Energy Is the Economy; Shrinkage in Energy Supply Leads to Conflict

It takes energy to accomplish any of the activities that we associate with GDP. It takes energy to grow food: human energy, solar energy, and–in today’s world–the many types of energy used to build and power tractors, transport food to markets, and provide cooling for food that needs to be refrigerated. It takes energy to cook food and to smelt metals. It takes energy to heat and air condition offices and to power the internet. Without adequate energy, the world economy would come to a halt.

We are hitting energy limits right now. Energy per capita is already shrinking, and it seems likely to shrink further in the future. Reaching a limit produces a conflict problem similar to the one in the game musical chairs. This game begins with an equal number of players and chairs. At the start of each round, a chair is removed. The players must then compete for the remaining chairs, and the player who ends the round without a chair is eliminated. There is conflict among players as they fight to obtain one of the available chairs. The conflict within the energy system is somewhat hidden, but the result is similar.

A current conflict is, “How much energy can we spare to fight COVID-19?” It is obvious that expenditures on masks and vaccines have an impact on the economy. It is less obvious that a cutback in airline flights or in restaurant meals to fight COVID-19 indirectly leads to less energy being produced and consumed, worldwide. In total, the world becomes a poorer place. How is the pain of this reduction in energy consumption per capita to be shared? Is it fair that travel and restaurant workers are disproportionately affected? Worldwide, we are seeing a K shaped recovery: The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer.

A major issue is that while we can print money, we cannot print the energy supplies needed to run the economy. As energy supplies deplete, we will increasingly need to “choose our battles.” In the past, humans have been able to win many battles against nature. However, as energy per capita declines in the future, we will be able to win fewer and fewer of these battles against nature, such as our current battle with COVID-19. At some point, we may simply need to let the chips fall where they may. The world economy seems unable to accommodate 7.8 billion people, and we will have no choice but to face this issue.

In this post, I will explain some of the issues involved. At the end of the post, I include a video of a panel discussion that I was part of on the topic of “Energy Is the Economy.” The moderator of the panel discussion was Chris Martenson; the other panelists were Richard Heinberg and Art Berman.

[1] Energy consumption per person varies greatly by country.

Let’s start with a little background. There is huge variability in the quantity of energy consumed per person around the world. There is more than a 100-fold difference between the highest and lowest countries shown on Figure 1.

Figure 1. Energy consumption per capita in 2019 for a few sample countries based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy. Energy consumption includes fossil fuel energy, nuclear energy and renewable energy of many types. It omits energy products not traded through markets, such as locally gathered wood and animal dung. This omission tends to somewhat understate the energy consumption for countries such as India and those in Middle Africa.

I have shown only a few example countries, but we can see that cold countries tend to use a lot of energy, relative to their populations. Iceland, with an abundant supply of inexpensive hydroelectric and geothermal electricity, uses it to heat buildings, grow food in greenhouses, mine “bitcoins” and smelt aluminum. Norway and Canada have both oil and gas supplies, besides being producers of hydroelectricity. With abundant fuel supplies and a cold climate, both countries use a great deal of energy relative to the size of their population.

Saudi Arabia also has high energy consumption. It uses its abundant oil and gas supplies to provide air conditioning for its people. It also uses its energy products to enable the operation of businesses that provide jobs for its large population. In addition, Saudi Arabia uses taxes on the oil it produces to subsidize the purchase of imported food, which the country cannot grow locally. As with all oil and gas producers, some portion of the oil and gas produced is used in its own oil and gas operations.

In warm countries, such as those in Middle Africa and India, energy consumption tends to be very low. Most people in these countries walk for transportation or use very crowded public transport. Roads tend not to be paved. Electricity outages are frequent.

One of the few changes that can easily be made to reduce energy consumption is to move manufacturing to lower wage countries. Doing this reduces energy consumption (in the form of electricity) quite significantly. In fact, the rich nations have mostly done this, already.

Figure 2. World electricity generation by part of the world, based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Trying to squeeze down energy consumption for the many countries around the world will be a huge challenge because energy is involved in every part of economies.

[2] Two hundred years of history shows that very slow growth in energy consumption per capita leads to bad outcomes.

