2021: More troubles likely

Most people expect that the economy of 2021 will be an improvement from 2020. I don’t think so. Perhaps COVID-19 will be somewhat better, but other aspects of the economy will likely be worse.

Back in November 2020, I showed a chart illustrating the path that energy consumption seems to be on. The sharp downturn in energy consumption has occurred partly because the cost of oil, gas and coal production tends to rise, since the portion that is least expensive to extract and ship tends to be removed first.

At the same time, prices that energy producers are able to charge their customers don’t rise enough to compensate for their higher costs. Ultimate customers are ordinary wage earners, and their wages are not escalating as rapidly as fossil fuel production and delivery costs. It is the low selling price of fossil fuels, relative to the rising cost of production, that causes a collapse in the production of fossil fuels. This is the crisis we are now facing.

Figure 1. 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 Prospectsand 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.

With lower energy consumption, many things tend to go wrong at once: The rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Protests and uprisings become more common. The poorer citizens and those already in poor health become more vulnerable to communicable diseases. Governments feel a need to control their populations, partly to keep down protests and partly to prevent the further spread of disease.

If we look at the situation shown on Figure 1 on a per capita basis, the graph doesn’t look quite as steep, because lower energy consumption tends to bring down population. This reduction in population can come from many different causes, including illnesses, fewer babies born, less access to medical care, inadequate clean water and starvation.

Figure 2. Amounts shown in Figure 1, 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 1. World population drops to 2.8 billion by 2050.

What Is Ahead for 2021?

In many ways, it is good that we really don’t know what is ahead for 2021. All aspects of GDP production require energy consumption. A huge drop in energy consumption is likely to mean disruption in the world economy of varying types for many years to come. If the situation is likely to be bad, many of us don’t really want to know how bad.

We know that many civilizations have had the same problem that the world does today. It usually goes by the name “Collapse” or “Overshoot and Collapse.” The problem is that the population becomes too large for the resource base. At the same time, available resources may degrade (soils erode or lose fertility, mines deplete, fossil fuels become harder to extract). Eventually, the economy becomes so weakened that any minor disturbance – attack from an outside army, or shift in weather patterns, or communicable disease that raises the death rate a bit – threatens to bring down the whole system. I see our current economic problem as much more of an energy problem than a COVID-19 problem.

We know that when earlier civilizations collapsed, the downfall tended not to happen all at once. Based on an analysis by Peter Turchin and Sergey Nefedov in their book, Secular Cycles, economies tended to first hit a period of stagflation, for perhaps 40 or 50 years. In a way, today’s economy has been in a period of stagflation since the 1970s, when it became apparent that oil was becoming more difficult to extract. To hide the problem, increasing debt was issued at ever-lower interest rates.

According to Turchin and Nefedov, the stagflation stage eventually moves into a steeper “crisis” period, marked by overturned governments, debt defaults, and falling population. In the examples analyzed by Turchin and Nefedov, this crisis portion of the cycle took 20 to 50 years. It seems to me that the world economy reached the beginning of the crisis period in 2020 when lockdowns in response to the novel coronavirus pushed the weakened world economy down further.

The examples examined by Turchin and Nefedov occurred in the time period before fossil fuels were widely used. It may very well be that the current collapse takes place more rapidly than those in the past, because of dependency on international supply lines and an international banking system. The world economy is also very dependent on electricity–something that may not last. Thus, there seems to be a chance that the crisis phase may last a shorter length of time than 20 to 50 years. It likely won’t last only a year or two, however. The economy can be expected to fall apart, but somewhat slowly. The big questions are, “How slowly?” “Can some parts continue for years, while others disappear quickly?”

Some Kinds of Things to Expect in 2021 (and beyond)

[1] More overturned governments and attempts at overturned governments.

With increasing wage disparity, there tend to be more and more unhappy workers at the bottom end of the wage distribution. At the same time, there are likely to be people who are unhappy with the need for high taxes to try to fix the problems of the people at the bottom end of the wage distribution. Either of these groups can attempt to overturn their government if the government’s handling of current problems is not to the group’s liking.

[2] More debt defaults.

During the stagflation period that the world economy has been through, more and more debt has been added at ever-lower interest rates. Much of this huge amount of debt relates to property that is no longer of much use (airplanes without passengers; office buildings that are no longer needed because people now work at home; restaurants without enough patrons; factories without enough orders). Governments will try to avoid defaults as long as possible, but eventually, the unreasonableness of this situation will prevail. The impact of defaults can be expected to affect many parts of the economy, including banks, insurance companies and pension plans.

[3] Extraordinarily slow progress in defeating COVID-19.

There seems to be a significant chance that COVID-19 is lab-made. In fact, the many variations of COVID-19 may also be lab made. Researchers around the world have been studying “Gain of Function” in viruses for more than 20 years, allowing the researchers to “tweak” viruses in whatever way they desire. There seem to be several variations on the original virus now. A suicidal/homicidal researcher could decide to “take out” as many other people as possible, by creating yet another variation on COVID-19.

To make matters worse, immunity to coronaviruses in general doesn’t seem to be very long lasting. An October 2020 article says, 35-year study hints that coronavirus immunity doesn’t last long. Analyzing other corona viruses, it concluded that immunity tends to disappear quite quickly, leading to an annual cycle of illnesses such as colds. There seems to be a substantial chance that COVID-19 will return on an annual basis. If vaccines generate a similar immunity pattern, we will be facing an issue of needing new vaccines, every year, as we do with flu.

