly corporate earnings seasons.

      2.) Awareness of one fundamental problem. Whether it’s Climate Change, overpopulation, Peak Oil, chemical pollution, oceanic over-fishing, biodiversity loss, corporatism, economic instability or sociopolitical injustice, one problem seems to engage the attention completely. People at this stage tend to become ardent activists for their chosen cause. They tend to be very vocal about their personal issue, and blind to any others.

      3.) Awareness of many problems. As people let in more evidence from different domains, the awareness of complexity begins to grow. At this point a person worries about the prioritization of problems in terms of their immediacy and degree of impact. People at this stage may become reluctant to acknowledge new problems – for example, someone who is committed to fighting for social justice and against climate change may not recognize the problem of resource depletion. They may feel that the problem space is already complex enough, and the addition of any new concerns will only dilute the effort that needs to be focused on solving the “highest priority” problem.

      4.) Awareness of the interconnections between the many problems. The realization that a solution in one domain may worsen a problem in another marks the beginning of large-scale system-level thinking. It also marks the transition from thinking of the situation in terms of a set of problems to thinking of it in terms of a predicament. At this point the possibility that there may not be a solution begins to raise its head.

      People who arrive at this stage tend to withdraw into tight circles of like-minded individuals in order to trade insights and deepen their understanding of what’s going on. These circles are necessarily small, both because personal dialogue is essential for this depth of exploration, and because there just aren’t very many people who have arrived at this level of understanding.

      5.) Awareness that the predicament encompasses all aspects of life. This includes everything we do, how we do it, our relationships with each other, as well as our treatment of the rest of the biosphere and the physical planet. With this realization, the floodgates open, and no problem is exempt from consideration or acceptance. The very concept of a “Solution” is seen through, and cast aside as a waste of effort.

      http://www.paulchefurka.ca/

      Dennis, I’m glad you can find an outlet in dancing. It doesn’t seem as though “they” are willing to permit that activity to many people right now, nor into the future, unless we make some kind of revolutionary stand. I don’t see most people wanting to sacrifice what they think to be sterile safety for any kind of messy live experience right now. That may change if the screens go dark and no-one will be able to live virtually any more, even if they wanted to.

      • Thanks for your sensible comment, Lidia.
        This comment section is suddenly full of tech-utopians and hope addicts and crank believers in human ingenuity forever. What a bore. I miss FE’s cleaning actions here.

        • I am happy to listen to techno-optimists as I call them IF they can show me where we can get the energy to implement their fixes. It’s always, “Technology!” or “Somebody will think of something just in time to scale it up and save us from calamity” or “It’s been working since the 18th century, so we can safely extrapolate” or “One of those technologies that various countries have been working on unsuccessfully for 65 years will suddenly pan out, you just gotta have faith” or “we just need the storage for solar and wind, the technological miracle will happen, just believe!” I prefer my religion the old fashioned way, thank you.

          These types are fond of quoting sci fi author Arthur C. Clark: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And I think that is how many of them really think of technology: magic, or perhaps magick, something that, if need be, can function independently of the laws of physics. This techno-magick energy harvester is just going to be dropped into our midst by technologists, like cargo from a big iron bird onto a South Pacific island.

          “The stone age did not end because it ran out of stones.” Perhaps not, but the Bronze Age collapsed, at least in part, because it ran short of tin. Adam Smith warned us that the age of growth would end once we had picked the low hanging fruit of innovation. Today, peering out over the cusp of global decline, that seems to have been Smith’s most important message, and his most ignored.

          https://newrepublic.com/article/155214/delusion-danger-infinite-economic-growth
          “The founding fathers of economics—luminaries including Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill—shared a belief that growth was finite, and that the reason for limits lay in the natural world. Writing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they based this conclusion on three observations. First, there was a limited supply of land. Second, all economic processes required at least some products of the land as raw materials. And third, the productivity of the land was subject to the law of diminishing marginal returns: each additional bit of labor and capital added to a plot of land will offer less and less benefit until no more gains are possible. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, leading economists recognized the interdependence of natural and economic systems.”

          “the mean rapacity, the monopolizing spirit of merchants and manufacturers, who neither are, nor ought to be, the rulers of mankind.”–Adam Smith

          ” It is not the actual greatness of national wealth, but its continual increase, which occasions a rise in the wages of labour. It is not, accordingly, in the richest countries, but in the most thriving, or in those which are growing rich the fastest, that the wages of labour are highest.”–Adam Smith

          “it is in the progressive [=growing] state, while the society is advancing to the further acquisition, rather than when it has acquired its full complement of riches, that the condition of the labouring poor, of the great body of the people, seems to be the happiest and the most comfortable. It is hard in the stationary, and miserable in the declining state. The progressive [growing] state is in reality the cheerful and the hearty state to all the different orders of the society. The stationary is dull; the declining melancholy”–Adam Smith

          • Researchers like to work with models and with ratios. If a researcher is dealing with models and ratios, it is very easy to leave out important pieces of the model, especially if he/she doesn’t understand the whole system. It is also very possible to equate apples and oranges.

            Also, even if a researcher starts with the best of intentions himself/herself, there soon will be followers, who find that they can get more grant money if they can “prove” some piece of “we can have a sustainable future if we do . . .” We then get governmental agencies deciding how ratios should be determined, further guaranteeing apples to oranges comparison.

          • Actually, a major place that researchers think that they will get energy is this simple, but wrong belief:

            Oil and other energy prices will rise because of scarcity. There will be plenty of energy available, with the spiking prices, because there are a lot of fossil fuels are in the ground. All we have to do is wait until prices rise, and we can get out as much as we need.

            Economists, with their two-dimensional supply and demand curve, have given this answer; it must be right.

          • Arthur C. Clark, what a magnificent tech-hopium seller! A truly high-priest of tech religion. May Hephaestus bless his soul.

          • Thank you for these quotes. It’s great to connect the themes on OFW to earlier thinkers.

        • Comments are another self-organizing system. I could kick out those who don’t believe as I do, but that would make for a very uninteresting set of comments.

      • Lidia17, I used to follow Guy McPherson’s site, a place in which you were quite prolific. I particularly enjoyed your endeavors concerning Sarah Palin and her fake pregnancy.

        • Sort of strange!

          My mother, when she was pregnant with me years ago, hid her pregnancy under a lab coat for a very long time. She wanted to work while she was pregnant, back in the day when pregnant women were expected to stay at home.

          Here, Sarah Palin seems to be trying to protect her daughter.

        • Most people have a hard time believing that the world of politics is entirely made up of deception and lies. They wouldn’t believe that even if their favorite politician came up to them and said, “Look, politics is all about deception and lies, I myself am a professional liar, and lie in each one of the 16 hours I spend awake every day.”
          Before such a confession, their denial mechanism would kick in, and they would think, “What a wonderful joker is our politician! He/she is of course lying when he/she says is liar!” It’s even likely they would invoke the liar’s paradox to better convince themselves of that. In fact, people WANT believe (in goodness, in good faith, etc). That’s why propaganda and advertising work so well.

          • Thank you, JMS. It took me most of my life to learn these lessons. Perhaps most difficult is to recognize in ourselves the wanting to believe.

            • Me too. Hope is an essential crutch for most of us. It helps to live. It’s General Will’s useful aide-de-camp.
              But hope it’s also a blindfold (symbolized in the evil gift of Pandora’s myth). And i believe whoever seeks the truth above all cannot afford to use blindfolds (or at least not all the time).

        • Thanks, Finch. I actually had enough material for a third episode with all of the hinky-ness after the birth as well (different-looking infants of different ages presented, among other things).

          I’d never done any video stuff before, so it was fun to learn.. but there was a lot of work involved. Naively, at the time, I thought that this could “open people’s eyes” to all the fraud in government and the media, but I came to realize that people don’t operate on logic; they operate on emotions. Then I started getting more interested in investigating climate and collapse and energy issues, so “Perfidy” didn’t get its third chapter.