Some readers will remember that I have pieced together data from different sources to put together a reasonable approximation to world energy consumption since 1820. In Figure 3, I have added a rough estimate of the expected drop in future energy consumption that might occur if either (1) the beginning of peak fossil fuels is occurring about now because of continued low fossil fuel prices, or (2) world economies choose to leave fossil fuels and move to renewables between now and 2050 in order to try to help the environment. Thus, Figure 3 shows my estimate of the pattern of total world energy consumption over the period of 1820 to 2050, at 10-year intervals.

Figure 3. Estimate by Gail Tverberg of World Energy Consumption from 1820 to 2050. Amounts for earliest years based on estimates in Vaclav Smil’s book Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects and BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy for the years 1965 to 2019. Energy consumption for 2020 is estimated to be 5% below that for 2019. Energy for years after 2020 is assumed to fall by 6.6% per year, so that the amount reaches a level similar to renewables only by 2050. Amounts shown include more use of local energy products (wood and animal dung) than BP includes.

The shape of this curve is far different from the one most forecasters expect because they assume that prices will eventually rise high enough so all of the fossil fuels that can be technically extracted will actually be extracted. I expect that oil and other fossil fuel prices will remain too low for producers, for reasons I discuss in Section [4], below. In fact, I have written about this issue in a peer reviewed academic article, published in the journal Energy.

Figure 4 shows this same information as Figure 3, divided by population. In making this chart, I assume that population drops only half as quickly as energy consumption falls after 2020. Total world population drops to 2.8 billion by 2050.

Figure 4. Amounts shown in Figure 3, divided by population estimates by Angus Maddison for earliest years and by 2019 United Nations population estimates for years to 2020. Future population estimated to be falling half as quickly as energy supply is falling.

In Figure 4, some parts of the curve are relatively flat, or even slightly falling, while others are rising rapidly. It turns out that rapidly rising times are much better for the economy than flat and falling times. Figure 5 shows the average annual percentage change in energy consumption per capita, for ten-year periods ending the date shown.

Figure 5. Average annual increase in energy consumption per capita for 10-year periods ended the dates shown, using the information in Figure 4.

If we look back at what happened in Figure 5, we find that when the 10-year growth in energy consumption is very low, or turns negative, conflict and bad outcomes are typical. For example:

  • Dip 1: 1861-1865 US Civil War
  • Dip 2: Several events
    • 1914-1918 World War I
    • 1918-1920 Spanish Flu Pandemic
    • 1929-1933 Great Depression
    • 1939-1945 World War II
  • Dip 3: 1991 Collapse of the Central Government of the Soviet Union
  • Dip 4: 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic and Recession

Per capita energy consumption was already growing very slowly before 2020 arrived. Energy consumption took a big step downward in 2020 (estimated at 5%) because of the shutdowns and the big cutback in air travel. One of the important things that energy consumption does is provide jobs. With severe cutbacks intended to contain COVID-19, many people in distant countries lost their jobs. Cutbacks of this magnitude quickly cause problems around the world.

For example, if people in rich countries rarely dress up to attend meetings of various kinds, there is much less of a market for dressy clothing. Many people in poor countries make their living manufacturing this type of clothing. With the loss of these sales, workers suddenly found themselves with much reduced income. Poor countries generally do not have good safety nets to provide food for those who are out of work. As a result, the diets of people subject to loss of income became inadequate, leading to greater vulnerability to disease. If the situation continues, some may even die of starvation.

[3] The pattern of world energy consumption between 2020 and 2050 (modeled in Figures 3, 4 and 5) suggests that a very concerning collapse may be ahead.

My model suggests that world energy consumption may fall to about 28 gigajoules per capita per year by 2050 (for a reduced population of 2.8 billion). This is about the level of world energy consumption per capita for the world in 1900.

Alternatively, 28 gigajoules per capita is a little lower than the per capita energy consumption for India in 2019. Of course, some parts of the world might do better than this. For example, Mexico and Brazil both had energy consumption per capita of about 60 gigajoules per capita in 2019. Some countries might be able to do this well in 2050.

Using less energy after 2020 will lead to many changes. Governments will become smaller and provide fewer services such as paved roads. Often, these governments will cover smaller areas than those of countries today. Businesses will become smaller, more local, and more involved with goods rather than services. Individual citizens will be walking more, growing their own food, and doing much less home heating and cooling.