[4] Cutbacks on education of many kinds.

Many people getting advanced degrees find that the time and expense did not lead to an adequate financial reward afterwards. At the same time, universities find that there are not many grants to support faculty, outside of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) fields. With this combination of problems, universities with limited budgets make the financial decision to reduce or eliminate programs with reduced student interest and no outside funding.

At the same time, if local school districts find themselves short of funds, they may choose to use distance learning, simply to save money. This type of cutback could affect grade school children, especially in poor areas.

[5] Increasing loss of the top layers of governments.

It takes money/energy to support extra layers of government. The UK is now completely out of the European Union. We can expect to see more changes of this type. The UK may dissolve into smaller regions. Other parts of the EU may leave. This problem could affect many countries around the world, such as China or countries of the Middle East.

[6] Less globalization; more competition among countries.

Every country is struggling with the problem of not enough jobs that pay well. This is really an energy-related problem. Instead of co-operating, countries will tend to increasingly compete, in the hope that their country can somehow get a larger share of the higher-paying jobs. Tariffs will continue to be popular.

[7] More empty shelves in stores.

In 2020, we discovered that supply lines can break, making it impossible to purchase products a person expects. In fact, new governmental rules can have the same impact, for example, if a country bans travel to its country. We should expect more of this in 2021, and in the years ahead.

[8] More electrical outages, especially in locations where reliance on intermittent wind and solar for electricity is high.

In most places in the world, oil products were available before electricity. On the way down, we should expect to see the reverse of this pattern: Electricity will disappear first because it is hardest to maintain a constant supply. Oil will be available, at least as long as is electricity.

There is a popular belief that we will “run out of oil,” and that renewable electricity can be a solution. I do not think that intermittent electricity can be a solution for anything. It works poorly. At most, it acts as a temporary extender to fossil fuel-provided electricity.

[9] Possible hyperinflation, as countries issue more and more debt and no longer trust each other.

I often say that I expect oil and energy prices to stay low, but this doesn’t really hold if many countries around the world issue more and more government debt as a way to try to keep businesses from failing, debt from defaulting, and stock market prices inflated. There is a danger that all prices will inflate, and that sellers of products will no longer accept the hyperinflated currency that countries around the world are trying to provide.

My concern is that international trade will break down to a significant extent as hyperinflation of all currencies becomes a problem. The higher prices of oil and other energy products won’t really lead to any more production because prices of all goods and services will be inflating at the same time; fossil fuel producers will not get any special benefit from these higher prices.

If a significant loss of trade occurs, there will be even more empty shelves because there is very little any one country can make on its own. Without adequate goods, population loss may be very high.

[10] New ways of countries trying to fight with each other.

When there are not enough resources to go around, historically, wars have been fought. I expect wars will continue to be fought, but the approaches will “look different” than in the past. They may involve tariffs on imported goods. They may involve the use of laboratory-made viruses. They may involve attacking the internet of another country, or its electrical distribution system. There may be no officially declared war. Strange things may simply take place that no one understands, without realizing that the country is being attacked.


We seem to be headed for very bumpy waters in the years ahead, including 2021. Our real problem is an energy problem that we do not have a solution for.

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.
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1,050 Responses to 2021: More troubles likely

  1. the main problem is the denial that there is a problem at all.

    this is obvious in the pronouncements of almost all politicians.

    Biden is condemned as a marxist now, because he sees that a fairer distribution of wealth is at least part of the answer to our problems.
    So the deniers scream ‘no socialism’ and demand more of what keeps them in poverty—which is exactly what they are expected to do, by the people who want to keep them there.

    • shastatodd says:

      well said norm… it is strange to see people so insistent on doing themselves harm.

      • I should have added, that the secondary problem is that we don’t have sufficient cheap surplus energy to fix it.

        and yes I know I keep repeating myself, but in essence that encapsulates where we are right now.

        the rest is just window dressing really—the riots, the desperation, the insane politics, the energy wars, and so on are just the inevitable fallout of the 2 main problems I set out.

        even covid is a result of our lack of resources because we were forced into annexation of territories where we had no right to be, and consuming animals who should have been left alone.

        forcing animals into close herded proximity, and destroying their habitats led to the defensive reaction of viruses against us.

        • Artleads says:

          “even covid is a result of our lack of resources because we were forced into annexation of territories where we had no right to be, and consuming animals who should have been left alone.”

          i DON’T SEE IT AS A LACK OF RESOURCES AT ALL. I have 50 years of experience to see that what I was saying in the 60’s, had there been the human understanding to enact them (my understanding or others’), we would not have gone anywhere near wildlife to build.

          I was simply not mature or understanding enough to act systematically on what I intuitively knew was right.

          There was absolutely nothing inevitable about this from a design or planning perspective.

          • true

            but none of this was planned, that’s the point.