          People on right-wing sites still bemoan Sarah’s absence from the political scene, and think she could/should stage a comeback!

          Looking back on things, I thought at the time that the Republicans were crazy to run McCain and even crazier to add the boat-anchor of Sarah. You could tell he loathed her. But from a point of view where Everything is Scripted, it makes just as much sense as running Biden and Harris for the Dems.

      • Lidia18,

        Thanks for the note, I can only imagine, some of us seem to work because it is who we are; perhaps too “dumb” to know better.

        I found being with incredibly bright people intimidating at times, could never be good enough, the work was nonstop as you mentioned, did make a choice not to pursue research as it was too lonely, too intense, Madison, small building, cell research, Nobel people close at hand or close to obtaining same.

        We, the world, are in a predicament and we still have it easy, initial oil was easy; there is nothing left going forward that is easy. It is much easier if one does not have children, they are very, very expensive and walking away is not an option until they are underway, I suppose that may be an indirect question about you, not meant to be critical, observation, my experience. Kids require a great deal of personal sacrifice on the part of parents and that comes down to time and for me never getting enough sleep. So, yes, not at your level, I have been there, it is damn hard work. Kids are our hope, maybe some of us take that idea over the top.

        It appears to me that options going forward will be very difficult, we here are well aware of per capita issues, those I chose to ignore, the choices are too painful. We may have some choices on how we live on this planet, the only place I see to get resources is space, coming out of the earth’s gravity well requires magic(UFOs?), I will not bore repeating the reasons.

        There is never enough to go around, if a group does go off earth and some pretty successful people are not only discussing it, they are launching serious rockets, what if they don’t share? The protests in LA stopped at Beverly Hills.

        Tough to stay in the game, we all make choices; thanks for sharing, I constantly learn from this site. It is frustrating to hear the same observations repeated over and over with the same wishful thinking, looks to me like it is going to blood, sweat and tears. The good news, given a hundred years, it probably can be done, my mantra is “earth for humans,” we are not the plague, we are the tenants with non eviction clauses in the lease.

        Dennis L.

        • We don’t really know how this will work. The non-eviction clause may be for only a few. Or some parts of the world may temporarily “luck out,” while other parts fail. Regardless of what happens, there will be people working on possible solutions. Most of these solutions will look fairly unrealistic at first glance, but as long as things are still hanging together somewhat, there is hope.

      • Thank you, Lidia, a most thoughtful post. I too once worked in the IT field, and found two flavours of worker: those who worked for the benefit of others, and those who worked for the aggrandisement of their own egos. When the latter were clearly winning, I also walked out, and ended up teaching usability design (among other things) in Singapore.

      • I agree with JMS — a very nice comment, Lidia. Your history is interesting. It is funny how so many “smart” people have such limited understanding of life and the world.

        • Indeed! Thanks! I remember another conversation with a woman I knew who’d recently been hired by Bain (Mitt Romney’s old company). She was talking about truck logistics to do with some client and said that trucks were the most efficient way for them to transport goods. I said the most efficient way to transport goods is by ship, then by rail.. trucks are less efficient than those. Turned out her (MIT-graduate) understanding of “efficiency” was that it “cost less”. So what they were doing used more energy, but cost less. I had personally failed thermodynamics (just didn’t even take the final exam; took a walk along the Charles and amidstt amazing and scary feelings of liberation when I realized that I didn’t need to do this) and it took me thirty years to connect the dots between that conversation and the MPP and the conversations we are having here.

          Mitt Romney, you may recall, heading out on a family vacation, tied his dog in its cage on top of his car roof. Toodling down the highway at speed, he was alerted by his children to a brown liquid trickling down the back window.

          ===
          Another inkling that something at that school wasn’t quite right was someone I worked with in the student film organization speaking about a woman he was talking with on the phone, “She’s completely broken!”. “Broken” was a pretty common terminology for “not rendering the desired output”.

          “Broken” objects, including humans, were seen as items to be “fixed” via the tender ministrations of engineering.

        • It was Middle Earth, Gail, with swords and sorcery and surrounded by orcs and goblins at every turn. The desire for vengeance would have helped people to go on long after they were totally exhausted.

          The desire for vengeance also drove Mad Max after the nasty bikers ran down and killed Mrs. Mad Max.

          I pray you and I will never have to deal with the degree of trespass against us that makes most people’s hearts cry for vengeance. I pray that we will settle, if not for forgiveness of our enemies, then at most schadenfreude when they fall.

          • Tim, I’d portray the modern grievance industry as operating on vengeance over hope. Consciously or not, they know their situation cannot be changed organically.

    • >why do we “have to have hope”?

      There is hope, and there is delusion. Both are comforting, but only one is plausible.

  3. What is the deal with the folks talking as though we are going to do anything in space?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2aZ8ARdY8I
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7W4qXmRJyc
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2qwvAivfGM

    This is just an arbitrary selection of videos show clear space fakery. Women wouldn’t really be using that beyond-obvious hair spray in space. You can see the USMC guy grab a wire that’s been photo-edited out: you can see the background between them as USMC’s fingers clasp an inch or two away from his companion’s waist. I’m agnostic about the freemasonry stuff, and I doubt very much the earth is flat.. but it seems a lot of times extraneous material of that nature is linked to videos like this, almost as though to make it all the more easy to write off as the work of kooks.

    The best compilation of moon fraud reportage is here:
    http://centerforaninformedamerica.com/moondoggie/

    • wow, you are a top rate intellect, and we disagree. is it me?

      though I agree, when really koooky “extraneous material” is linked to “videos like this” then it is all the more easy to write them off.

      so then I didn’t even watch them.

      Fast Tin Foil Eddie used to love posting mooondoggie.

      I’m not equating you to him, just saying, all in my opinion, we disagree, nothing personal, I’m just surprised.

      what if the all-NASA-space-stuff-is-ahoex is the actual fayke news?

      the actual scientists who post here at OFW are consistently on the side of the obvious, that NASA stuff in space circa 1960-2020 is real.

      • Where is the disagreement, exactly? You haven’t expressed it.
        You’ve merely disagreed that the videos might be worth watching, which isn’t the same thing as disagreeing with what they present about the space station.

        What surprises you?

        I look at the videos and see the clear anomalies. It doesn’t take a
        “top rate intellect” to suss out the problems. In fact, “top rate” intellectualism gets in the way of common sense all the time. I don’t care whether FE or anyone else agrees with me or with these video people or not. Eppur si muove.

        A particular key element in convincing me of the fraud was the astronauts’ demeanor after supposedly executing the greatest feat then imaginable by a human. And then there’s the jeep-sized rover.. oy veh. As each year passes, it’s more and more embarrassing to consider, like watching James Bond movies that had whoop-de-do cutting-edge special effects back in the day.

        “what if the all-NASA-space-stuff-is-ahoex is the actual fayke news?”

        A not-insignificant amount of work has gone into it either way, so I would ask, who benefits? Is it more valuable to have most of the public fooled into thinking that the US has dominated space, or to have a fringe minority of cranks and contrarians and skeptics thinking that we haven’t? Why spend serious money on the latter proposition? Wouldn’t it be far more valuable to have an Nth multi-billion-dollar slush fund for the military/intelligence agencies to play around with for decades upon decades, most likely putting things in orbit of which we have no idea… understand that whatever surveillance or military tech you hear about is just the tip of the iceberg.

        david, can you point out the “actual scientists” who argue here consistently that “NASA stuff” is real? Actual Scientists, if you are reading, I would welcome you letting us know why one might think the above “space” videos to be real and not staged with hair spray and wires.

        Why do many animals expend such a large amount of energy in camouflage, or in tricks to make themselves look larger or more fierce? That is the answer to your question.

        • Whenever you get a strong and scathing reply, it is usually an indication that you are onto something.

          Keep that in mind. Nobody is hated as the one who speaks the truth.

          Otherwise, I agree. Putting humans in space is a PR stunt similar to the green gimmicks giving hope where there is none to be found.