With less energy available, it will be necessary to cut back on fighting unfortunate natural occurrences, such as forest fires, downed electricity transmission lines after hurricanes, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and constantly mutating viruses. Thus, life expectancy is likely to decline.

[4] It is “demand,” and how high energy prices can be raised, that determines how large an energy supply will be available in the future.

I keep making this point in my posts because I sense that it is poorly understood. The big problem that we should be anticipating is energy producers going out of business because energy prices are chronically too low. I see five ways in which energy prices might theoretically be raised:

  1. A truly booming world economy. This is what raised prices in the 1970s and in the run up to 2008. If there are truly more people who can afford homes and new vehicles, and governments that can afford new roads and other infrastructure, companies extracting oil and coal will build new facilities in higher-cost locations, and thereby expand world supply. The higher prices will help energy companies to be profitable, despite their higher costs. Such a scenario seems very unlikely, given where we are now.
  2. Government mandates and subsidies. Government mandates are what is maintaining demand for renewables and electric vehicles. Conversely, government mandates are part of what is keeping down tourist travel. Indirectly, this lack of demand relating to travel leads to low oil prices. A government mandate for people to engage in more travel seems unlikely.
  3. Much reduced wage disparity. If everyone, rich or poor, can afford nice homes, automobiles, and cell phones, commodity prices will tend to be high because buying and operating goods such as these requires the use of commodities. Governments can attempt to fix wage disparity through more printed money, but I am doubtful that this approach will really work because other countries are likely to be unwilling to accept this printed money.
  4. More debt, sometimes leading to collapsing debt bubbles. Spending can be enhanced if it becomes easier for citizens to buy goods such as homes and vehicles on credit. Likewise, businesses can borrow money to build new factories or, alternatively, to continue to pay wages to workers, even if there isn’t much demand for the goods and services sold. But, if the economy really is not recovering rapidly, these approaches can be expected to lead to crashes.
  5. Getting rid of COVID-19 inefficiencies and fearfulness. Economies around the world are being depressed to varying degrees by continued inefficiencies caused by social distancing requirements and by fearfulness. If these issues could be eliminated, it might boost economies back up to the already somewhat depressed levels of early 2020.

In summary, the issue we are facing is that oil demand (and thus prices) were far too low for oil producers because of wage disparity before the COVID-19 crisis arrived in March. Trying to get demand back up through more debt seems likely to lead to debt bubbles, which will be in danger of collapsing. There may be temporary price spikes, but a permanent fix is virtually impossible. This is why I am forecasting the severe drop in energy consumption shown in Figures 3 and 4.

[5] We humans don’t need to figure out how to fix the economy optimally between now and 2050.

The economy is a self-organizing system that will figure out on its own the optimal way of “dissipating” energy, to the extent possible. In physics terms, the economy is a dissipative structure. If the energy resource is food, energy will be dissipated by digesting the food. In the case of fossil fuel, energy will be dissipated by burning it. We may like to think that we are in charge, but we really are not. It is the laws of physics, or perhaps the Power behind the laws of physics, that is in charge.

Dissipative structures are not permanent. For example, hurricanes and tornadoes are dissipative structures. Plants and animals are dissipative structures. Eventually, new smaller economies, encompassing smaller areas of the world, may replace the existing world economy.

[6] This is a recent video of a panel discussion on “Energy Is the Economy.”

Chris Martenson is the moderator. Art Berman, Richard Heinberg and I are panelists. The Peak Prosperity folks were kind enough to provide me a copy to put up on my website.

Video of Panel Discussion “Energy Is the Economy,” created in October 2020 by Peak Prosperity. Chris Martenson (upper right) is the moderator. Richard Heinberg (upper left), Art Berman (lower left) and Gail Tverberg (lower right) are panelists.

A transcript of this panel discussion can be accessed at this link:

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

About Gail Tverberg

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

2,321 thoughts on “Energy Is the Economy; Shrinkage in Energy Supply Leads to Conflict

    • White collar-high skilled workers seem to be generally in better health than others. From that perspective, they would be expected to have better outcomes.

      The article doesn’t look at vitamin D levels at all, however. I would be interested in the COVID rates for the different groups, by vitamin D level.

  1. Private space exploration:

    Came across this, YouTube again, Elon Musk again.