            60 years ago my main concern was making sure the human race didn’t go extinct– heavy responsibility back then. and everybody else was equally concerned,
            I intuitively knew it couldn’t go on, but it seemed a good idea at the time. and when you’re with someone who also thinks its a good idea…………

            so we grew our (world) numbers out of all proportion to our means to feed ourselves, and took our sustenance from other life forms.

            we either herded critters tightly together, or cut down their natural habitats, or ate them at random.
            we were forced to do that to sustain our our demand for food energy resources.

            but those critters carried viruses that were harmless to them, but deadly to us, because we wanted ‘civilisation’ too.
            Civilisation destroys natural habitats, which viruses ultimately protect for themselves.

            which what they are doing right now. the viruses jumped from animals to us.

            there’s been no ‘planning’, but stuff is happening in the sense of ‘intelligence’.,
            but we see intelligence only at our own level; seems to me that there’s lots of intelligence we are unaware of.

          • Artleads says:

            Maybe a self organizing principle was involved. I’m extraordinary lacking in factual knowledge and human coping skills that the average person finds non problematic. But I’m next level aesthetically intuitive.

            On one hand, I knew how to design the built environment in a radically non intrusive way. (That basic understanding applies today, indicating that it’s built on a solid-enough footing.)

            On the other hand, I was able to put this understanding out of my mind, move on to other things, many of them foolish or even harmful.

            So my inner understanding of my and the society’s prospects was clouded in a way that it is less so now. Maybe the self organizing principle is like cooking, where everything has to come together at the right time, however “ready” an isolated given element may be.

            My inner world has never matched the outer world till now.

            • watching the breathtaking beauty of a murmuration of starlings confirms (to me anyway) that there is a form of collective intellect that we humans are completely ignorant of.

              yet we humans behave in exactly the same way, without knowing why.

              The starlings’ collective behaviour does not carry the means to consume more that they need to survive and procreate.

              unfortunately our collective behaviour does.

              Our collective movements have begun to destroy the living environment of the planet itself.
              Yes, as individuals we could live non-intrusively, but collectively we can’t.

              Our form of civilisation demands that we build packed-tight living spaces, and move ourselves around at faster and faster speeds.


              Because we made the unconscious decision to turn the planet into real estate, and delude ourselves that we could buy and sell it to one another.

            • Artleads says:

              Nice post, Norm.

              I’m struggling with the notion that when the collective world goes against good sense, that can poison one’s mind, poison public discourse, education, create programs that become like living beings and can grow or mutate. So it goes back to my theme that it’s the inner (mental) framework as much as raw physical ones (and they must interact) that bring us down.

            • Jarle says:

              Well put Norman …

              See, I don’t think your rubbish!

            • lol


              can I bank that one to a credit account then?

        • Grace says:

          This is an interesting article about the subject of herding animals together and the biosecurity risk https://www.independentsciencenews.org/commentaries/the-biosecurity-myth-destroying-small-farming/

    • Jonas Eggen says:

      Wanted to like what you say but find no like to push.

    • Lidia17 says:

      Biden just wants to keep running the old scams.. who are you kidding?
      What did he & O do over eight years to help the common people? They are wolves in sheeps’ clothing and Biden is totally owned by China. I think if you were to look at Xi’s portfolio it’d be up there with any other robber baron.

      First thing I found.. from nine years ago:

      • Minority Of One says:

        Here here. Bought and paid for by the CCP.
        If there are to be ‘fireworks’ in the USA this week, this will be one of the main causes.

        • Jarle says:

          I read CCCP and was about to go “what?!” but then I saw CCP and thought that’s as good a suggestions as anything else …

    • It’s a wicked problem. Denial gave us a unique brain capable of exploiting fossil energy, and denial prevents us from acknowledging our dependence on depleting fossil energy and it’s impact on our climate.

      I’d say the main problem is that we deny our tendency to deny unpleasant realities. Which means we can’t even talk about the thing that blocks us from talking about the thing we need to talk about.

      • Jimothy says:

        It’s always nice to see your comments. I enjoy reading your website as well as Gail’s

      • Xabier says:

        How true, Rob.

        I feel that I’m quite a clear-sighted person when I can get at the core facts, and I also view life as essentially tragic: but I have been aware of a small inner voice these last few weeks whispering Denial.

        ‘I might be wrong…. It can’t be! Is this really happening? There must be another explanation…..’ and so on.

        Jung observed that dreams seem to cut out certain aspects of reality automatically.

        Those who were clearly dying -clinical signs – would tend to have one dream referring to it, but the rest would be of the kind one always has.

        Denial mechanism serves such obvious uses, and keeps us from disabling despair and sheer terror. Just as our limited senses help us to create the sense of a reasonably safe and ordered environment so that we can function in it day to day.

    • JoJo says:

      You have it backwards Normon. All humans have the ability to create autonomously. The educational system has changed its focus from developing that to mindlessly repeating dogma. Admittedly there is less resources and less opportunity now.

      Largely the current generation has not developed autonomous creative skills. Thus rewarding autonomous creation is perceived as unfair.

      What a ridiculous thing to say anyone wants to keep people poor. A patented argument to create conflict. It is not that those who create autonomously wish to keep the mindless repeaters mindlessly repeating. It is that the mindless repeaters that wish to keep the autonomous creators from creating autonomously.

      What is not differentiated is the difference between a fiat money supply that creates crony capitalism and true and appropriate reward for innovation.

      What a deception that the real cause of the wealth disparity is advocated to continue and expand in the name of … wait for it… wealth equality.

      If you are true to form Normon having put forth your argument for solutions, now that it is countered you will fall back on everything is falling into the abyss there are no solutions.