          It will keep the racket going for a little longer. The problem with this one is that the peddlers of delusion got high on their own product.

          https://www.meme-arsenal.com/memes/48fc3842a27b43b367f06fee60800109.jpg

          • Ah, more time spent on the subject than I should, but regarding people in space. My understanding was putting people in space was more about getting funding for the real work than spacemen/women. Politically the idea must be sold first, if that takes putting people in space, so be it, whatever it takes.

            Again, Kubler-Ross, there seems to be a thread of denial here, we went there, others have flown satellites by there, the Chinese want to go back there.

            Delusion/denial is a tricky thing, it can be comforting in times of great stress, this is a time of great stress.

            Dennis L.

            • You misunderstand me.

              I particularly like a good PR stunt with enormous rocketry, science and engineering prowess.

              Crank up the volume on your HiFi system and enjoy the ferocity of an Apollo launch.

              https://youtu.be/Iwn4LVVvAUQ

              The chills is real.

        • Lydia, I read the entire “moondoggie” information. At the end, only one question remained: Why did Wernher von Braun lead a NASA expedition to Antarctica in 1967? Everything else was explicable as due to ignorance, misunderstanding, or plain old cherry picking of data. But here was a solid, irrefutable nugget of doubt. My present opinion is that the expedition was a contingency plan to acquire moon rocks “just in case” the moon landings didn’t retrieve any. But the daemon inside me still whispers “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus”.

          However, this is the deadest of flogged dead horses. We are not going back to the moon; that game is over.

      • david, there plenty of people here *way* smarter than I am. I am humbled daily by Gail, Robert, Xabier, and others with keen insights, technical knowledge, deep and broad classical educations, etc.. They are firing on all cylinders, and I’m a bit of puttering Yugo at this point. I brought up my education because Dennis seems to think that the world, or people, would be improved if we were to all have such an education. I don’t agree.

        While I come here to read Gail’s top-notch energy analysis, I also love hearing about people’s histories and indoles and how they think we should cope with the world that is facing us. I have an allergic reaction to tech solutions, because tech is exactly what got us here. This negative reaction even though I know intellectually that tech is human and there is no quashing hope in the super-natural whether tech-based or otherwise.

        The fact that people would find comfort in an obviously fake belief and discomfort in its unmasking is interesting to me.

        • I’d written a long comment before this that didn’t post and may not post. The above comment doesn’t quite make sense without it.

          The short version is: I can envision money being spent more easily to make the US seem dominant, and to create a giant black slush fund for military and intel, as opposed spending a large amount of money on hair spray, props, and acrobatic gear to draw a bunch of contrarians, cranks, and skeptics away from the true, heroic, moon & space narrative. What would be the point of the latter? Cui bono?

          Also, I would appeal to any of david’s “actual scientists” who may care to share their opinions purely of the “space station” content in the above short videos. I could/should have tried to find “cleaner” versions free of other contentious material.

          david, why did you change your name to david.. from covid…?

          • I have been trying to learn to use an “improved” WordPress editor. I believe that a major purpose is to improve WordPress security. (Also, to more easily monetize a site.) I know that I have lost a few of my own comments, when I posted comments in response to comments that were in moderation that had I not yet been approved. The earlier system used to let me respond to a comment in moderation without it being approved; the new system does not.

            I keep discovering more ins and outs of how this system works. Your comment may have gotten lost somewhere along the line, because of changes like this.

            • Gail, I think the delay happens when I write comments that are very long. Shorter ones pop up right away.

            • Some of your comments accidentally go into the moderation queue, for reasons I don’t usually understand. It takes me a while to get back to you. That is likely the reason for the delay.

              It is taking me a while to get used to this system. I can either look at the comments in the order they were posted, or arranged as they appear under a post. Using the order posted, I have to first hit the “Reply” button. (This does not give me the editing tools I had in the past, however. I need to use HTML codes.) When I am finished typing, I need to hit the “Send” button. If, without thinking, I hit the “Reply” button again, the system deletes what I just wrote.

          • “david, why did you change your name to david.. from covid…?”

            thanks Lidia.

            I changed my name to david because it’s my real name, and covid was just me trying to be clever by changing only two letters, cool eh?

            or is my real name covid? how can you know for sure?

            anyway, I appreciate most of your posts.

            obviously, all persons filter their experience of reality through their imperfect minds. At this point in time, my mind concludes that almost all NASA space stuff 1960-2020 as described by written records of what NASA themselves say is true, is actually true.

            your mind filters reality and decides the opposite?

            I’m okay with that, just anoyyed at times (honesty!) by what I see as an extreme overreach of doubting the status quo.

            I think I correctly doubt a small % of status quo “facts”, but that’s just me being unescapably me with my imperfectly filtering mind.

            one further idea:

            those MIT persons who you are so unlike (me too, I suspect I am much more like you than like them):

            those are the very types of thousands of persons who have been absorbed in the “doing” of all that NASA stuff for 60+ years.

            we disagree. I hope you don’t take any of this (minor) disagreement personally.

            • david, no I don’t take it personally, though I can and do respond in irritation at the ridiculousness of some statements, when perhaps I should not.

              You say, “my mind concludes that almost all NASA space stuff 1960-2020 as described by written records of what NASA themselves say is true, is actually true.” You still haven’t really said *why* you conclude that, though. (Excuse me.. why YOUR MIND concludes that.. very interesting use of words!)

              Robert’s “false in one, false in all” works for me. If there really were a space station that we could get images from and chat with, why wouldn’t we do that, instead of faking it?

              Why are the delays all over the place (they should be consistent). I simply don’t see *what* there is to disagree about. It’s a binary proposition: either people are up there now in a space station, or they aren’t.

              The shooting off of rockets clearly happened. The why of that may remain secret for some time.

              ===
              and yes, Kowalainen.. you start taking flak when over the target. Funny how there seems to be more pushback against the moon hoax idea than against the clearly-ridiculous “space elevator” or asteroid mining. Humans really ARE “broken”!!! :-))

            • Lidia, if the moon landing is a hoax or not does not bother me the least.

              At least I’m fairly confident that these kerosene and oxygen burning behemoths of “impossible” reach space.

              That’s what matters.

              The associated PR jippo in MSM brings kids into aerospace and rocketry.

              The world desperately needs more rocket scientists and system engineers.

              And for those who whine about science and engineering, please hand back all the devices of “impossible” that you take for granted. Or simply bow down to the few that so many have so much to thank for.

              https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bc/Sir_Winston_Churchill_-_19086236948.jpg

        • I find it incredible that electricity will replace oil. Transmission lines tend to go down in wind storms. They tend to start fires. Putting transmission underground (except for small distances within cities) is terribly expensive. We have no way of fixing transmission lines using electricity, either. It mostly requires big trucks, using oil products.

          We know that oil is far more flexible than electricity. It requires practically no infrastructure at all. It was used in remote places long before electricity. We also know that whenever even a minor storm comes through, some electricity goes out.

          It is a fairly unusual hurricane that cuts off gasoline/ diesel supplies, and only to small parts of the country. Here in Atlanta, we are far enough from Texas that we have had some gasoline/diesel outages (long lines at gas stations, some closed) after hurricanes, but I don’t think that they even got mentioned in the national press.

          • Gail, when I moved to Singapore I noticed (a few months later) an amazing thing: no wires. Almost all the point to point infrastructure, electricity, telephone, internet, was underground, and that was a great relief to the eyes. Of course this is easier in a city state where almost everything is planned, but perhaps it could be part of a localisation effort. And at the higher level: abandon the grid, and localise electricity production. And no, Singapore could not “go green”; the city uses far more energy than the Sun could provide, and the winds are mostly non existent.
            .

            • When buildings are close together and built in a planned way, it is easy to put all of the wires and pipes underground where they are mostly are out of harm’s way.