    At 1:00 there is an aerial view of the TX facility, at 1:25 there is a view of a malfunction, a bit more than a bumper falling off a Tesla.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTpvoO6x8CA

    In part this looks sort of pieced together, not really an extremely well funded venture, and in part it is a very large area with lots of very expensive equipment and fixtures.

    People who have made large bets are making large bets, we here too often find reasons why things can’t be done, this video shows things being done. One of these craft took four people to ISS.

    Lydia18 has made mention of the incredible strain of MIT and the students work schedules. No doubt what is being done is at the limits of human abilities, but the FANG group continues their effort to magnify human abilities through AI, that too is sort of pooh poohed here, but the sums being invested are incredible, entrance into that club seems to begin at $500m.

    This is a tough group to get into, entrance requires incredible intelligence, stamina, focus and yes, money from somewhere. Yet, it goes forward. I am the optimist for humanity, recognizing the individual challenges that will be part of that endeavor. Man is very inventive; in the 15th century when some said sailing too far from shore would not be possible there were those who said, “Well, maybe, maybe not, I’ll give it a shot, have some money? If the answer was yes, a metaphorical phrase was, “Hold my beer.”

    Why? Why men? Well, the guys who sail into the vastness of space, the sea or whatever are the true bad boys, chicks dig bad boys – seems to be part of the self organizing way of life – why we are where we are? Wasn’t it Isabella who funded Chris? Wonder what kind of reception Chris received from Isabella upon his return from four voyages, enough to endure the hardships of the sea?

    Dennis L.

    • Ha ha, Dennis.. “hold my beer”… you are so right! I readily admit I had difficulty in maintaining focus and stamina because the goals presented to me turned out not to be personally appealing in any way, and for those few years I was just going through the motions, not understanding what was really wrong.

      Everything about “things being done” at MIT raised the question, “are these things worth doing?” Basically, “no”. There is no degree to which I would want to augment my existence in the way many there were interested in doing. You’re probably right that it’s mostly a guy thing.

      If anyone thinks the future of humanity lies with Elon Musk, well… that sort of proves my point that it’s pointless.

      • Human chauvinism is what is wrong.

        Why not start with making dogs and other critters speaking their minds using the neuralink contraption instead of trying to make the rapacious primate neurally enhanced.

        I guess that would change how we view and treat our mammal brethren in a hurry.

        As long as mankind is a limbic system guided missile of self harm, enhancing the capacity would be disastrous.

  2. This was published a few days ago:

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201117133910.htm

    More than half of in-hospital deaths from COVID-19 among Black, Hispanic patients, study finds

    Source: Stanford Medicine

    Summary: Researchers found that Black and Hispanic people made up 58 percent of all patients hospitalized for COVID-19 and 53 percent of those who died from the disease.

    Excerpts:

    Researchers examined a sample of 7,868 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus at 88 hospitals across the country between Jan. 17 and July 22.

    The researchers found that white patients accounted for 35.2% of the sample, Hispanic patients for 33%, Black patients for 25.5% and Asian patients for 6.3%.

    The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that white people make up 60% of the nation’s population, Hispanic people 18.5%, Black people 13.4% and Asian people 5.9%.

    The study also found that Black and Hispanic patients were significantly younger than others, with an average age of 57 and 60, respectively, compared with 69 for white patients and 64 for Asian patients. In addition, Black and Hispanic patients had more underlying health conditions.

    • Troubling, no obvious solutions.

      Credit the CHS and his musings for this reference.

      Basically a German medical insurance companie’s data relating medical costs for patients who have had Covid compared to those who have not after discharge. Those who had Covid had a cost 50% above preadmission levels. Generally when one follows the money the answer is approximately correct.

      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-coronavirus-idUSKBN27V0QS

      Dennis L.

    • The Virus is raciss, obviously. It also shuns the fit and stalks the fat.

      In 2018, Hispanic Americans were 1.2 times more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites. From 2013-2016, Hispanic children were 1.8 times more likely to be obese as compared to non-Hispanic white children. In 2018, Hispanic women were 20 percent more likely to be overweight as compared to non-Hispanic white women.

