Monthly Post

Beyond the Peak

Earlier this week I spent a while looking through some of the early posts I put up on my original blog, The Archdruid Report.  Maybe it’s just the rose-colored reactions of middle age gazing back on the follies of youth, but it all seems so innocent now. I was part of a movement in those days, the peak oil movement, which hoped to shake people out of their fond delusion that an infinite amount of fossil fuels can be extracted from a finite planet. The last attempt along those lines, back in the 1970s, was far enough in the past that many of us managed to convince ourselves that this time, we could get people to notice that the laws of physics really do matter.

Remember me?

We were wrong. There’s no kinder way to put it. While we helped some people to grapple with the hard realities of fossil fuel depletion and come to terms with the consequences, they were very much in the minority. Most people dismissed the peak oil message out of hand.  They had plenty of help doing this, because a certain loud fraction of peak oilers ignored the hard lessons of history, and insisted that fossil fuel depletion would cause the entire world to crash to ruin sometime very soon.  Those of us who knew better, and said so, were shoved aside in the rush to proclaim the apocalypse, which inevitably failed to arrive.  That failure was then systematically used to discredit the movement as a whole. It’s an old, ugly story.

Yet the apocalypse follies weren’t the only factor in play. At least as important was a set of counterarguments that claimed to take fossil fuel depletion seriously but claimed to offer a solution—or, more to the point, two solutions. Neither of them were actually workable, but people bent over backwards not to notice that.

The first of the nonsolutions I have in mind was that endlessly rewarmed casserole of twentieth-century fantasies, nuclear power.  A few centuries from now, when some future equivalent of Rev. Charles Mackay pens a new version of that durable classic Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, industrial society’s obsession with nuclear power will rank high among the exhibits. No matter how many times nuclear power plants turn out to be unaffordable without gargantuan government subsidies, some people remain fixated on the notion that some future iteration of nuclear power will finally fulfill the Eisenhower-era delusion of energy too cheap to meter. If one nuclear technology fails, we hear, surely the next one will succeed, or the one after that.  It never sinks in that every nuclear technology looks cheap, clean, and reliable until it’s built.

Eisenhower starting a nuclear power plant with a magic wand. Fatuous? Why, yes, that word occurred to me too.

There are good reasons why this should be so. At the heart of our energy conundrum is the neglected reality of net energy—that is to say, how much energy you get out after you subtract all the energy you have to put in. Nuclear fission looks great as long as you don’t think about net energy. True believers gaze on the fuel pellets that provide the energy behind nuclear power and say, “All that energy in so tiny a space!”

What they never seem to notice is that fuel pellets as such don’t occur in nature. They have to be manufactured from one of a small handful of fissionable metals, which can be found only in very, very diffuse form in mineral ores. Behind each of those fuel pellets, in other words, is a gigantic heap of mine tailings, which have to be dug from the ground and subjected to a whole series of processes to get the fissionable material out. All this takes energy—huge amounts of energy. Then, of course, you have to build, maintain, and decommission the nuclear power plant, which also takes a whale of a lot of energy, and the radioactive waste also has to be dealt with, taking more energy still. All this has to be subtracted from the output, for the same reason that a bookkeeper has to subtract expenses from income to determine the profit.

Net energy calculations are fiendishly difficult, since you have to factor in every energy input into every stage of the process, from the raw ore in the ground, raw materials not yet turned into a power plant, and so on. Fortunately there’s a convenient proxy measure, which is the price set by the market. It’s a source of wry amusement to me that so many of the cheerleaders for nuclear power these days think of themselves as conservatives, insist that they favor the free market and oppose government intervention, and then turn around and back a power source that has been weighed repeatedly by the market and found wanting, and only remains in existence today because of gigantic government subsidies.

There it sits, one more nuclear white elephant.

Nuclear power never pays for itself. That’s the hard lesson of the last three quarters of a century. The writing was already on the wall back in the 1960s, when the NS Savannah, the first nuclear-powered commercial freighter, was still in service. It was a technological success but an economic flop, which is why it was mothballed as soon as the subsidies ran out.  The handful of other nuclear freighters that were built all met the same fate. You can use nuclear power to run naval vessels because navies don’t have to pay for themselves. Commercial shipping does—and on a much broader scale, of course, so does an industrial economy.

The other supposed solution suffered from the same problem,. and added another problem on top of it. This pseudosolution was the green energy revolution—you know, the one that was still being touted just a few years ago as the solution to all the world’s problems, and is still being pushed in a few backward places such as California. Solar photovoltaic power and windpower, the mainstays of the German Energiewende and its equivalents elsewhere, got the same kind of starry-eyed enthusiasm from the left that nuclear power still gets from some corners of the right, and of course it also got gigantic government subsidies, like nuclear power.

Like so many other failures, it looked great on paper.

It was pretty clear to anyone who was paying attention that all this would be a total flop, but we had to wait until the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian war earlier this year before that became impossible to ignore. All those wind turbines and PV systems didn’t make Germany, for example, any less dependent on fossil fuels.  Quite the contrary, they made Germany more dependent on cheap Russian natural gas. Part of the problem was net energy—wind turbines and solar PV also require huge energy inputs, which have to be extracted from the outputs before you can know how much net energy you’re getting—but there’s another problem.

Sun and wind are intermittent power sources. The sun doesn’t shine all the time and the wind doesn’t blow all the time. This isn’t a problem if your economy is set up to run on intermittent energy sources—plenty of windmills in premodern Europe, for example, contributed mightily to local prosperity by grinding grain, pumping water, sawing lumber, fulling cloth, and doing other heavy labor whenever the wind blew.   If your economy is designed to run off a 24/7 electricity grid, by contrast, intermittent energy sources are a huge problem. Available means of energy storage are utterly inadequate for this purpose; you’ve got to have an energy source you can cycle up any time sun and wind aren’t available. That basically means fossil fuels.

What this is to architecture, the Energiewende was to energy.

All those wind turbines and solar panels, in other words, were Potemkin-village power systems, meant to allow the various green parties and environmental lobbies to pretend that they were solving the world’s problems, while natural gas actually provided the power that mattered. If you’ve been wondering, dear reader, why the Green Party in Germany stopped being a bunch of peaceniks and is currently breathing threats of all-out war at Russia, there’s a very simple reason for it. Vladimir Putin has proved to the world that the German Energiewende was nothing more than an empty façade. I don’t imagine German environmentalists will ever forgive him for that.

Now of course if you point out to most people that nuclear power isn’t a viable source of energy for our civilization, and that green energy sources such as solar PV and windpower are even less viable than nuclear power, the inevitable response is, “But there’s got to be something!”  That’s where the jaws of the future close tight around the throat of modern industrial society, because no, there doesn’t have to be something. No law of God or nature requires there to be some new and even more abundant resource in waiting to replace the ones we’ve wasted so casually.

Before 1800 or so, when the large-scale systematic exploitation of fossil fuels took off for the first time, human societies had been in something very close to a steady state for more than five thousand years. Granted, there had been technological advances during that time.  Advances in metallurgy had turned metal tools from expensive luxury items to everyday conveniences; advances in agronomy had worked out many of the bugs in agriculture; advances in shipbuilding and navigation had expanded the possibilities of international trade; the printing press, invented in China and perfected in Germany, brought literacy in reach of much larger fractions of the world population than ever before.  It was nonetheless true that life in the England of George I was not noticeably different in most ways from life in the Egypt of Ramses I.

It takes a lot of energy to make steel in any quantity.

Fossil fuels changed that. Coal had two world-changing effects. The first, the one everyone thinks of, is that it could be used to power steam engines, replacing wind, water, and muscle power first in dozens, then in hundreds, and finally in thousands of uses. The second, less widely known but just as dramatic, is that it could be used via the Bessemer process to produce steel in previously unimaginable amounts. Steel plus steam power drove the industrial revolution, sent railroads scything across continents and steamships driving through oceans, and transformed human life in a galaxy of ways.

Then, about the time coal reserves started to run short, petroleum (and its gaseous form, natural gas) came into general use. More chemically complex than coal, petroleum had even more net energy, and shifted the industrial revolution into overdrive. Airplanes, automobiles, plastics, industrial lubricants, the entire modern chemical industry—the list just keeps on going. Lewis Mumford, one of the twentieth century’s most insightful students of energy and civilization, argued that the distinction between coal-fired technologies and petroleum-fueled technologies was significant enough to define a change of eras: he called the coal period the Paleotechnic Era, and the petroleum period the Neotechnic Era.

Even M. King Hubbert, no slouch when it came to energy science, bought into the nuclear mirage. This is from his famous paper on peak oil.

The assumption all along was that petroleum would eventually run short and have to be replaced by something else, leading to a third technic era. By 1950 nearly everyone assumed that what would replace it was nuclear power. You have to read books from that time to get a sense of just how inevitable the coming nuclear era was thought to be. Even avant-garde ecological thinkers treated nuclear power as the next inevitable thing. Pick up any of the works of Paolo Soleri, Frank Lloyd Wright’s most innovative student, who imagined humanity settling in gigantic city-sized buildings called arcologies so that the natural world could be allowed to thrive elsewhere.  Each of his arcologies was supposed to be powered by its own nuclear power plant.

That, in turn, was where the dream ran off the rails, because it turned out that nuclear power doesn’t pay for itself. It’s not economically viable, because its net energy is so low. Thus it wasn’t Chernobyl or Fukushima Daiichi that brought the nuclear dream to a grinding halt, it was a long series of financial disasters suffered by utilities that got suckered into the nuclear hoopla, above all the bankruptcy of the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS, unfondly remembered as “Whoops!” by the many thousands who lost money on it).

Worth rather less than the paper it was printed on.

That caught nearly everybody by surprise, because net energy analysis wasn’t something you saw even in the energy industry—fossil fuels had so much net energy that nobody had to worry about it, and that led to the delusion that net energy didn’t matter more generally. Frantic attempts to evade the consequences followed. Those of my readers who’ve been following energy news long enough will remember any number of attempts to insist that this or that brand new nuclear technology would surely fulfill the fantasies heaped onto Our Friend The Atom. None of them worked, because the underlying problem of inadequate net energy is not being addressed. It can’t be addressed, because it’s hardwired into the laws of physics.

The various green energy gimmicks that have soaked up their share of government subsidies since the twilight of nuclear power can best be seen as desperation moves to try to fill the void left yawning by the failure of the nuclear dream. Here again, those of my readers who’ve been following energy news long enough can recite a whole litany of gimmicks that were supposed to do the trick. Corn ethanol, algal biodiesel, solar photovoltaic systems, windpower—the list goes on. Most of them got deployed to one degree or another, since there was plenty of money and plenty of fossil fuel energy available to make the attempt.

M. King Hubbert again. Notice the long slow taper extended by future discoveries.

They didn’t work. That’s the lesson of the last two decades.  You can’t run an industrial society on green energy technology, any more than you can run it on nuclear power; the net energy is too low. It’s like trying to maintain a six-figure income by vacuuming up spare change from under your friends’ sofas.  Meanwhile the coal, oil, and natural gas that we use to run our industrial society are depleting steadily. They’re not going to run out overnight—that’s something those of us in the peak oil scene pointed out over and over back in the day, though nobody was listening. They’re going to become a little more expensive, a little less accessible, a little more loaded with political and economic burdens with every year that passes, and bit by bit, individuals, social classes, and entire nations will be priced out of the slowly shrinking market.

That’s what’s happening in Europe right now. For political reasons, Europe built a Potemkin-village energy system of wind turbines and solar panels, which they propped up by importing huge volumes of cheap natural gas from Russia. With the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian war, European leaders convinced themselves that they could fling around sanctions and still force Russia to keep selling them gas, and discovered the hard way that there are plenty of buyers elsewhere in the world who are eager to buy the same gas and aren’t stupid enough to try bullying the producer. Europe’s increasingly frantic attempts to buy more gas elsewhere have run into the awkward reality that there isn’t much spare capacity anywhere in the world. So Europe’s heading into winter without enough natural gas to keep its economies running, and Russia shrugs and counts its earnings in rupees and yuan.

Meltwater on the Greenland ice cap. Say hi to the future.

That’s the wave of the future. Despite all the rhetoric about climate change, and despite the hard (if considerably less apocalyptic) realities behind that rhetoric, those nations that have fossil fuels to sell will continue selling them, and plenty of nations will be lining up to buy them, since the alternative is a bitter economic slump of the kind that’s hitting Europe right now.  Yes, this means that carbon dioxide is going to keep pouring into the atmosphere. That in turn very likely means that drought will continue to tighten its grip on the western half of the United States and the southern half of Europe; it also very likely means that low-lying coastal cities are going to have to be abandoned to rising seas over the course of the next century or two.

That can’t be helped. We’ve already seen that the people who yell the loudest about climate change aren’t willing to downshift their own lifestyles in the slightest to keep that future from happening.  Those of us who are willing to live on a less extravagant energy budget—well, we exist, but there are frankly too few of us to make a difference now. (We might just make a big difference later on, because the lifestyles we’re exploring now will be what’s available as the supply of fossil fuels runs down further, but that’s still a good long ways in the future.)

Not gonna happen. Deal with it.

Mind you, I know perfectly well that none of this is going to keep people from insisting that nuclear power can still bail us out of the mess we’re in, if only we flush more money down the latest collection of glow-in-the-dark ratholes. Nor is it going to keep other people from insisting that the only problem with windpower and solar PV is that we haven’t flushed enough money down those green-painted ratholes instead. The delusion that there’s got to be some way to keep wasting energy as extravagantly as we’ve done for the last two centuries runs very deep in contemporary culture. To give it up is to let go of a vast gallimaufry of emotionally appealing fantasies about the future, and even though most of those fantasies have already been disproven, hope springs infernal and all that.

The future we’re facing is not the one that gets shoved at us daily by the corporate mass media. All that pretentious drivel about humanity’s destiny in space passed its pull date a long time ago. Nor are we facing the flipside of those same fantasies, the overnight apocalypse that wipes us all out or plunges us all back to the stone age by next Thursday at the latest. What we’re facing instead might best be called history as usual: the long slow unraveling of a civilization that drew too heavily on its resource base. It’s an old story and, for the historically literate, a familiar one.

A familiar story.

That doesn’t mean that the societies of the future will have to get by on the same technological basis as the societies of the past—again, the England of George I had technologies and options that the Egypt of Ramses I didn’t have. In the same way, the societies of the deindustrial age ahead of us will very likely have useful things invented in our age:  shortwave radio, ultralight aircraft, and a good solid grasp of basic sanitation are among the candidates that come immediately to mind. Further out, as new civilizations rise on our ruins, technologies well suited to function within the long-term energy budget of our planet will doubtless blossom in turn.

Just as history didn’t begin with the steam engine, in other words, it won’t end with the last dying gurgle of oil coming from the last commercially viable well. Over the months ahead, I plan on taking a look ahead at some of the history waiting for us in the wake of the fossil fuel age.

345 Comments

  1. What’s the EROI like on the less talked about energy storage systems like flywheels and liquid air? (which, as far as I can tell, Germany did none of)

  2. The inevitable rebuttal I get whenever I point out the failings of nuclear power is that it’s been “strangled to death by excessive regulation.” This seems to be the new thoughtstopper of the right on the topic – the peaceniks and environmentalists need to get over themselves and usher in our bright nuclear future. Never mind that Russia and the People’s Republic of China both have more than sufficient levels of authoritarianism to tell people to shut up and get cancer in exchange for keeping the economy going – and yet neither of them seem to be swimming in cheap electricity.

  3. I have a question regarding Nuclear waste. Surely, there must be a considerable if not massive amount that has accumulated over the decades. As this techno-era all unwinds, how will future generations deal with that waste?

    I keep reading that Nuclear waste needs to be stored and maintained so as not to ignite and cause radiation pollution and I have read that it needs to be store for hundreds of years. Is that information correct? Is the easy out to simply dump it in the ocean or the antarctic?

  4. https://columbiabasinherald.com/news/2013/nov/08/rec-silicon-announces-workforce-reduction-2/

    It’s an old picture, but it fits, those are three of the six natural gas burners that provide process heat needed to upgrade metallurgical grade silicon to PV grade silicon.

    The plant is shut down now, a victim of Chinese trade sanctions. They want the market to themselves. But Management is planning to reopen it in 2024.

    The plant also has a couple of natural gas reformers to supply hydrogen and pulls several megawatts of electrical power. And due to the fact it takes several hours to heat up and cool down it’s completely unsuited to running off of renewable energy. In fact if you lose power entirely you might be down for a week to unplug things, then you need three days of uninterrupted power to get restarted.

  5. Europe, at this moment, is alredy doomed to the reality that you wrote in the “Christmas 2050” post long ago in ADR. If they insist on escalation with Russia and NATO formally joins the fray, probably to try to save the 50k+ NATO mercs marching torwards a russian encirclement in the coming cold winter (the so called Kharkov counteroffensive), they will get the “Solstice 2100” once the russians, instead of waiting for the full might of NATO to invade Russia decide to launch the tactical nukes on Europe. Since the euro leadership chose Ukraine to be the hill they will die on the risks of nuclear war in Europe are not small and all european military bases and airfields are near cities because Europe is a crammed continent.

    Strangely enough, here in Brazil things are somewhat fine. Inflation stoped rising and we even had a small deflation in fuel prices. The political system is working despite what the international media says and unemployment stopped rising if you consider informal workers outside the formal employment framework (copied from Mussolini’s labor laws) as working. Colombia is talking about legalizing cocaine and if they can pull that they will start drain money from the USA, many billions per month, while showing to the world that the USA lost control of it’s latin colonies.

    People that think that green, renewable, energy sources can sustain industrial societies should have studied Brazil’s experience with renewable energy. The military dictatorship built a lot of hydro power plants, Brazil geography, with it’s plateaus and huge rivers near the big cities, is very good for that. But expensive eletricity from the limits of hydro power hinders economic growth, Brazil will never grow more then 2% yearly in real terms in a sustainable manner. Brazil’s NPPs are a leftover of the nuclear weapows program that, while stalled since the fall of the military dictatorship, was never fully cancelled, we still can enrich nuke grade fuel and one day we will build our own nuclear submarine.

    Going back to Brazil’s green energy, half of the coal used by our metallurgy comes from tree farms because here we have no coal worth mentioning (was the south pole in the carboniferous or something like that) and that also place hard limits to our metallurgy. If it grows too fast the prices rise accordingly because we need to import more mineral coal. So, the tl-dr version is that somewhat sustainable energy sources place hard limits on our economy and these hard limits, in an economic system based on usury and debt expansion, are one of the base causes of Brazil’s social dysfunctions like it’s slums and drug lords with thousands of warriors armed with assault rifles (the “crias da favela”).

    Of course the euros would never learn from Brazil’s history because they look down upon all the nations of the American Continent as stupid colonials that can’t do anything right and that this time would be diferent. Yes, it is. Europe hydro potential is a fraction of Brazil’s, they are used to burn much more energy then us, and in any case, you need fossil fuels to build hydro pp, that humugous concrete dams won’t build themselves, need heat to make concrete, rebar, the turbines, etc, so the only somewhat reliable (but still subsided by fossil fuels) renewable power source is not available to them and things will be different from here, they will be lucky if they get Brazil’s social dysfunction as final result. There are many worse things them a jury-rigged, badly administrated, crime-infested country.

    Also, back to Ukraine: Zelenksy (or as we call him here Cheirenky because he snorts too muck coke*) his willingness to fight to the last ukrainian against an overwhelming opponent beliving that somehow he will win is very similar the Solano Lopez, the dictator of Paraguay in the Paraguay War during the 19th century that ended with most of male population there dead and complete destruction of the country. Paraguay only exists as a country today because the Emperor was magnanimous and wise enough not to annex a country that was never part of Brazil. Putin won’t be so magnanimous and Ukraine was part of Russia at least since the 17th century. If Zelesky flees to the US (people say that some Ukrainian millionaries with ties with CIA and Mossad bought him a 30 million mansion in Florida) he will be the fall guy when the emblezzement of war funds scandals blows up, just like Fauci is being set as the fall guy for the covid/pfizer hysteria.

    *portmanteau of the verb to smell something/to snort [coke] (cheirar) and his name

  6. Great writing, John Michael. I have been reading yourself (and a good few others) over the past two decades or so, and have been discounting the ‘technological solution’ to everything with so much dismissal.

    It seems that most people today know the saying that, ‘what goes up must come down…’, but forget the next part: ‘…what goes down, may not necessarily go back up.’

    What fascinates me is that over the past four years or so, more and more vehicles are getting bigger and bigger (and going faster and faster) I have to wonder what is the end point. Same as with technology: phart smones and pads are getting smaller and smaller and going faster and faster, what is the end point? How is it really possible that so few people consider such questions?

    Keep up the great thinking, JMG, and I really look forward to the upcoming months to your contributions.

    From the Irish midlands,

    brian

  7. “With the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian war, European leaders convinced themselves that they could fling around sanctions and still force Russia to keep selling them gas.”

    Not so. Despite all that can be said about our leaders (and there is a lot to be said about them), everyone knew that if the war continued for too long, Putin would shut down the valves. Next to nobody here was surprised when he did. European gas reserves are almost full in most countries that have storage facility because our leaders knew that Nord Stream was a goner.

    A lot has been said here about the imbecility of the management class while lionizing the rational decision-making of strongmen like Putin, even though, as the developments of the last two weeks have shown, he is anything but eating popcorn as we speak (your meme two weeks ago was very poorly chosen).

    Europe is of course in a pickle. But Russia isn’t looking so good either, as its regime’s credibility is at stake, and as it is losing its grip on the remnants of its empire (you cannot have missed what’s happening in Armenia and in Tajikistan, plus the lack of support from Kazakhstan).

  8. OMG,yes. A few days ago, I was moved to reread Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Science in the City” trilogy, circa early 2000’s. It was enough to make you tear your hair out. Excellent description of a rather apocalyptic (i.e. tightly compressed timewise) of the problems ahead, and marvelous when dealing with the way individuals, many of them at the bottom of society, were handling things, but an entire Hallelujah Chorus of massively expensive high-tech solutions, Scientists running Everything Will Save the Day, and “If only we get the Republicans (designated ‘loser-opposition-to-progress villains) out of office.” Of course, Robinson was quite young at the time. I know: about 20 years ago I took in his lecture at the annual Jack Williamson Lectures where he was, IIRC the guest of honor.

    You couldn’t ask for a better illustration of where we are and why we’re still in this hand-basket.

  9. A timely and excellent post, JMG. I met up with a couple of old college buddies this past weekend, and while reminiscing about our antics in school 40 years ago, we also discussed decline, energy and politics. You’re right in that being on “the right side” of science and the numbers is still not enough to overcome the Religion of Progress. As a “recovering” meteorologist and horseplayer, I’m used to being confronted with data that shows how flawed my forecasting is, but I guess I’m in the minority. Many will have to learn the hard way, having the facts demonstrated for them, and many of them will still not understand it.

    It appears to me that quite a few people in power are understanding the basics of energy depletion and that we have only a 50 year or so supply of oil left at current burn rates (approx. 100M bbl per day), assuming that new discoveries and increasing extraction costs cancel each other out. Most political decisions are making things worse, but I do think that will adjust with increasing costs, rationing and more prudent future legislation. I believe the military, utilities and farmers will get their allotment up front, and so the “crash” of personal transportation will be faster. As you’ve mentioned, the consumption rate of fossil fuels will decline and the transition to “green” alternatives will be sorely short of what’s required to maintain our extravagant and wasteful lifestyles.

    Collapsing now to avoid the rush, though this is tougher than I thought it would be….

  10. Thank you for this post, JMG. I am pleased to report that a Tweeter who asked for a recommendation of someone who writes on technological stagnation was met with a number of recommendations for your work, with one commenting “GREER GANG ASSEMBLE”, and another providing a meme-ified image of yourself under the words DIMINISHING RETURNS OF TECHNOLOGY. As a huge percentage of the Twitter right is enraptured by nuclear-power or the abiotic oil theory, this was a heartening sight.

    Thread here: https://twitter.com/corsair21c/status/1571920296709599232

  11. Dear JMG, I believe you have consolidated what would have been a very complex discussions on energy into 3 or 4 variables and used them to a show a clear big picture. Not unlike a certain computer simulation run in the 70’s, it was called “Limits to Bloat” I believe 😉

  12. Just wondering what you think might have been better energy policies for Germany to have pursued over the past 10-20 years instead. Apart from the now-obvious ‘if you’re going to make yourselves heavily dependent on a specific other nation for a giant part of your essential energy supplies, don’t tick them off so badly they stop selling to you’.

    Germany never had a lot of fossil fuel resources domestically, except for coal, and I don’t know how much of that they have left. As such, energy independence based on fossil fuels isn’t a good option for them either, even if you completely ignore climate impacts.