      Normon; Trump bad Biden Good
      JoJo; Au contraire
      Normon; Everthing fall into abyss humans bad

      It is of course true that there are great difficulties and most probably suffering ahead. And thats true regardless of what flavor politician is in power. What biden represents is the end of creative human autonomy. Its clearly showing itself in the methods of censorship and polarization demonstrated in Nazi Germany not so long ago. I find your avocation of these principles in the name of equality and your glee in the conflict in the USA as you pontificate from a foreign land distasteful to say the least.

      • do not superimpose your emotions onto mine JoJo

        I take no pleasure in the current mayhem in the USA, because what happens there affects me, either directly or indirectly at some time in the future. It makes me sad, even though I forecast it.

        As far as I can judge, I have put forward no ‘solutions’ (or it was not my intention to)–again, you are replying to your own emotion, not what was actually said.

        As far as keeping people poor, what I actually said was ‘a fairer redistribution of wealth’. Which is not the same thing.
        It is unfair that Amazon should trade in one country and not pay fair taxation in that country while sucking wealth out of it.

        At any given time, the planet has a certain level of fungible assets. We have developed a system of existence that converts those assets into cash. We support that existence through taxing that cash income, (for good or ill).
        That taxation pays for everything we use, and supports citizens unable to support themselves at a reasonable level.

        There is not enough ‘wealth’ to support everyone to excess. Right now we have reached the stage where we are burning through assets that no longer exist. (we call that a debt on our future btw)
        But the ‘American way of Life’ is non negotiable. Which is why we have oil wars.
        Ask someone living under a motorway bridge in a tent, if he wants to negotiate on his way of life.
        or one of the 44m on food aid.

        This is why the American Dream is becoming a nightmare.


        The US theory seems to be ‘every man for himself’, and as little taxation as you can get away with.. The philosophy of the old frontier. Which means that sick people are left to die for want of medication. (as an example).

        I don’t set my own country up as somehow perfect–no country is.

        Every nation seems to be fixated on finite resources being infinite. Those who scream ‘no socialism’ are in fact condemning themselves to the privations of the collapsed state, because unbalanced wealth always leads to that.


        Humans can only be ‘autonomous’ provided the means exist to be so. It has nothing whatsoever to do with politics.
        You can go be ‘autonomous’ in the wilderness and shoot your food. But eventually you will run out of ammunition and your food prey will eat you.

        Politicians can only try to smooth out the ‘energy bumps’. Eventually they fail of course.
        Wealth does not ‘trickle down’, it gets blown up in vanity projects (e.g. Musk’s fireworks displays)

        Trump certainly seemed intent on grabbing what he could. Being set for 2nd impeachment doesn’t look good on his CV though. Even his best rodent buddies seem to be leaping overboard right now. Maybe I’ve missed something there. I may talk like a know-all, but I’m the first to admit I don’t.

        • JoJo says:

          Wealth disparity is a problem. Its a problem on a international level as well as a local level. The unpayable debt increased under Trump just as much as Obama. IMO financial collapse for the USA and the world is baked into the cake now regardless of who assumes power.Who wants to go to the standard of living of the third world? No one. Even that standard would not allow sustainability.

          The Democratic party in the USA is truly terrifying at this point. Free speech is ending and supporters seem ok with that. The dissent that was OK for Floyds death is not OK for election fraud. Protest is now insurrection. The persecution follows the nazi persecution of Jews very closely. Wrong thought now will get you locked in a cage. Bigotry at its worst.

          Taxation is not paying for anything. The money is created out of thin air. No one is willing to accept the standard of living the natural world provides. Who is denying freedom of speech? Big pharma. Big Tech. These organizations represent significant amounts of wealth. The big tech oligarchs are absolute examples of wealth disparity. Because of their political views their wealth inequality is ignored. Why? They are put forth as a model for sucess within a dictatorship. That model demands government be put first that you must comply must obey. If you do not comply do not obey no sucess is possible. Government says sky is orange. Yup looks orange to me. If you do obey you can be Tony Stark. What a sanctimonious corrupt system.

          Yes some one not getting their medicine is sad. A pitchfork in some ones stomach from some one who thinks every one who doesnt share their beliefs is pretty sad too. Wealth equality starts with people understanding and accepting a finite world. Then the means of wealth distribution must be understood to be fair. That means no money printing. As it is its just fighting over a printing press that will soon fail.

          Ron Paul spoke of these issues. A physician who has delivered thousands of babies in this world. A man who spoke out about bloated military budgets. He was just censored off facebook. No specifics. Violating community standards.

          Thats what you stand for Norman when you advocate this regime. You create the image of somone not recieving medicine to support your avocation. Thats a image designed to support your view it also creates conflict. You understand that biden regime will solve nothing. Yet you create conflict.
          This supports my belief that you secretly cherish the strife in the USA. We didnt create this Norman. Black white brown rich poor we are all just trying to make it in this crazy world.

          I dont have answers either. A civil war works in no ones favor. Tolerance begins with acknowledging people as fellow humans. In the USA thats the constitution.

          What other country on the edge of civil war would you insert your opinion in on one false side or the other while you live elsewhere? None. Yet your fine dooing that in regards for the USA. Dont have secret glee for conflict in the USA? Demonstrate that in your actions. You know the images and arguments you are creating are false. Yet you do it anyway. Is it unreasonable of me to assert you secretly view the conflict in the USA with glee?