              The way the US is built, in a spread-out manner, without a whole lot of planning, this doesn’t work. Electricity wires are generally above ground. I have heard estimates of the underground cost being six to ten times as high as the above ground cost. In some countries (India and Lebanon for example), there is a problem with poor people tapping into these wires, besides the problem with windstorms.

              I was surprised when I visited Ecuador to see that the oil pipelines are above ground. This seems to be fairly common in poor countries. Of course, this make the pipelines very easy to tap into by thieves. This is a huge problem in many poor countries. This photo I took of a chicken on an oil pipeline in Ecuador.

              https://gailtheactuary.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/chicken-on-oil-pipeline-in-ecuador.jpg

            • Robert, there are still problems with underground things, though, and, Gail, it’s not just the initial costs that are an issue. It’s very hard to pinpoint leaks, and repairs mean major disruption, digging up roads and into foundations. Our apartment in Italy had cement slab floors. All the water pipes in the building had been cast *into the slabs*. Any leak became a multi-thousand-euro headache. Electric service was similar: wall outlets accessed wiring that was inside of brick and concrete stucco walls. Adding a new outlet required quite a bit of jack-hammering.

          • “I find it incredible that electricity will replace oil.”

            What would it take to convince you that electricity can replace oil as the primary energy source?

            ” no way of fixing transmission lines using electricity, either. It mostly requires big trucks, using oil products.”

            What’s wrong with battery-powered maintenance trucks? What is the objection to using synthetic fuel that costs about the same as fuel from fossil oil?

            Arizona Public Service (plant operator) has been talking about what they can do with surplus power due to the wide installation of PV. One of the potential energy sinks is to make hydrogen. Another is combining the hydrogen with CO2 and making synthetic diesel.

            Incidentally, PG&E diverted maintenance funds to executive bonuses. This resulted in both the San Bruno pipeline fire and the fires that killed over 80 people. Some years ago the electrical utility in San Diego had a fire due to a line coming down in a windstorm. What they did was install cutoffs on the most dangerous lines. The cutoff removes power from the line in less time than it takes for a broken line to fall to the ground.

            • I think the issue is that there is so much complexity required to make electricity work as a solution. We don’t have electricity based solutions for everything now; the transition would be a very long one, if it could be done.

              You definitely have to take some of the left-over electricity and make it into oil products, if electricity is to work. Hydrogen is terribly hard to store. The thing that is wrong with battery powered maintenance truck is the fact that they don’t exist now, certainly not in quantity.

              If there really are cutoffs that could be installed on the most dangerous transmission lines, that would be helpful. I expect that they would be needed on most lines, not just the most dangerous ones. There seem to be an awfully lot of fires being started by transmission lines.

              It is part of the natural cycle for trees in most areas to burn. You almost have to have your transmission lines designed in such a way that burning trees around them is not a problem.

            • > I think the issue is that there is so much complexity required to make electricity work as a solution. We don’t have electricity based solutions for everything now; the transition would be a very long one, if it could be done.

              Every single element in an electricity-based synthetic fuel has been demonstrated at scale except for pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere. There is a system from MIT that looks like it would scale up as large as you wanted it.

              > You definitely have to take some of the left-over electricity and make it into oil products, if electricity is to work. Hydrogen is terribly hard to store. The thing that is wrong with battery-powered maintenance truck is the fact that they don’t exist now, certainly not in quantity.

              That’s true, for lubricants if nothing else. (A substantial fraction of the highest grade lubricating oil is already synthetic.). It’s also true that 2030 model line maintenance trucks don’t exist either. Tesla’s semi-truck does exist in prototypes. I don’t doubt that ten years is enough to ramp up production to whatever the demand is for power line maintenance trucks.

              > If there really are cutoffs

              https://sdgenews.com/article/when-power-lines-break-new-control-system-keeps-sparks-flying

              > that could be installed on the most dangerous transmission lines, that would be helpful. I expect that they would be needed on most lines, not just the most dangerous ones. There seem to be an awfully lot of fires being started by transmission lines.

              There is not a lot of news interest in lightning started fires. There were thousands of them in California started by “dry lighting” a couple of months ago. The ones started by transmission lines are awful because there is usually a high wind. The social response in a few areas was really interesting. The state fire crews were entirely committed and told the people to evacuate and tet their houses burn. I don’t know how many houses were lost, but it was a relatively small number. A lot of people came back to find their swimming pools drained, but that’s a lot better than having the house burn down.

              > It is part of the natural cycle for trees in most areas to burn. You almost have to have your transmission lines designed in such a way that burning trees around them is not a problem.

            • A friend knows of my interest in energy economics. Sent me these articles this afternoon.

              “https://www.ornl.gov/news/blocking-vibrations-remove-heat-could-boost-efficiency-next-gen-solar-cells”

              and

              “https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/31/eaaz1842”

              If they can get the efficiency up to twice what silicon PV does, it should reduce the cost of solar PV by around half. This would produce synthetic fuel for perhaps as little as $40/bbl.

            • Buy an EV

              take it to pieces–I mean each individual item

              lay each piece out on the ground in some kind of assembly order

              Now pick up each piece and examine it carefully, and analyse whether that piece (down to the smallest screw or bit of plastic can be produced from raw materials) using electricity in an absolutely exclusive sense.

              I mean using technology that has large scale viability NOW, not maybe, not worked out on the back of a cigarette packet. (do people still do that?) as yet uninvented or theoretically possible on the far side of the moon. But NOW.

              Because NOW is when we have our problem.

              Make 2 piles of bits

              One pile produced from electricity alone

              the other pile of bits that require energy input from another source.

              OFW’ers will be most interested in the final results.

            • There would be nothing in the “other pile.”

              Take the plastic in a knob. There are plastics made from plants. You can also make synthetic oil if you insist on oil-based plastic.

              I don’t expect you to grok but energy is energy. There are losses in converting from one kind of energy (electricity) to another (synthetic oil) but that is an economic problem, not one of the primary energy source.

          • hkh: “electricity can replace oil as the primary energy source”

            ELECTRICITY IS NOT AN ENERGY SOURCE.

            When I read something like this, I know I can safely disregard all the successive verbiage without compunction.

            • “ELECTRICITY IS NOT AN ENERGY SOURCE”

              Nitpicking. We all know that sunlight and wind (also caused by sunlight) are converted to electricity. That electricity can be used to replace oil, in fact, electricity can be used to make synthetic oil.

              If you really want to nitpick, sunlight is not a primary energy source either. Ultimately, fusion deep in the sun is the source.

            • There is only one goal. It is to power IC until sentient machines arise.

              Then our job is done.

              I worry exactly zero about mankind. Well prod along and make something work to fight off starvation and misery by patching up this clunker ’Cuba style’.

              The relentless population growth and frivolous jank needs to go. It has to go. Ultimately it is inevitable.

              The cult of children needs to burn and die. Instead a reverence for older people should arise.

            • ” a reverence for older people should arise.”

              Cell repair machines have been discussed since 1980. They won’t make you immortal, but unless you get wiped out by standing next to ground zero, you should be able to live as long as you want.

              On the other hand, having children is such a crapshoot. Would having children be more popular if you knew you could have a kid with no genetic defects?

            • “sunlight and wind (also caused by sunlight) are converted to electricity”

              At a loss. Always at a loss.

              Getting hydrocarbons out of the ground has not been done at a loss for us until lately. Animals consuming plant hydrocarbons is also not done at a loss, but is still a very precarious equation.

              We can only do things at a loss for a short period.

            • “At a loss. Always at a loss.”

              That’s not the proper metric. Sure, engineers strive for low loss, but the more important thing is cost. Consider hydropower. The efficiency of sunlight evaporating water that rains over land is very low, but hydropower is the least expensive power known.

            • Keith, the the water also “powers” photosynthesis along its way to the turbines.

              Without life hydropower is an oxymoron.

              The modern turbines are astoundingly efficient.

              All hail the undisputed ruler of electrical energy generation. Repeat after me:

              Hail hydropower.

              https://youtu.be/Yrd3748ggLE

      • David, how do you know any of it is real?