    That means they have to get some of their energy a) from somewhere else, or b) from something else. They chose a combination of the two, in the form of renewable energy locally and natural gas backup from Russia. In retrospect, they shouldn’t have gotten so much of their natural gas backup from one source, or they should have admitted to themselves how dependent they really were and avoided angering Russia. That was dumb.

    The things I can think of that could have improved their current situation are:
    a) focusing more on energy conservation so they needed less energy, especially once relations with Russia started souring. This runs head-first into the needs of german industry for energy, since manufacturing is such a critical part of the german economy. It also isn’t as if Germany is nearly as wasteful of energy as North America. So I’m not sure how much more of this they could have done until relations with Russia started getting rockier. They really should have doubled-down on that this year, though, it was their best option if they didn’t want to make up with Russia and abandon Ukraine to its fate. I don’t understand why Germany hasn’t done a giant crash course to make every home, every business as weathertight as possible. Done all the quick and cheap things that can be done to save energy.
    b) maintaining better relations with Russia
    c) diversifying their fossil fuel sources wherever possible.
    d) experimenting with energy storage for intermittent renewables where financially and technically feasible. This is more for the future, though, and would likely not have helped much with their current situation.

    JMG, or others, if you were running Germany, with all the restrictions that politics and economics place on the possible, what would you have done?

  13. I don’t share your optimism that there will be future civilizations. Future small bands of humans, maybe.
    But we’re currently in the process of depleting biodiversity for the next million years.
    And when global temperatures increase +3-5º Celsius from the preindustrial baseline, it’s likely that agriculture will not be viable in the world’s breadbasket regions.

    There’s also the matter of our current civilization forgetting how to operate on a lower energy and complexity budget. It’s easy to build complexity off of previous levels of technology, but harder to dial it back. In the past, everyone knew how to weave baskets, make clothing, etc; now, the vast majority of people are dependent on distant factories. When the knowledge dies out, we’re facing a long “dark ages” period (at best).

  14. Very timely JMG, I found myself reading the Thorium nuclear power wiki page just this last week. Though I find nuclear physics fascinating in their own right, I found myself trying to will myself into the delusion that it could be viable. Though I have been peak oil aware for the better part of 20yrs at this point, that kernel of a desire to delude myself still exists. I can only imagine the level of horror in those whom it is just starting to dawn, given the present state of the world. Thanks for being among the influences that nudged me to “collapse first and avoid the rush”.

  15. Well, I for one would like to thank you.
    It is not, that I can console you of somehow succeedding in making any ground shaking difference, even on the miniscule scale of my person. I am no apprentice, journeyman, or whatever conservator. And my circumstances and my meagre mental resources did not change much in this world. For my immediate environment, or society.
    But I found you back in the day. And at first you provided some perspective. Later sage advice that helped me navigate the medical system, my career, personal matters. And since the last 3 years this led to initiation.
    I am not prepared for what is coming, not in any material sense. But I have a sense of what is coming, and a mental/spiritual strength to weather it. My trajectory is changed.

    You failed! Big deal. To me you made all the difference in the world. Teacher.

    🙂 I provided the base metal, the world the heat and the pressure. But the AR provided the philosopher’s stone to transmute the base to … we will see.

  16. Hi JMG and Community what if we have a litt brainstorming a Solutions pile or please a better name if you have any…

    As a first small contribution To the solutions pile: One tiny way to ease to the current predicament what if we made lightbulbs as lasting as the Centennial Light instead of the landfill garbage the current mega corp. make that only lasts a set number of hours before they have to be replaced… Does not solve anything but one working lightbulb is better than none…. Please add in whatever you can think of

    Best Regards Martin

  17. I find it interesting that right now when they are so badly needed somewhere around half of Frances nuclear power plants are shut down for “maintenance.” From what I can read from snippets here and there this maintenance is thing that has been the death knell of nuclear power plants everywhere, which is corrosion in the steam generator. The steam generator is a large heat exchanger where hot radiated water from the reactor passes its energy to clean water which is then used to run the turbines to make energy. The bugaboo is that radioactive water is very corrosive and damages metal of all kinds over time. Zirconium is the least effected and is used for key internal parts in the reactor. But it is far too expensive and difficult a material to uses for the Steam Generator so these are made from the best metals possible for something that weighs many tons. After years of activists protesting what finally did in the Trojan power plant ( Oregons only nuke) was cracks in the steam generator which cut its planned life short by 20 years. The logistics required to replace a huge metal object that weighs over a hundred tons and is radioactive with a new one are mind boggling and mind boggling expensive ( and dangerous). Just one of the many things that make nuclear power have a non-useful net energy.

  18. @ JMG – Reading ‘the Long Emergency’ in 2007, and finding the ADR around 2008 totally changed my perspective on what the future might hold. I have to thank you for those early efforts. Maybe they didn’t change the whole world, but your early blogging changed my mental map of the future, so that’s something!

    A few observations about solar electric power and questions about the future:

    1 – the south facing PV system on my roof consistently provides about 40% of the electricity used by my household. I’ve put more than a little thought into how to make that electricity stretch, and some of the easiest, lowest hanging fruit includes never running the clothes dryer again, (about 20% of household use) and turning the thermostat up higher than it is set right now (76 F). If I could do away with central air, and replace it with two more split units, that would save a lot of electricity, though given the layout of the house, I question the architectural viability of such a scheme. While that wouldn’t get us down to a breakeven point, I think if we had to become very strict on out electric usage (say if the power grid failed), we could shut off the breaker to the outside line, and keep food cold, and the house generally cool. Do you still view late-19th century tech as the theoretical floor for an ecotechnic culture, or would you push that floor lower, closer to George 1st’s England?

    2 – I’m not suggesting this is the solution to the predicament, but conservation, and using less, can/could go such a long way to reducing the need for centralized power and could have, I think, cushioned the landing. BTW, we’ve blown new insulation in the attic, replaced all our old windows with energy efficient ones, insulated the exterior walls where feasible, and weather-stripped all the doors. While I won’t waste breath on what could have happened in 1980 or 2000, I think we COULD have combined conservation with green-ish electricity and maintained some semblance or industrial-light society. (I assume for the sake of conjecture said alt-history USA phases cars out in favor of feet, rail and maybe electric busses. Somehow. I’m probably waving magic wands on that one…) I recall you wrote back in the early days of the ADR, that you didn’t think refrigeration would make it through the coming dark age due to inputs, rather than electricity needed. Do you still hold that view? What role do you see electricity generation playing after Dark Age America is in the rearview?

    3 – Going forward, I think there’s still a lot that could be done to lure people away from using so much energy, in a way that could, even at this late date, make the future less awful. For instance, I look at the popularity of electric scooters and the low electricity use of split units for heating and cooling, and I see openings that could be argued for, that may be able to move people in the US away from the energy sinkholes we accept as normal. Am I being overly optimistic?

  19. Dear Sir,

    i can explain to you and everybody here why the countries of the European Union fling those sanctions against Russia, and do never bother about their rffects and effectivety, backblows, sideeffects etc.:

    like the soldiers in the 17th / 18th century, who marched into battle because the feared punisment by their commanding officers more than death by the hand of the enemy, the politicians and business leaders fear anger, harsh words, humiliation and sanctions by their overlords in US / DC more then the economic ruin of their countrys.

    Some of them may be different, but these are delusional or incompetent and think what the big guys over there want is good for everybody in the west. Such folks also believe the US can an will deliver unlimited masses of shale oil and shale gas (!!) to the EU at an affordabel and yet market-conforming price.

    And then there are those who are groomed as shills of the US deep state since many many years. They may be payed, delusional or both.

    And there ist, since the cold war began in the 1950ties, the influcence of the “transatlanticians” on the media and the “respectable” part of the intellectual scene of western europe.

    I have to quoth it is irritating You seem to think the EU leaders are doing the sanction stuff out of masochism (if identifying with their citizens) oder out of sadism (if distincting themselves from their citizens an looking down on them).

    I will enjoy to discuss my points above with you all.

    Sincerely

  20. I’ll agree with you about Germany any day of the week with regard to relying on renewables without adequate storage, etc. You only have to take a look at a map of Germany and see that the 55 degree line of latitude crosses the central part of Germany. That means, in winter, the sun’s declination dips to 23 degrees south latitude which means that the noon sun at the winter solstice is at a maximum height of 12 degrees about the horizon. In winter PV is kaput.

    In the summer, it’s just the opposite where the Germany is roughly 10 degree from being within the Arctic Circle’s “Land of the midnight sun.” where PV should have a much bigger output. But how do you store that energy? What do you do with that energy to make it economically viable? Germany didn’t addressed those issues and others. It got wrapped up in the bright shiny trinkets called “renewables” to fight “Global Warming” and they did not do their homework on its practicality.

    Back over to us. We are facing the peaking of our fossil fuels and maybe even our forests this century. There are plenty of graphs and people in the industry and government who have put together graphs depicting their rise and fall of oil, natural gas, and coal. What is not being addressed is as these resources become scarce, the people will turn to burning wood as they did in the 70’s and early 80’s. In going back to graphs from The Oil Drum days, some states only had a half year supply of wood to burn. Some states, if I remember correctly, had a 20 to 40 year supply and that was it. With all the smoke in the air, I don’t think anyone wants to go back to those days. I remember them and I don’t want to see them occur again.

    The only answer seems to be renewables with adequate storage, replacement parts, and maintenance, etc. Which leads to questions of how this could come into being? What do we need to work on to bring these technologies into fruition? And if it is brought into fruition, how do we restructure our society to be in line with the variations and vagaries that renewables represent? What are the “nails” facing us from the proverb of “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.” (ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Want_of_a_Nail). There in lies the challenges and there in are possible solutions.

  21. Greetings JMg,
    Very good summary.

    I think coal has a good future for the rest of this century, though not much beyond, for electricity and fuel production. There is lots of it left in Australia and Russia, and some in the US, Poland, and other central Asia states.

    Some plants will use Carbon Capture, though most will not.
    That is bad news for the climate.
    The alternative is poverty and extreme poverty for too many people if we don’t use coal.

    We’ll just have to adapt to a much harder climate somehow.

    Any comments?

  22. In am no nuclear pysicist an give the perspective of a (i hope) educated layman. I hope this post will not be deleted for picking on boring / trivial technical stuff, but i have to defend a little bit the nuclear power concept:

    98% of the natural occuring uranium is a not fissionabel isotope, only about 2% is a fissionabel one. Thats one of the reasons nuclear fuel is expensive an enery-consuming to produce.

    But the non-fissinable uranium isotope turns into plutonium under neutron radiation.

    Out of the “civil” nuclear industry great quantities of plutonium have been extracted during the cold war, and “burried” in nuclear weapons.

    In this way an ENORMOUS lot of latent energy has been payed by taxpayers and electricity consumers, but was just wasted.

    But it can be retrieved:
    if the big powers calm their new cold war, and disarm their nuclear forces partially (completely is probably utopic, but why have more then lets say 20% of the gigantic cold war arsenal ?), plutonium and uranium can be brought back from the military-industrial complex to the civil power generation. Reactors optimized for plutonium should be possible.

    In a world without fear of nuclear conflict the development of breeder reactors, to turn uranium in plutonium, would not be resented so much any more.

    They could multiply the nuclear fuel aviallable about 45-times an generate energy while doing so. Thus the net energy equations and the financial aspects will change.

    Maybe thorium reactors could be a thing to. There ist more thorium around the uranium they say. But in fusion i dont believe too – just as a footnote.

    MY CONCERN WITH NUCLEAR IS ANOTHER:
    – do we realy want all that hot waste left to our grandchildren ? (i cant answer that)
    -do we have the real capital (not just money capital) in energy, skilled craftspeople labour, intellectual labour (engineers and physicist, an high quality steel anymore needed to build lots of new breeder and plutonium reactors and n-fuel-processing factories ?
    (to what i have heard form people working in research & development in industries, there are anb will be bad bottlenecks).

  23. The IEA reports that the levelised cost of electricity for Indian and Chinese nuclear (lowest in the world…) are around $50/MWh. In Britain, EDF required 2.5x this to be guaranteed before they were willing to commit. Of course, this ignores the fossil fuel input into constructing them, so who knows what the cost would be if the nuclear reactors had to be built solely with nuclear power. And even if we achieved this, our $70 per barrel equivalent would hardly count as too cheap to meter (this is before we consider the need to synthesise expensive liquid fuels, which would mean perhaps twice this cost for fuel). At best, a nuclear civilisation would end up somewhere between now and a decade ago when it comes to energy prices…

    All that ignores the very real threat of peak uranium if you try to provide first world levels of energy use to the entire world. Maybe you can get it from far lower quality ores, but if we’re paying $200/MWh in fuel costs that’s not the inexpensive energy we were promised. Maybe enough to keep some of our high technology going though, if we cut deeply in other areas (i.e. recycle the cars)

    How is France doing with its nuclear reactors, anyway? Heard they were having some delays. Guess these will all be ironed out by 2052… https://www.palladiummag.com/2022/09/21/the-future-history-of-the-nuclear-renaissance-with-isabelle-boemeke/

  24. I can’t help but laugh when I remember how in in my twenties I thought that we could just grow hemp plants to provide bio-fuels that would save us from our energy predicament. Of course, back then I knew nothing of net energy or the fact that the world’s arable land was already fully dedicated to the task of feeding the world’s huge present-day population. I was pretty typical though, as such blithe and callow ignorance is pretty common among people in the industrialized world who consider themselves enlightened and educated.

  25. Writing from a backward place (California), there is an untapped superpower we (at least in California) have: regarding resources generally, we are mind-numbingly stupid and jaw-droppingly wasteful. If we can just get to kinda stupid and pretty wasteful, we may have enough runway to at least have a glide path to lower resource usage, instead of stair-stepping down via a series of crises.

  26. Last time I saw the NS Savannah was in 2006, while I was at a riverfront restaurant. Here came tugs pulling this huge white ship, that had seen better days from all the peeling paint. The most striking thing was it looked like a Soviet ship, that modernist design they used in the 1950’s and on. Once some of us recognized it, people were making all kinds of comments. I remember when it was taken out of service because it never made any money. The power plant took up so much hull space it could never compete, never mind all the other expenses. One of the massively expensive “Atoms For Peace” programs. Which brings me to a program I saw on the Artemis rocket, where the NASA engineer was asked how important it was replied “If you believe humanity’s destiny lies in spreading across the solar system, and then to the stars, its VERY important” I could almost see his eyes whirling in their sockets as he said this. A real “True Believer”

  27. @JMG

    Thank you for this essay. I have absolutely no arguments against the points you’ve made in this essay, but instead, I have a question inspired by the famous proverb “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” – today, AI and fancy data-driven methods are the rage in a wide range of fields including but not limited to, STEM, business, etc. However, all of these are possible only because of the fossil fueled infrastructure which makes computer technology economically viable. On the other hand, the differential equation way of studying systems (whether it is with ODE or PDE) can still be kept going via perturbation methods and qualitative analysis, and while it’s certainly not ‘sexy’ like the hotshot data-driven methods are, it can still be done in a deindustrial future.

    It’s this that brings me to my question – I am seriously interested in doing my bit to ensure that knowledge and expertise pertaining to differential equations is passed into the far future. Maybe, I’m just indulging in fanboy-like behaviour, but as someone who has studied the subject (albeit from an applied POV), I am very impressed by their versatility, and I agree with those who say that while they aren’t perfect, we’ve just about scratched the surface when it comes to applying these to model a wide range of phenomena. So, how do I go about it? I have already, using Sci-Hub, downloaded the really good and useful books on the subject (and am still looking for good ones). I have also started exploring, on my own, various ways of using them to model phenomena outside of the standard STEM template (My Jupyter notebook shared some posts ago on the SIR model was part of this exploration, although it technically isn’t an unexplored area). That said, I’d like to hear your opinion and advice on this. I’m very seriously considering this as a long-term pet project.

    I would also appreciate advice from the commentariat in this regard. Thank you once again, and sorry for a rather long comment.

  28. Eric, nope — that address has been defunct for many years. Put in a comment here marked “not for posting” and let me know what you have in mind.

    Yorkshire, none of these produces energy so they don’t have an EROEI. The question I think you intended to ask is how much of the energy put into them comes back out of them; I don’t know the figure but I gather it’s pretty low. Anyone else?

    DaveOTN, exactly. Close to half the countries with nuclear reactors these days have no worries about regulation, and yet nuclear power isn’t doing much for them (except helping them make bombs, which is of course the real reason why nuclear power is so popular among midrange powers).

    Rod, that’s quite correct. Nuclear fuel rods continue to emit lethal levels of radiation for tens of thousands of years, and anything that’s been exposed to the torrent of neutrons emitted by a reactor becomes radioactive and has to be sequestered for decades or centuries. The cost of finding some way to keep waste secure on that kind of time scale is so prohibitive that nobody’s done it — and so our distant descendants are going to have to worry about where that waste ends up.

    Siliconguy, that’s a great example of the dependence of modern industry on non-intermittent power. Thank you.

    Geronimo, thank you for the update on Brazil — and also for the moniker “Cheirenky.” (The town where I live has a lot of immigrants from the Azores and the Cape Verdes and so I’ve picked up a little Portuguese here and there.) Oddly enough, I was thinking of the Paraguay War as well — I’m one of the 0.5% of people in the US who’ve heard of it — though of course Zelensky isn’t fighting with Ukrainian soldiers at this point — a great many of the soldiers involved in the recent offensive are NATO troops in Ukrainian drag, thus Russia’s just-announced mobilization. It may get colorful…

    Brian, “phart smones” very nearly got tea over my keyboard; thank you. My take is that the frantic push toward bigger and faster is an attempt to pretend that the myth of progress is still a reality; admit that older stuff usually works better, and what’s left of our monomyth?

    Quos Ego, er, then why did European politicians start squalling like a bunch of five-year-olds when Russia started shutting the taps? And why are factories shutting down all over Germany because natural gas is in such short supply? As for Russia, they’re making more money now from their energy exports than they were before the war — soaring prices will do that — and the troubles in Armenia and Tajikistan are anything but new, you know. That is to say, I don’t find your argument credible at all.

  29. Quos Ego (#8) wrote:

    “European gas reserves are almost full in most countries that have storage facility because our leaders knew that Nord Stream was a goner.”

    Ah, but as the current war drags on for five more years–as I think is almost a certainty–those reserves will be depleted. That’s when TS will really HTF for Western and Central Europe, though not for Russia. And then what?

  30. Hello everybody,

    combining renewable energy and natural gas as the main fossile fuel was actually smart as long as the gas supply was good: no kind of power station ca be upregulated so fast and downregulated so fast (when sun and wind dont bring the power you need oder demand goes up and down).

    From the 1990ties to 2010-something there was nearly a gas glutt in western europe:
    gas from the british fields in the north sea, from the scandinavian fields, from Russia, an from many smaller fiels in the north sea and onshore (i . e. Netherlands).
    But demand got up, depletion did its thing, an the russian part grew notably.

    Doesnt it seem as if one of the reasons the ukraine conflict was escalated was to forster the selling of expensive shale gas and liquified gas from america to europe ?

    As the european union would have to join the NATO-thing, Russian would have no other option than reduce energy delivery to europe, for not strengthen countries that, at least, work as staging areas, weapon deliverers, financers and supporters of its adversaries.

    So EU-counties must buy elsewhere.

    Euro-Money has still value, maybe more than the even more printed / inflated dollar. and no one cares for poor folks on BOTH sides of the atlantic who have to pay more fpr their heating…

  31. “California and other backwards places”
    Very nice. Deeply ironic. Cosmically hilarious.
    Certain aspects of “California” definitely act out the hight of contemporary western cultures hubris,narcissism, and violence.
    I think a lot could be said about that subject alone.

    I wanted to know, and would appreciate, if you could fit in some specific and general speculation for shelves at grocery markets being empty in a future post.
    My feeling is that if there is no food many subjects that now seem pertinent and pressing become instantly moot.

    Thank you again for another insightful and helpful post!

  32. Hey Rod (#4) about nuclear waste – In principle, you need to store it for millions of years. There are some important isotopes like Strontium and Caesium that substantially decay over the course of several hundred years. But there are others like Technetium that are produced from fission with high yields and are relevant for roughly a million years.

    Personally I think that we and especially our descendants are lucky if we manage to store our waste safely for let’s say 10000 years. You might want to look up how it went with the German candidate for an “Endlager” for nuclear waste called Asse if you want to assess how likely it is that we will succeed with that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asse_II_mine

    One has also keep in mind that (if I am informed correctly) roughly 90% of all nuclear waste origins from the production of nuclear weapons and that there are huge amounts of Uranium and Plutonium from active and dismantled nuclear weapons do exist. There once was a contract between the US and the USSR/Russia to melt the dismantled into MOX-rods and consume them in nuclear power plants but that went as it did with so many of those contracts and the US did even go less far in implementing this than Russia. When a society that possesses large quantities of Plutonium decays and looses control over it that’s a spell for disaster that might easily dwarf any accident with any nuclear waste storage in terms of nuclear proliferation.

    But who knows? From our little human point of view all of this may sound very unsettling but over the course of geological times it doesn’t matter much. Maybe the excess radiation that we have created turns out to be the next great driving force for a new explosion in biodiversity once we are done with destroying both our environment and ourselves.

    Greetings,
    Nachtgurke

  33. @JMG: the squealing was real, but it lasted a couple weeks, and then everyone could read the writing on the wall (and I’m far for sure they were actually surprised. A lot of it was for show, like Russia’s pretending it cannot repair some turbines due to the sanctions). We’ve been talking about energy conservation for months here (yes, even in the mainstream press), and what’s happening to the German factories, again, we knew it was coming.
    I never said the preparations were enough to keep the status quo, just that they were made, and that they started not so long after the beginning of the war. Are our leaders and the EU ineffectual? Sure. Are they as stupid as you make them to be? I don’t think so.

    As for Russia, it is indeed making more money than before the war, but that’s only part of the story: its military campaign is not going well (requiring partial mobilization and having 10 000 km² retaken by Ukraine doesn’t look like a success to me), and even though, as you said, the conflicts in the former Soviet republics are indeed old, the fact that they should break out concomitantly just when Russia is in quagmired in a protracted war speaks volume as to how thinly stretched the country actually is.

    As you always say: the opposite of a bad idea is another bad idea, and Russia’s current approach seems to me as stupid and short-sighted (and depressingly phallic in nature) as the delusions of the western elites, and I don’t really understand why so many people here seem to see Putin as some kind of master chess player.

  34. John–

    How do you see the end of modern industrialism changing social stratification? Among other things, the massive “middle class” we’ve grown accustomed to in our time is going to shrink considerably, I would think. And would you see “service” to the better-off becoming a more common profession again as the mechanical substitutes for labor give way to people once more?

  35. Dear JMG and commentariat,

    If I may, regarding the Paraguayan War or the War of the Triple Alliance, since it came up:

    A few months ago I did some research into this war, which the War Nerd discusses quite ably here https://exiledonline.com/paraguay-a-brief-history-of-national-suicide/

    He also has a very helpful podcast, in which he discusses the economic realities of governance in South America in the 1860’s and also some of the more colorful and amusing anecdotes from the war: https://podcastaddict.com/episode/77635649

    Personally I found this war helpful to consider, and it has that distinct and perhaps ineradicable South American touch of magical realism. For instance, I remember hearing that when the Paraguayan army was reduced to sending young boys to fight, they made them wear fake beards. That said, there’s no way around the superlative grimness of the story and I have frankly wondered if we will see similar national suicides in the years ahead.

  36. Also, there are some intersting data points among the people that I know – some of the people that seek the knowledge of the divine here in Brazil are becoming catholics and a grassroots recovery of some catholic practices, like daily rosaries, is happening. I saw a jew kabbalist sorceror and a muslim mystic and myself, that hail from afro-brazillian syncretism, turn to the Church and adopt catholicism. The muslim mystic gave an intersting explanation for his conversion: While he still loves and respects Islam he’s a brazillian and his language is portuguese and his culture colonial lusitanian; Islam will always feel, for him, as something that doesn’t really fit. In the final hour, he’ll call God in portuguese, his mother tongue, not in badly (and he was very good in speaking arabic, but he still saw as inadequate) spoken arabic. Also that there is no shame in call the divine by the name of Jesus in Brazil, except for those that, due to ideology, aesthetics or sheer prejudice against the portuguese culture of Brazil, find Jesus to be cringe. When he had this insight, he became catholic. I agree with him.

    Anedocte is the singular of data but there isn’t much to extrapolate from few data points, except that maybe, hopefully, Brazil is finally turning inwards and using it’s own cultural treasures instead of following american and, worse then american, european trends. Catholicism is european? It is but the Europe from which catholicism came no longer exists, replaced by the idolaters of progress.