          • I think you are fairly new in this madhouse, it might have been better if you had taken a little time to judge the characters of those exchanging views here, (not difficult after a while) and decide what level of craziness to peg people at

            some turn out to be quite nice n normal actually

            if you remain convinced that I am the sort of person who could cherish and revel and advocate whats happening in the USA right now Jojo, then it is you who has the problem, not me.

            best leave it that.

    • Jarle says:

      Bidet a socialist?! Mein gott, where do thoughts like that originate?

    • I think you are right that denial that there is a problem is the main problem.

      Government officials, book publishers, main stream media, university officials and many others all want a “happy ever after” story to tell. Government contracts are put out in such a way that each person/group works on a tiny part of the problem. There is a “cost will be no problem” mentality built in, because people all assume that prices of fossil fuels will rise endlessly. Also, once it becomes clear that there is a huge problem with fossil fuel extraction already, it becomes clear that climate change models are based on nonsensical assumptions.

      Economists had made bad models, pretty much forever. A lot of modern researchers followed the economists in the wrong direction by assuming that prices would rise endlessly. The EROEI story has some correct “pieces” to it, but it puts the focus in the wrong place. We really need a rising quantity of cheap to produce net energy. EROEI theory (or energy payback periods, or levelized cost of energy) can be used to claim that wind and solar will save us, when they cannot.

  2. MG says:

    There is an interesting indicator: Human development index


    It is dominated by the countries with the mild climate that are also the biggest oil consumers.

    I would say it is this targeted use of energy, aimed at the humans, that allows the total domination of the humans over other species.

    On the other side of this chart, there are countries like Niger, Central African Republic, Chad, which are situated between the deserts and the humid tropical forests. The application of additional energy here is like cooling down and drying the humidity in comparison to the mild countries, where you only add heat, which does both elevating temperature and drying the humidity.

    The modification of the human environment is thus more efficient in the mild countries, making the domination of the humans over other species cheaper and easier.

    • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      are you saying that any production in factories releases excess heat in manufacturing processes and so it is impractical to have such processes in hot countries?

    • I always thought that the reason counties why mild countries used more fossil fuels (and were ahead on the human development index) is because they were basically forced to supplement burned biomass with fossil fuels, as more nearby trees were cut down. Once counties had set up the supply lines for fossil fuels and understood how to use them, they could make metals and many useful devices. It was an easy step to industrialization.

      Very cold countries need too much fossil fuels. This inflates costs and make countries like Russia less competitive in the world market.

  3. MG says:

    I have watched a video comparing Chile and Argentina today as regards their economies:


    Here are my thoughts:

    Both of these countries are situated in the mild climate: Chile is on the west slopes of the Andes and Argentina on the East slope of the Andes: There is more sun energy in Chile, that is why there are deserts. Argentina has got less sun energy and thus more humidity, as the evaporation of the water is lower.

    The population of Chile is more controlled, while the population of Argentina has got a steeper rise.

    The result is, that Chile is more like a European country, i.e. the west banks of the continent like the Europe is situated on the Eurasian continent. Argentina produces a lot of food, that is why is able to sustain a large population, but the low prices of the agricultural products make it inable susceptible to debt defaults as the income from the agricultural products is not enough to provide other goods needed for its inflated population.

  4. Jonas Eggen says:

    Your analysis are comprehensible, important and makes sense.

    However, and this might be considered nitpicking because it doesn’t really matter in a larger scale of things, but that the virus should be man made is most unlikely, and particularly unlikely that the mutations should be.

    Virologists have been warning us about pandemics for a long time. As the human populations grow and people get further and further into and destroy the habitats of other species, making animals like bats, that are known to spread diseases, search for new homes, we will most likely see more and more pandemics in the future regardless of whether someone makes one in a lab or two.

    This virus does not kill many but make many struggling with late covid, after effects and damaged organs that will put a much larger strain on societies than if people died.

    People who got infected by the previous coronavirus Sars cov 1 have shown to still be immune and the mutations in this new virus happens at a much slower rate than say the common cold or the flu.

    Viruses also tend to become more infectious but less virulent over time. We might be able to eradicate this one but as you I doubt it.

    In the link at the bottom here is a theory presented on how the virus that originally was found in southern China after sudden outbreaks of lung infections in a certain region was collected and later escaped from a lab in Wuhan. Western scientists have long been warning about this lab because of it’s shoddiness and lack of adequately educated staff.

    An american who has been living for years in China and can speak and read the language starts of by telling us that the Lab in question had a job opening on nov.18th 2019 where they ask scientist to come and research on bats and corona. From there we hear the story about how researchers suddenly disappeared, probably died, and about cover ups that should surprise no one.


    • I used to follow Laowhy86 and Winston but they seem to have gone down the conspiracy road a bit. The final straw for me was the assertion that 21 million phone subscribers were unaccounted in a matter of weeks implying they had died, presumingly of covid. Now China is a very secretive society and they hold their cards close to their chests but this just smelled like a shark jump moment to me in their credibility. Potholder54 did a piece debunking Matt’s video.

      • Ed says:

        on the 21 million phone it could be they were unemployed and ran out of money and so cancelled the phone

      • wratfink says:

        Yes, laowhy86 and his buddy serpentZA are “yellow man bad” bloggers. They were posted on here long ago riding around on their motorcycles “exposing” China. Nothing China does can ever be good. Watch Nathan Rich’s videos on how he exposes serpentZA as a fraud. They started out just blogging about life in China. Then, they found out that when you make “China man bad” videos, you get many more American subscribers and views, and therefore, a lot more money. So they quit their jobs and started making money cutting down China. They had to leave China because of the constant propaganda they posted.