      African American women have the highest rates of obesity or being overweight compared to other groups in the United States. About 4 out of 5 African American women are overweight or obese.
      In 2018, non-Hispanic blacks were 1.3 times more likely to be obese as compared to non-Hispanic whites.
      In 2018, African American women were 50 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white women.
      From 2013-2016, non-Hispanic black females were 2.3 times more likely to be overweight as compared to non-Hispanic white females.
      People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats, diabetes and LDL cholesterol – all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
      In 2018, African Americans were 20 percent less likely to engage in active physical activity as compared to non-Hispanic whites.

      *The above stats are from the US Dept. of health and Social Services.

      And then there’s the vitamin D factor. It is easier to synthesize it from sunlight if you were born with white skin. The vitamin is raciss, obviously.

  3. Howe has an interesting interview regarding the fourth turning. In particular

    1. Across the world the young have less interest in democracy and more in results. The young want results, they are not very interested in liberal due process which is used to maintain wealth of the old.

    2. There is a populism across both left and right among the young to move wealth from the old to the young(hmm, think I have been on SS for a while)

    3. The growing bifurcation between the rural red states and the blue coasts.

    4. The two sides not trusting one another.

    5. Retipping the economic balance through UBI or inflation, claims on wealth from creditors to debtors.

    6. Both businesses and individuals being on the dole secondary to C-19.

    https://twitter.com/HoweGeneration/status/1327319848242868225

    I personally see this in the young men who are sons of a father who has become a good friend of mine. Also, up close and personal I see the importance of being fair to the two forty something sons of the man who rents my land as they do the work.

    I don’t see the elites being as powerful as some would suggest, we are going to have to tread carefully.

    Dennis L.

    • the elites are now taking advantage of peak oil by setting up great reset which i believe will take place before the end of 2020 so enjoy capitalism’s last hooray before we enter world communism whoevers got money in the bank will lose it all through bail-ins this will be part of the great reset our only chance now is communism for all long live the elites.

      • Or, going back to the early 20th century, Belle Epoque, no Third Worlders in major cities, etc.

        Unfortunately, those who sneaked into civilization since 1914 will probably be forcively evicted.

      • checks calendar: yes it’s 11/22.

        40 days left in 2020.

        the mythical Great Reset could not happen in 40 days, even if it wasn’t a modern myth.

        checks stock of dark chocolate:

        yes, capitalist bAU tonight, baby!

      • I took a look and am less impressed than you are, and not only because of delusional stuff like this:

        “I don’t agree with his forecasts at all, and I take the opposite position that America is in a prolonged period of prosperity, peace, and dominance (especially relative to the rest of the world since 2008) that may last indefinitely.”

        And: “diversity…is a prophylactic against [social] unrest” — ignoring the quantitative research by Tatu Vanhanen that shows the opposite.

        His IQ piece puts too much weight on the “smart fraction” while ignoring the fact that your country’s IQ matters more than your own, and that it affects far more aspects of society than technological innovation. That is why someone with an IQ of 100 is just mediocre in the US but would be part of the top 2% cognitively gifted population in sub-Sahara Africa, yet I don’t see average Americans, or even above average Americans, lined up at airports to fly to the Congo where they would enjoy an impressive cognitive advantage. Likewise, many average people in countries with modest mean IQ scores correctly recognize that they would be better off as part of the cognitively disadvantaged in a higher IQ country in Europe or Anglo-America.

        His attempt to explain away the higher educational demands in US public schools circa 1900 ignores compelling evidence that the lower test standards today reflect a real fall in average in intelligence since Victorian times.

    • okay, listened to Howe only about 7 minutes or so.

      I think he sees some of the problems clearly enough.

      but a couple of times he says things like “get out of the box we’re in” and “get through this”, as if at the end of the fourth turning things will get better because things got better after the other three turnings.

      he probably doesn’t see, and the young generation certainly does not see, that from here on out it will be every succeeding generation getting poorer and poorer.

      meanwhile, re: some of your other recent comments, the older “guys” will be blowing through a lot of their wealth on projects that should impress the chicks.

      Branson low orbit space flights, Musk and Bezos to the moon and Mars etc.

      some of it might work, and the chicks will be impressed.

      it’s been said that past civilizations were at their most impressive just before they collapsed.

      we have no say, but those guys will probably be trying to accomplish their glorious projects right up until the majority of the young generation falls into dire poverty.

      perhaps we can watch the temporary successes for a while longer.

      there’s still plenty of net (surplus) energy around for some of those guys to have some success.

      the old(er) generation won’t be leaving much energy resources for the younger, but that’s the price to pay for today’s projects.