  37. Hi! You just mentioned to geronimo that a great many troops fighting the russians are from nato countries. It is something i have suspected for a few weeks ever since the US sent hitech himars missiles to Ukraine. Do you have credible sources for that nato participation? No wonder Russia is mobilising then! What an awful turns of events! Nato in direct confrontation against Russia. Has the west truly gone mad!

  38. Somewhere on the internet, there is a recording of Trump addressing a bunch of high ranking Europeans. He told them that they had painted themselves into a corner by becoming too dependent on Russian natural gas. The camera also captures the German delegation snickering and whispering to each other that Trump is an idiot.

    Estonia and Poland warned the EU and NATO for years about Russia’s imperial intentions.

    Putin has written and spoken about the necessity of regaining Russian dominance over the former Soviet sphere since he came to power. This crucial point of announcing his nation’s strategic intentions for decades seems to get lost.

    The West could throw Ukraine under the bus. The West may yet throw Ukraine under the bus. But then what? Russia takes a deep breath, pats itself on the back that stage 1 wasn’t so hard and the Europeans really are fuzzy little kitties, and sucks Ukraine for resources to get on with the next stage of the program?

    2019 isn’t coming back. We have tripped over an abrupt step down in energy descent. There are no good alternatives. Europe will not get cheap Russian gas again. Europe will pay for gas with many losses and humiliations.

    The alternative to being Russia’s female canine is to deal with the step down and stand and fight. If not now, then when and where? Poland, Romania, the Baltic states? Poland gave Ukraine all their tanks. Slovakia gave them all 29 Migs in their air force. Estonia coughed up a third of their military budget. All these countries are adjacent to Russia or Ukraine. These countries have the most to lose, if Ukraine is digested. Their attitude says all.

  39. “What’s the EROI like on the less talked about energy storage systems like flywheels and liquid air?”

    EROI on storage Is always less than 1. See entropy.

    With that said, “Flywheel energy storage systems using mechanical bearings can lose 20% to 50% of their energy in two hours.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flywheel_energy_storage

    For compressed air the best seems to like this.
    “2022 – a 60 MW / 300 MWh facility with 60% efficiency opened in Jiangsu, China, using a salt cavern.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compressed-air_energy_storage

    Compressing air produces a lot of heat, which is why turbochargers have intercoolers. A high pressure air compressor will have an intercooler after every stage of compression. All that heat is lost energy.

    Even worse when you expand the air it gets colder, so has less pressure and volume to turn the turbine. If you get the pressure high enough you can liquify part of the air coming out of the expansion nozzle. To prevent that you can (drum roll) burn natural gas to heat the air back up before it goes through the turbine.

    Pumped storage with water does better if you have the landscape and water to do it. “Taking into account evaporation losses from the exposed water surface and conversion losses, energy recovery of 70–80% or more can be achieved.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity

    I live near this one;
    https://www.nwcouncil.org/sites/default/files/MarkJones_1.pdf

  40. Meanwhile, here in Spain our government is financing with public money an advertisement “No more dystopias” against imagining a worse world. Instead of this realism, I mean pessimism, the govt is encouraging young people to praise 2030 Agenda from UN…for a better world. The idea wasn’t so bad, but I’m afraid of their outcomes

    Sorry,I don’t have english links to the ad, they are only in spanish.

    https://www.lavanguardia.com/vida/20220914/8523575/basta-distopias-nueva-campana-gobierno-crear-futuro-mejor.html

    (I know you JMG don’t like videos, but this one is very short).

    https://youtu.be/oqv_P-QU7sA

    I think the “geniuses” that made this ad have mistaken the apocalyptical “porn” with the distopian literature, which is very rich and ambiguous in their approach to the future.
    By the way, I have to say that the future that you are describing in this blog is more believable that 2030 wishful thinking.
    And winter is coming to Europe in some weeks…

  41. JMG,

    sorry for the off-topic. Today, Putin announced that Russia would annex Ukraine’s eastern regions following the referendums. He enlisted 300,000 men into the Russian military to protect the soon-to-be annexed territories.

    We live in interesting times, as in the (non-existent) Chinese curse.

  42. The (human) world is more likely to end via nuclear than be saved via nuclear.
    I know your underlying ethos that America isn’t the only country that ought to be allowed to do whatever it wants, but…do you support what’s going on in Ukraine right now? Seems to me that if Putin isn’t stopped there he can simply claim any old adjacent territory to Russia IS Russia, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Except a whole lot of people die.

  43. Mr. Greer, You have always been one of the most outspoken advocates of a drawn out, slow collapse in alignment with historical patterns. I wonder what you make of the decline rates? When it comes to depletion, I’ve heard numbers from 3-8% per annum. Even using 3%, that leaves us down 50% of our current daily oil supply in something like 23 years and 90% in 75 years. At 8% we’d be down 50% in 8 years and 90% in 28 years.

    I’m 42 years old. I grew around my WWII vet grandfather who grew up in West Virginia on a farm with an outhouse, hand-pump well, and no electricity (They took a battery into town for charging once per week, by wagon, to power their radio). His experiences and stories he told of his parents and grandparents give me a a longer time horizon than the average person. The pre or early industrial age feels a lot historically closer to me than I think it does for most people. My children (barring death from famine, pestilence, or violence) have life expectancies to the end of this century. Before I die, I hope to know grandchildren whose lives could conceivably extend well into the 22nd century. That means nearly the whole of industrial civilization will be concluded within the lives of people personally known to me over my lifetime.

    Viewed that way, 3-8% decline certainly feels like an apocalypse. Given how much I love my children and think about their futures, I sometimes grow despondent over the profligate abandon in which we burned their inheritance. Our collective descendants are going to labor mightily plowing fields and hauling water, tasks that could have been accomplished effortlessly with tractors and pumps. And we stole that from them so we could drive to the Kmart and vacation in Florida. I know that we are genetically wired for it, but it feels so….shameful.

  44. @JMG

    If NATO had indeed sent troops to fight in Ukraine, you don’t think Russia would be parading them as proof of western meddling? They’ve been doing it quite consistently until now with the mercenaries they’ve captured, with highly-publicized trials.

    Nah, don’t buy it. Putin’s mobilizing because his campaign is not going well. And probably because of the coming annexations.

  45. Patricia M, yep. Even the people who realized that we were in trouble assumed that Almighty Science could of course save us all. It never occurred to them that solutions are the main source of our problems…

    Drhooves, it’s an interesting question whether that burn rate can be sustained for another 50 years, and even if it can, the net energy is dropping as we pick the low hanging fruit and more and more of the energy we extract has to be put back into the process to extract the next barrel. It’ll be something to watch.

    Luke, funny! I suppose there are some benefits from continuing to state the obvious, no matter how unfashionable it is…

    Lordyburd, why, yes, and in fact that book showed me how to do that particular trick. It does come in handy!

    Pygmycory, the missing piece in all the various pseudo-green energy hoopla is demand reduction. That means conservation, on the one hand — sharply improved insulation and all the other tricks of the trade — and local harvesting of diffuse energy, on the other — solar thermal, wind, and micro-hydro, not to power the grid but to replace it in as many local uses as possible. If Germany had approached things that way they’d be in much better shape today.

    John, thank you.

    Dave, a dark age is exactly what we can expect. In the wake of industrial society we can expect global population to drop to maybe 5% of its current level and most current knowledge to be lost. The civilizations of the future will rise out of that, just as all those civilizations of the past rose out of dark ages. Complexity, like everything else, is subject to the law of diminishing returns, which is why it’s much easier to build a new civilization after the old one has crashed and burned and the rubble has had a few centuries to stop bouncing. If the usual patterns follow, the regional civilizations of the next cycle of history will start to emerge out of the deindustrial dark ages around the year 2600 or so.

    Selkirk, you’re welcome and thank you for paying attention.

    Marko, thank you for this.

    Martin, I’d be more interested in light sources that can be made using much lower technological levels. My recommendations? Slide rules, low-tech amateur radio gear, and organic intensive gardening.

    Clay, that’s a good point. Of course if it wasn’t that it would have been something else — nuclear power is too complex to be sustainable.

    Ben, I won’t argue with any of this. I’m not sure if we can manage a late 19th century level — so much time has been wasted and so little has been done — but the early 19th century is I think still within reach, with various useful additions such as shortwave radio and good sanitation.

  46. Hi all,

    A great essay. I do think you’ll see more hoopla in the press regarding nuclear energy in the years ahead, because the power angle was always marketing. Nuclear power was always about producing plutonium for the nuclear arms race. As I understand it, by the late 70’s the US had enough stockpiled that it began to allow its nuclear industry to go fallow, and the end of the cold war accelerated that process. Even in France, the shining example for the nuclear crowd has allowed its plants to age out since the Berlin Wall fell.

    Now that Russia and China are making the chattering and political classes in western countries scared. The realization is setting in that NATO’s nuclear stockpile is antiquated to say the least, while Russia and China have continued to modernize their arsenals. So I suspect we’ll see a moderate nuclear push in the years ahead, officially justified by energy needs but really motivated by geopolitical considerations.

    As an aside, JMG I was wondering if you had any insight into the origins of a rather strange alternative to the nuclear future that began to appear in the 80’s; The notion that energy didn’t really matter, because we were heading for a post-industrial cyber future where the only resource we needed would be “knowledge” and “data” sorted by computers. How those computers would be built or powered was never really mentioned, but the idea seems to have been very influential in global industrial and political circles for the past few decades.

    Cheers,
    JZ

  47. Euratom, the European Atomic Energy Community, has had a research nuclear plant in Ispra, Italy, since the 1960s. The plant was mothballed in 1981: they’ve been cleaning up the site since then, and it does not look like they will be done any time soon.

    Surely this has to do with the notoriously slow Euro-bureaucracy, but it also takes a long time and a lot of money to dismantle nuclear reactors safely. This is something that is usually ignored in debates about nuclear energy.

  48. I like many here was one of that small minority that took the lessons taught seriously….many thanks….you where correct then and your still correct now….

  49. JMG,
    I have been wanting to thank you for your wonderful choices in graphics used to accompany your blog posts. I wrote for and administered a blog for a state agency for more than a year. Finding good illustrations to accompany the written portion sometimes took as long as the writing or editing. Especially since I had no budget to purchase graphics. Still I was still able to find free graphics that fit the bill most of the time. Are you using free graphics pulled from the web or using some other means?

  50. I have a little analogy I have been using lately to convince any techno-utopian that will listen how it is impossible to power our current civilization on renewables. First I show them using only a sheet of paper, the internet and a calculator how you can derive the energy payback of a modern wind generator. You can start with just the concrete in the foundation which requires a full 2.5 years of output to payback ( just in the energy content to make it, not haul it or pour it) and go on from there to a result of a full 10 years. Then you imagine a theoretical small town with a single working oil well that can pump just enough oil to power the theoretical self contained town for the next 10 years. To build a wind generator to power the town in the exact same way ( no conservation) the towns people would have to go on an energy diet and use zero energy for 10 years so they save it all up to build a wind generator. Once the wind generator is up and running they would have to continue their energy diet ( zero energy) for another 10 years so they could save up enough energy from the new turbine to build another wind generator to replace the first one after it wears out after 20 years of use. This does not even include the energy needed to build some kind of storage.

  51. OK, no comments for 15 years is probably long enough to lurk.

    The way to plan for an unpredictable event on a timeline that isn’t apparent isn’t really a set of actions, it is a mindset and value system. If you don’t know what (regionally) or when (on a your lifetime scale) then you can’t “get ready” by learning how to be a cobbler or warehousing AK-47s or scribing knowledge onto perma-parchment.

    But deciding that the noble, valuable work is living more simply, or preserving knowledge, you have a mission and a sense of purpose. This is a very flexible tool to succor you during confusing or paradigm shifting times. What AR and Ecosophia have offered me is an alternative set of values and expectations that is smaller, simpler and more robust than the mainstream narrative of value. If giant complicated systems and resource use don’t stick around, it’s helpful not to need them for your sense of self.

    On electric cars, I think it is a two-level canard. CalTrans is purchasing giant fleets of electric cars with 100 mile range and 30 mi/hr chargers. This of course won’t work for them, but it will increase sales, justifying an increase in charger infrastructure, which requires a very robust electrical grid. Get people who buy Teslas clamoring for chargers and you can justify the expense of a bigger, better grid. And sell the surplus, lightly used, worthless to the state fleet to lower income residents, and you’ve got critical mass for a less efficient than oil auto system, with a used car market to boot.

    And it makes perfect logical sense too. TPTB know oil is going away for consumers. If it’s horses and buggies, or electric cars as your choices, I see why you build a strong grid, power it with natural gas, and be glad you idn’t go full dark ages when you can’t power gas cars.

    Always a delight, thanks to JMG and the commentariat.

    -DD

  52. I see the “Big Bad Putin’s Imperialist Ambitions” propaganda being trotted out here again.

    Had Russia (or China or North Korea) fostered a coup in Mexico, assisted them in building a huge standing army, and then had Nazi shock troops systematically exterminating American expatriates we’d have shown far less restraint than Putin.

    The U.S. & NATO started this war and Putin’s going to finish it, one way or another.

    Meanwhile, the deliberate undermining of our defensive readiness — kicking out unvaxxed troops, disabling/killing other troops via the vax, chasing away existing & new recruits via woke policies, shipping our reserve (and sometimes active) weapon systems & munitions to Ukraine, and draining the SPR — is in my humble opinion treasonous.

    p.s.: There’s plenty of evidence of foreign mercenaries fighting (and dying) in Ukraine.

  53. Darkest Yorkshire,

    Energy storage technologies are measured in either efficiency or loss. For an 80% efficient storage liked pumped hydroelectric or compressed air you lose 20% of the energy to waste heat.

    Here is a nice description of compressed air storage:

    https://www.ctc-n.org/technologies/compressed-air-energy-storage-caes

    With a very nice chart showing the characteristics of different technologies:

    https://www.ctc-n.org/sites/www.ctc-n.org/files/system_power_rating.jpeg

    This is storage size (in terms of power level) vs supply time (logarithmic, from seconds to days of supply at rated power level) for various techs from capacitors to pumped hydroelectric.

    Cost is another matter. Not only do you lose 20% of the power in the storage and recovery process, but you have to pay for the facility. Additionally, in order to store power one needs to have surplus power some of the time.

    So to take a very simple example (oversimplified really) of solar PV at night, one needs to build twice as much PV as needed during the day to charge the storage for recovery at night. Again, oversimplified, assumes constant demand levels and no lose. It pushes up the cost from 1 unit of PV to 2 units of PV and 1 unit of storage, so roughly 3x to have constant power instead of only daytime power (again oversimplified, just for illustration)

    It gets worse if you want more than a day. Say 3 months of the year the sun isn’t adequate to power the PV, the you need to make your storage capacity 90x bigger.

    It is still technically doable, but more expensive. I think that it is likely that in the future, hundreds of years from now, what electrified industry there is will either be located next to reliable renewables like hydro and geothermal or it will be seasonal like agriculture. You make hay while the sun is shining.

  54. As ridiculous as this is, I would take the green-energy people a lot more seriously if this was the kind of technology they were advocating:

    The net energy of a cumbrous Flintstones car is still probably higher than an electric Tesla.

  55. @Patricia M., et al. Re: The strange case of Kim Stanley Robinson.

    I really admire him. I even like the Mars trilogy… even if I don’t think its going to happen. Still, I think his best novels were the Three Californias. Shaman was a really good neolithic adventure story too. I really liked that one. Some of the ideas in 2312 I really enjoyed too… but I have to agree with your assesment of the “Science in the Capital” series.

  56. Rod,

    As far as I know in 2023 Finland will have the only long term nuclear storage facility anywhere in the world. France has a pilot facility and the USA has a pilot for nuclear weapons reasearch waste, WIPP. WIPP is not for spent fuel rods.

    Nuclear power from uranium produces waste that will still be emitting dangerous levels or radiation for 10,000s to 100,000s of years. Nuclear from thorium produces dangerous waste with much shorter half lives measured in centuries.

    Oddly, the technical aspects of storage are not the issue. There are a number of solutions that can be implemented from digging a deep whole in a geologically stable area to encasing the material in chemically inert glass and dropping it in the subduction zone of the Mariana Trench.

    The two issues that prevent governments from building long term storage are costs and politics. Nobody wants to shell out a bunch of money to pay to get rid of garbage. But far more important is that nuclear waste is very nearly cursed with evil magical powers. It kills and poisons through an invisible mechanism that most of the electorate doesn’t understand very well and wants nothing to do with. Not in my back yard, or under the mountain two states over, or sealed with a powerful spell that cannot be broken and dropped far away in the deepest ocean.

    My guess is that it will be burried in a shallow grave in the southwest after the population flees the drought. It will be someone else’s problem when the climate brings back the rain.

  57. JMG, it is curious to observe that you get so much pushback about the Russo-Ukrainian war. As for the German Energiewende, exactly; it feels somehow good that this ill-fated project has so clearly proven that it isn’t possible to power an industrial society with renewable energy.

    And I remember, in the old Archdruid Report days, you were relatively optimistic about the possibility to stretch out the remaining fossil fuels with renewable energy. That doesn’t seem to work out either, or am I mistaken? (I mean conventional high-tech renewable energy, as in photovoltaic and wind power).

  58. Ben, err, electric scooters? In the eyes of many Viennes, these are a subsidizes pest… what was wrong with bicycles?

  59. I remember the confusion when I realized the reason for the Fukushima Daishi explosion was a lack of circulating cooling water for the “waste,” the rods that weren’t dense enough to continue use, yet generated enough heat to evaporate the cooling water remaining and spark (if memory serves) a hydrogen explosion from gas split from the water.

    The kicker: those rods still had another century before they were “cool enough” for reprocessing.

    The Huh?!

    To have created such an amazingly dense energy source——with, as you point out, other dense energy sources!——and then to have not only wasted an undisclosed amount of that energy, but to have signed on to continuously using energy to keep it from *still* melting into glowing slag….

    Just like Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”: “The hubris… the hubris….”

    Maybe someone should heed your advice about reducing our energy usage first by using energy we usually throw away. When it gets chilly this European winter, someone should create a loop out of cooling water that cycles heat from a tank of “used” reactor rods to all the houses and businesses denied gas for keeping warm.

  60. Petit, oh, I think that’s part of it, but I don’t think that’s all of it by any means. The EU leadership has demonstrated a weird combination of arrogance and detachment from reality in situations where they weren’t simply kowtowing to the US line — consider their reaction to Brexit, for example.

    PeterEV, you’re assuming that there are solutions. I’d point out that all the things you’re talking about have been tried, and tried, and tried again since the 1970s, and their net energy is too low to support a grid-based industrial society. That being the case, is it really useful to keep on repeating those same claims?

    Kimberly, nope.

    Inthe510, that’s a helpful attitude. I hope you follow through on it by picking up some of the skills you’ll need to get by as the current system unravels.

    Tony, I wish I could disagree, because the climate shifts are going to be a real mess. (I’ll be talking about that in more detail down the road a bit.) But I think it’s most likely that every economically accessible scrap of coal will be dug out and burnt before this is over.

    Petit, that’s beside the point. How much energy do you have to put into the entire process of manufacturing and using plutonium fuel, from the mine to the waste disposal site, compared to how much you get back in energy from the reactor? That’s the issue of net energy, and it matters far more than mere volume.

    Alice, no question, you can run a nuclear reactor if you’ve got plenty of fossil fuels to provide it with an energy subsidy and don’t mind the costs. The US navy has been doing it for years. It’s running an industrial society with it as the fossil fuels run out that’s the bear.

    Mister N, it’s a common kind of mistake. As long as you don’t remember that the world is finite and most of the farmland is already in use, it’s an easy one to make, too.

    DaHoj, granted, but have you ever tried to get your neighbors to be less stupid? It’s harder than you think…

    Marlena13, yep. It’s all a religion: the religion of progress, the established church of our society.

    Viduraawakened, if that’s the thing that fires your passion and calls you to labor, do it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Neither you nor I nor anyone else can know in advance what will and won’t be useful in the future, but if you can help get the mathematics of differential equations through the dark age ahead, that’ll be a resource that future civilizations can take into account.

    Helmet, that’s a possibility that should certainly be kept in mind.

    Travis, I’ll keep that in mind. Talk to local preppers, if you don’t happen to be one, and they can give you some very good tips on how to store food for emergencies like this.

    Quos Ego, I don’t see Putin as a master chess player. He has a very cautious streak, a habit of using minimal force and going slow when a far more forceful approach would be more effective. I suspect, in fact, that what’s behind the mobilization is that the other members of his cabinet finally pressured him into doing what, objectively speaking, he should have done months ago. With regard to Europe’s leaders, my take is that they suffer from the peculiar arrogance of the technocratic class; they are so certain that they’re the smartest people in the room, and they understand the world better than anyone else, that when things don’t go the way they expect they’re left flailing. Their reaction to Brexit is a fine example, and far from the only one.

    David, that’s a very complicated issue, because most of the well-to-do at this point have wealth and influence only because they are in positions of authority in vast institutional systems that will not survive many more rounds of decline. It’s quite common in a period of decline for there to be a near-complete turnover in the governing classes, as institutional leadership gives way to charismatic leadership. As for personal service, yes, though it’ll take a while. More on this in a future post.

    Violet, thank you for this. I hadn’t heard about the fake beards — and yes, there’s something radiantly Latin American about that.

    Geronimo, thanks for this. Catholicism was European, but there aren’t that many European Catholics any more; I’ve also heard from Catholic friends that the divergences between Catholic culture in different parts of the world are increasing considerably. Give Brazilian Catholicism a few centuries, and it’ll be something very different…

    Karim, I don’t have solid sources for that. It’s an educated guess, based on the way that Ukraine suddenly went from drafting women and retirees to having a very large force of first-rate troops that nobody expected, launching an assault that nobody expected either.

    Raphanus, oh, granted. This is a zero-sum game; either Russia is defeated and dismembered, or the eastern half of the EU, at least, is reduced to a collection of Russian client states, or we see a long era of cold war with occasional hot outbursts in eastern Europe. There will be many more struggles like this one as things proceed down the slope of decline.

    Chuaquin, well, isn’t that special. As though the future will listen…

    Ecosophian, yep. Things are definitely beintg kicked up a notch.

    Ken, I don’t support either side in the Russo-Ukrainian war. There’s a lot of ugly stuff going on on both sides of the struggle, you know.

    Karl, those are depletion rates from existing wells. New discoveries aren’t keeping pace with depletion but they have to be factored in. Since the historical pattern of slow collapse has societies taking 150 to 300 years to decline, and the US began its decline in 1973, I’d say we’re on track to match the usual pattern. Keep in mind that this won’t play out in a linear fashion; there will be sudden discontinuities and periods of relative stability; keep in mind also that while plowing takes muscle, you can pump water very well with a medieval windmill…

    Quos Ego, I take it you haven’t been watching Russian media, or the media of countries friendly to Russia. They’ve been talkiing about it; it’s just being embargoed in Western media. Doubtless when they capture some, you’ll hear quite a bit more about it.

  61. JMG,

    Have you seen the Bundeswehr report on Peak Oil?

    The German military did a study on the future of German energy security in 2009 and they concluded that by 2030 it is not possible to even estimate the risks. There is a great quote (translated by resilience.org)

    “We are unable to think about the consequences of Peak Oil via our everyday experiences, and can only draw partial historical parallels. It is accordingly difficult to imagine what kind of impact a gradual withdrawal of one of the most important sources of energy would have on our civilization. Psychological barriers account for the suppression of irrefutable facts and lead to an almost instinctive rejection of in-depth discussion of this difficult issue.

    The occurrence of Peak Oil is, however, unavoidable.”

    – Bundeswehr report on Peak Oil, p. 103

    https://www.resilience.org/stories/2011-06-13/review-bundeswehr-report-peak-oil-section-22-tipping-point-nov-2010/

    The military leaked the report to make sure people knew about it. But outside of The Oil Drum it was mostly crickets.

    Fast forward to this year with Ukraine. The serious analysts definitely knew just how bad things could get, but apparently the politicians were confident that things were going to go their way…

    Putin recently gave an interview addressing the issue and a few other points. He said that German energy problems actually started with the green energy push. Speculates on the European mindset that allowed them to get into this bind. Notes that most of the Ukrainian grain went to Europe, only 3% went to poor countries. And finally that Europe has lifted fertilizer sanctions on Russia, but only for fertilizer going to Europe, not to poor countries outside of Europe.

    “I have the impression – and this is particularly true for European countries – that these former colonial powers are still living in the paradigm of colonial philosophy, and they are used to living at the expense of others. They still fail to get rid of this paradigm in their daily policies. But it is time to draw certain conclusions and act differently, in a more civilised manner.” – Putin

    http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/69366

    Of course I can’t find anything about the fertilizer sanctions being lifted, but only for Europe, in the MSM. But the MSM would never report an embarrassing fact like that, it runs counter to the narrative.