        • JoJo says:

          Its pretty ignorant to say all China bad. Their civilization is pretty damn advanced. Acupuncture and Chinese martial arts are unbelievable achievements. Chinese women are oh so fine.

          My profound appreciation for all of the incredible Chinese culture and achievements doesnt mean I sign on to being a CCP slave.

  5. Jonathan Piquard says:

    Hi Gail !

    I’m a student from France. I’ve been following your research since 2 years. I don’t know if you follow the work of The Shift Project. It’s a very qualified engineering team led by Jean Marc Jancovici and Mathieu Auzanneau. They have been gathering data in every field to prepare plans to hard transition. They decided a few months ago to broke their budget and buy the last data from Rystad on oil. They posted a whole study on these statistics and made a video of introduction. As they said, these ressources are the best ones, there is no such data available publicly and the prices are usualy too huge to afford them if you are a researcher.



    Best regards and thanks,

    • I am familiar with this project. Mathieu Auzanneau sent me an autographed copy of his book, “Oil, Power, and War: A Dark History.” I have also been involved in multiple email discussions which involved one of them, plus several other people.

      The thing that I would point out is the fact that the forecasts made by The Shift Project are likely to be quite different from mine. They are basically followers of Peak Oil Theory. This is the standard view that says energy prices will tend to rise, so that much or most of the technically recoverable energy resources can be extracted. Peak oilers do try to limit the kind of resources that can be extracted, so that they do not get the absurd total oil production estimates that many others do, following pretty much the same reasoning.

      Instead, I point out that we are already at the beginning of a crash in production because sales prices for oil, coal, and natural gas remain far too low for producers. Producers voluntarily cut back production, in a vain attempt to get prices to rise enough so that they can be profitable. I think that both coal and oil are now past peak production, and that the peak in natural gas production is not far away. Even if a huge amount of these resources seems to be available, we will not be able to get them out because of low prices.

      The Shift Project says that by 2030, oil depletion is likely to be an issue. I am saying that right now, total fossil fuels production is a problem because of low prices, and there is no reason to expect this condition to get better.

      Economists got the pricing story all wrong, and Peak Oilers tagged along with the economists’ incorrect reasoning. No one understood that fossil fuels are as important (or more important) for the creation of jobs that pay well, as they are for making goods and services of all kinds. If there is not enough fossil fuels being consumed, wage disparity becomes a huge problem. The low earning people cannot afford to buy homes and cars and go out to restaurants. In fact, globalization adds to this problem, because the low wage workers in China, India, and Africa cannot afford the goods that they make using fossil fuels. Because of this low wage problem, oil, coal and natural gas prices fall too low, because of low demand. There is a lag, but eventually production falls too low as well. In 2020, we started to see production pull back, in response to low price. I do not expect this situation to go away.

      You might be interested in an academic article that I am a co-author of called An Oil Production Forecast for China Considering Economic Limits. See particularly Section 2, which I wrote.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Thank you, Gail. I reached much the same conclusion after reading just two pages, ending here: ” ‘Peak oil; is a major yet largely undocumented issue that has not yet received the attention it deserves.”

        Have these people been living under a rock for the past 50 years? Peak Oil has been discussed to death, and almost every prediction made by the peak oilers has proven false. Yet they are still beating the same broken drum.

        And the statement that the EU will experience an oil shortage by 2030? As you say, the shortage is *now*. But if you kick the can ten years down the road, why, you have ten more years to extort obscenely large research grants to solve a problem that cannot be solved.

        And once again, I salute the shining honesty of your contributions to OFW. You may be wrong, but you are not wrong because of an agenda.

      • Jean-Marc Jancovici is aware and has showed there is no elasticity in the oil price (i.e. no correlation between price and availibility), which is a problem he says : it doesn’t help to enlight people and elites to understand we have a depletion problem. For most people, and elites : “The price is low, so there is no availibility nor depletion problem”.
        But if I understand that you, Gail, say the availibility, or amount, of what is left does’nt really matter, because its extraction and refinement and distribution to make it usefull for people and economy isn’t viable anymore to sustain our complex system. We have already reached a level of diminished returns (coupled with stil increase of population) that leads to an inevitable path of collapse.

        I must say that everything looks normal in my life and neighbourhood : my house is heated, drinkable water flows out of the tap, electricity is on, internet is on, I work from home, shelves are full in the shops, I order on e-shops et get delivered, my bank account is credited by my employer at the end of the month. What collapse ? PLease keep it going on. Drill baby drill ! (I’m kidding myself, I know I’m near the center).

        And in conclusion to your article, happy new year and best wishes to you too.

    • Ed says:

      an 8% decline does not seem alarming. What am I missing?

      • When I looked at 200 years of history, energy consumption per capita absolutely had to be rising, in order for the economy to do moderately well. Even flat was a terrible problem.

        If oil production, or total energy production/consumption is falling at 8% per year, jobs are disappearing everywhere. Supply lines are breaking. War is likely. Companies are likely losing a huge amount of money, because overhead is becoming a much bigger share of total costs. Debt bubbles are crashing. Taxes are falling, leading to governmental layoffs.