      • I’d agree.

        The so-called ‘Fourth Turning’ has never carried any air of conviction, in so far as it is supposed to be resolved in eventual economic and social revival.

        Reasoning from a false axiom.

      • Interesting ideas,

        My take is the genes of some go on, the genes of some stop; some sort of rule of the universe, chicks rule said with a quiet laugh.

        Ploughing through G. West for the first time, will need to read it a second, maybe a third time. He is convincing.

        As is becoming well and perhaps frustratingly known, I think the future will be better than the past. My bet is to move almost all non organic processes off the earth, end all pollution. The earth is a self balancing system, heavy metals are not biologic and very difficult to cleanse. The earth will take care of itself, we as humans need to respect it. Moon and Mars? Well Mars is the war god so anything goes and the Moon is the symbol of lunacy, so why not?

        Regarding the above paragraph: Nature, the powers that be, whatever did not put fusion reactors on earth, they are in the sun, far enough away to be safe.

        So, reading the scriptures, heaven on Earth, hell on the Moon? Not sarcastic, an option.

        We can all chose our hills to die on, some chose a chair and a bowl of popcorn, me, what are the real rules? Perhaps we or at least some of us are put here to find them, that is beyond my abilities but I seek to understand before I pass.

        Dennis L.

    • re: fathers/mothers and sons/daughters.

      I have known perhaps dozens of parents who are now getting up there in years like me 60+ or at least into their later 50s.

      the children are mostly young adults now, and though it does take time for young adults to progress in jobs/careers to where they match or exceed the wages/salaries of their parents, I just don’t hear of hardly any of these young adults who seem to be on a path to matching their parent(s).

      it might be some kind of observer bias, but my generation (even me with my limited success) seemed to be the vast majority outperforming their parent(s) at the same stage in life.

      too bad, energy and wealth increased for centuries, and now a great turning, a reversal, is upon the younger generation where on average they will be experiencing lower prosperity than their parents.

      • generally speaking, the surplus energy that was available to parents is not available to their children.

        clearest example is a house that used to cost 4x average wage now costs 10x

        As I see it, this decline must go on. It’s part of the energy peak and decline curve.

        Doesn’t apply to every kid of course, but two or three generations out from here, it must kick in for everyone, because our support system depends on the work contribution of everyone else

        essentially we’ve burned our kids future:

        https://extranewsfeed.com/the-life-i-stole-from-you-f609f8db6353

          • If they have become electricians and plumbers, etc, able to write their own cheques more or less here in the UK, the move down will have been quite wise!

        • You have children and grandchildren, Norman. I know you’ve said they think you’re crazy, but what advice do / would you give them? You’ve obviously thought about this. Its easy to say live for the day, but when the consequences come, its in our nature to fight.

          • lol—I wish I could give an uncrazy answer—but when one of them says—”come for a ride in my Aston Martin grandad, and another one makes me burst with pride at the buildings he creates, And four of them leave me proudly in the dust on pure art
            what grandad is going to be the old curmudgeon who says :
            ‘this can’t last’
            So I don’t.

            Instead, one likes to think: chip off the old block there alright, at least one quarter’s worth.
            It is impossible to subvert human nature

            My grandkids are as aware as I am at what’s going on, but fight to survive in their way I guess
            They are very lucky. It is impossible not to want the very best for them

            I won’t see my great grandkids reach the end of the century—that really does make me shudder. But ultimately who knows? But they might show my book to to their kids and say ‘he told you so.’
            (assuming they still read books)

            That’s why I wrote the poem:

            “The Life I stole from you”.

            But Shakespeare put it better than me, as you might imagine::

            When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
            And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
            Thy youth’s proud livery so gazed on now,
            Will be a tatter’d weed of small worth held:
            Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,
            Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
            To say, within thine own deep sunken eyes,
            Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.
            How much more praise deserv’d thy beauty’s use,
            If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
            Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,’
            Proving his beauty by succession thine!
            This were to be new made when thou art old,
            And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

      • Some time ago I demonstrated here using US Gov. statistics on median wage, oil cost/barrel and SS and Medicare transfer taxes where the wealth went. As I recall the transfer taxes were 2-3x the increase cost of oil/energy per capita.