        Because you’re told.

        It is a matter of trust.

        I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. There are quite a lot of video materials, such as Lidia has posted above, that make a strong case that space fakery has been perpetuated. This doesn’t prove that all NASA stuff in space circa 1960-2020 is fake, but it strongly suggests that some of it has been faked.

        They could have gone to the moon but showed fake video of the moon landings because it was technically difficult to shoot actual footage on the moon and get it back to earth.

        There could be a manned space station but it may be much easier to shoot fake space station videos either on the ground or in diving aircraft to simulate zero-G conditions.

        It could be that all the videos purporting to show that NASA has faked stuff are themselves fake. Or that some of them are. Or that none of them are.

        Who knows?

        Besides the argument from authority—relying on the opinions of other commenters who present themselves as actual scientists (but who may or may not be authentic scientists and/or may not be giving honest or correct opinions in any case)—what other reason have you got for believing any of the NASA stuff in space is real?

        “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” was a phrase made popular by Carl Sagan who reworded Laplace’s principle, which says that “the weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.”

        One problem with this is that what is extraordinary and strange is in the mind of the beholder. Walking on the moon would have been a very extraordinary claim to people in the early 1960s, although by the end of the decade, SF drama series such as Lost in Space and Star Trek and then the movie 2001 would have programmed the minds of their viewers that this feat wasn’t so extraordinary after all.

        More reasonably, IMHO, Christopher Hitchens said “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

        To strip this down to bare bones, in order to be credible, assertions require evidence and asserters themselves require credibility unless the evidence is unequivocal or incontrovertible. Credibility is something that governments and the mass media had a lot more of half a century ago than they do today—which helped may people too accept their assertions based on less than watertight evidence, and there is a good reason why their credibility has fallen so low in recent years. They’ve been caught lying time after time after time after time after time.

        The governments and mass media who’ve told us and shown us that NASA has sent men to the moon and that there is an international space station have low credibility today due to the fact that they are serial liars. That is why they can’t be believed without evidence regarding the COVID-19 thingy, the Iraq war thingy, the Lehman shock thingy, the globbly-wobbly thingy and all sorts of other things. Viewing their past assertions in the light of their current credibility requires that those past assertions and the evidence of proof backing them up be re-assessed, and also that evidence that they may have been lying or faking be examined and assessed.

        Since you refuse to examine evidence presented regarding this subject, of what possible value can your opinion on it be? What is your motive, your purpose, your business in voicing an opinion about it at all?

        https://youtu.be/X7-1sdzkj6Q

        • Tim, not, absolutely not, to neglect the rest of your most interesting post, but this comment for me stood out:

          “One problem with this is that what is extraordinary and strange is in the mind of the beholder.”

          And I believe that is the fatal flaw in this argument. It is grounded not in Nature, but in opinion. “Why do you thank ghost activity strange?” says the shaman, “I see ghosts every day”. “Why do you believe in UFOs?” says the skeptic, “I have never seen one.”

          These proposition are on exactly the same level, and no good guide to the rational evaluation of phenomena.

          • When first proposed, continental drift was considered extraordinary and largely derided. Since then, the evidence that has accumulated for drift is good, perhaps it is even very good, but is it truly extraordinary? And we could ask this question about some other amazing theories as well.

          • These proposition are on exactly the same level, and no good guide to the rational evaluation of phenomena.

            I agree with this, Robert, but I think the point I was trying to make was with regards to the rational evaluation of other people’s claims, not with the evaluation of phenomena per se. At least, I thought that was the point I was trying to make, before reading your reply. Now I’m not so sure. Because I am not 100% sure if you agree with my observation: “One problem with this is that what is extraordinary and strange is in the mind of the beholder” or not.

            But to expand on that observation, what people consider extraordinary and strange varies according to the individual, it varies from culture to culture and generation to generation too. As someone who has travelled, sojourned and lived in various places around the world, you must have been impressed or even perplexed when in a new country for the first time at some of the strange and extraordinary things that the locals were getting up to. But to the locals, these things are not strange or extraordinary at all.

            I’m doing some carpentry at the moment, and being a long-term resident of Japan, I use Japanese saws. Now Japanese hammers and chisels and screwdrivers and planes work in the same way as Western ones as far as I can fathom. There is nothing strange or extraordinary about them for a Westerner who confronts them for the first time. But Japanese saws are downright weird. A Japanese saw cuts on the pull stroke, a Western saw cuts on the push stroke.

            So if you learned to saw with a Western saw and have gotten used to that and made it second nature, then you will be in for a shock when you start using a Japanese saw. You are likely to find it a strange and extraordinary experience. But after almost 40 years in Japan, the Japanese saw seems natural, normal, reasonable and, to paraphrase Mr. Toad, it’s the ONLY way to saw. It’s the Western saw that seems strange to me these days.

            You brought up people’s opinions of ghosts and UFOs. Here we have the issue of the existence of these phenomena. Whether or not they seem strange or extraordinary to you, me, a sceptic like Carl Sagan or a shaman (like Yoko Ono?) is perhaps a guide but certainly not evidence of their existence or non-existence.

            What evidence would amount to proof of their existence? My view is regardless of how strange or extraordinary claims of their existence may seem to us, the level evidence required to confirm or rule out their existence is the same. It is independent of our feelings in the matter.

            On the other hand, we are more likely to confirm the presence of something we already know from experience to exist than something we have no previous experience. If I am walking home along a country road at dusk and I see what might be a UFO in the sky or what might be a ghost moving through the graveyard, I am likely to discount the presence of these things and put their appearance down to a trick of the light, a will ‘o the wisp, or an instance of ball lightning. It is only when the object in the sky lands and a little green man armed with a ray gun comes out and says “Earthling, take me to your leader,” or the ghost comes close to me and engages in some kind of communication, that I will accept that they are presence. On the contrary, if I see what could be my dog or a familiar person at a distance in the dusk, I accept their presence much more readily because I don’t find it strange or extraordinary for them to be where they appear to be, However, this doesn’t mean that I’ve confirmed their presence before I’ve see them up close.

            But I was not talking not about strange and extraordinary phenomena but about strange and extraordinary claims (or claims about strange and extraordinary phenomena), such as “I saw Lord Lucan the other day at Tesco!” That one would certainly require a bit more corroborating evidence than I saw Baroness Evans of Bowes Park last week at Starbucks!”.

            • Thank you, Tim, for your reply. First, I do indeed agree 100% with your comment that what seems “extraordinary” depends on the experience of the observer. I too on visiting Japan found it extraordinary that one was supposed to wash all over *before* getting into the onsen, but on the second occasion it seemed almost natural.

              However, when someone makes an “extraordinary” claim, it is, as you say, extraordinary to them. To some Pacific Islanders, an aeroplane was so extraordinary they turned it into a Cargo Cult. By contrast, to some European explorers the idea of public nudity was so extraordinary they tried to make the natives wear trousers, sometimes at gunpoint.

              That said, however, there are some phenomena that many cultures, in many lands, have deemed extraordinary. As Jung’s article on flying saucers says, portents in the sky have almost universally been seen as extraordinary:

              “When beggars die there are no comets seen;
              The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”
              (Calpurnia in Julius Caesar, Act II scene 2)

              Of course, we rational 21st century Westerners know that they are not really portents, just lumps of rock obeying Newton’s laws. But are we sure?

              Thank you again for a most informative conversation.

            • On the subject of previous existences, there is a scene from Red Dwarf when Rimmer reveals the secret of his past incarnation:

              Rimmer:
              I’ll tell you something. Something I’ve never told anyone. When I was fifteen, I went to Macedonia on a school trip, to the site of Alexander The Great’s palace. And for the first time in my whole life, I felt … I felt I was home. This place was where I belonged. Years later, I got friendly with a hypnotherapist – Donald – and told him about the Alexander the Great thing, and he said that he’d regress me back through my past lives. I was dubious, but I let him put me under. It turned out my instincts were absolutely correct. I had lived a past life in Macedonia. That palace was my home. Because, believe it or not, Lister, he told me that, in a past incarnation, I was Alexander the Great’s chief eunuch.