        • Ed says:

          Gail, yes I understand your point on the need for increase for the system to hold together.

          The 8% is I think 2019 versus 2030 not per year. At 8% or 6% or even 2% per year down I will be alarmed. Yes, I do believe we are in the decline NOW.

  6. thehalfhog says:

    So depressing!

    • My apologies! It is hard to deal with a topic this distressing. Perhaps there are things that we don’t understand that will make things better. We pretty much have to go back to religions to find them.

      • Paula Meendering says:

        Hi Gail, I am a woman who has spent a lifetime active in the Christian church although I always struggled with the religion. I struggle no more as last year at the age ot 62 I renounced Christianity and joined the Universalist Unitarians. Victor Orban in Hungary, President Bolsonaro in Brazil, President Trump in USA were all put into power with the overwhelming support of Christians. All are Christians, authoritarians, short-sighted, among the most base of all men; who have attempting to overthrow legal systems and environmental laws and have little respect for women. I believe the philosophy of Christianity has never accorded any respect to the creation, has aggressively destroyed cultures, peoples,and the planet. I also believe that the future world will weep because Christians walked upon the earth. That is if we can keep learning alive and they realize our barbaric destructive ways. I predict a return to tribes within 300-500 years, maybe sooner and with it the end of our monotheistic religions and a return to paganistic, pantheistic, earth-based religions.

        • JesseJames says:

          If you have read Gail’s work you would know that regardless of tribal or religious situation, that man and womankind’s society will be dissipative in nature, and will grow to consume all available resources. I realize your recent conversion to a pantheistic life and belief system makes you think your kind of society will be “better” and exist in a communal state with Mother Earth, but it will not be different in the end result.

          Quite the good rant though.

          • Paula Meendering says:

            Hi Jesse, Thanks for your reply. I agree with you that the end result will not be different but I do believe that it will lead to a better life here on earth. Mine was a Calvinistic “burn in hell for eternity if you don’t believe in a man” religion. So nice to feel some clarity and better able to guide my children and grandchildren to enjoy this life without fear of the afterlife. It is possible that we will not grow so as to “consume all available resources” although that will take an act out of our control and it probably will not be pretty.

        • Tim Groves says:

          Victor Orban in Hungary, President Bolsonaro in Brazil, President Trump in USA

          The Holy Trinity?

          I would also include President Rodrigo Roa Duterte of the Philippines in that list. The Four Hoarse Men of the Apocalypse. All that shouting and rasping, ya know. It’s very hard on the throat.

          I wish you joy and peace in your new affiliation. If you aren’t happy in a club or a community, what’s the point in staying?

          • Paula Meendering says:

            Hi Tim,
            Thanks for your reply. I most definitely have more clarity. I miss the people but just couldn’t take the religion. Also trying to do right by the world in my own little way. My husband and I have this monster garden and can hundreds of jars a year for us and our married children. We get milk from the farm, and my son-in-law butchers his hogs and our lamb. Nearly self-sufficient in food. Might not make much difference but its fun and we eat good. My son and daughter-in-law in Denver are happy they have a little farm they can come back to if the shit hits the fan. Hope your 2021 is fantastic.

        • Bei Dawei says:

          Bron Taylor distinguishes between “light green” and “dark green” religions. “Light green” would include denominations like the UUs, who express some support for environmentalism etc., but do not really make it their priority. (For some, like the Catholics, it’s mostly lip service, while for others like the UUs, it’s one more progressive cause among many others.) “Dark green” religion sees the earth as sacred in its own right, not only for its role in some divine plan (made by a deity who is spiritual rather than earthly), or for its utility to humanity.

          I don’t suppose you’re a Daniel Quinn fan…? He wrote the ecological novels “Ishmael” and “The Story of B,” which discuss these issues.

          • Artleads says:

            If we do inhabit a living universe, then everything is sacred, not just “nature.”

            • Kowalainen says:

              To be alive implies operating under evolutionary principles.

              Which in turn implies turning mineral/substances into more life, biological and synthetic.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Many years ago, a friend and I were talking about “what is holy?” My opinion then, and I stand by it now, was “everything that is, is holy”.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Robert, I would perhaps rate the evolutionary processes in the universe as the crowning of the holy cosmos.

              How it even is possible is a mystery. But who am I to argue against the universe itself.

              Then again, I’m a diehard evolutionist.

          • Kowalainen says:

            Is there’s a pitch black green alternative, going full bore tech until sentient machines arise while scrapping the obnoxious, wasteful and soulless consumerism.

            Can I have that. Lots of it.


        • Jarle says:

          My mother believe in the Christian God in a sound an unharmful way. Seeing this and others like her has convinced me that faith in god(s) is not the problem, psychopaths using religion are.

      • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        so exciting!

        your graphs seem highly reasonable, even clifflike.

        they very much give us a picture of the idea that a person living in a collapse may not necessarily sense that it is a collapse, but a person decades from now will know it.

        (only) 6.6% down per year, we can hope.

        • Tim Groves says:

          David, my own personal energy level is now declining at about 6.6% per year, so I might not notice the world collapsing around me at all.

          • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

            ah statistics.

            my personal energy recently started moving downward, and definitely at exactly 1.0% per year.

            so I should have about another 100 years to live.

            though I could be mistaken.