        All humans have a pull by date, and in many respects I am past mine, but still have many things I hope to do. This means, I feel fear of dying which is part of life, it is now personal not abstract and it can be very serious. Sometimes we here we talk too much in the abstract for my liking.

        Kids can’t support their parents, there is no way an economy that is not growing with increased population can support the previous generation without wearing out the kids.

        There are those(most likely the elderly) who emphasize the wisdom of the elders, there are philosophers who observe science cannot move on until the old scientists die.

        david, perhaps you are looking at the wrong end of life – it is the elderly who are dying in the nursing homes, not the young.

        Ying and yang, and while I am beating it to death, chicks rule which is why old men chase young chicks.

        Dennis L.

      • the fact of increasing wealth (over parents) didn’t kick in until the early 20th c.

        the process started in the 19thc but was too small to have any noticeable effect.

        the initial motion for it came about with the advent of mass labour in factories, when employers over time were forced to compete for workers (I’m ignoring depressions here) and pay escalating wages

        this put everyone on the wage-ladder, so it was inevitable that sons should earn more than their fathers, on average terms.

        the wage ladder was exponential, not linear.

        but the exponential curve could only be kept going by increasing inputs of fossil fuels.

        FF input peaked and is now falling. Not through shortage but through cost. (we can no longer afford it)

        Put simply, children’s wages cannot buy the same amount of energy as their parent’s wages at a similar age.

        or more brutally, one.$ 50 years ago bought about 7x more calories than it does today (that was the American dream btw)
        so to maintain the illusion of growth we have to borrow….ie run faster and faster just to stand still (welcome to the American nightmare).

        This is where the current chaos originates. There is a certainty that prosperity can be voted into office. I’ve just explained why it can’t.

        • Agree.

          The only way forward is off this planet for resources and making sure we do not overheat the planet, waste is always a problem. Not a total solution, a start.

          Dennis L.

          • I can’t see how going off planet will solve waste and heat problems. We must make a lot of waste and heat to go off planet. If we succed and return with space resources, we will be able to make even more waste and heat.

        • I agree with the inability of young people to do as well as their parents, in all of the developed nations.

          In China, perhaps young people are doing better than their parents. But if the children are in one-child families, they still end up with the problem of not being able to support the older generation.

  4. “India and China are engaged in an eight-month standoff at LAC in Eastern Ladakh. Both the countries are also engaged in military and diplomatic talks to resolve the border dispute…

    “Amid this, apart from aggressively developing infrastructure, China has started installing radars from Ladakh to Sikkim region.”

    https://www.businessinsider.in/defense/news/the-chinese-army-is-installing-and-upgrading-its-radars-along-the-india-china-border/articleshow/79342093.cms

    • “In case no one has told you yet, debt’s piling up and there’s only one way out — growth…

      “…the chancellor, and the country [are] in a perilous position — even though no one has yet explained to the public quite how bleak things really are.

      “Debt is still cheap. But the Treasury fears that, given the scale of the sums involved, even a small increase in the rates charged by those lending us the cash would blow a hole in the public finances. A significant rise would mean either massive cuts or borrowing to pay for borrowing — a path to the abyss.”

      https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/in-case-no-one-has-told-you-yet-debts-piling-up-and-theres-only-one-way-out-growth-prllcwpmx

        • “The Treasury will borrow almost £500bn this year as it scrambles to cover costs of the pandemic…

          “The staggering sum – equivalent to almost a quarter of the entire economy – is likely to be more than double the £227bn gilt sales in the year after the financial crisis…

          “In a sign of the uncertainty over the eventual sums needed to fund the pandemic response, the Treasury’s Debt Management Office took the unprecedented step of not publishing the gilt sales planned for the full year.”

          https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2020/11/21/treasury-braced-500bn-covid-borrowing-hit/

          • Nice sneaky move, Harry. Sell the first tranche at a high price, the second at a lower one, and so on. There are always fools waiting to be parted from their money, even fools stupid enough to believe in the “faith and credit” of the UK government.