    So, JMG, from your perspective, does it look like Germany is committing suicide?
    Thanks,
    Tim

  62. I enjoyed the Science in the City trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. At least the first two of them, Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below. I found though that in the third book Sixty Days and Counting the positive ending and saving of the world felt very much a ‘deus ex machina’ by creating a means to draw a load of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

  63. a query to all….JMG, as you talked about the ECOE for nuclear energy, the mining of the ore(s), enrichment, transportation and all of that good stuff and then making those fine lil’ hot pellets that do the work…the question is: what kind of a “ballpark” figure or ratio would you venture for “energy in vs energy out” for nuclear. Oil, as you know, is now around 10% in for 90% out or therebouts. nukes??1:100?…. 1: 10…. 1:a zillion? I am a retired petroleum geologist and have been pondering these many years about all you speak of. JMG, Such good work from you

  64. > Net energy calculations are fiendishly difficult, since you have to factor in every energy input into every stage of the process, from the raw ore in the ground, raw materials not yet turned into a power plant, and so on. Fortunately there’s a convenient proxy measure, which is the price set by the market.

    The assumption that all market prices reflect real and necessarily enduring net energy ratios is misguided.

    For an example here, consider spun thread. From prehistory up through the medieval period, thread was spun on a spindle, and making enough thread to keep a family clothed required something like eight hours of labor per day, year-round. Market prices of thread (and thus cloth) were, as expected, exorbitant.

    In the late medieval period, the spinning wheel was invented. A spinning wheel allows a single spinner to make thread some 5-10x faster than a spindle. Note that there’s no change in net energy here; a spinning wheel is still a manually powered device. But suddenly the price of cloth fell dramatically. All the innovations of the First Industrial Revolution were ultimately downstream of spinning wheels.

    Before the invention of spinning wheels, one could imagine someone arguing that the net energy contained in woolen thread was simply inherently, physically so high that thread could never be cheap. Of course, actually making that calculation would be fiendishly difficult, because you have to factor in every energy input, like the grass that the sheep eat, the iron that the wool shears are made of, and so on. Fortunately there’s a convenient proxy measure…

    Knowing what we know, this is obviously stupid. The mistake is to assume that all (or a static fraction) of the price involved is the cost of net energy. Of course, the difficulty in using a spindle has nothing to do with energy, it’s simply a finicky, inefficient device that requires huge amounts of hand-labor. A spinning wheel uses about the same amount of energy per thread, but requires much less labor. And it turns out that labor, not energy, was the major driver of the cost of thread.

    Moving back to nuclear power, when you investigate in detail, there’s little to support the idea that the current cost of nuclear generation is substantially driven by the net energy involved. If net energy were the major concern, you would expect nuclear costs to be primarily driven by the cost of acquiring fuel. (This is the case for fossil-fuel power generation.) However, this is not the case; the cost per kWh of nuclear power is driven almost wholly by the capital cost of the plant, with fuel costing substantially less than the equivalent fossil fuel. (See e.g. https://constructionphysics.substack.com/p/why-are-nuclear-power-construction; eyeballing the graphs there, it looks like natural gas generation costs are about 30% plant capital costs, coal generation is about 50%, nuclear generation is about 80%.) The dramatic economic failure of nuclear plants comes, not from an inability to refine fuel, but from massive — and massively underestimated — construction costs and construction time. (The latter, of course, translates into the former via interest payments on bonds that finance plants.)

    You could try to make a net energy argument about the construction of the plants themselves. But this is hard to sustain. A nuclear power plant is, conceptually and physically, very much like a fossil fuel plant; both are steam turbines driven by a heat source. The nuclear plant does not require vastly more mass of material, nor vastly more expensive material. And if you actually compare the construction processes involved, nuclear construction is more expensive than fossil-fuel construction primarily due to regulatory requirements (documentation, quality assurance, regulations changing in mid-construction, regulatory agencies who can’t decide what their regulations actually mean…). This leads to massive expenditure of labor, not in actual plant construction — which might sustain a net energy argument — but more-or-less in paperwork.

    (To be complete, one must also mention that there are other differential cost drivers between nuclear reactors and coal furnaces, mostly in terms of precision engineering and safety mechanisms. But these cannot account for cost differences of many fold; and it’s also dubious whether such technique-based differences reflect real net energy, either.)

    So, the conclusion mentioned here to mock rather than to refute seems, in fact, to be (most of) the answer. Nuclear power cost is driven by construction costs; nuclear construction costs are driven primarily by regulation. The question of whether this is likely to change soon is unclear; however, unlike net energy arguments, it’s difficult to claim that this regulatory component of cost is fixed by physics and thus unchangeable.

  65. In the end, I think the most realistic, and achievable, goal that we can hope for in unprepared-for winter emergency, is:

    Insulate the human, not the house. Keep the body warm, not the air around it.

    I’ve no idea if you have any readers among the Inuit or the Sami, but we could really use some input from far-northern peoples whose elders still remember the days before fossil fuel heating. When I was a little girl, I remember tales of the Inuit making huts from blocks of ice and being perfectly comfortable inside.

    When I delved deep into my family genealogy, I found out about the tiny houses my personal ancestors lived in back around the 1580s to the 1630s or so. A single room, about 10 feet wide and 16 feet deep. There were no separate rooms- it was all one space. The fireplace was toward the rear of the long sidewall, and the bed was built *into* the wall opposite the fire, beneath the very narrow and very steep stair that led up to the loft space above. It had a curtain that was pulled across to close the bed space off at night. The married couple slept in the built in bed. The kids slept on the floor near the hearth, or up in the loft snuggled close to the chimney.

    Firewood was expensive. They relied on clothes and blankets to keep warm, not an endless stream of firewood. Firewood was for cooking the meals; the heat it provided was a bonus. Using it just to make heat was reserved for only the very worst of cold snaps. The fireplace would look really weird to a modern person. It was very wide and very shallow, only about a foot deep but about five or six feet wide and tall. The fire was not enclosed in any way, just built right there practically on the floor, to make it easy to cook over.

    Learning about this gave me a deep appreciation for how easy I’ve had it my whole life. They did just fine, obviously, because here I am.

    My own experiences with winter car living at 48 degrees north taught me that ‘insulate the human, not the house’ is the key to keeping comfortable in low temps with tightly constrained resources.

  66. Do you think we’ve passed peak oil globally at this point? I know the highest number so far is about 95bb back in 2019. Do you think it likely that there will be another push of massive amounts of investment money into oil, producing another temporary glut, or was that the highest we’ll ever see?

    I think that may have been the highest, though I wouldn’t rule out one more that just breaks the record. And of course, I’m not expecting an elevator straight to the sub-basement (to quote Dmitri Orlov’s hilarious turn of phrase) from here.

    I learned about peak oil during the great recession, at the same time I was realizing my physical issues weren’t going away. I don’t recommend having existential crises about peak oil and personal health/disability at the same time. Really not fun. If you’d asked me back then where I expected to be in 2022, I would have said dead. I’m glad the more apocalyptic predictions were wrong.

  67. Hi John,

    I hear you. I held one of the very very first solar cells from Bell Labs in my hand in 1955(?). At a hand crafted cost per wh, it was not going to set the world going solar renewables. The first EV pack before it was used in a Tesla Roadster was about $155K (tZero) and had a range (and a prayer) of 300 (304) miles. The Perovskite cells are not lasting more than 10K hours but are one tenth the cost of silicon cells. What do they have to do to increase their longevity?

    What I am trying to get at is that the current costs are coming down and durability is increasing into the affordability range. While I would not base a civilization existing on **current** technology, future technology **may** be able to replace some of the functions of current technologies such as EVs. It may mean that in the near future, I will be willing my EV to my grandchild.

    I could see the excess electricity from summer time arrays being used to power an electric arc furnace either directly or from battery pack. But that is a different world from coke plants and 24/7 production.

  68. @Inthe510 #25:

    I want to agree. If commenter Grover is around, I still invite him to share his experience about why living sans electricity ain’t so bad.

    I was thinking about something lately, which was, when I was first married I was reading some marital advice, part of which was financial. I remember a writer opining that “one should be careful to avoid increasing one’s material lifestyle, because it’s hard to go back down later if you have to.”

    Sounds like good advice. Except – I don’t know, you know? I have to say that as I’ve been cutting back on stuff, I find it’s almost like ripping off a bandaid – the worst part is resolving to do it, but afterwards I actually feel much better about ONE LESS THING I need to pay for or worry about.

  69. Hi John Michael,

    Happy autumn equinox to you!

    My best guess is that you can reliably get about a quarter to a fifth of the electricity from the sun using photovoltaic technology, that the average household seems to think necessary. And we’re doing fine with that at 37′ latitude south (can’t speak for further north or south than that, but probably not good), but rely upon firewood for heat during the winter. No getting around that story, fortunately I have a lot of trees, not to mention epic amounts of downed timber left over from a century of logging.

    It always surprises me that I can be upbraided for using firewood by people who think nothing at all of flying half way around the world upon a whim. Such an astounding ability, they don’t see it for what it is. I must say that I never fail to be surprised by that sentiment, and they always look like they’ve scored a proper debating shot. Oh well.

    There are times when I believe that somehow our leaders are a bunch of mindless jerks who’s claim to fame was that they won the high school debating competition. 🙂

    Oh, and entropy eats the solar power system, not to mention everything else, from the first moment you switch it on, to the final moments when the lights flicker, then go quiet.

    Dunno about your perspective on this matter, but of late I’ve been repeating the mantra that: We’ll run short, long before we run out. That does seem to get through to people, but they then get this sort of odd weird look in their eyes. Always worth poking people that way, and you can point to actual things which they’d experienced. Try buying a new car lately?

    Thanks for writing the thoughtful essay.

    Cheers

    Chris

  70. Just a quick note to DaveOTN (September 21, 2022 at 11:04 am)

    Never mind that Russia and the People’s Republic of China both have more than sufficient levels of authoritarianism to tell people to shut up and get cancer in exchange for keeping the economy going – and yet neither of them seem to be swimming in cheap electricity.

    https://www.globalpetrolprices.com/electricity_prices/

    Russia is indeed swimming in cheap electricity at less than 50% of the US rate. And Russia has among the smallest carbon footprints in the world from electric power production and far less than the US on a per kWh basis (I leave verification as an exercise to sharpen research skills).

    Russia, as of late, seems to make pragmatic and highly reasoned decisions on such technical matters. They are pursuing a mix of hydro power, nuclear power and fossil-fuel power. Their abundant reserves of all three energy sources may largely insulate them from the coming collapse (economic & cultural) of the Western empire. Russia’s turning away from the West (for many good reasons) is quite timely, They will make a nice living supply energy resources to those who can still afford them for a very long time.

  71. John, oh, I expect a marriage made somewhere other than heaven between nuclear-energy cultists, corporations hoping to batten off more government subsidies, and the military-industrial complex drooling over newer and bigger bombs, pushing nuclear reactors. Doubtless some will get built, too, or at least started.

    Discwrites, yep. Decommissioning a nuclear power plant is expensive, because everything that gets bathed in the neutron flux from the reaction becomes radioactive, and of course there’s the simple fact that nuclear power plants are very complex and all that complexity has to be disassembled and dealt with. It’s a mess, and very few countries have prepared for it.

    KiwiGaz, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Moo Foo, I’m pulling free graphics off the web, and having great fun doing so. I’m glad you enjoy the results!

    Clay, thanks for this! That’s a very clear analogy.

    DD, thank you. It encourages me to see that somebody gets the central point I’ve been trying to communicate!

    Sambo, I’d be more impressed if they were talking about this…

    …or this…

    or this.

    Booklover, I’m astonished I didn’t get more pushback about nuclear and green energy! As for my optimism, back in the day I assumed there was at least a reasonable chance that green energy technologies would be used intelligently, together with conservation, to provide some extra resilience. No such luck.

    Jim, I know. What astounds me is that nobody has figured out a way to put all that heat to use.

    Tim, I have indeed seen it. I saw it when it first came out. I’m not sure if Germany is deliberately committing suicide or whether it’s just closing its eyes and pretending that everything will be just fine…

    John, that’s a good question which I can’t answer.

    Ruckus, that’s quite a beating you’re giving that straw man, you know. I didn’t say that all market prices reflect enduring net energy ratios. I said that price works well as a proxy measure for net energy. If a given energy technology always requires huge subsidies from government, not merely for construction but also to continue operating, and other energy technologies do not require such subsidies, it’s reasonable to conclude that something is fundamentally wrong with the technology. Since nations that have very different regulatory regimes — Russia and China come to mind — haven’t found it affordable to go whole hog into nuclear power, btw, it’s clearly inaccurate to claim that regulation is the source of the problem!

    Mother B, thanks for this. We had a discussion of the same point two weeks ago, but it bears repeating.

    Pygmycory, it depends on the definition of oil! We passed peak conventional oil production globally in 2005; all the increases since then have been in “total liquids,” meaning tar sand extractives, natural gas liquids, and practically anything else that will burn is being added into the pot. We may have passed peak total liquids in 2019, though we’ll have to see what happens over the years ahead before we can be sure.

    PeterEV, er, PV enthusiasts are always insisting that costs are coming down, durability is increasing, and someday it will all be affordable. They were saying that in the 1970s when I was a teenager, and they’ll probably still be saying that long after I’m gone. The similarity to the rhetoric around nuclear fusion is more than coincidental. That being the case, I don’t see much point in betting the future on something that might happen someday.

    Chris, thank you for this. As I’ve commented before, the only people I know who think that we can power an industrial society on PV power are those who’ve never tried to live on PV power!

  72. @Tony C #26:

    “I think coal has a good future for the rest of this century”

    Well it’s awful interesting to me, it so happens that my wife and I were out of town lately, at a coal mining museum, at the site of a former coal mine that was shut down after an accident. They said the mine was “too dangerous” to be worth the substandard coal.

    It got me a-wondering, how long until society considers it an acceptable risk again, to open back up that dangerous mine.

  73. Ahem. I’ve had several people basically try to pick a fight over which side of the Russo-Ukrainian war is the good guys. I’m feeling sufficiently irritable about some of the comments involved that this subject is off limits for the next week; any post that tries to argue about it will be deleted, and repeated attempts may just get the poster banned. .

    Oh, and snark directed at me, directly or indirectly, will get your comment deleted. (You know who you are.) Courtesy, remember?

    ‘Nuf said.

  74. PeterEV,
    battery costs this year and last have been rising, not falling, as have EV prices. Due largely to supply chain issues, high energy prices, and resource constraints. I don’t think you can count on decreasing battery and EV prices in the future, because technological savvy isn’t the only factor in play.

    In the long term, non-renewable resources used in batteries are going to deplete the same way fossil fuels do. And rare earth elements like lithium etc. use a lot energy to mine and refine them, and that energy is not getting any cheaper as fossil fuels deplete.

  75. JMG,

    I saw with interest this week that Gautam Adani became the 2nd richest person in the world behind Musk. The Adani name is well known here in Australia as the election before last was won and lost on the then Liberal government allowing Adani to open a coal mine in Queensland. Meanwhile, the Liberals were ousted last election by the “teals” pushing the usual renewable energy line. It’s a nice system. One government sells the coal that makes all the money, the next government invests the proceeds into renewables. Another of Adani’s lines of business is renewables. So he buys our coal and then sells us back the solar panels. Clever man.

  76. JMG, okay it sounds like our takes on peak oil are pretty much the same. And yes, you’re right about the total liquids vs conventional oil – I was thinking total liquids.

  77. I think you are right, but with one exception, where intermittent energy sources are backed up by large scale hydroelectric storage. The EROEI of hydro remains high. Where this can occur, the intermittency issue goes away, at least as long as the storage lasts – and it’s multi-year storage that’s needed in the face of climate change (and even then it might not be enough). A few countries have achieved this, Norway chief amongst them with deep lakes. My own country, NZ, has plenty of hydro but no multi-year storage because the lakes are too shallow. It’s proposing large scale pumped-hydro (pumping when it rains and there is plenty of surplus energy in the rivers and lakes), and saving it for the dry years. It loses energy, but at the grid scale, shores everything else up, and enabling the retirement of the last fossil fuel generation.

    Of course, power grids require complex technologies which can only be created with fossil fuels (and also power things which can only be made with fossil fuels), all of which will gradually become unavailable, but my take is that those countries with substantial hydro (and geothermal) resources will keep their lights on for a lot longer. Their decline curves will be more shallow, getting through the first rounds of crises intact, and that will enable a lot of knowledge to be potentially saved.

    On the longer timescale, hydro reminds me of the ancient Dam of Ma’rib, which stood for over 1500 years and powered what is now Yemen. The dams gradually degrade, and with them, the societies’ they support. They can be patched, but never fully repaired.

  78. @JMG,

    Are there possibilities that Carbon Capture and Storage will make progress with coal, i.e. when enough people realize we still need it and the climate impacts are becoming very visible, or are there too many obstacles to do that? Is the Co2 quantity to store too great?

  79. Darkest Yorkshire – I have heard about flywheels being deployed in the power system at scale… but they’re used to smooth fluctuations out on a time scale of about one second. They help to maintain frequency stability, to keep everything spinning smoothly. I.e. they function as flywheels, which after all is what they are.

    Another cool mechanical storage system is a big train loaded up with rocks, on a track that goes up a big hill. For sure the number one energy storage is pumped hydro. But the number of suitable sites is very small. I do believe that Pete Seeger was heavily involved in saving Storm King mountain on the Hudson River – the power company wanted to chop the top off and convert it to a reservoir for pumped storage. Didn’t happen! Hard to say, as energy gets tight, maybe people will be more willing to sacrifice beautiful scenery. Perhaps trains going up and down hills will be less intrusive??

  80. > I didn’t say that all market prices reflect enduring net energy ratios. I said that price works well as a proxy measure for net energy.

    This seems like two different ways of saying the same thing. If price works as a proxy for net energy, it must be because it reflects it in some relatively constant way.

    > If a given energy technology always requires huge subsidies from government, not merely for construction but also to continue operating, and other energy technologies do not require such subsidies, it’s reasonable to conclude that something is fundamentally wrong with the technology.

    Energy technologies are all heavily subsidized in various ways (some of which amount to straightforward monetary handouts, some which don’t). Governments consider energy production a core interest, so they tend to involve themselves with it heavily. Fossil fuels are definitely included here.

    > Since nations that have very different regulatory regimes — Russia and China come to mind — haven’t found it affordable to go whole hog into nuclear power, btw, it’s clearly inaccurate to claim that regulation is the source of the problem!

    The actual dynamics here are very complicated, but to oversimplify, I would say that regulation drives underinvestment, which drives lack of profitability, which feeds back into underinvestment. This is alongside the straightforward costs of regulatory compliance.

    You can compare the general lack of progress made in nuclear costs to the steep decline in solar (e.g. https://www.nrel.gov/news/program/2021/documenting-a-decade-of-cost-declines-for-pv-systems.html). Solar panel costs have plummeted, largely because mass production exposes opportunities to improve the process. Regulation has been a major factor in preventing nuclear from benefiting from this effect.

    As for Russia and China, these countries are generally well-placed with respect to fossil fuels, and don’t feel much need to go along with the (largely Western-originated) idea that they must reduce carbon emissions for environmental reasons. Thus, they are happy to continue building fossil plants (which are cheaper at current prices) rather than deal with nuclear. One can imagine this changing as peak-oil dynamics push fossil fuel prices up.

  81. Born in 1946, I went through the Whole Earth Catalogue, back to the land, primitive tech, etc in my teens (and lived in So King Co where John roamed a few years later 🙂 and was elated by all of it. (Didn’t understand the deliberate societal subversion .. as in subtle family/tradition destruction, etc, culminating in our current CRT looniness.) Much of John’s low tech techniques are familiar to me 😉 BTW, I especially love his ‘Retrotopia’… lots of food for thought there,, got to read it again!

    And I’d like to recommend a book that I found very ‘rich’, albeit a different time and culture – ‘Just Enough’ by Azby Brown (how rural Japanese carefully designed their survival in past times).

    Oh, and another very favorite …’A Paradise Built in Hell’ by Solnit, for a dose of hope 🙂 How ppl actually did react to major historical disasters. Of course our future will be small declines… but hopefully human nature, at heart, is still the same.

  82. As a public service announcement not out of the realm of the scope of this post. I hope to heaven that those whose lives are dependent on the financial markets or pensions, etc. get some cash out of those things – immediately.

    Those stock burses gave me one of the worst whipsaws of my career today. Even if the end was predictable, it might take a week to sooth the emotional strain enough to return to psychic homeostasis.

  83. Pigmycory at #14

    If I were leading Germany, I would have done whatever arm-twisting was necessary to force the Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreements. The current war would not even have happened.

    Antoinetta III

  84. RE: EROEI of nuclear power

    Here is a great article from The Oil Drum:

    http://theoildrum.com/node/3877

    It covers all the technical finer points and has a survey of published research on net energy. There are three clusters of values. From 0-5 to 1, from 10-20 to 1, and 60-100 to 1.

    It is worth reading the details. But, to be perfectly honest, I doubt that we will ever get a straight answer to this question for two reasons. 1) the calculations are complex and require a number of assumptions. 2) the only people doing these calculations are the pro nuclear and the anti nuclear groups.

    Basically, they are going to find what they want to find. It is somewhere in between 0 and 20 to 1.

  85. The peak oil ahead image at the top. Can someone with graphics software make an updated version that says peak oil behind? And/or a you are here red arrow to thr right of the peak?

    Thanks

  86. I just want to thank you for choosing a relatively grim looking photo of the Greenland ice melt. It must have taken a lot of digging through stunningly gorgeous photos before you found one that was appropriately somber.

    The melting ice is one of those rare things of ineffable beauty and unspeakable danger.

    Sincerely
    Jessi Thompson
    anotheramethyst

  87. @JMG

    The second to last paragraph hit home because my father’s definitive hobbies were shortwave radio and ultralight aircraft. I’d like to imagine a future where Renaissance men like my dad are valued instead of being branded as nostalgic hobbyists.

    In this future, I’m imagining a small villa on the edge of a walkable city. The backyard is full of gardens, birdsong, and bubbling fountains fed from the civic aqueduct. An ultralight glider flies lazily above, silhouetted against a late spring cloud. In the workshop, my great-great-grandson works on the latest ultralight design. A shortwave radio crackles in the background. The sound of mischievous boys playing on the forest edge ricochets into the workshop. He smiles. He remembers when he was a mischievous boy, whittling wood and chasing girls in the tall grass. But now he has a job to do. Ancient and contemporary books line the edge of the workshop, emanating scent and knowledge. As the sun sets, he has an important breakthrough, but thoughts turn to fire and family. It will have to wait until tomorrow.

  88. Simon, and since the solar panels don’t produce enough net energy, another coal mine has to be opened thereafter…

    Pygmycory, we’ll have to see about total liquids, but it’s looking that way.

    Peter, sure, but there aren’t many places well suited to large-scale hydro storage, and you’ve got to factor in conversion losses from the original energy source to electricity, from electricity through the pumps to impounded water, and then back from water to electricity. Even if it’s 80% efficient each way, that’s .8 x .8 x .8 = .512, or 51.2% efficiency for the whole system.

    Tony, we’re still waiting to see any example that isn’t just a micro-pilot project. Until that happens — and of course it may not — it’s just handwaving.

    Ruckus, the thing that makes me roll my eyes is that all these same arguments were being made for nuclear power in the 1970s, when I was a member of the debate club in my high school and the energy crisis was the theme one year. They’ve been being made by true believers in nuclear power regularly since I began blogging, and the mere fact that each new nuclear power technology turns out just as unaffordable as the last never sinks in. It’s very easy to make a verbal case for nuclear power, and to come up with ad hoc arguments like the one you’ve used to insist that the absence of environmental regulation in Russia and China doesn’t show the weakness in the claim that regulation is the problem here. Until someone, somewhere produces a nuclear power system that meets the test of the market, it’s all handwaving — and it’s all the same handwaving.

    Nancy, thanks for the book suggestions. Whereabouts in South King County, btw?

    Joseph, fortunately I don’t have a penny in the markets. I’d encourage anyone for whom that’s not true to consider making it true.

    Team10tim, thus my comment about the fiendish difficulty of net energy calculations!

    Carlos, funny. Thanks for this.

    Team10tim, that would be helpful!

    Jessi, you’re most welcome. One of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen was a set of photos of meltwater rivers snaking across the Greenland ice cap — it’s clear from that just how deep in trouble we are.

    Brian, your father was ahead of his time. I like the future image! That’s a future I could definitely see happening.

  89. @DaveOTN

    China *was* swimming in cheap electricity… it was coal powered. That’s what fueled their rise to global superpower. I believe their economic troubles now are a reflection of their own struggles with diminishing returns as a fossil fuel reserve is exploited. I’m not sure if their coal has peaked quite yet, but I do think it’s not as economical as it used to be.