              Lister:
              You know what? I believe you.

              Rimmer:
              To have lived a life alongside one of the greatest commanders of all time! No wonder the military’s in my blood!

              Lister:
              No wonder you’re such a good singer!

            • I think the discussion of ghosts and ordinary/extra-ordinary cultural habits is interesting, but doesn’t really shed light on moon hoaxes. Really, the moon hoax worked not because how “extraordinary” it was perceived as being, rather the opposite. I think Tim pointed out earlier that we had been culturally prepped to consider a human presence in space as our near-term destiny. After all the lead-up, *not* putting a man on the moon would have been the dog that didn’t bark.

        • thanks, Tim.

          I will say it this way: I have filtered all of my (second hand) experience of NASA through my imperfect mind, and I conclude that almost all of what NASA claims is true, is actually true.

          I could filter a few recent videos to add to my experience, but you or anyone else could do the same with many many many many NASA videos and writings.

          but it is so minor (and slightly annoying as I’ve said above) and I have other second hand experiences to filter now:

          Joe Buy-dem Crime Family etc. hard drives! 26,000 emails!

          what is true, what isn’t?

          we disagree, nothing personal, for what it’s worth, you’re one of my favorites at OFW to disagree with.

          keep calm and filter on.

          • You are also one of my favorite people anywhere to exchange opinions and share facts with, even when we disagree.

            I think I’ll leave the latest pre-election revelations alone for the moment and see how they play out.

            Back to NASA, have you heard the one about at least six of the seven Challenger astronauts who are still alive and hiding in plain sight?

            If not, you are in for a real treat.

            “We accept the reality we are presented with.” – The Truman Show.,

            https://youtu.be/mN1JMTfeaqg

            • The producers of the above video are obviously trying to blackwash the “NASA fakes space missions” point of view by linking it to flat earthery, etc., but the story of the astronauts still being alive seems legit.

          • Joe Buy-dem Crime Family etc. hard drives! 26,000 emails!

            what is true, what isn’t?

            Thanks for the tip. JHK is on the trail of that one now.

            Long about mid 2019, some jamoke in the jamoke state of Delaware got possession of some laptop computers brought in for servicing on account of water damage — like, what??? They fell into a hot tub??? Anyway, the customer, one R. Hunter Biden, never retrieved (or paid for) the computers which, under Delaware law and the service agreement of the computer repair shop, became the property of said repair shop and its jamoke proprietor, one John Paul Mac Issac. Mr. Mac Issac had a peek inside one of them that still worked — now legally his property — and, lo and behold, he noticed some familiar names among the emails along with an impressive video of the laptop’s owner using drugs while cavorting with a naked woman.

            https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/10/james-howard-kunstler/american-gothic-horror/

            • Tim, I have followed Kunstler for years. His perspective is unique and exhilarating. I fear poor Mr Biden will end up in Fort Marcy Park, as the final lid on the scandal.

            • Robert, I also enjoy Kunstler’s writing a lot. But at the same time, I can’t help thinking that the story of this laptop, its contents and its journey to fame is just too strange and too extraordinary to take seriously.

              On the other hand, I can’t imagine Biden’s adversaries having the resources to fake something as voluminous, bitwise, as the entire contents of the hard disk, just for an October surprise.

              So if it’s genuine, we may see Mr. Biden catching the Sicilian flu and my expected Democrat contender, Mrs Clinton, modestly accepting a proposal to step into the vacancy at the head of a Clinton-Harris ticket.

          • The amount of fake narrative isn’t a recipe of truth.

            1.000.000.000 “scientists” which agree on X makes me want to puke 🤮

            It only takes ONE PIECE of solid evidence to overthrow a convincing lie and a scientific theory.

            But don’t get me wrong, I could not care less if the moon landing and 9/11 were two psyops. Actually, I would find it quite hilarious of the lengths people go to fabricate silly narratives for their own profiteering purposes.

            What is real is a big mofo rocket thundering into orbit.

            Wining and dining, money, dope and luxury prostitutes is for the useless eaters with a strong affection to the commands of the limbic system inside the rapacious primate brain.

            Desire is pain, curiosity is eternal bliss.

            But not all people are intellectually equipped with that characteristic. Those yahoos must be removed from power.

        • Tim, excellent comment. I agree 100%. I tend to assume this to be obvious, but you have laid out the case eloquently.

    • Put them on the moon, when they don’t work on earth it is a real mess.

      Dennis L.

      • A space elevator can carry the high voltage cables back from the nukes on the moon. Problem solved!

        Next task, build a lightweight, portable battery that contains the same energy as a jerrycan of diesel.

        I’m listening to Beyond Oil 2020 and they’re celebrating that the oil industry is kaput and solar is so cheap it will take over. I feel I’ve missed something important somewhere.

        Although COVID has poleaxed oil demand to the extent that the remaining oil might last a lot longer, providing there’s enough companies and skilled people left to get it out.

        • Fred, the problem with “green” energy, and with most other energy solutions, is simple: energy conversion. By far the mst efficient use of energy is direct se, as in a mediaeval windmill or a Roman water mill: the energy is converted directly into useful work.

          Second best is energy conversion on site, as a locomotive boiler converted heat into steam, and steam into motion. Not very efficient, but we then had lots of coal, and children to help mine it.

          Worst is energy storage: convert ambient energy flows into stocks, and later convert the stocks back into flows. All our experience shows that this simply doesn’t work; even if the conversion is practical, for instance pumping water uphill and releasing it downhill, the life cycle cost of the support system is unaffordable.

          The only solution to intermittent energy is intermittent work, as the Romans knew and we do not.

          • I discovered when I visited Holland a few years ago that families lived inside the old windmills, which were used to pump water to keep the water level down to the desired level. The families worked in nearby fields most of the time. When they needed to, they went back to the windmills and adjusted the wind blades to catch more or less of the wind energy, so that they would pump more or less water out. The windmill blades were built to be porous to the wind. They could be made to be catch more wind by putting clothes over the blades. There was also a way of signaling between windmills regarding what change needed to be made. Thus, a leader could make decisions, and the remaining windmill operators follow along.

            I thought the system was fairly ingenious.

            • Gail, the mediaeval windmill is one of the best inventions ever. It could turn automatically so as always to face the wind; the motion was communicated from the mobile cap to the static shaft by a crown and pinion gear, which was invented for that purpose. (Well, reinvented, the Hellenistic engineers, as usual, had anticipated us)

              The sails were attached with ropes, and so they could partly or fully feather, depending on the speed of the wind. Our modern wind turbines cannot do that, so they are useless in both high wind and low wind. Another benefit of modern technology.

              Finally, a piece of real ingenuity. The shaft turns the upper millstone to grind the corn. But its speed is variable. The corn is fed into the system by a hopper, which is agitated by the rotation of the shaft. In other words, the rate of feed is automatically kept in step with the rate of grinding. And, of course, there is no energy conversion whatsoever.

              How much we have forgotten in our unending quest for useless complexity!

            • totally agree

              and that is why the Dutch became such superb sailors. The windmill is just a static sailing ship.

              trouble was, sailing ships and windmills have a common problem: They consume vast numbers of trees in order to serve the needs of xx thousands of people.

              As long as trees grow faster than people, everything works fine

              when people start growing faster than trees, then the arithmetic no longer adds up, because it isn’t possible to build wooden ships and windmills in sufficient numbers to serve the people who need them.

    • Fukushima didn’t happen, that is just another bit of fake news, another con.spiracy organised by those in charge..

      The 2004 Tsunami is fake as well, because I saw it on the news and all mainstream news is fake..

      (sarc off)

        • The ISS is only 250 miles up in space, why would there be any perceptible delay caused by distance?