      • thehalfhog says:

        Thank you, and not your fault for telling it as you see it (in the data), as you’ve been doing for years.
        One question: “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”
        Where is a good source to look up projected / predicted oil (in particular) production figures which form part of the 6.6% decline.

        • The problem is not on the supply side (of oil, coal, and natural gas); it is on the demand side. Governments that might buy oil products to pave roads fall apart. School busses stop running. Airplanes stay grounded. Governments of oil exporters fall apart.

          Even wind and solar have short lifespans, because the transmission lines they require are hard to maintain. They also require lots of fossil fuel or nuclear energy in the production mix, or they damage the electrical transmission system.

          All parts are falling apart. Looking at the supply side for oil is basically a waste of time, in my opinion.

    • Jarle says:

      “So depressing!”

      Yes … where’s did I put the whiskey …

  7. Bei Dawei says:

    (Sec. 9) “Without adequate goods, population loss may be very high.”

    Cf. Gail’s post of 9 Nov. (sec. 2): “Total world population drops to 2.8 billion by 2050.”

    (I assume she is referring to the same general phenomenon–declining energy consumption on one hand vs. unavailability of trade goods due to hyperinflation on the other.)

  8. Minority Of One says:

    I don’t think you have had a post that raised so many interesting points. All are spot on, and each could lead to the final fall.

    >>It may very well be that the current collapse takes place more rapidly than those in the past

    What I think is most different from the past is that ALL economies are now totally interconnected via the banking systems, and we are in mind-boggling levels of debt almost everywhere, as you say, due to insufficient and falling amounts of cheap energy. Thus we have created the means for collapse overnight, via the domino effect on the global financial system. Maybe it won’t, but I think the plunge protection team can only do so much before the financial system wobbles out of control. Unless the WEF kicks in and saves the select few, for a while.

    • Justin D. says:

      “Thus we have created the means for collapse overnight, via the domino effect on the global financial system.”

      Exactly. Or pretty quickly anyway.

      • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        yes, the global economy has been a network of ever increasing complexity, and obviously unprecedented in history.

        the graphs show an estimated drop of 50% or so in this decade, but there easily could be an acceleration of that timetable.

        as referred to above, 6.6% down per year might be a best case scenario.

  9. Mirror on the wall says:

    Thank you Gail, it is good to have an objective survey that puts various trends into their context and strips them of perspectives that are prone to emotional bias.

    Eg. USA is raising blocks to Chinese growth; that can be perceived through the lenses of ‘oh, those bully boy Americans are at it again’, or ‘good, stick it to those commies, they are our shop floor workers and they should know their place’. In fact it is indicative of wider economic trends. It is not merely that USA is trying to maintain its waning geopolitical hegemony, though I dare say that there is a large aspect of that going on; it is also indicative of general pressures on the USA economy. USA is struggling anyway to find well-paying jobs for its own producer-consumers, and so it tries on tariffs, as countries are wont in such circumstances. The problems are not simply geopolitical but also internal. USA tariffs against China are not so much indicative of USA strength, which can be expressed through global cooperation, so much as symptomatic of the domestic weakening of USA. Protectionism hurts everyone when economies are growing and everyone has been against it since WWII; the problem now is that they are not growing fast enough to maintain that cooperation in the old ways, particularly USA.

    Or, it is not a matter of ‘oh, that Sturgeon woman never shuts up’, or ‘how dumb and obnoxious can those Brexiteers get?’ or ‘that Macron needs to fr/g off with his EU.’ The underlying issues are energetic and structural and the trends reflect those issues.

    Humans are prone to lose objectivity and to miss issues of the bigger picture due to emotional biases that focus their perspective around national identities and even persons. The larger narratives can get lost in the other narratives. That can be a challenge for all of us and it can be contagious as people ‘rub’ each other up. Of course, I personally never fall into such ‘traps’ and I am second only to Gail in her dispositional objectivity.


    Oil and energy prices will remain ‘relatively’ low in relation to affordability. Money printing may push the nominal figures up but oil and energy prices will remain low in their real, relative cost. Hyperinflation does not make stuff more affordable, rather it happens when stuff is seriously less affordable. Inflation will be indicative of growing stress on the productive system, and as you say, it is likely to exacerbate the stress rather than resolve it. It is likely to increase perceptions of crisis, which may help to destabilise governments and international cooperation and radically worsen the outlook quickly. International conflict will hasten the trashing of economies.

    • Mirror on the wall says:

      * “Oil and energy prices will remain ‘relatively’ low in relation to affordability. Money printing may push the nominal figures up but oil and energy prices will remain low in their real, relative cost.”

      I could have expressed that better.

      Oil and energy prices will remain low relative to the price that is required for a profitability of production; the actual price will remain fatally constrained by its affordability to consumers. Money printing may push the nominal figures up for all but the incongruent ratio between profitable price and affordable price will remain.”

      That looks better. The rest of the paragraph is fine as it is.

    • Kowalainen says:

      “Of course, I personally never fall into such ‘traps’ and I am second only to Gail in her dispositional objectivity.”


    • ElbowWilham says:

      What blocks are the US raising against China? Most of our stimulus money went to China. We are buying more from China then ever before, while they are slowing their purchase of treasuries. And now with Democrats in full control, you can expect them some great partnerships with China going forward.

      For better or worse, Trump was the only politician I can remember being tough on China.

  10. Artleads says:

    Thanks Gail. The turn around time for the article was amazing.

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