    Sincerely
    Jessi Thompson
    anotheramethyst

  90. Antoinette 3,
    I’d put that in the category of ‘not ticking off the country you’re energy dependent on. Along with things like trying to talk the USA and rest of Nato out of expanding Nato to the east, and not sanctioning Russia/dragging their feet on sanctions and trying to talk the rest of Europe and NATO out of it, or refusing to get involved in the war/send money/weaponry to Ukraine.

  91. JMG, My wife was on the debate team at her high school that same year you are discussing when the energy crisis was the theme. She and her debate partner came up with a kind of “devils advocate” position to defend. Their proposed solution was to have the U.S. invade Iraq and steal all its oil. Of course it was difficult to refute the logic of this approach but it was met with universal arguments of outrage that such a thing would be against international law and incredibly immoral. For those of you not in the high school debate scene then, the year this was a theme was 1978 or 1979.

  92. On a somewhat of a tangent (but quite relevant I think), I sent a link of your article, Before Winter Comes, to a fairly well known British vlogger now living in France that makes content on frugal living. I thought your energy saving tips and knowledge would be of interest to her, given her interest in saving money, living debt free, and so on.

    Boy, was I absolutely flabbergasted to read her response. Basically telling me I picked the wrong person to send “alt right filth” and “vile piece of literature” and so on. Holy moly I was shocked. I apologised first, as I honestly did not mean offence, but then when she came back with more such comments, including the ultimate condescending “I worry about you”, I sent a short sharp reply to say that a rational critique of the political decisions that have led to the current energy crisis does not in fact equate to hate speech, etc – and goodbye!

    Basically, I am still in disbelief that was the response I got from someone who I thought was fairly grounded – but I guess not. If this is the state of people’s emotional and mental state before winter really starts to bite – well, it’s going to be quite the show.

  93. Back to the Russo-Ukranian war. I find it interesting, from the occult perspective, that Putin delayed delivering his message – it was aired on Wednesday, ruled by Mercury, instead of Tuesday, ruled by Mars.

    I don’t know if Putin knows anything about planetary days, but it’s interesting nontheless.

  94. @geronimo, not to distract from your good points about lack of coal and the limited potential of hydroenergy, but I think you may have forgotten a few tiny little things about the current state of Brazil, such as the number of people who go hungry. 36% of the population didn’t have enough to eat on some days in 2021, compared to 14% in 2014, and the numbers have kept growing. Also, and more nearly related to the theme of this week’s post, the number of people who have gone back to burning firewood for cooking because they can’t afford gas (like my wife did in her childhood), while Petrobras shareholders have record gains. These things are easy to forget when there is an election in less than two weeks and your candidate looks to lose it in a landslide.

  95. At the Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry, there was recently a post and discussion highly relevant to this week’ post: how and why did the industrial revolution start in England around 1800 and not earlier or elsewhere. It’s incredible, but the host got a lot of pushback from economists for daring to suggest an important role for coal in that story! They want to pin it all on human inventiveness and capitalist spirit, which conveniently don’t have an expiry date.

  96. Is it possible that all the waste from Nuclear Power Plants could be dropped into the ocean or in Antartica? I ask because of what JMG, said that future generations will have to deal with that. The problem I can envision is that if civilization does revert back to the Dark Ages, how will they know how to deal with that radioactive waste?

  97. From the story you’ve told I can see why people would think there will be a 3rd option.

    If there was just one – coal – that’d line up with our stories about something unique, but since there have been two – coal, gas – why not three? In most of our stories, if there are 2, then there are 3.

    Sure, it’s not super rational. But humans do tend to think more with stories than with pure reason!

  98. Can anyone shine some light on the supposedly incoming digital currency, the ‘digital dollar’ that will replace the current currency? It may be a programmable ‘token’ that can be manipulated, i.e., turned off and on, hence control us more efficiently that just confiscating guns, etc. Considering the lunatic desperation that governments are revealing right now, seems the answer to my favorite question, “Would ‘they’, if ‘they’ could?” is Yes.

  99. When it comes to any high tech thing that will “save us” , I only have one response anymore. Wake me up when we get there, I’m not going to stand in the way.

    Talk doesn’t cook the rice.

    Don’t just talk about it. Do it. You want to go to Mars, stop discussing it and actually do it. Etc

    There is a new book by Douglas rushkoff out now called ‘Survival of the richest’ about how we should see a lot of these proposed billionaire solutions like ‘The great rest’ more along the lines of a black comedy about just how weak those proposing these ideas really are. It is a take I approve of. Turns out meeting Nate Hagen illuminated Ruskoffs to the energy blindness of our society and he has taken it on to spread the message to the world.

    Related, I consider myself somewhat of an environmentalist but I would never openly label myself as one considering the way most of them act. I have found it funny this year seeing them all pushing for this or that thing that needs to be done to reduce emissions but the instant the gasoline price goes up or the price of energy goes up – they are the first to complain. Do they not realise that when it comes to emissions, higher prices is the easiest solution? 😀 clearly not!

    @jmg “One of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen was a set of photos of meltwater rivers snaking across the Greenland ice cap — it’s clear from that just how deep in trouble we are.”

    Have you seen the news about Thwaites glacier?

    https://mashable.com/article/thwaites-doomsday-glacier-antarctica-melt-sea-level-rise

    There is a risk of a big chunk of this thing breaking off in the next decade producing about a 25 inch ocean level rise is the space of 6 months. Add that on top of the Greenland thing and suddenly ocean level rise is looking to be a sufficiently decent trouble again. When it comes to global weirding, the military term of a ‘threat multiplier’ yet again rings true. It takes existing issues and multiples them.

  100. Also forgot that when it comes to storing radioactive material, ‘The Dome’ of the Marshall islands is a great example of how poorly we are handling similar stuff.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runit_Island

    We need to keep it out of the ecosystem for 100,000 years, this thing has barely gone 60 years and it is in very bad condition.

  101. https://www.chinawaterrisk.org/opinions/yellow-river-changing-course/

    Recently, I checked some materials related to the Yellow River Changing Course, and I found that the Chinese people, like the Faustians, have the desire to never give up control of nature, even if history has proved that it is impossible for human beings to control the Yellow River, and when the Yellow River is unavoidable After changing the flow and killing thousands of people, the Chinese still do not give up their desire to control the Yellow River. (This is also one of the reasons why I think the Faustian ideology like communism was able to conquer China)

    This seems to be the deep reason why the Chinese are reluctant to give up communism, because communism, like progressivism, promises the Chinese a future in which the Yellow River can finally be controlled by humans

    Even if Chinese history shows that the desire to control the Yellow River is responsible for the deaths of countless Chinese, the Chinese still cannot give up control of the Yellow River, and I am skeptical that the more radical Faustians can give up control of nature.

    It is interesting that Egypt, China, and Faust are all have strong historical talents and superstitions about immortality. Maybe the ability to see through history is a curse that makes humans believe that they can overcome the limitations of nature?

  102. Just to be clear, compressed air energy storage and liquid air energy storage aren’t the same thing. These are the latter:

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

    https://highviewpower.com/

    Some key differences are they aren’t geographically limited (no salt cavern needed) and can use waste heat and waste coolth from other sources (CAES may also be able to do that but I’ve never heard of it). LAES also seems like it could integrate with liquid oxygen and nitrogen production, and easily do carbon capture, but I haven’t seen that discussed.

  103. petit bourgeois #27, turning nuclear weapons into fuel rods has been going on since the 90s. The programme was called ‘Megatons to Megawatts’ and a significant amount of US reactor fuel used to be Russian nukes.

  104. Back in April 28th of 2021, Art Berman posted a timeline which indicated conventional oil peaked in November of 2005, All-Liquids in November of 2018, and shale oil in November of 2019. This last seems significant as it shows that the last year of growth in shale couldn’t keep up with the decline in All-Liquids.

    Antoinetta III

  105. @Quos Ego,
    Europe gas storage, 100% full would cover less than 7 weeks of the economy needs in winter, about 10 weeks of summer expeditures. I do admit that, at the rate industries are shutting down due to high gas prices, it may go a litle bit longer. The gas storages are not 100% full.
    Foreign merceneries capture by the russian army, are no longer advertised as they used to be, but they are used as political pawns Just this week the saudis claimed to have arrage for the safe return of several dozens to their various countries of origin. The public trials of foreign mercenaries happened in the new republics of the Donbass, not in russia where public communication is less than poor, but true information is carefully managed to say the least.

  106. “For political reasons, Europe built a Potemkin-village energy system of wind turbines and solar panels, which they propped up by importing huge volumes of cheap natural gas from Russia.”
    Don’t forget the French nuclear industry!
    Which is just having a few minor technical difficulties at the moment, and will surely return to being a model for a nuclear future that should be copied all over the world _any_ day now…

    It occurred to me, reading your post, to compare the persistent hopes in the next nuclear technology with hopes in Communism. True Communism, of course, hasn’t actually be tried yet — that’s why we keep just getting dictatorships instead, but as soon as we do it _properly_, and stop human nature from getting in the way, we’ll have a genuine paradise on Earth. Likewise, certainly, all the ways we’ve _tried_ nuclear power so far have had substantial problems, but that just means they’re not the _right_ way to do it; the theory sounds so good, though, that that right practice _must_ be out there. And we only need to rely on fission for another twenty years, anyway, since that’s when everyone says we’ll have economically viable fusion power, and then, whoa, industrial civilization will _really_ take off, just you wait and see!

    (It’s much easier to see the problems with renewables, by contrast. How much sun shines in a given area? How hard does the wind blow? How much rain falls? How often? How expensive is the equipment to harvest it, at a bare minimum with generous assumptions? Start asking questions like that and comparing the energy available with the energy wanted, and, well, obviously a great many people still don’t see the problems, but by this point they seem pretty clear to me. Nuclear, that’s more obscure, since the fuel itself, once prepared, genuinely _is_ extremely energy-rich and available pretty much on demand, there are all sorts of different reactor designs with different strengths and weaknesses, there are a variety of things that haven’t been tried, including in the area of waste disposal, for reasons like nuclear proliferation concerns, which aren’t technically inherent to the power source itself… Even I still wonder if maybe there _really is_, in all the murky complexity, _some_ combination of factors that _really would_ live up to the promises. Given the history of efforts to find it so far, it seems pretty unlikely to me, but I can easily see how someone who deeply believed that there has to be something waiting to replace oil would look at that situation and see the solution which must exist as surely hiding in there, just waiting to be found (and that doesn’t just happen on the political right, by the way; there are also pro-nuclear leftists).)

    And it’s true that some fission power technologies are better than others, providing higher EROEIs, more safety, a wider variety of possible fuels, etc. And it’s also true, unfortunately, that nuclear plants could be run more cheaply if decommissioning consisted of just stripping out the expensive-and-easily-recyclable/scrappable bits and abandoning the rest, and waste disposal of “Does anyone rich and/or politically powerful live in or downwind of this patch of desert? No? ‘Kay, back the dump truck up!”. And safety systems, well, they cost money too, as do highly-trained personnel.

    I recall that, in _Star’s Reach_, there’d been a major boom in building nuclear power plants, because they were seen, accurately, I think, as industrial civilization’s best bet for survival as fossil fuels become increasingly unavailable. Also I expect accurately, the best bet still wasn’t good enough — and as a result, the many fission plant ruins still dotting the landscape of the former United States were places only the insane, desperate, or suicidal went, unless there was good information that the plant had never gone into service. I don’t know if that’s exactly the future nuclear power will have in our world, but it does seem rather more plausible at this point than an all-electric world cheaply supplied by the miracle of atomic power.

    By the way, on a related note about that all-electric world, I happened to be watching a video earlier today about ocean floor mineral nodules and the potential for mining them. There was some interesting information about their formation and discovery, and some on ideas for mining them — but the video continued on that idea by discussing how mining them would almost certainly destroy ecosystems we barely even know about, and yet we _have_ to do it in the future anyway. The only alternative, said the video, would be mining the needed-by-modern-batteries minerals on land, which would destroy ecosystems we already know about and are already threatening with climate change. By taking active steps to only destroy deep sea ecosystems we don’t know much about, we can build more batteries and use them to stop climate change and save the ecosystems we already know a lot about. The notion that we might also be able to just _use less energy and resources_ was _completely_ absent from the video, and potential mineral yields were explicitly quantified in the number of electric cars they could be used to build.
    I found that second part of the video _also_ interesting — but more for what it said about the worldviews of the creator and their intended audience.

  107. Good to see you revisit peak oil, JMG!

    On the realistic ways of mitigating climate change, and reasonable post-petroleum tech, I‘d like to bring tree planting and silviculture into the discussion.

    Here’s a Guardian article about the areas potentially usable for reforestation: https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions

    Those are huge and the effort might offset 2/3 of mankind’s current CO2 emissions.
    Much of the land in discussion is currently used for grazing livestock. This, however, can also be turned into a carbon sink by applying the correct method, as research into rotational grazing, mob grazing, etc. seems to show, and there’s no reason to keep grasslands entirely tree-free.

    Agroforestry or tree-centered agriculture is yet another way people could capitalize on the temporarily higher CO2 concentration in the atmosphere while sheltering themselves from climate change‘s effects.

    In the area that’s now the eastern US, whole cultures of people used to live primarily off trees – that’s why North America has so many edible nut and oak varieties: the people cultivated them on purpose and over centuries transformed their local landscape k to one that would provide their basic nutrition practically work-free.

    ————-

    One aspect that is often overlooked when the effect of vegetation on climate change is discussed is that during photosynthesis, leaves use up the sun‘s energy. You can see that on black and white landscape photographs or satellite images: forests always look dark. That’s because they actually eat the light, taking that energy out of the atmosphere, thereby weakening the greenhouse effect. If there‘s less energy in the atmosphere, it’s not as important how much of it gets trapped!

    Another point that isn’t allowed to get attention, because all problems apparently have to be one dimensional today, is that the mycorrhizal fungal networks beneath all perennial vegetation act as water reserves and allow a landscape to withstand extended droughts.

    Lastly, forests generate and re-use rainfall. Even in formerly dry areas, reforestation leads to a rehydration of the whole landscape, including humidity of the air, thus providing a temperature buffer, because water is thermal mass.

    Though the paleoclimatological record is clear on western North America‘s potential for drought, I wouldn’t be surprised if the decimation on the redwood forests was the main culprit in the recent shift in climate over there, and if a sustained attempt at reforestation could turn the whole thing around.

    ————-

    The changes in behavior necessary for people to adapt a perennials-based approach to life and culture are of course immense, and it’s absolutely unrealistic to expect our current civilization to adopt something so alien ad-hockey.
    But it might be a worthwhile project for a fringe culture that could become the seed for something bigger down the road!

  108. Thank you for this!

    In this context, I find that there are several themes to the repudiation of peak oil reality.

    There is, of course, the view that “someone will think of something, human ingenuity is great thing”… but there is also the darker view that “someone has already thought of something, and is keeping it a secret so they can continue to manipulate markets and people.”

    These days I feel like I am encountering more of the second than the first.

    Meanwhile, I continue to practice what seems to be a more “future-proof” lifestyle, which consists of maximising quality in the art of living, while continuing to minimise quantitative (and “countable”) aspects to within the boundaries of an “enough” known as “an elegant sufficiency”.

  109. “Ruckus, the thing that makes me roll my eyes is that all these same arguments were being made for nuclear power in the 1970s, when I was a member of the debate club in my high school and the energy crisis was the theme one year. They’ve been being made by true believers in nuclear power regularly since I began blogging, and the mere fact that each new nuclear power technology turns out just as unaffordable as the last never sinks in.”

    I have to sympathize. However it seems that those you debated may have long passed away. Or they moved on from this topic.

    You are simply encountering newer generations fed the same ideas repeating the same talking points.

    For yourself its another repeating Rodeo but for the newer generations its all brand new. I suppose that is why we have History.

    So up and coming new generation don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel that their ancestors went through.

    Its like losing your memories against and again so you keep repeating past behaviors.

  110. Things are worsening here in north western Europe. Last Tuesday it was “Prince’s Day” in the Netherlands, on which the government presents the budget for the coming year, with lots of pomp and ceremony. The energy prices are one of the main issues. Households and small businesses feel the financial pain. In the morning several farmers tried to occupy The Hague with tractors, but were removed by the police. Later that day many boo-yellers at the King, his wife and the Crown Princess (her very first time on this event) when they arrived and left in his carriage, and it were not only farmers who were shouting. Unusual for Prince’s Day.
    Yesterday in parliament, when the government budget was discussed, a right-wing opposition leader who loves to spread conspiracy theories (and is also a Putin-fan), insinuated that the minister was a possible Marxist spy because she had studied at a certain college in the UK “where there was Marxist indoctrination”. The government left parliament in protest, and this leader is not allowed to speak in parliament for a certain time.
    More and more people in Dutch society are “dropping out”, have no confidence anymore in the rulers of the country. Researchers even made an “Atlas of Dropped-Out Netherlands”, identifying the regions and neigbourhoods where people have lost confidence in the government (only in Dutch): https://kennisopenbaarbestuur.nl/media/258329/atlas-van-afgehaakt-nederland.pdf

  111. PeterEV, Germany lies approximately between 48° and 54° northern latitide. At 51° latitude, the midday sun in winter reaches a height of 39-23.5=15.5 degrees above the horizon. (39° is the height of the sun at midday at the equinoxes, 23.5 is the obliquity of the Earth). The sun rises at the winter solstice rises a quarter past 8 am and sets a quarter before 4 pm. At the summer solstice, the sun rises at 51° a quarter before 5 am and sets a quarter after 9 pm. At this time in the year, the Sun is 15.5 degrees below the horizon, so we have astronomical twilight the whole night.

  112. I think it is very unlikely that there are NATO troops fighting in Ukraine. It seems that would be a very hard fact to conceal, especially once a few get killed or seriously injured. If anybody has a link to credible evidence of this, please provide it. I am willing to be surprised, but until then it is just a conspiracy theory or Russian propoganda.

  113. You have me reminiscing about the late Michael C. Ruppert. He had me convinced we were facing an economic collapse in the short term around 2012, and when that did not occur and the powers-that-be weaseled their way through safely to another decade of decadence, it destroyed him. I am still grateful to him, however, because he gave me a really strong incentive to consider what my husband and I would need in order to get by with severely curtailed energy resources and take steps to learn the needed skills for a low-energy future. It gave me more appreciation of my unemployed husband than I would otherwise have had (Japan’s collapse started in 1989, and has proceeded slowly). If I had realized we still had another ten or twenty years of business-as-usual, I bet I’d be far less prepared than I am now. On the other hand, my husband had been rendered diabetic by urban life in Japan’s bubble society, and I was sensitized to artificial radiation. We’d both collapsed physically and chosen to go rural where we could live frugally in a healthier setting long before I’d even heard of Ruppert, may his good soul rest in peace.

  114. I also think advice to get out of pensions and the stock market should be taken very skeptically. My whole life (I’m 63) there has always been someone warning of immediate worldwide collapse; so far they have all been wrong. Perhaps this time will be different, but probably not.

    Collapse may well be coming (or not) but it will probably be pretty slow and gentle, at least for most of us living in most of the world. If you have a good job, a moderate stock portfolio or a pension, especially a federal or municipal pension, you will probably live the rest of your life in relative comfort because of that job, investment or pension.

    If you cash out your pension, and are unwilling to invest it, you will probably be very sorry in a few years or decades. Dystopian future scenarios great fun, and are certainly interesting. We should all be aware of future risks and take reasonable precautions. But don’t let them ruin your real life.

  115. Re. storage (meant to say this before but forgot)…

    The cost estimates for pumped hydro range from something like $30-300 per kWh. Coire Glas is estimated at ~$40/kWh (priced in pounds, so it fluctuates).

    If cycled daily, it makes economic sense to build. Unfortunately, seasonal storage involves cycling it only a few times a year, meaning that over 40 years under optimistic cost assumptions we’d end up paying something like $0.25/kWh stored and discharged.

    However, for daily cycling flywheels might work, if the self discharge rate is less than 10-20% a day. No good for long term storage, but for smoothing out the hour-by-hour peaks of wind power, or letting you use solar energy in the evenings, it’s worth looking into.

    Still need backup generators though for the troughs that last longer than a day. Maybe charcoal slurry diesels?

  116. John–

    Re post-industrial social stratification

    I agree that we’ll likely be seeing some rotation as to who inhabits the various classes as we move forward; I was wondering more about the relative sizes and relationships among the classes themselves. If the shift toward relational structures (e.g. feudal) is indeed what’s in the works, the transition should be a fascinating thing to observe. When it functions well, an aristocracy can be a good thing–I’d have no issue serving in a House Atreides, for example. The trick is finding a noble who’s worthy of his/her title…

  117. @JMG,

    How about hydrogen? Perhaps this fad is not very popular in the US, but it sure is in Europe.

    Our discombombulated leaders committed 180 billion EUR (and up to 470 billion) by 2050 for this great unexplored boondoggle. They just unlocked > 5 billions for new projects, and the Von der Leyen woman recently announced a European Hydrogen Bank.

    Huge sums for a continent on the brink of deindustrialisation, and for a technology that, from what I understand, does not simply have a lo EROEI, but a negative one.

  118. Hi John Michael,

    No worries, and I went all in on the solar PV technology. It was a sad realisation many years ago to know that it’s not enough to have that great fusion reactor in the sky sitting there – the photovoltaic panels have to face it dead on, with no obstructions such as you know, clouds, bird poop, any shading whatsoever. I live in a world where such things happen and the intermittency is no small matter to be talked around.

    Before anyone chimes in with clever ideas of solar power trackers – Every single household scaled solar tracker I’ve ever seen was broken. Asking an actuator to control what is essentially a monster wind sail, is asking too much from that technology.

    Basically if the plants aren’t growing, there really isn’t much energy to be had from the sun. Certainly not enough to run an industrial civilisation at such a cold time of year. I’d like to be wrong in this case, but I ain’t. 🙂 I fear for areas of the world with colder winters than here who are betting the civilisation on this technology. It’s monstrous hubris.

    And people bang on endlessly about how the technology is getting cheaper all the time. The next person to do so should open their wallet spend the cash, and shut their mouth. The only time it seemed cheaper to me, was when a bloke I knew at the pub offered me eight free solar panels because he was getting rid of them. Such a fine joke, because it was true: Upgrades to existing solar PV systems were unable to use the existing solar panels, and there are very few places to dump the old panels. I was doing the guy at the pub a favour by taking them for free – and they all work perfectly. Only an insane society would allow such waste.

    Hydro is a good one. Haven’t people heard of droughts? That technology doesn’t work all that well during droughts.

    The Greenland melt water floes are alarming. People aren’t paid to think.

    Cheers

    Chris

  119. Everyone just needs to calm down. I’ve watched enough Hollywood films to know that some rich guy will save us.

    Guy I did some work for put in a huge air source heat pump. I asked how his bills are, and (drum roll…) they are huge. ‘But,’ he reassured me, ‘it is 300% efficient.’ 3 days after installation he had a power cut. Nobody I have talked to has thought about the implications of replacing gas heating (eroei 20:1) with an electric heat source (eroei 3:1). The grid would need to double, as would generating capacity. Then if EVs magically replaced normal cars, another doubling.
    Ain’t gonna happen.

  120. PECO in PA built the last nuclear plant to be constructed in PA in the 1970’s. Decades ago when I moved from PECO electric territory to a rural part of the state, my electric bill went down 75%. I thought it was wrong for months. That “too cheap to meter” electric was and is the most expensive around still even with the huge rate increases this summer.

    It’s so strange to see our ruling class in business and government just keep accelerating faster in wrong policies without pausing to listen to lick of feedback. Does it really have to everything now all at once? And watching people I know get swept up in it continues to creep me out.

    And if I say, “I’m not taking sides here,” it’s assumed I’m the enemy. I always wondered felt it felt like to live through one of those sweeping historical moments where everyone looks to be possessed and on-board with what’s happening. Now I know living in one (that’s what we are doing now, right?) that there were dissenters and non-participants in those events, they’ve just be silenced or forgotten.

    And happy equinox to all who celebrate it!

  121. Hi JMG,

    Excited to read these coming essays as I loved “The Ecoteknic Future”. I also remember a comment you made about the Appalachians being pregnant with a sense of the future – I’m not quite sure how you phrased it, but I was curious to know more.

    We have two little boys so I want to be able to give them advice that is helpful in the future they will actually face. We do our part by at least not getting them used to the idea of air travel or even having a car, but one thing I have tried to stress to them is knowledge about energy. Since they are normal boys they both love trains and so from a very early age I could talk to them about the difference between coal and diesel engines, and then to directly link that to how they eat food for energy, and how many things need energy this way (animals and plants included). I am no master of this topic certainly, but I started this out very early with them, and they both have been saying “energy” before they could even pronounce the word (usually “enjy”), so hopefully it helps ground some of their thinking.