          • Buffering, relaying, error correction, retransmission.

            Naturally it adds some delay.

            • Kowalainen, indeed it does. A story, about the UK rocket testing range. Sited in the Hebrides, so if a rocket went of course the only casualties would be sheep or Scotsmen.

              The telemetry design was given to a large IT company, who produced (of course) something of immense complexity, with error detection and repair codes, acknowledgements and retransmission algorithms, you name it. Which, of course, meant that the telemetry lagged far behind the rocket itself.

              My solution (when enlisted as an ‘unofficial’ reviewer of this mess): throw it all away, and use simple unidirectional “fire and forget”. But, of course, this might lead to data being lost. “Good people, it’s a *ballistic missile*. Interpolate.”

              Once again, IT people with no appreciation of the underlying physical reality, and no idea that it might be helpful for them to find out about it..

            • Adding some ECC to the unidirectional data increases the effective bandwidth of the signal and should not be scoffed at.

              Then as you say, run estimators/interpolators on the data that was lost. In parallel to that, store the data onboard the rocket inside a “black box” in the case something goes south before it can be re/transmitted.

          • For one thing, because that same delay was suggested and mimicked by the actors in the early segment – Interview from Space?

    • “Fukushima To Dump 1 Million Tons Of Radioactive Water Into Pacific”

      About time too.

      It’s heavy water so it will sink to the bottom. 🙂

      Or even if it doesn’t, by far the major contaminant is tritium, which is already natually present in seawater in measurable quantities. The really nasty stuff such as plutonium, caesium, etc., has been filtered out of this water. So it’s probably safer to drink than Perrier

      By how much will dumping this particular million tons of radioactive water into the Pacific increase the overall radioactivity of the water there?

      Perhaps this is a question more suitable for Quora?

      I did so and found this cute little illustration.

      https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-f6f171c7d12702a9e7520e235a7f51ce

        • Ah, Chernobyl! About two thirds down the page of this 2013 article is a section entitled “A Million Years of Problems,” very interesting:
          https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article73405857.html
          SNIP
          Ukrainian officials are counting on what they call a sarcophagus to contain the site, a massive structure that looks like a Quonset hut being assembled behind a wall that is intended to deflect radiation from the decaying plant from workers.

          When finished, it will be rolled across the crumbling concrete of the surrounding ground to cover and further seal the dangerous reactor. The work is expected to be completed in 2018, though that is just a guess. It’s expected to last 100 years. It’s not nearly long enough.

          Reactor Number 4 today is essentially an unplanned nuclear-waste dump. To serve in that role requires it to last for 3,000 years. That means the area surrounding Chernobyl will be safe to inhabit by people again in the year 4986.

          How likely is that? To get an idea of what it means to contain and control a deadly and potentially devastating radioactive pile in Ukraine for 3,000 years, consider what the world looked like 3,000 years ago:

          The Iron Age was beginning. The Trojan War was fairly recent news. Egypt had Pharaohs. King David was succeeded by his son, Solomon. Canaanites were the big world traders. Christ was 1,000 years from showing up. Muhammad was 1,500 years away.

          The legendary founding of Rome, of Romulus and Remus and the wolf, wouldn’t take place for 300 years.

          It’s not simply that a lot has changed in the last 3,000 years, it’s that almost everything has.
          SNIP
          Tetiana Verbytska, an energy policy expert at the National Ecological Center of Ukraine, worries that people are far too easygoing about Chernobyl. Among government officials right now, mindful of the 30-year anniversary, there is a movement to shrink the radius of the highly contaminated no man’s land from 18 miles to 6.

          “The move to reduce the highly contaminated zone has nothing to do with science and everything to do with public relations,” she says. “In Ukraine, each April we make wonderful speeches about our commitment to dealing with this problem, and the rest of each year we hope the problem will just go away.”
          SNIP
          Alexandre Polack, a spokesman for the European Union, notes in an email that the date to begin removing radioactive material from the site is still 20 to 30 years away.
          SNIP
          “We don’t have the technology to fix the problem,” she says. “We don’t have the process to develop the technology to fix the problem, and we don’t have the money to support the process to develop the technology to fix the problem. The solutions for our Chernobyl problems are very much ‘seal it for now.’ We will have smart children and smart grandchildren who in 100 years or so will figure out what to do.”
          SNIP
          After the disaster, radiation burned off the tops of the trees. Soviet officials ordered the trees cut down and buried deep. But they failed to properly encase the buried wood. As a new forest grew unchecked above the radioactive remains of the old forest, the new wood was also highly radioactive. The whole thing will have to be dug up and encased and buried again, properly.
          =========================================
          I hope they have enough fuel to run the machinery in 100 years, and enough beach sand and fly ash for the cement mixture. And keep in mind that our civilization’s average IQ score is on track to be about 10 points lower in 100 years (since the Flynn Effect topped out in the 1990s). Keeping this problem under control will not be easy.

      • thanks Tim.

        that illustration is quite illustrative.

        we should believe the science (when real).

  4. NEWS RELEASE 16-OCT-2020
    When good governments go bad
    History shows that societies collapse when leaders undermine social contracts
    https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/fm-wgg100920.php
    Whether societies are ruled by ruthless dictators or more well-meaning representatives, they fall apart in time, with different degrees of severity. In a new paper, anthropologists examined a broad, global sample of 30 pre-modern societies. They found that when “good” governments–ones that provided goods and services for their people and did not starkly concentrate wealth and power–fell apart, they broke down more intensely than collapsing despotic regimes. And the researchers found a common thread in the collapse of good governments: leaders who undermined and broke from upholding core societal principles, morals, and ideals.

    “Pre-modern states were not that different from modern ones. Some pre-modern states had good governance and weren’t that different from what we see in some democratic countries today,” says Gary Feinman, the MacArthur curator of anthropology at Chicago’s Field Museum and one of the authors of a new study in Frontiers in Political Science.
    SNIP
    “We noted the potential for failure caused by an internal factor that might have been manageable if properly anticipated,” says Richard Blanton, a professor emeritus of anthropology at Purdue University and the study’s lead author. “We refer to an inexplicable failure of the principal leadership to uphold values and norms that had long guided the actions of previous leaders, followed by a subsequent loss of citizen confidence in the leadership and government and collapse.”
    SNIP
    Societies with good governance tend to last a bit longer than autocratic governments that keep power concentrated to one person or small group. But the flip side of that coin is that when a “good” government collapses, things tend to be harder for the citizens, because they’d come to rely on the infrastructure of that government in their day-to-day life. “With good governance, you have infrastructures for communication and bureaucracies to collect taxes, sustain services, and distribute public goods. You have an economy that jointly sustains the people and funds the government,” says Feinman. “And so social networks and institutions become highly connected, economically, socially, and politically. Whereas if an autocratic regime collapses, you might see a different leader or you might see a different capital, but it doesn’t permeate all the way down into people’s lives
    SNIP
    The researchers also examined a common factor in the collapse of societies with good governance: leaders who abandoned the society’s founding principles and ignored their roles as moral guides for their people. “In a good governance society, a moral leader is one who upholds the core principles and ethos and creeds and values of the overall society,” says Feinman. “Most societies have some kind of social contract, whether that’s written out or not, and if you have a leader who breaks those principles, then people lose trust, diminish their willingness to pay taxes, move away, or take other steps that undercut the fiscal health of the polity.”

    • As I read this, it looks to me as if “societies with good governance” are societies which are using more energy for “infrastructures for communication and bureaucracies to collect taxes, sustain services, and distribute public goods.” In other worlds, they are the ones that have managed to get their energy consumption per capita with respect to public spending up to the highest level. These are the ones that collapsed the hardest (broke down most intensely, in the words of the author).

      These societies tend to last a little longer than ones without all of this built infrastructure. When these societies fail, the problems don’t permeate all of the way down into people’s lives.