          • We are now seeing what I call 2nd world industrialized economies crumbling before our eyes. The U.K. and South Africa are “borrowing” meaning “printing” up to 25% of their economies. How long until the still standing 1st world economies don’t have anyone to export to?
            Many on here have predicted and discussed when “ the world economy will collapse”
            It looks like 2021 is the likely year.

            • It depends, you have to expand the context of your question though.

              If that fin hub of City is no longer needed (the capacity nixed and partly to be moved on EUR continent and Asia) ..

              If that whole island is no longer needed as naval, air, and radar outpost in the global game ..

              Then indeed it could be all let to final stage of decomposition pretty quickly say before 2025-35.

              But are we there yet, at that point? Not sure..

        • Solution obvious: scrap the duty, everywhere. Sumptuary taxes have never worked and never will.

          Time for another glass of Italian wine at EUR 2.50 per litre.

          • Robert,

            You make retiring to Europe sound wonderful. What are your thoughts on Lisbon?

            With regards to duty taxes, not so sure, someone ahead of the curve dumps products on local market, drives local producers out of business, purchases said producers at a cheap price.

            Missed my wine last night, bottle more like $10/litre, nothing but the best.

            Dennis L.

            • Thank you Dennis. I have happy memories of Lisbon, a beautiful city; and of the waterfront, with the Monument to the Discoveries, featuring Prince Henry the Navigator holding a miniature caravel in the crook of his arm.

              I chose another home: the Isle of Malta, almost the Southernmost country in Europe, and one that has escaped much of modernity. The technology is in place (of course) but the society is still traditional and conservative.

              My minor house improvements required no contracts, no legal formalities, no cheques. Close the deal with a handshake, pay for it cash on the nail five minutes after it is completed, and make a friend along the way.

              It is also deeply Christian, which is a great comfort. No, not my religion, but mine requires me fully to respect the religion of the country in which I live: “I have not denied God in any of his manifestations”; a line item in the Negative Confession. And it does help that I have read the New Testament in both Latin and Greek.

              Let the internet connect you to modernity, but otherwise close your door.

      • Well, that settles it, growth is the only way out, the only way out is up, to the Moon, Mars, and ultimately the stars and the universe.

        Simple, next problem please.

        Dennis L.

        • https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/10/why-not-space/

          https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2012/04/economist-meets-physicist/

          https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/07/galactic-scale-energy/

          EXCERPT: Global power demand under sustained 2.3% growth on a logarithmic plot. In 275, 345, and 400 years, we demand all the sunlight hitting land and then the earth as a whole, assuming 20%, 100%, and 100% conversion efficiencies, respectively. In 1350 years, we use as much power as the sun generates. In 2450 years, we use as much as all hundred-billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

          The merciless growth illustrated above means that in 1400 years from now, any source of energy we harness would have to outshine the sun.

          Let me restate that important point. No matter what the technology, a sustained 2.3% energy growth rate would require us to produce as much energy as the entire sun within 1400 years. A word of warning: that power plant is going to run a little warm. Thermodynamics require that if we generated sun-comparable power on Earth, the surface of the Earth—being smaller than that of the sun—would have to be hotter than the surface of the sun!

          Once we appreciate that physical growth must one day cease (or reverse), we can come to realize that all economic growth must similarly end.

  5. “Investors fret over future of Fed crisis lending – Markets concerned response to potential virus surge will be curtailed due to Treasury rift with central bank.

    “…The central bank made no secret of the fact that it wanted to preserve the credit facilities being axed by the Treasury secretary as a key weapon in its arsenal to keep markets healthy during the pandemic…

    “if financial markets were to experience new turmoil in the coming months, the Fed might struggle to limit the damage to investors in corporate debt, municipal and state debt, and asset-backed securities, whose markets were propped up by the lapsing facilities.

    “And the fallout could be broader, given the nearly $40tn US equity market has been buoyed by the Fed’s intervention as well.”

    https://www.ft.com/content/336eaa2e-29e4-47dc-b2dd-a4175013435e

  6. “Could OPEC’s House of Cards Collapse?

    “As the cartel’s oil ministers prepare to meet in just over a week to decide on the next step in their record-breaking output deal, officials in the United Arab Emirates, normally a loyal Saudi ally, are privately questioning the benefits of participating, and may even be considering whether to leave the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties.”

    https://financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/could-opecs-house-of-cards-collapse

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