    Thanks,
    Johnny

  122. @jmg — thx for the essay. I have a request. If you could share your thoughts in “beyond the peak — internet”. I am a tech person, and just realized over this year — the internet is past it’s peak ( to me anyway). It is getting harder to find info (like the weather) and not get dragged down “side alleys” — like I am in an old time bazaar or such.

    The amount of scams and cyber attacks is also reaching goofy levels….search engines like google are clearly “pay to play” (both money and influence peddling).

    when I purchase or do something and need to register or set up yet another online account it feels like the phrase when I learned “regular expressions” (oh — you have this text search problem — use regular expressions — wait, now you I have 2 problems — see https://blog.codinghorror.com/regular-expressions-now-you-have-two-problems/)

    I would think “peak internet” was 2012-2015 or so. I be interested in your take (and other commenters of course!)

    thx

  123. Great piece, thank you! It brings nuclear energy into a sharp perspective…My father was a nuclear physicist who consulted on and testified regarding certification and construction of nuclear plants in the Oregon/Washington area..He once observed to me that the projections used to justify the plants were fanciful and the public didn’t really know what they were getting into…I didn’t understand that at the time, having been fully brainwashed about the virtues of nuclear power…

  124. Hello JMG

    In a reply to Quos Ego, you said that you don’t see Putin as a master chess player. How then would you characterise him?

    SMJ

  125. Regarding hydro storage, as an attorney I did some work on large scale electricity contracts in the eastern US…Few know that Quebec Hydro provides major storage and peaking services for the eastern grid which are vital to keeping that rather rickety system afloat..Without Quebec’s enormous hydro resources, I don’t think the eastern grid could survive…

  126. Courtesy of Jean Lamb in Klamath Falls, OR – who does natal astrology, but – she writes: “Chart Analysis, Russian Wars – not looking good for Russia. And, yes, you may pass this on: https://www.astrowow.com/blog/russia-and-its-wars/

    In a second email, she writes “Mundane astrology and the U.S. Possible timeline for the Urban Wars* in this article (2025-27?)”
    https://www.astrowow.com/blog/basic-principles-for-mundane-astrology-using-usa-char/

    *The Urban Wars are a reference to J.D. Robb’s near-future police procedurals. She had a very good handle on the troubles, and later, the shortages and substitutes and what happened to Washington, D.C., and who the actors in this scene were. She then, (sigh) threw in a bunch of high-tech stuff along with the soy-dogs and ersatz coffee, including space travel – with no clue about how it worked. (i.e. a fancy resort-habitat with no zero-gee play area; an escaped convict who ends up on Earth and has no trouble with gravity, and whose escape had to be an inside job in part, since vacuum is better than walls for keeping them inside.) BUT – let’s ignore the tech stuff; she has a very good handle on the rest.

  127. A blessed Equinox to those who celebrate it – lift a glass of wine in the honor of the season!

  128. Hi John,
    Well, we lived in So Seattle’s Rainier Valley in the late 50s, then as a married adult, we moved to Federal Way, where we have been for 50+ years…. plus very familiar with Burien and surrounds. As a teen I bussed from Rainier Valley to West Seattle’s Holy Rosary girls high school (scholarship). BTW, downtown Seattle was our ‘shopping mall’ : ) (Raised by a struggling single mom who never drove.)

    I guess we were ‘poor’ (high school was on scholarship), but I never remember feeling ‘poor’ or lesser. Thank heavens for Catholic school uniforms! And we rented in ‘poor’ neighbors, so didn’t ‘see’ the rich. A blessing was my dad’s small cabin at Lake Fenwick (outside Kent) where, on weekends, I could roam the woods at will. ‘Nature’ has been a more trusted friend to me than any human, more or less ; ) Oh, I do run!

  129. One of the things the” solar cells are dropping in price” crowd does not get is that the cells are only part of a sun based energy generating infrastructure. Those that think solar will soon get so cheap we can all cruise the countryside in overpowered gadget-laden Muskmobiles powered by “clean green solar” seem to think you can just scatter those future ” cheap” solar cells across the countryside like Johnny Appleseed. But in reality. every one of the components needed to actually mount these things and string them together in a useful energy system are going up rapidly in price. These things, including aluminum and steel for stands and mounts, galvenizing or paint services, copper wire, hardware, concrete, skilled labor and the real estate to put them on. All of these things except for land and labor are dependent on energy and dwindling resources so they will continue to go up in cost long in to the future. These folks have to accept that it is more practical for them to harvest the sun by growing turnips in the back yard than charging up the battery powered “living room on wheels” with solar cells so they can race in to the hinterlands and trade the bitcoins and such to the peasants for turnips.

  130. Re: snarks

    Aww, we don’t get to see snarks directed at the Archdruid. But I love snarks! They are my favorite animals, right after tards. How about this one: the best hope for the Europeans to survive this winter is Global Warming!

    Happy autumnal equinox to everyone!

  131. From the newsfeed this morning;
    “According to a new study from researchers at Stanford University, if EV sales grow rapidly over the next decade — and most drivers continue to charge their electric cars at home — vehicle charging could strain the electricity grid in the Western United States, increasing net demand at peak times by 25 percent. That could be a problem as the West struggles to keep the lights on amid heat waves and rising electricity demand.”

    Their solution is to charge in the daytime, so every parking space will need a charger. The amount of copper that would take would boggle the mind.

    Even without that consideration a number that keeps turning up is that we need six times current copper production to be Green by 2050. Copper mining is all done with diesel, and copper refining is done with fossil fuels (old school Pierce Smith converters) or electricity (new school solvent extraction- electrowinning).

  132. JMG, re: “We were wrong. There’s no kinder way to put it.”

    I wonder if thinking/hoping a large proportion of humans in a high-powered society might behave differently toward that power source might be a minor form of “human exceptionalism”… few if any other species behave differently toward an abundant and easily accessed fuel source – most tend to use what they have immediately, gluttonously, reproduce with abandon, peak, then hit the overshoot cliff at a dead run.

    Plants seem to me to be the few moderate creatures on earth and that mostly because they have slow-growth limits (crazy perennials excepted – and they can easily be seen flourishing/peaking/declining). An oak tree can’t grow faster than it can grow, an oak forest can only spread so far so fast. Mobile beings, though… and humans in fuel-guzzling societies in particular are another story.

    We seem to differ very little from our fellow animals.

    So, inasmuch as certain subsets of humans can’t learn from history and delude themselves into thinking “it’s different this time,” perhaps you needn’t feel so much like you failed, JMG. You might’ve just momentarily forgotten to consider this particular biology lesson that repeats and repeats itself across species.

    Here we are, doing what life on earth frequently does. And now we get to experience that sense of overshoot.

  133. @alice (#28): That is a real gem you found there! A “fashion model and nuclear influencer” (!) describes in a magazine paid for by “philanthropical donations” how nuclear energy will solve all the world’s problems, from poverty in Africa to gender inequity to CO2 capture to Mars bases. They only forgot to say “too cheap to meter”.

  134. Hello Mr. Greer,

    This article brings to mind a question I have wanted to run by you for a little while. As I have been exploring ways to deal with the reality of peak oil I have developed an increasing interest in the wild food movement. There is a growing number of people who are interested in foraging wild food as well as hunting and fishing for food rather than sport. One thing I often hear from people in this movement is how they see what they are doing as distinct from the conservatives common in hunting and the liberals common in environmentalism. As someone who was involved in the appropriate tech movement does this ring true to you? Were there a lot of hunter/gatherer types back in the appropriate tech movement, or is this a more recent off shoot of people aware of the long emergency?

  135. @Jerry,
    I think I just lost my long reply to you before posting. Here’s another version: I agree with you we’re past peak internet. The censorship and surveillance stinks.

    Also, when doing research on coldwater/subtropical fish and invertebrates, the search engine keeps trying to send me to generalist pet or commercial tropical fish sites that have inadequate info compared to older sites I discovered many years ago. I haven’t found new, good sites for researching specific fish species, and some of those old, good sites have had little to no work on them in over a decade. And there’s one old awesome site about species bettas I remember that seems to be completely gone.

    The generalist pet and fish sites aren’t sufficient for what I need – the temperature info often doesn’t include the lower portion of subtropical fishes temperature range/ is just plain wrong. They also lack information on wild habitat, conservation, how to breed the fish, and whether the ones at your local store are likely wild-caught or captive bred. Unfortunately the older sites are often out of date on the last point, so that information is often completely unobtainable to me.

    Books aren’t an improvement. I found a grand total of one book on tropical freshwater aquarium fish in my city’s main library, and some of the temperature ranges given are wrong. Period. As in, ‘that fish is subtropical/temperate, not tropical. If you keep it at the top end of the range you’ve given for temperature, it will be miserable and you’ll seriously shorten its lifespan and reduce its disease resistance’. The other info was not in much detail, either. The only good thing about it was the very nice photographs.

  136. > Ruckus, the thing that makes me roll my eyes is that all these same arguments were being made for nuclear power in the 1970s, when I was a member of the debate club in my high school and the energy crisis was the theme one year. … Until someone, somewhere produces a nuclear power system that meets the test of the market, it’s all handwaving — and it’s all the same handwaving.

    Well, you’re not wrong. In the end the only way the debate gets settled is by reality.

    I’ll merely note that nuclear power has only existed for about seventy years. On the scale of technological development, this is a very short time. (Despite the frenzied expectations created by the offshoots of modern computerization, where everything is assumed to happen at the speed of thought.) For instance, the development process of the spinning wheel took several hundred years from the first recorded versions to the fully developed one that could wholly replace spindles for all threads.

    There are conditions under which it’s reasonable to infer from “nobody has ever done this” to “it’s impossible to do”. But it seems that cheap nuclear power is not in this situation.

  137. Hello again JMG. I used to post occasionally on the ADR as “Edward”. There’s another Edward here now, so hopefully my login as “Ed” will work.

    We’ve all heard the thought stopper – “Do you want us to return to living in caves?” When I saw the picture of the flying car in your post, I thought of a reply. You could say something like – “oh yeah, where are the flying cars?”

    But then you pointed out that both thought stoppers may be old news due to the concept of “history as usual.”

    Earlier you mentioned the green energy gimmicks that got partially deployed since there was plenty of money and energy to put into them. Very good and to-the-point!

  138. Many argue, as an earlier commenter noted, that the nuclear industry was “strangled to death by regulation.” It’s also fair to note that its opponents adopted a deliberate strategy of making it as expensive as possible (via court challenges, agitation for burdensome regulations, negative PR, etc.) in the hope of pricing it out of the market. I bring this up not as an argument for its possible affordability, but to suggest that perhaps the price the public has been paying for it is not as efficient a proxy for its “true costs” as you suggest.

    Also, at the risk of indulging in “cargoism” or a miracle technological fix, I do have to wonder if nuclear energy might be done much better and more efficiently. Some of my reasoning:

    1) There is a significant constituency that has been resistant to any effort to make it so, including the rejection of promising alternatives to the current basic reactor designs. The “actinide reactor” comes to mind, which is reportedly not only more efficient, but addresses most of the nuclear waste issue.

    2) One gigantic input to nuclear fuel fabrication is the enrichment process, which is extremely energy-intensive. It seems to me this could be eliminated by using natural uranium as a fuel, and the early Canadian CANDU models used natural uranium. The same basic design exists, but now uses enriched fuel. Why was the original design abandoned? (Possibly because it didn’t produce the type of plutonium “waste” that could be reprocessed into bomb-grade material?)

    That all being said, I have pretty much concluded, as you do above, that there will be no “next” high-density continuous energy source when the oil runs out.

  139. Ecosophian, the winters in Europe are aleady warming – in central Germany we had only a few days with snow last winter.

  140. Temporary Reality @141 (and I could stand corrected by JMG!)

    I suspect JMG is going to remind us all that when humans learn control, they tend to leave the material plane of existence behind (relatively) soon after anyway. Only it’s more on the individual’s terms and higher understanding with a hope and expectation of a material free existence. That’s where the magic and esoteric comes in.

    It does appear the masses are more on the impulsive and competitive end of things right now. Plus inertia is a hard thing to work against anyway, so quite a few thoughtful people can see that too. My understanding is the 70s were possibly the last opportunity for meaningful interjection on global energy sustainability, materially, and that was missed.

  141. A sign of the downslope.
    “We are a school downsizing our library – we have many many books we would like give away. Many Encyclopedia sets and Reference books and sets….”

  142. Phil #120.
    You do realize that most of these “troops” are not GIs right? Most of the independent contractors aka mercenaries probably just relocated from Affy to Ukraine. There’s a war on, they are there for the money and Uncle Sugar is paying phat stacks. There’s been numerous articles, blog posts etc about this. You might want to dig a little deeper before dismissing things as simply conspiracy or propaganda. In war, everything may be propaganda but that certainly doesn’t make it false.

    Unless I knew and saw the below Lt General personally, I wouldn’t bet a devalued dollar on the below story being false. Someone with experience is coordinating all that artillery. Only one who really knows is his wife, if he’s married.

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/nato-says-rumors-american-commander-was-captured-in-ukraine-are-false

    https://nypost.com/2022/06/15/two-former-us-servicemen-reportedly-captured-in-ukraine/

    Note the nationalities.
    https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/russia-ukraine-announce-major-surprise-prisoner-swap/ar-AA125FIS

    MSM event admits
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/every-american-killed-or-captured-fighting-russia-in-ukraine/ar-AAYJzDZ

    From the .mil unofficial grunt blog, pay close attention to the numbers.
    https://taskandpurpose.com/news/russia-capture-us-veterans-ukraine/

  143. AV, only if our ruling classes get whacked over the head by space bats until some common sense seeps in through the cracks!

    Clay, it was indeed the 1978-1979 school year. I wonder who was listening.

    Down Under, funny. “Alt-Right filth”! I suspect it got that label because I didn’t engage in the required Two Minutes Hate toward Putin and said some rude things about Joe Biden. No surprises there; the Biden administration really does look like the last gasp of a dying plutocracy, and those whose interests align with the plutocracy (a category which includes a great many people who claim to be anti-establishment) are rallying around it these days.

    Ecosophian, interesting.

    Aldarion, of course the host got pushback! If you admit that the industrial revolution depended on cheap abundant energy resources, you have to accept the possibility that progress is over now that we don’t have cheap abundant energy resources any more — and plenty of people will embrace any absurdity known to man before they’ll give up the myth of progress.

    Rod, of course they won’t know how to deal with the radioactive waste. People will be dying a hundred millennia from now because they ignored traditional warnings and ventured too near the place where, in our time, a pool full of spent reactor fuel rods was located. Dumping it into the ocean won’t work — how toxic do you want fish to become? — and as for Antarctica, well, how fast do you want the ice cap to melt? That waste gives off a lot of heat. No, my guess is that some of it will simply be abandoned in place, and some of it will be hauled off to some convenient desert somewhere and buried in trenches in the ground. “That region? That is the Place of Death. No one knows what the Old Ones put there, but if you go past those hills you will perish.”

    Kat, that’s a good point.

    Nancy, I haven’t been following it, partly because people have been making that same claim for decades. We’ll see — but I suspect that if the illegal economy were to be shut down by eliminating cash, the entire US economy would grind to a halt in weeks. Under-the-table work and the sale of illegal substances and services are far more economically important than anybody wants to talk about.

    Michael, thank you for this dose of supreme common sense. As for the Thwaites Glacier, I want to see if it actually happens; climate change activists have rather a reputation for crying wolf at this point, and their antics have gotten in the way of a sane assessment of the very real problems we’re facing.

    林龜儒, thanks for this — a fascinating view. Here in the US we’ve got the same delusion about the course of the lower Mississippi; there are huge dams and levees trying to keep the biggest river in North America from taking a new route to the sea via the Atchafalaya distributary, and nobody wants to think about the fact that sooner or later, those will fail.

    Yorkshire, so noted, but I still want to see a pilot project that works.

    Antoinetta, yep. We’ll have to see if he’s right — but it’s a plausible claim.

    Reese, ha! You’re quite correct, and I hadn’t thought of that comparison. Maybe people need to start making fun of “fully automated luxury nuclear space communism”. As for Star’s Reach, yes, exactly — my guess in 2009, when I started writing that novel, was that we’d see at least one more big push to build nuclear plants, which would bankrupt what was left of the US government and economy, and fail to produce enough energy to matter.

    The business about mining nodules from the ocean floor has been attracting suckers with too much investment money since the 1950s. It’s like extracting gold from seawater — sure, you can do it, but not at an economically viable price. That said, the video you describe is absolutely standard in its stunning stupidity. I’ve been saying for years that before this whole business is over, I expect to see the Sierra Club advocating for strip-mining the US national park system — and insisting that it can be done in an ecologically sensitive way.

    Eike, on a small scale I think that could definitely help. On the kind of gargantuan scale that these notions suggest — er, funding? Time frame? Once again, it’s very easy to come up with something on paper that looks really good, but it’s not as though we have abundant resources, money, or time to put it into effect. BTW, your source for the native economy of the eastern woodlands is wildly inaccurate. Tree products certainly played a role in their diet, but most food was produced by intensive gardening of corn, squash, and beans — the “three sisters,” as they were called — and the clever and efficient practice of garden hunting, in which deer and other edible wildlife who came to browse on the gardens were shot by waiting hunters. There’s a lot of wildly inaccurate information out there about various green alternatives, and it’s always wise to check on the details in a source that doesn’t have an axe to grind.

    Scotlyn, I’m not at all surprised about the shift toward conspiracy. That happens any time people get stressed enough. Shifting to a smarter and more resilient lifestyle is a better plan, but not too many people seem interested.

    Info, that’s exactly my point. The same empty talking points are still being waved around more than forty years later, and next to nobody is willing to learn from the failures of the past. Half the reason industrial civilization is falling is that most of its inmates respond to each crisis with the measures that failed the last time around, and the time before that, and never, but never, pay attention to the results.

    Nicolaas, oof. Thanks for the update. I knew that things were heating up in the Netherlands; I didn’t know it had gotten that bad.

    Patricia O, I never met Ruppert but I exchanged emails with him. It was really sad to watch him buy into, and then become a casualty of, yet another failed apocalyptic prediction. Understood that he gave a lot of people a push in the direction of self-sufficiency — but he also helped make it easy for a lot of other people to dismiss peak oil completely, since the supposed sudden collapse didn’t happen.

    Phil, I know people who followed the kind of advice you’re offering here, and kept their money in tech stocks in 2000 or the housing market in 2008. They lost everything. Many pension funds these days are effectively insolvent, and one more economic crisis may well be too much for them. Pulling out money from a market on the brink of collapse, leaving it in something secure and liquid for a while, and then reinvesting at the bottom is a far smarter move than trusting a dysfunctional system to stay stable for the long term.

    David, it takes a while to get feudalism. What happens first, and stays in place for a few centuries, is the rise of charismatic individuals who develop large personal followings. During that stage, social mobility is high and the class structure is relatively flat — you don’t even have classes so much as loose agglomerations of people supporting this or that charismatic warlord. Only after things settle down considerably does the hereditary principle get established, and feudalism follows in due course.

    Discwrites, hydrogen isn’t an energy source. It’s a relatively inefficient way of storing and transporting energy. Here’s a fairly recent source on the subject; it turns out hydrogen is much less efficient than most other methods — 18% to 46% depending on details. It doesn’t surprise me at all that von der Lügen is busy pushing hydrogen; anyone who thinks that consumers of energy resources can impose price caps on a producer thereof has got to have some screws loose.

  144. @JMG

    Thank you for your encouraging reply. But I’d like to hear your take on this can be done. I guess journaling/note-making is one way, but I’m sure there are others.

  145. I have a technical question. Is it possible to repurpose nuclear waste and ‘burn’ it again? Can spent nuclear rods be repurposed and run through the reactor again? My uncle told me we can/should do this and I just wondered if it is technically possible. I knew it wasn’t economically feasible (because nuclear isn’t really feasible in the first place) but I he no idea if it could work from a technical standpoint.

  146. Normal reactors of today, made mainly with concrete and steel and that use water, are really complex and expensive.
    The theorical “next generation” of reactors capable of breeding more fissionable material (only solution to dwindling supply of uranium) have so many technical difficulties (because higher temperatures, pressure, oxidation…) that need even more complexity (and a not yet discovered generation of extremely resistant materials) so its costs would be even higher and the electricity obtained will be the same.
    So the conclusion is clear, a dead end.

    In it’s place, we could dig out some ideas from Atlantis legends, I read that they used some kind of big quartz stones as generators. Maybe we can get some public funding for ocultists. Will be money well spent 🙂

  147. JMG,

    as I said, the potential of these ideas as a global solution is certainly not going to be unlocked.
    I mentioned the topic rather as a perspective on the human/environment relationship that gets buried under the simplistic notion of „climate change is CO2 output and nothing else“.
    As for the native cultures of the eastern US, thanks for the correction!

    Pygmycory,

    Hi fellow fish keeper! I‘ve heard from the head of a local aquarium club that a guest speaker at one of their meetings, one of those serious hobbyist/researcher types, told the sad story of how the advent of WhatsApp ruined homegrown fish research: the early years of the internet were a golden age for that field (and many like it) because of the form of the classic internet discussion forum: Threads could be searched, appended, and archived, allowing for just the kind of collective knowledge-gathering endeavor that this work needs. Then the smartphone came around, and the sheer convenience of it all outweighed the fact that the endless toilet paper roll model of a WhatsApp chat doesn’t support this kind of use at all.
    He said that since then, the digital discourse on the topic has slowed to a trickle, and the kind of progress from ten years ago just isn’t being made anymore.

  148. Chris, I once saw a homescale solar tracker that was in working order. It had recently been repaired and hadn’t broken down again yet. The problems with PV are among the reasons I tend to argue for small-scale solar thermal instead!

    Benn, that guy with the heat pump is a classic example. The thoughtstopping slogan “300% efficient!” blinds him to the simple fact that he’s paying a lot more money for the same thing. Too many people are caught in the same mental trap.

    Denis, most of a century ago, Arnold Toynbee pointed out that that’s how civilizations fall: people stop finding solutions to fit the problem, and start insisting that the problems must fit their preferred solutions. It never worked and it never will, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it over and over again.

    Johnny, delighted to hear this. Your boys are going to be better prepared for a future of enjy shortages than most!

    Jerry, that’s certainly my take. At this point the internet has at least two major factors dragging it down. The first is that it’s becoming increasingly unhelpful as more and more people figure out how to parasitize it in various creative ways. The second is that the sheer cost in energy and raw materials to maintain the internet is not something we’ll be able to keep up indefinitely. So I expect the years ahead to see the internet become more dysfunctional and more expensive at the same time, and more and more people simply leave it and find other ways to do what they want to do.

    Pyrrhus, I remember how that exact point came out after the WPPSS bond default: the projections on which the whole project was based were completely batshale crazy.

    SMJ, I wouldn’t. Like the rest of us, he’s a complicated person with his own strengths and weaknesses, which can best be assessed by a careful study of his biography and actions.

    Pyrrhus, that makes a lot of sense.

    Patricia M, thanks for both of these.

    Nancy, now there’s a blast from the past. I lived for four years in Federal Way, not far from where Dash Point Road heads west from Pacific Highway South.

    Clay, thank you for a nice strong dose of plain common sense.

    Ecosophians, I’ve gone hunting for snarks myself now and then. Ah, but if your snark is a boojum…

    Old Steve, no surprises there. You can make a flying motorcycle, just as you can make a flying car. You just can’t make one that isn’t far more expensive than it’s worth.

    Siliconguy, exactly. Nobody’s thinking this stuff through.

    Temporaryreality, oh, no doubt. As I noted in my post, hope springs infernal.

    Stephen, there were lots of people into wild foods in the appropriate-tech scene. Remember that there was a huge overlap between the appropriate tech movement and the back-to-the-land scene, and sitting there crunching on wild foods fit very well into the subculture. Of course nobody back then wanted to think about what would happen if more than a tiny fringe minority tried to live off the land…

    Ruckus, fair enough. I would point out, however, that it also took several hundred years of research into perpetual motion to prove that in fact, no matter how clever you are, it won’t work. We don’t yet know whether cheap nuclear power is on the spinning wheel side of the line, or the perpetual motion side. One of the problems we face right now is that a great many people insist that we can just ignore the collision between our dreams of perpetual economic expansion and the hard limits of our existing energy resources, because some currently nonexistent iteration of nuclear power will surely save the day. If cheap nuclear power isn’t an option — and as of now, based on the evidence we have, it’s irrational to insist that it must be an option — that sort of thinking is a quick ticket to disaster.

    Ed, the flying-car response is a good one, precisely because it meets one cliché with another, and so jams up the cliché-ridden thinking so common these days. You’re right, though, that sooner or later we have to get past that and start dealing with something more realistic.