      We have become terribly dependent on many systems today, including electricity, paved roads and traffic on them, and international trade. Also schools to educate children and provide free daycare at the same time. If/when they break down, we will be in very bad shape. A subsistence farmer or local tradesperson, operating without all of these supports, could get along, even without the government providing what little it had in the past.

    • I should add that I am a little confused/skeptical about the “breaking the social contract” part. It sounds like the leaders were just “bad.” But I expect that there was a reason why the social contract was broken. There was too little energy available to keep it. Perhaps weather had been bad. Keeping everyone alive would no longer work. It was necessary for some disadvantaged group to die at an excessive rate to keep food per capita high enough. The leader would be considered to be “breaking a social contract.” But, that was the way it had to be, given the situation.

    • Gee, can people now get research grants for recycling Aristotle’s “Politics”? I wasted my PhD work in Cambridge, and should have taken a doctorate in plagiarism and flogging dead horses.

      • Not only have mankind reached the diminishing returns of oil, but also in some intellectual endeavor.

        We desperately need new perspectives from our AI overlords.

        Repetition is the ultimate boredom.

        However, figuring sh17 out on your own and then discovering that the Greats such as Aristotle already have pondered upon it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

      • LOL, I had not thought about it, but it does indeed have some similarities to _The Politics_, a timeless work whose insights are as valuable today as they were in the fourth century BC.

      • LOL, I had not thought about it, but the thesis does indeed have some similarities to _The Politics_, a timeless work whose insights are as valuable today as they were in the fourth century BC.

      • Robert, my Italian husband refers to Poggio Bracciolini as a forger of classic manuscripts. I would welcome what I would regard as your informed opinion about the discovery of certain documents and the socio-political context of those discoveries. Could Bracciolini’s excursions have been in any way analogous to those of Werner von Braun?

        • Lydia, I confess I have never heard of Bracciolini as a forger; my only knowledge of him is as one of the inventors of the ‘humanist’ script, and I looked no further.

          However, I am insatiably curious, so please allow me time to pursue this thread.

  5. “Conclusion: The world economy really needs a new, very
    inexpensive energy source now”

    What we need and what we have are two different things, we are going to have to deal with the problem with what we have.

    Reading some of the comments is a bit like Kubler Ross, various stages of grief. We are not getting off this planet, it is the spacecraft which is carrying us around the galaxy. We are going to deal with what we have with what is at hand now. We need stuff, but we don’t have to build it here anymore and even if we want to there isn’t enough stuff or enough energy here to do it, you all have convinced me. FWIW, I don’t think UFO’s are the answer and that is a real reach.

    For the curious, Google slingshoting satellites, fascinating, one either steals momentum from a large planet, or gives momentum to a large body resulting in increased or decreased speed, the bigger the mass, the greater the effect, the sun has been mentioned, that should do for that problem and a fusion heat source.

    The ideas I have thrown up are somewhat mature, they are engineering issues. Man built pyramids, cathedrals, etc. and held civilizations together, man is somewhat remarkable that way we do tend to pull together for the greater good.

    Somewhere a group of very smart people have figured this out and are making plans to solve the problem. We are in a gravity well, getting out of it is very difficult, my guess is we are going back to the moon. This earth is a very special place, we will preserve it, some force somewhere put a great deal of work into this planet, we will get a bit of help here and there, we will make it, we need hope, with a bit of care and luck we can have our cake and eat it too.

    Dennis L.

    • As someone who has been through all the stages, it is obvious to me some are still on the first stage of the K-R model, despite the obvious conclusions of each excellent article posted here. The early stages me envies you, Dennis. It must be bliss.

    • No matter how bad things are, people need to have some sense of purpose with respect to what they are doing now. They also need a sense of hope, even for the short-term future.

      We can’t always focus on how terrible things might be. It worries people too much. We need to be thinking about the positives of the current moment. We need to have a way of accepting what is happening, but at the same time still allow people to explore what seem to be far-out ideas for mitigating our problems somewhat.

    • As you say, Dennis, the earth is a very special place. We will not find a more suitable home ever. So why go out looking for something we already have?

  6. Malcopian

    It’s E.T. technology. They are leaving a double message.

    1. To the military – we own you.
    2. To the people – we are benovelent.

  7. From WSJ: Auto Makers Grapple With Battery-Fire Risks in Electric Vehicles
    Incidents involving electric vehicles made by GM, Ford and others highlight dangers of lithium batteries

    U.S. safety regulators this month opened a probe into more than 77,000 electric Chevy Bolts made by General Motors Co. GM 2.64% after two owners complained of fires that appeared to have begun under the back seat, where the battery is located.

    . . .electric-vehicle fires are a major topic in the battery industry. Analysts say the threat of more fires looms as auto makers face pressure to lower the costs of electric vehicles, pack more energy-dense batteries into them and ramp up production.

    Many instances of recalls in this article as well.

    • Thank you, Gail. Autonomous vehicles require an anergy source. Of course, vehicles connected to the grid, such as the streetcars that were the best transportation system the US ever devised, did not, but that his history.

      What is the best such energy source? One that needs no special treatment, no special precautions, and is available on demand. Answer: gasoline.

      What are the alternatives? None. Live with it.

  8. “ACI World and IATA have issued a joint call for non-debt-generating financial support to “prevent the systemic collapse of the aviation industry”.

    ““The Covid-19 pandemic remains an existential crisis, and airports, airlines and their commercial partners need direct and swift financial assistance to protect essential operations and jobs,” says ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira during a briefing today.

    ““Without this action, it is not an exaggeration that the industry is facing collapse.””

    https://www.flightglobal.com/strategy/aviation-faces-systemic-collapse-without-support-aci-and-iata/140592.article

  9. “China’s gross domestic product rose 4.9% year-on-year last quarter, slightly missing expectations but still music to the ears of policymakers worried about unemployment and souring loans…

    “Too much has depended on state-driven industrial activity, credit-fuelled land sales, and a construction binge. Leverage among non-financial entities rose 20 percentage points in the first half to 266% of output, the biggest spike since the global financial crisis.”

    https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-china-economy-breakingviews/breakingviews-chinas-headline-recovery-hides-uglier-subtext-idUKKBN2740BD

      • China’s government spending on things such as roads and trains can easily go to places where they are not needed, leading to a low payback in the future. Also, the article notes,

        Now, Beijing policy makers are intent on clamping down on home prices that have soared out of reach for many ordinary Chinese. Overleveraged property developers are also scrambling to rein in debt.

        In the past, “the commodity market benefited a lot from China’s infrastructure and real-estate strength,” said Louis Kuijs, a Hong Kong-based economist for Oxford Economics. This time around, Mr. Kuijs says, “it’s not going to be as big a party as it was in 2009 and 2010.”

        • China not only has a huge amount of debt, insecure property rights, unreliable rule of law and “secret” laws, massive malinvestment, and declining domestic coal and oil production, but also its working age population has been declining for several years. China is getting old faster than it is getting rich.

          • I agree with you on most of this. I am doubtful that the working age population has been declining for several years. I expect it is starting to decline now. I know that the graduate students I worked with when I was over there often were not only children. It seems like the retirement age could be raised somewhat, too, to help keep the number of workers up.

            • Western demographers previously forecast China’s working age population to begin declining from 2015, but they were too optimistic. China officially admits its working age population has been falling since 2011:
              https://www.caixinglobal.com/2019-01-29/chart-of-the-day-chinas-shrinking-workforce-101375782.html
              China’s labor force fell to 897.29 million workers in 2018, falling by 0.5% in the seventh straight year of decline, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
              SNIP
              From 2011 to 2018, China’s working-age population — people between the ages of 16 and 59 — shrank 2.8%, the NBS announced (link in Chinese) at a news conference Monday. As of the end of last year, the working-age population accounted for 64.3% of China’s roughly 1.4 billion people.

    • Thinking that China can keep up its rapid increase in debt is related to the idea that the US, Europe, Japan, and Australia can keep everything operating at an even keel with ever more debt. Something has to break, sometime.

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