    Willem, if the only problem faced by nuclear power was excessive regulation, then China would be powering its entire society with nuclear plants right now. They don’t have a lot of fossil fuels, you know, they do have the necessary technical skills — and they don’t have the same issues with regulation that we do. Since countries that don’t overregulate have been no more successful with nuclear power than the US, I suggest that blaming regulation won’t cut it. The same point can be made regarding every other argument that claims some outside factor is hindering nuclear power: no matter which factor you name, there are countries with nuclear reactors that don’t have it, and yet nukes are no more successful there. That suggests very strongly that the problem is implicit in the technology itself.

    Peter, that just makes me hang my head in despair. Every school that purges books from its library is bringing the next dark age closer.

    Viduraawakened, I have no idea. I’m not a mathematician and I don’t know how you might be able to pass on mathematics to the future. Anyone else?

    Will, some kinds of fuel rods can be reprocessed to extract plutonium that was created from the neutron flux, and the plutonium turned into new fuel rods and used in a reactor. It’s expensive and rather dangerous, since plutonium is extremely toxic and also highly radioactive, but you can do it, and in fact it’s been done.

    Fragile, funny. I’m sorry to say, though, that the Atlanteans used the world supply of power crystals with the same kind of reckless abandon with which we used fossil fuels. Peak crystal arrived in 9680 BC, as I recall, and the attempts by Atlantean scientists and engineers to replace power crystals by tapping into the heat of the Earth’s mantle had results that you’ve probably heard of.

    /s

  149. Brilliant work as ever JMG. An excellent synopsis of where we are at.
    It was interesting to me, to see so many of the peak oil doomers latch up on to climate change catastrophe when we weren’t all wiped out in 2009.. I guess slow-burn disasters aren’t so exciting to a generation raised on TV and movies

  150. Thanks JMG,

    I don’t know how much they’ll like “enjy shortages” as they come, but at least they might understand the underlying issues.

    In local news:

    I’ve been capping my tomato plants as they are quite tall now, we are maybe down to our last two or three weeks here before first frost, and, after writing you, I decided it might be good to impose some limits so I have less collapses to deal with! Last year I had to deal with a fair number and while they still produce, it just becomes a mess. My tweaks to the system this year has lighter structures, but seems more resistant to damage from storms so far, and has opened up a lot of possibilities for next year – I’m entering the resting and planning stages…

    Also, I saw a bunch of milkweed seed pods in a yard waste bag on the sidewalk while taking my eldest to kindergarten this morning, and grabbed them. My youngest and I sent a bunch of seeds blowing in the wind (I may go around to some no-man’s-land-ish spots and let a few go flying there too) and then dumped others in some spots in our yard that might be able to support them – places that aren’t great for me for growing things, and especially concentrated in a couple spots where I just can’t seem to get much of anything to grow. We’ll see if these weeds are hearty enough!

    Oh, and speaking of weeds, I wanted to thank you for the heads up on Cocannouer’s “Weeds: Guardians of the Soil” book – great stuff and right up my alley.

    Thanks,
    Johnny

  151. Dear JMG,

    First, I would like to say thank you.
    You’ve once discussed about your typewriter, an Oliveti Lettera 22. That kick-started my discovery of these wonderful machines which I had never tried before. I purchased several old ones with derisive prices. Despite big name like Tom Hanks and horde of hipsters who collect them, the available supply is still abundant since these days people renovate their flats/houses en masse and try their best to get rid of things from their elders without a second thought.
    Upon testing and examining these machines, I found most of them possess a high quality of manufacture. With a minimal of maintenance, they work beautifully and flawlessly even after half a century of existence. Their precise actions are a wonder to behold. I can’t help but feel a terror within.
    Modern computers are flimsy and have planned obsolescence built in. Many may work for 5 or even 10 years but doubtfully 20 ? Some may survive and some will be made but with prohibitive price tag. After that, what would an ordinary person, a writer or small organization use to fulfill his/her need of writing and publishing?
    I learn that some typewrites have recently been produced such as the Royal Epoch. Its high price tag aside, the quality is shoddy. Some people purchase them as a decoration or an retro object of curiosity. Some fun typing is OK but it would unlikely handle a long letter nor a small book.

    Beyond the peak, I don’t think it would be easy to bring back the technology, the skills and the infrastructure to produce such high-quality typewriters at an affordable price. The simple reason is that the cheap energy is no longer available, as this article rightly points out.

    I reckon it might also be a return to fountain pens which is a pleasure to use and quite cheap to be produced and maintained. However, they may not be able to cover every needs.

    My question is if we are destined to desperate hunts for a limit supply of old typewrites manufactured during the previous century. Or do you and the blog’s readers have in mind other possibilities?

    Thanks JMG & all

  152. Another factor that will probably help kill the Internet is crazification. Many sites that were once, er, eccentric, are now in full-blown Petunia Math mode. Eccentricity can be entertaining, and often useful for a sideways look at things. Full-blown mental illness is sad and scary.

  153. Every school that purges books from its library is bringing the next dark age closer.

    This is close to something I struggle with as a librarian. Given the vast flood of books published every year, what do I get, what do I keep, what do I get rid of? More broadly, what’s the role of libraries in the Internet Age? (Never mind trying to get people to think past the end of the Internet.)

    We’re not doing a big purge of our collection and hopefully never will, but if that day comes, what defense do I offer, to a society that is increasingly uninterested in reading?

  154. Hi JMG,

    I forgot to mention that milkweed flowers during what I would consider a gap in terms of blooms, or at least in blooms that interest bees. I actually was quite surprised by how late they showed up this year and I was concerned about it. People said it was chilly for them, and it was, and also that there was some sort of “super bloom” going on with a particular tree, which very well could be, but I saw a few gardens where there were bees when I had none. It led me to look into other pollinators and found that wasps, cabbage moths, flies and even ants (apparently) can do this – basically all the bugs you’ll see going into your flowers. I also saw a lot of bees on milkweed flowers when I went looking and thought, maybe it’s not them it’s me, and perhaps I should be offering more early on! Additionally I’ve been recycling toilet paper rolls and the center spools of my twine into little bee hotels and stashing them in the back yard to assist in things.

    Related to this tangent: I never mentioned that I find our wasps just as peaceful and friendly as the bees in our yard. They seem to get a very bad rap as belligerent drunks from lots of people, but they don’t bother me at all and I’m around them all the time. We didn’t get too much this year, but we often have a lot of fruit remains (the squirrels like to sample the crop!) on our “rot pile”, so likely a lot of fermented food, and they’ve still never been aggressive here.

    Thanks,
    Johnny

  155. Dear JMG and Viduraawakened,

    If I may, since the question of passing mathematics on to the future came up, please permit me to take a page from William Sullivan’s _The Secret of the Incas_. He writes of how myths can communicate very precise astronomical information over centuries, and with that very precise mathematics. Traditionally myths are often in rhyming verse which makes them easier to remember.

    Of course, I’m not sure how that would work with differential equations per se. That said, on my own blog I recently posted a riddle in verse that does indeed involve math, and it only took about two hours for a person to solve it in my blog’s comments section. This indicates to me that this technique does indeed work extremely well. If I might be so bold, the riddle in verse I composed is below:

    The White Queen and the Red King start their dance:
    They move together with different rhythms,
    Precise and formal, never left to chance
    But only monthly is the Queen with him.
    She lifts the water and he commands the flame,
    And they join in alchemical marriage.
    Upon the Earth they shall forever reign
    But each does move in a different carriage.
    They dance their dance without sleep but alive,
    In circles great, perpetual and keen,
    The Queen takes two hundred and thirty five
    Turns, and in response he takes but nineteen.
    Then back to the start, positioned the same:
    Now enough riddles, what’s the dance’s name?

  156. Hi Viduraawakened,

    I work with data as a profession. Machine learning and other derivatives with fancy abbreviations are hungry on the energy side. More than often, data scientists assume big data set are readily available for them to apply these techniques. Big data are expensive to be collected and stored. Also, more data mean more noises as well and that’s a big problem. In the best case scenario, the insights you obtain from them may not pay for all the costs and hassles. Big data for information are like nuclear for energy, which means they don’t pay for themselves. Big techs can sustain their uses and research since the Fed flushes them with cheap money, well until now.

    I think mathematics and statistics could be conserved through their more old school applications. For example, architecture especially beautiful structure like cathedrals, temples or bridges is a good candidate to conserve geometry. Astronomy (see Retrotopia) , astrology, navigation and mechanics are other good candidates. These can be done using simple means such as log tables and slide rules. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, quite the contrary

  157. >> PeterEV, you’re assuming that there are solutions. I’d point out that all the things you’re talking about have been tried, and tried, and tried again since the 1970s, and their net energy is too low to support a grid-based industrial society. That being the case, is it really useful to keep on repeating those same claims? <<

    As I keep on pointing out, the cost per unit of energy is generally falling over time. Yes. there are some blips as @pygmycory (#80) has pointed out. However, the overall decline per unit of energy is downward.

    My central theme is that we either have to innovate or burn wood which is a dead end as consumption will out pace supply creating a lot of air pollution and smoke. If so, we will become "sushi" eaters of sorts over time.

    While we still have the oil, gas, coal, and other resources, we need to understand their limitations and focus on the converting our resources to sustainable products that will last. As I mentioned, lithium iron phosphate batteries have around a 3,000 cycle life. Combined that with a 333 mile per charge vehicle and would cover a lifetime's worth of driving at 50 years of driving times 20,000 miles per year; both are roughly a million miles.

    How all this fits in with the Limits to Growth scenario is something that is playing out and will continue to live with and its limitations and drive to innovate.

    The 2020's will be seeing rapid EV uptake. With that, there are growing ads of vehicles being able to supply a household with 3 days worth of electricity from a pack. Glass windows have an R of 1 but cover them with a quilted covering, and you have an R12(?). What will that do to energy conservation?

    There are a lot of questions I have and a lot of numbers that need to be worked out coupled with insights of how we can proceed forward given diminishing resources.

  158. Silly JMG, you don’t have to include the cost of decommissioning the nuclear power plant! That gets taken care of for free by our poor hapless descendants.

    That’s how so many chemical companies of the 20th century were able to maximize their profits, don’t you know!

  159. “I have a technical question. Is it possible to repurpose nuclear waste and ‘burn’ it again? Can spent nuclear rods be repurposed and run through the reactor again? ”

    Yes.

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

    But you still have the political and economic problems.

    The waste problem gets smaller as the recycling process splits it into two groups, long lived transuranics that go back into the reactor, and short lived ( gone in a millennium ) fission fragments.

  160. >If the usual patterns follow, the regional civilizations of the next cycle of history will start to emerge out of the deindustrial dark ages around the year 2600 or so.

    And I thought I was gloomy. Shouldn’t take that long. I’d say more like 2200-2300, you’ll see someone largish sized emerge from the rubble. The in-between times will produce a lot of small quirky places, some of them will be nice places to live in, others will be dystopias. I’d say that most of the big players you see around you, they will be gone and talked about in past tense.

    Here’s a relevant video about fossil fuels in general. I would’ve thought the average house would’ve been burning more than 2 trees a month though.

    https://yewtu.be/watch?v=SD9yVca6hHI

  161. Hi John Michael,

    Shame about the depletion of the reserves of power crystals, they would have been handy. I heard they had an EROEI of over 1,000 to 1. Pretty impressive technology, but the consequences. The consequences! Of course everyone knew that usage of the power crystals mucked around with the local geology, but the Atlantean scientists claimed that ‘they’d think of something’, because the power crystals were just so useful. The public gave their unequivocal support to the scientists and leaders, because otherwise they’d have to get back to having to work the soil – like those proto-Roman barbarians which are only kept at bay with the energy smashers. Who wanted to face the alternative?

    Mate, you almost had me there. That was funny. It’s too much to ask of the tracker technology because whilst you get more energy, it costs you more, far more. And let’s you down badly. And the fine joke of it all is that once the tracker is broken, the panels can be left pointing in the entirely wrong direction. Not the more usual least-worst direction.

    Add more panels, but even that option brings more trouble. Lot’s more trouble. Every component has limits, and nobody wants to reach those limits. I know this through first hand experience. It wasn’t good.

    I use solar thermal here too, and it is an elegant and simple technology. In the warmer and sunnier months, the system produces toasty hot water. In the winter I heat water using firewood. Same, same, but different. And the benefit is that you get to enjoy hot water all year around. No small thing.

    It’s been in the trying all of these different systems (and I even tried a small scale wind turbine for electricity generation – not fun, probably good for pumping water uphill though, but that’s a different looking technology which could be produced at home with a bit of skill), I’ve been able to fully comprehend the complete bucket of dog poop that our civilisation is in. They don’t know, that’s why they talk such nonsense.

    Cheers

    Chris

  162. Has anyone ever thought (kinda like George Carlin liked to say) that perhaps one of our purposes as humans was to dig up all that buried plant matter so that it could get recycled and circulated back into the upper levels of the planet?

    Strictly speaking fossil fuels are renewable and intermittent too – just on time scales that are really really really really long.

  163. You didn’t fail. You and Amy Dacyczyn changed our lives. It’s impossible to know how far the ripples in a pond will spread and what they will touch.

  164. Digging into why nuclear is so expensive, it’s mainly due to building the plant itself, the fuel and the people needed to keep it going seem to be in line with anything else. I guess the extra expense has to do with keeping another Chernobyl from happening?

    In any case, I suspect only tech that can conceivably be done in your own backyard will make it past what looks like the inevitable collapse and it would be interesting to see if anyone can make a nuclear reactor in their backyard.

    If not, then I guess it dies out when things recover.

  165. In the realm of fiendishly difficult computations, the viability of many technologies seems to come down to complex questions relating to the concentration of energy. Diffuse energy resembles diffuse capital. (Arguably, diffuse energy is diffuse capital, with one layer of abstraction removed.) It can be concentrated, at the cost of losses. In pre-industrial times, concentration of initially diffuse capital made possible impressive infrastructure that benefited whole societies—and also impressive monuments that stratified them instead.

    An oil lamp or candle uses a high-energy-density fuel and releases around 70 to 90 Watts of power. A million people in a region, using a per capita average of twenty minutes of a single lamp or candle a day, are using the equivalent of a continuous megawatt. That same overall flow of fuel could instead provide a megawatt of heat (or, if needed instead, half a megawatt of electricity) to operate a fabrication plant for LEDs that can produce a candle’s worth of light from one watt of electricity. If the average useful life of an LED is five years, the plant has to produce about 800 per work day to maintain a regional supply of one per capita to substitute for a million lamps or candles. Most likely it would produce far more, for better lighting and for trade, yielding far more light per unit of fuel than burning lamps or candles.

    But clearly it’s not straightforward. The knowledge has to still exist, and complex equipment and rare materials are also needed, as well as small amounts of electricity locally to power the LEDs. Are developing and acquiring those more difficult than, for instance, the globe-spanning efforts to supply whale oil in the 1800s? It’s hard to judge, because the knowledge never existed before. The possible results of concentrating more energy than a granary or powder magazine weren’t imagined.

    We can make the answers easy by making easy assumptions (of course the requisite knowledge will be lost; of course no one will be able or willing to organize the effort) but such uncertainties multiply. I like to add verisimilitude to my deindustrial fiction by including some implausible elements, because I know the actual future will have as many as the past, even though I’m unlikely to correctly predict which ones.

  166. “Every school that purges books from its library is bringing the next dark age closer.”

    Well then, in that case, the next dark age is just around the corner. A high school teacher came into my bookstore today looking for a book for one of her students, and we had a long chat about books in schools. The school boards are no longer budgeting for librarians to run the libraries (I’m in Ontario, Canada) and the result is that libraries are being dismantled.

    Part of the problem is that they are offering about $20 an hour for the job, but insist on a fully accredited librarian, who all feel it an insult to work at those wages. Meanwhile they refuse to hire someone without the accreditation but who loves books, would absolutely love to be in charge of a school library and would happily accept $20 an hour.

    So, the spaces are being repurposed for something else. In this particular teacher’s school, the person in charge of the space repurposing hates books and wanted them gone, so offered them to the students (who I was greatly cheered to hear grabbed as many as they could) until the teacher (the one who came to see me) called the principal, who had no idea the books were being given away and who responded by asked over the PA system for the students to return all the books because…wait for it… the teachers in that school are all desperate for books in the classrooms. About 90% of the books were returned by the students, apparently.

    So at the end of the day, the teachers grabbed all they could to stock the classroom libraries with the books being thrown out of the school library. Much was saved, but alas, much was lost and there is now no school library for the kids to go browse and the teachers are keeping a close eye on the books so they have something to use while teaching. Sadly, the teachers are paying out of their pockets to find books anywhere they can to stock their classrooms.

  167. Eike with an i,
    I can’t say I’m surprised. That fits what I’m seeing, though I mostly haven’t been looking at forums, and it’s pretty sad.

  168. John, been around that corner a million times, onto 99, our ‘major arterial’ : ) Hope Providence, on the ‘other side,’ is not as ‘CRT’ as Seattle, esp. Capitol Hill… remember the CHAZ? The lovely city of my (our?) childhood is a murder magnet now.

  169. Do you know what year that “More Power to You!” ad is from, and if it is available in poster form? I can imagine it on my wall, maybe even framed! I think I would enjoy seeing the cognitive dissonance on people’s faces when they see it.

  170. Monk, yeah, I remember that with an uncomfortable clarity. Peak oil wasn’t fashionable any more, climate change was all the rage, and people who seemed to have a clue demonstrated that they didn’t. It was embarrassing. As for fossil fuel subsidies, look at the profit margins of the petroleum industry and the enthusiasm with which every nation on the planet that has oil underground plunges into drilling wells. Plenty of nations that have uranium or thorium reserves haven’t shown the least interest in nukes. That difference is worth examining.

    Johnny, thank you for the cheering news!

    Foxhands, I treasure my Olivetti, precisely because it’s going to be a long, long time before anything of the sort is made again.

    Your Kittenship, that’s a good point.

    Cliff, I wish I had an answer for you. That’s something I’ve been brooding over for years, with no hard conclusions.

    Johnny, glad to hear about the wasps. That’s a sign that you’re doing something right.

    Violet, now there’s a bit of synchronicity! I’ve just finished rereading Sullivan’s book. How to use myth to communicate mathematics is a heck of a challenge, since the old astronomical myths are almost wholly nonquantitative. That said, I appreciate your riddle — the answer, of course, is the Metonic cycle.

    PeterEV, it doesn’t matter if the notional cost of energy is declining, when the cost of raw materials is rising, and some critical raw materials such as copper are quite literally running out. For that matter, the claim that the cost of PV energy is declining has been being made since I was a teenager, and we’re still no closer to an energy system that can run purely off sustainable energy flows. Talk, as one of my other commenters said, does not cook the rice, and EV advocates have been insisting since the 1970s that EV uptake would kick into high gear sometime very soon. Obviously I’m skeptical…

    Blue Sun, I’m quite sure that’s how things will play out.

    Owen, history says you’re wrong. The social and political chaos that follows the collapse of a civilization doesn’t settle down that quickly; sure, you have brief attempts at stabilization — the Lombard kingdom of Italy and Charlemagne’s empire are examples — and then down they go. Since we don’t have the kind of highly stable subsistence economy that enabled Chinese dynasties to recover after 2-3 centuries of chaos — quite the contrary — the full 500-year dark age cycle is our most likely future.

    Chris, good! One of these days I may just write a novel about the last days of Atlantis. It may seem very familiar to those who are paying attention…

    Owen, why, yes, in fact I’ve suggested that the whole reason behind the existence of our species was that Gaia was tired of ice ages and wanted something good at digging to get some buried carbon back into circulation. I’m sure you can imagine how that went over.

    Teresa, as I said, I’m quite aware that I helped some people. The broader goal of getting the wider society to notice the reality of limits? We failed.

    Owen, there have been a few attempts at backyard nukes. That I know of, the results haven’t been good.

    Walt, that seems quite reasonable. I’d note, however, that it’s one thing to have a worldwide maritime network hunting whales for whale oil, and something rather more demanding to have a worldwide trade network to get the dozens or hundreds of raw materials that go into LEDs and the other technologies needed to use them.

    Myriam, none of this surprises me at all. That’s why I put library book purges and the shutting down of everything worthwhile in the public schools into my tentacle fiction…

    Nancy, Providence is a lot like Seattle was before Seattle went batshale crazy. There’s some people in city government busy with various kinds of jiggery wokery, which is one of the reasons why Sara and I live in pragmatic, proletarian, rather conservative East Providence across the river.

    Blue Sun, I wish I did! I just happened to find it while doing an image search for tacky retrofuturism, and I have no idea of its origins.

  171. Nobody should have had all their money in tech stocks or real estate – that is gambling, not investing. That is most definitely not the sort of advice I am offering. And certainly has nothing to do with pensions. Very, very few pension funds have gone bust; withdrawing one’s funds and not investing them is far more likely to be a losing strategy.

    Pulling money before a collapse and reinvesting at the bottom of the market is indeed a great strategy. But almost nobody can do it, and most who try wind up losing. Far safer is sensible long term investing.

  172. @BobInOK: I am aware that most of the troops are not GIs; in fact that is exactly my point. They are private citizens, not NATO troops. All of your links except one talk about a small number of American volunteers, none active duty military, who are fighting, captured or killed in Ukraine.

    There is one that talks about an American NATO commander being captured. You do realize that your source, the one you link to, the Washington Examiner says the story is false?

    “Some social media users spread a rumor that U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Roger Cloutier Jr., commander of NATO Allied Land Command, was captured in Mariupol, and it’s “completely false,”

    I am more than willing to consider the possibility, and I want to know if we have troops there. If anyone has credible evidence that there are NATO troops fighting in Ukraine, please present it. Until then, I find it very unlikely.

  173. Good God a Mighty. We are the stupidest bunch of human apes on this entire planet. There is no possible justification for the modern world if it cant pay its utility bills and put food on the table. Well. This is gonna get wild and colorful at the least. Europe’s economy is going to be flash frozen in carbonite by Christmas and I have a feeling this will impact us in multiple ways. Feasting on dismembered Russia would add 50 years to our civilization life cycle but just make things worse. I thought we had 10 years to get ready. Maybe 10 months.

  174. Dear JMG,

    Is there any contemporary or potential future case for the use of magnetism as an energy source?

    Thanks for this great article. Best wishes Greg

  175. My dad seems to think that everything could be run on diesel made from seed oils or what have you; although I don’t know how viable that would be. What do you think?

  176. Phil, equally, under current conditions, I’m far from sure having most or all of your retirement money in a pension is a good idea. As for pulling the money out and waiting for the bottom, er, it’s a far more common and far more effective strategy than I think you realize. Joseph P. Kennedy got his family’s money through the Great Depression that way; so did three of my great-great-aunts; and a significant number of people I know in 2000 and 2008 did very well for themselves that way. “Sensible long term investing” can mean a lot of things, meanwhile, and many of them lose money.

    Celadon, did you have some other bunch of human apes in mind to compare us to? 😉

    Greg, magnetism isn’t an energy source, any more than gravity is. If you put energy into it in the right way — for example, by rotating wire loops through a strong magnetic at decent speed — you can transform the energy into electricity; that’s what a generator does, converting mechanical energy to electrical energy. But it’s not an energy source.

    Clark, your dad hasn’t crunched the numbers. If every acre of farmland on the planet were put into seed crops, leaving not one square inch to grow food for human beings, it wouldn’t produce anything like as much oil as we pump out of the ground every year.

  177. @Ruckus, #145 and JMG, #157

    There’s another possibility. It is quite possible that “break even nuclear” (as in, the electricity we produce in a reactor near the big city will replace the oil needed to extract all the materials needed by the reactor in many, far away, less accesible places) would have been possible within the next 80 years, IF fossil fuels would have been treated as an strategic resource during the past 70 years. We did not, so we might never know if it was Unfeasible or Impossible.

    Let’s suppose we are still making progress towards that milestone. But we are not moving forward as fast as we should because we lack sufficient funding. The problem is not that we do not commit enough money, it is that the resources that money is meant to buy are all too expensive. Something to do with a few thousand too-many overseas vacations traveled, and a few millions too-many silly gadgets sold. Now, it is not 80, but 160 years away.

    But then, the real problems will hit. The more urgent problems of infrastructure decay, mitigation of natural catastrophes (thank you, Climate Change), pandemias, war, etc will command the use of those resources. It will not be 80, but 800 years, and in that span, culture will move on to other things and the work will remain unfinished.

  178. Phil,

    Yes I’m well aware that the article states that the 3 star being captured states that its false. Now ask yourself two questions. If you were Russian, what is your best course of action? Parade him around in public or rabbit hole him into the Siberian equivalent of Gitmo? You have a war to win and this man likely knows everything you need to know. 2nd question, as an American, do you really want to demoralize your entire officer corps by admitting that he was captured or just call it fake news and carry on as if he’s still in command but in reality hasn’t been seen in two months? Both sides have an interest in keeping this one quiet.

    DOD and other three letter agencies always has alot of troops off the books. Private citizens? Not very likely IMHO.

    Expect to see alot more of these fatalities.

    https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2022/09/12/101st-airborne-intelligence-official-dies-on-europe-deployment/

  179. Yorkshire;

    For energy storage, I think you can check out some of the national lab information pages:
    PNNL has a site. There might be some round trip efficiency info in addition to costs:
    https://www.pnnl.gov/ESGC-cost-performance

    NREL can be a good source:
    https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/storage-futures.html

    My personal feeling is that Pumped Storage still has plenty of potential, geographic limitations notwithstanding, but I could see some other gravity storage technologies becoming competitive.
    Also, advances in electro-chemical batteries could still happen, and compressed air energy storage might have some potential.

    I would say we have barely explored potential for load shifting. I don’t think we have gone far enough down the path of renewables to fully know what is possible. I think there is a lot of opportunity to spend some capital to enable more flexible energy use. I spent a lot of time with GE in a variety of industrial settings. One example might be in paper mills. The paper machine needs to run continuously, but the chipping of logs and the refining of chips into pulp for digesting could be run intermittently. There are probably lots of similar examples. Air conditioning seems like another opportunity — oversizing the compressor to make ice when power is cheap, and then melting the ice for cooling when power is less available. If it is cheaper than storage, this would be a kind of thermal storage that could be substituted.

  180. Wanted to share my rock trommel. I have been sorting the gravel out of my soil, and the big dirt clods. I have gotten it working really well, though I need to make a couple of design improvements. I made it mostly out of free parts. Repurposed bicycle parts, my old garage door parts, some free wood I got from neighbors fixing their fence, an old scooter motor, an old battery for my mom’s old lawnmower, and a 3D printed planetary gear I designed and printed up. What a labor savor. And with mostly free scrap and only uses just a trickle of electricity.

  181. Clark at #187:

    It could work on a small scale. 100 years ago, farmers generally had to allot about 25% of their acreage to grow food for the horses. I could see the same 25% of a farm devoted to growing the appropriate seeds and making their own bio-diesel, which could provide fuel for basic tractors, etc. As well as fuel for the kerosene lanterns to light the house.

    Antoinetta III

  182. I wanted to reply to this comment:

    “Peter, sure, but there aren’t many places well suited to large-scale hydro storage, and you’ve got to factor in conversion losses from the original energy source to electricity, from electricity through the pumps to impounded water, and then back from water to electricity. Even if it’s 80% efficient each way, that’s .8 x .8 x .8 = .512, or 51.2% efficiency for the whole system.”

    Generally, you are describing the “Round Trip Efficiency”. For hydro pumped storage, it is generally about 80%. Meaning, if you put 100MWhr into pumping water uphill, you can expect to get back 80MW-hr NOT 51 MW-hr. Where are you getting your numbers? They conflict with many, many sources, including the one I offered earlier (see page 79):
    https://www.pnnl.gov/sites/default/files/media/file/Final%20-%20ESGC%20Cost%20Performance%20Report%2012-11-2020.pdf

    This document is the result of a performance survey of actual, operating plants.

    I don’t think I am going too far out on a limb to claim that your 51% number is just dead wrong.

  183. JMG,

    I have an explanation for the shortness of dark ages in China that I came up with. I’m not sure that I’m the first to think of it, but I’ve never seen it mentioned anywhere. Rice and bamboo.

    Unlike other cereals rice paddies become more fertile when worked more intensively. Rice doesn’t cause salination of the soil or loss of topsoil. So intensive agriculture does not deplete the soil and require fallow centuries of low population densities to recover.

    Similarly bamboo is a useful as a building and tool material and as a fuel. Being a grass it grows quickly and can be harvested often without the clearcutting and erosion that happened in the bronze age collapse.

    The basic requirements for food and fuel have a lower bound in China because of rice and bamboo. And while the larger superstructure of the dynasty may collapse for a variety of reasons, it nevers gets so bad that the villages starve and lose their abilty to provide for themselves and thus never lose their cultural continuity.

    Also, as a side note, Egypt is runner up in cultural longevity. It is a warm climate with little need of fuel and the Nile floods every year. Its tributaries have rich sources of decaying organic matter and potash, which replenish the soil.

    Thanks,
    Tim

  184. I remember the chart about the great conjunction of two years ago. It promised a war-driven political scene.

    I think that unfortunately the European countries will soon try to get by force what they are unable to buy to producers.

    In Spain, Antonio Turiel has predicted that sooner or later we will be invading Argelia to secure the gas.

    After the fraking crutch, wich kept things going for ten years, i think that soon will be the turn for raw looting .

  185. @JMG #152:
    “Maybe people need to start making fun of “fully automated luxury _nuclear_ space communism”.”
    …You know, now that you mention it, _Star Trek_ actually does seem to have something of a Posadist bent to it. Global thermonuclear war destroys the old world, and the society the survivors build eventually works its way up to establishing a purported utopia in which money is abolished and both abundant resources and easy space travel are available to all on the backs of fusion and antimatter reactors.
    Granted, many of the aliens aren’t also Communists, but still.

    “I’ve been saying for years that before this whole business is over, I expect to see the Sierra Club advocating for strip-mining the US national park system — and insisting that it can be done in an ecologically sensitive way.”
    I have to admit, while, sure, that video was just by someone making videos on YouTube, the sheer blatant “Actually it’s a _good_ thing, ecologically, to completely destroy this, potentially one of the most pristine remaining ecosystems on the planet” on display there makes that claim sound disturbingly less like a figurative exaggeration to display a trend and more like something that might actually _literally_ happen…

  186. Hi John,

    Superb post.

    I’ve taken your advice and looked into solar thermal. The contractor recommends thermal over PV but thinks I can have a full year solar thermal, plus a couple of PVs and a battery back-up system in case we have blackouts.

    Over the long term seems like a good investment.

    And we have free solar powered hot water all year around!

    Also started foraging more around our local countryside (there is a surprising amount you can find wild, apples, raspberries etc) and trying to support local farms and so on.

    We are both very lucky to still have high paying PMC jobs but are taking your advice and slowly collapsing before the rush.

    I know you are not a fan of investments but based on the highly credible investment newsletters I subscribe to, it looks like we are facing at least two major market crashes this decade (Dow Jones to hit 20 to 23k. Dow Jones currently at 30k – https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/%5EDJI/ so great opportunities to buy high quality companies that will do well in our new era of scarcity industrialism.

    Then, hold and enjoy the dividends…

  187. Wer here
    JMG I must say that I am upset now with some of the people in the comment section. Let me tell you a story about the Planned and never completed nuclear power plant in Zarnowiec Poland. In 1980 there were large plans for a nuclear power plant being pushed by Soviets in Poland. There was a soviet base nearby so they wanted more power and sweeping claims wre made but nothing ever materialized. Then in 1993 Polish prime minister Mazowiecki said that for the sake of Polish energy security we will work with our western allies to start construction before the decade will be over, and that this design will feature “the best US technologies”- never ellaborated what technology it was, nothing happened a large sum of funds were stolen by someone. Then in 2011 Donald tusk said that a Polish nuclear power plant of 2 GW will be operational on New Year’s Eve in 2020 nothing again ( land owners in the area charged extra and took the money no powerplants). In 2015 Morawiecki said that his goverment will begin construction of a power plant as soon as possible in order to become energy independent from Russia. (poland imported 4 milion tones of Russian coal in 2015 that grew to over 8 million tones in 2021). They didn’t even said who will be constructing the plant or when it will be build, considering that Poland is in the midst of the worst recession since the fall of Communism and that inflation is at all time high and investment is an all time low- not gonna happen.
    And that not even mentioning the coal shortage or the scarcity of everything in Europe right now.
    And for a local sad story, our mayor spend 400 thousand zloty ona single wind turbine with EU money while at the same time neglecting infrastructure and our bridges that are covered in potholes and you can break your suspension if you go there to fast.
    https://www.asta24.pl/2022/07/21/termin-remontu-mostow-w-ujsciu-sie-przeciagnie
    I want to tell the nuke and Ev something cultist you scream about he planet and etc but at the same time you completely ignore problems that me and my countrymen see everywhere around us, you are us much divorced from reality like that idiot with blue hair on the train who said out loud that Catholic communties in Poland are full of bad people because we polute too much and I got angry I am sorry JMG but I’ve seen these peole and I saddens me how delusional people get. Standarts of living are falling, we might have no coal in winter and people are daydreaming about magic windfarms everywhere are you living on the same planet???

  188. Thanks JMG,

    One general thing I’ve noticed talking to other gardeners is that a lot of people seem to view their garden as some territory where they expect to exert absolutely control, and they are more or less at war with various aspects of it (weeds, fungus, diseases, bugs, racoons/squirrels, birds etc). It’s quite impressive to me in a strange way. I see it as an area where I have a lot of influence, but it’s still a relationship, and with an interconnected system I have quite limited understanding of, so I disregard all advice that strikes me as war-like as a rule (although I keep it in mind in case I discover that I am in fact at war later on – because I could be wrong!), usually though doing nothing will lead to whatever issue sorting itself out. It amuses me greatly when someone walks me through some huge process I’ll need to take, then I do nothing instead, and it just goes away.

    More to the theme of your post this week, though, one thing I’ve wondered about is if the current witch-hunty spirit of cancel culture, and digging through the past to find crimes by todays standards (racist/sexist/homophobic comments etc), may in the future come to rest on past fossil fuel extravagance. That seems like an attitude that might change drastically in the coming decades. “So and so’s vacation to wherever is part of why it hardly rains anymore, and it costs more to heat your place than it does in rent”, that sort of thing.

    I guess it’s partly because people’s social media accounts are often almost like these weird records of crimes against the future – if viewed in the right light. I suppose thinking about how statues are being torn down right now for things that were completely not issues in their time has me trying to guess what attitudes might change from acceptance to anger in the coming years.

    I was thinking about this recently again because a girl I know, who participates heavily in Extinction Rebellion protests, just took a trip to Australia for a week of all places (about as far from Canada as it gets really) – which honestly surprised even me, although I suppose it shouldn’t – and was just back handing out fliers about the heatpocalypse without missing a beat.

    Thanks,
    Johnny

  189. There already are two operational LAES plants – one at the University of Birmingham, one outside Manchester, and more on the way (including another in Manchester due to come online this year). This is survey of the technology: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666792421000391.

    An addition to Gaia wanting a sauna, a further possibility is what if having oil and gas drilled is like having a boil lanced – it’s satisfying and the earth spirit wants it all out?

  190. Wer here
    An another example someone just stole 20 cubic meters of firewood in Piła, this is not an isolated incident people are” looking” for the cultrits but everybody has a good idea who was to blame, black market has been florishing in recent mounths and a lot of things are going missing and ending up in germany (especially firewood and coal) so much for “green energy” and “european solidarity”. Recently an another sad example has emerged old people in poland who had voted for the current goverment and belived it’s rethoric are desperately searching for the coal at low price there were promised in May of this year here is an article about people looking for coal everywhere:
    https://www.o2.pl/biznes/do-czech-po-czarne-zloto-padla-cena-6815199937649472a
    At this point our goverment is as much competent as old Joe Biden
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtADbZmMwbI
    Some people are commenting that the recent claims by the goverment are like from an mental asylum (don’t worry about the shortages we will give an another inflation reduction act and “waloryzacja”). No comments on this lunacy.
    And of course complete panic over Ukraine as usuall, but the claims that the Russians are withdrawing now were replaced with and Russian tsunami comming to destroy Europe.
    Ahem we gave up majority of our tanks and artillery to Ukraine and we are waiting to 2028 until they will be replanised (South Korea will give them to us latest claim- if they acquire them the way the acquired coal this winter:( 🙁 🙁 ) so why did we gave up them in the first place. I don’t want to see what the GDP numbers will be in this year we had a 2 % decline in the second quater and with the Official inflation rising and rising it will be much worse.
    Some blogger in Poland had commented with fear that Russians were protesting in July about Putin not sending enough troops to Ukraine not against the war (people who are protesting now in St.Ptersburg are members of the feminist Russian organizations and let’s say the uber conservative Russian society is not having that, lot’s of videos on Telegram that Russians are waiting in line for conscriptions though. People are now scraming that the Russians are a nation of “warmongers” and that “removing” Putin will only make things worse- like JMG said in older posts. Meanwhile the attempt to increase the Polish military has run into a problem- demographics. Turns out Polish population has been falling much stepper than Russian and there is a lack of young healthy men in Poland right now and people are leaving the army:
    https://natemat.pl/435382,zolnierze-odchodza-z-armii-mon-chce-wiedziec-czemu-i-robi-ankiety
    I myself had poor eyesight and was disqualified from service and I hate to admit that I like sometimes to look into the bottle so there is that. Folks here has good moonshine I will tell you that……
    Sorry for a long tangent but I have issues here And I won’t be able to comment in a while JMG happy whatever you druids have (Równonoc Jesień) and stay safe everybody
    Wer

  191. Will O #154, these are some long videos on one potential ‘perfect cycle’ reactor:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVSmf_qmkbg&t=69s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3rL08J7fDA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oK6Rs6yFsM

    If that design could be made to work, a lot of our problems would be solved. Supposedly it was nearly ready in the 1950s but the project was cancelled because of rivalries between different national labs and the politics of the nuclear navy.

  192. Hi John,

    What is your take on the so-called hyper-liberal Zoomer generation?

    Matt Goodwin has a good summary of their worldview here – https://mattgoodwin.substack.com/p/meet-the-zoomers?utm_source=email

    I’m 37, and find the woke performative and digitally obsessed youth quite irritating to be frank (but that might be me getting old and grumpy!).

    I have a theme of the “lost generation”, a generation that is reared online – in a world where as you correctly put it, the internet will be fading away over the next few decades – , is unmoored from cultural traditions/norms that provide older generations with comfort and meaning and whose priorities (racism and climate change) are weirdly disconnected from the profound shocks coming our way.

    Yes, climate change is a concern, but the practical actions to deal with it e.g. collapse now and avoid the rush don’t seem the kind of actions most Zoomers are interested in. They are as much into their travelling as the older generation.

    And, in the meantime, we face a crumbling economy, energy scarcity and the rising risk of blackouts and economic shutdowns across much of the world.

    On that note, did you see this – https://thoughtleadership.rbc.com/the-price-of-power-how-to-cut-canadas-net-zero-electricity-bill/?fbclid=IwAR0MftGs0sLerFViCLL7Vlw-_pHnxr_q2xAr7Dcm2RQWa90Exa1OedO6Mj4 – Ontaria is facing blackouts by 2026 onwards.

    The challenges facing Europe will be hitting North America (outside California) within 5 years or so.

    And the Zoomers are the most invested in going to university. Not the best place to be, by and large, in terms of preparing the skills for a economy in an era of scarcity industrialism. Learning to be a plumber will be way more useful than a marketing degree in the decades ahead.

    What I found most interesting in Matt’s piece is the fact that it is young female Zoomers that are going hyper-liberal/woke compared to young men. That will have interesting implications for the future…

  193. I’ve seen that new server farms are going in alongside federal land up and down the east coast. Gigantic electricity sucking monstrosities. I’ll let other comments guess why these huge data processing centers are suddenly needed, but I do wonder how long they could run for given our energy situation. Such a waste of resources! But pedal to the metal is the way to be these days.

  194. Apologies for the 2nd post. Here’s some local news articles about the server farms –

    Massive 800 Acre Data Center (next to Manassas Battlefield)
    https://www.princewilliamtimes.com/news/exclusive-massive-800-acre-data-center-deal-proposed-for-rural-crescent/article_b09c1858-7b8e-11eb-91bd-e7a7552f8c17.html

    Server Farms Quietly Moving Into Cities
    https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/06/22/1053889/city-server-farms-energy/

    This handy website provides the locations of existing data centers
    https://www.datacentermap.com

  195. I guess that it was always quixotic to expect Grover’s answer about living without electricity… if he lives without electricity. Heh.

    xxxxxxxxxxxxx

    @JMG I have a cent or two regarding the financial discussion with Phil. It’s not a discussion I would normally jump into except that I was piqued because literally yesterday I had a regular phone call with my financial advisor; they’re asking questions like “So where do you see your retirement goals right now” and so on and so forth, and after we hung up I let out a deep breath and said to my wife, “How do I begin explaining to these guys that my ‘retirement plan’ at the moment consists of growing potatoes and hoping there’s enough of a transportation network to visit my grandchildren.”

    Anyway. Let’s talk about Pfizer for a sec. A few months ago, on the Dreamwidth site, I had been saying that I could see the writing on the wall and I was going to short Pfizer with an attempt to make some dough. I didn’t end up doing it, for several reasons (call it lack of nerve if you want), but the darn thing is – I should have!

    Because check it out, in the aftermath of Dark Brando’s “COVID is over” announcement:

    https://www.google.com/finance/quote/PFE:NYSE

    Yeah, I should have. I should have borrowed a large amount of money from my line-of-credit and purchased Pfizer puts. I would have made a bundle of money. Oh well, coulda woulda shoulda, hindsight is 20/20, ain’t it? There’s probably still time to do it, if you are convinced that Pfizer is going to be in hot water over the past two years’ shenanigans.

    Anyway here’s the point that I’m trying to get to, is I actually share a lot of Phil’s point of view. I wasn’t old enough to be financially savvy in 2008, certainly not in 2000, I don’t know how obvious the instability was to anyone paying attention, but if you’re telling us you know some significant number of people who made money by getting in at the bottom… well, okay. I agree with Phil that this is not, in general, a suitable strategy for most people, and the reason is, not only is it difficult (read: almost impossible) to identify “the bottom” as it transpires, but equally – and this surprises a lot of people – RECOVERY often takes place as the market zooms back within a single day or so, and this is also impossible to time.

    Not being a licensed financial advisor, this is not financial advice, merely my opinion. I point out the graph, which shows that a person who rode out those crashes – perhaps, with nerves of iron, didn’t even glance at his portfolio for a couple of years other than to periodically re-balance it – still did recover on a sufficiently long timeline:

    https://www.macrotrends.net/1319/dow-jones-100-year-historical-chart

    At the end of it all, I’m mostly interested in the issue in a more abstract way, meaning, questions like “what IS the market, anyway” and, is it possible to have a reality where “the market” continues to go up on average, even while life gets more expensive, inflation runs rampant, money printing continues as nauseam, and so forth.

    Or to put it another way, I am not optimistic about the medium-term prognosis for western society; my remark about growing potatoes wasn’t a joke; and yet, does this mean that the market is going to zero? I don’t think that’s how it works, unless there is a literal debt default, the USA ceases to exist as a nation (admittedly a non-zero probability), etc.

  196. Well, my uncles live on a working farm in a very rural area of Austria. They’re allowed to cut (coppice) up to 10% of their forest per year. Which they just did. As did every other farm in the area. 50 year old veneer and heavy construction grade timbers chopped for firewood… However, the farms will be able to support the entire extended families coming home and also keep the wood stoves in the village pubs and bakeries going.

    The farmers also culled their animals early and did some deals so now everyone in the village has a stash of preserved meat and animal feed grains stashed in their cellars. Also, all the fruit is being stored rather than distilled like normally. Fortunately, last year was a great schnapps year so no one will be short on that for a few years. The houses are old enough they are uncomfortable to modern tastes if unheated, but liveable. The apartment buildings in cities by contrast may be destroyed by burst pipes and mould.

    However, the interesting thing is that this is all occurring but no one is talking about it. My sister is travelling over there and is completely oblivious to why my uncles are doing all these odd things or that they are even happening at all. For a tourist there aren’t many visible shortages and life just seems like normal, if rather packed with talking heads on tv reassuring everyone of all the ways in which their governments have everything under control.

  197. I have been talking to a lot of people in industry and everyone seems concerned about the workforce 10+ years out. I think that when the Xers start to retire, we are going to see a major labor shortage, in the unskilled and skilled trades. In my city of 30,000+, there is only one male barber and he is in his 70s. He notes that nobody wants to be a barber anymore.

    The root of this problem is Generation Z. Their spiritual and moral development has been severely stunted, and I don’t think this is just a case of ‘kids these days’. Generation Z in America was subject to conditions never before seen in the history of humanity, constant connection to their phones since their earliest days. Phones are designed to be addictive as possible, using every trick in the book to fire dopamine in the brain. We are literally facing a Generation of drug addicts coming up. This generation has no desire to create, learn, or do anything that doesn’t result in social media likes and we are seeing this as they enter, or fail to enter, the workforce.

    With regards to your model of civilizational collapse, I think that we are running out of people capitol. In addition to declining fossil fuels stores, we are facing a severe decline in the quality of people our civilization produces. I don’t think Generation Z has what it takes to keep modern civilization running.

  198. I’m not so sure the future for nuclear power is that gloomy. I’m not even so sure it’s past is gloomy.

    Many countries around the world have made a huge lot of electricity with nuclear power plants for a long time. Most continue to do so. In Europe, we all know France gets their electricity that way, but so do Belgium and Ukraine. Switzerland, Sweden and Finland get a third of their electricity and the Czech Republic gets about half.

    Here in North America, we get 20%. Canada is around 15%, but Ontario is over a third. Twenty percent of all the electricity used in the US is a lot of electricity. If we followed some of Mr. Greer’s suggestions, nuclear power alone could probably provide all the power we need for more modest electricity needs.

    Over in Asia, China and India get small percentages of their electricity from nukes, but still large absolute quantities. And they are rapidly increasing the number of reactors. South Korea is over a quarter.

    I believe the reason nuclear power has been somewhat limited is an irrational fear of the dangers along with cheaper alternatives. As we realize that the alternatives are not are not so cheap, both in dollars and externalities, we are seeing a lot of formerly anti-nuclear folks come around. The problems are political more than engineering. The engineers have built a lot of safe and productive plants, and produced a lot of extremely low carbon electricity. We may not see electricity too cheap to meter, and we may not even see cheap electricity, but we may continue to see electricity, thanks to the nukes. I hope so.

  199. We may be beating a dead horse here, and I’m not sure we even disagree that much. Pulling out your money and waiting for the bottom is, pretty much by definition, not possible for most people. If one can do it successfully, that’s great, but far more will lose trying. I know folks who did well with lottery tickets and horse races too, but they are a small minority.

    Taking money out of a pension plan, particularly a federal or municipal one, is almost never a good idea and likely to be productive in only the smallest number of cases. If one wants to try, and is fully aware of the consequences, good luck. But nobody should recommend it to another.

  200. A nice summation by Kunstler on the EU’s Green energy predicament.

    “From our side, it may just add up — as I said — to plain bluster. The “Joe Biden” regime has already done enough to hurtle the USA and the rest of Western Civ into a new dark age. The nations of the EU have no idea how they will conduct economic activity without the cheap Russian natgas they used to depend on. They are about to get a harsh lesson on the realistic limits of “green energy” they’ve been prattling about for years. So far, it doesn’t look good for them. A few more months of this and the populace from Riga to Lisbon will be stringing up whole parliaments from the boulevard light standards.”

    https://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/joe-bidens-last-stand/#comment-729385

  201. @pygmycory thx for the comment. I agree, I taught myself small engine carburetor repair 6 years ago and had ample and easily available info. I recently tried looking something up and felt that I had to go thru a lot more “clicks” to get at the info.

    As to the library — I have noticed at mine older books are seemingly not around. I guess they “age out” with heavy use — but it is quite disconcerting. I’m glad I have a personal library 🙂

  202. I look at farmers’ fields covered in solar panels and I despair. How low have we sunk that we are stealing the very sun and land that plants need. Plants, incidentally, that form the basis of our food chain, so we are sawing off the branch we are sitting on. Plus, the soil is probably sterilized with potent herbicides to keep vegetation off the panels, so once they have degraded to uselessness, can the land be returned to food production again?

  203. From the Stirling list: “On Thu, Sep 22, 2022 at 3:26 PM markus baur via groups.io wrote:

    “https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/09/the-pathway-to-90-clean-electricity-is-mostly-clear-the-last-10-not-so-much/
    servus
    markus”

    And the reply: “duane oldsen
    “A generally fair writeup.
    “Given that we are on the cusp of The Greater Depression and Actual WW3 (as opposed to the psychodrama WW3 of 1963-’89), anything that has the word “expensive” appended to it is out for the next 10-15 years.
    “We’ll see what the postbellum enthusiasms and technics are in the postbellum era. The after will not be the before.”

  204. JMG, my head aspinneth lately over the aggressive and militant statements emanating from the erstwhile peacenik German Greens.

    In truth the conversion of the Greens into a militant party has been happening for a while to the extent that one German comedian suggested renaming the Green-party-associated foundation named after the Nobel prize winning author Heinrich Böll instead the Heinrich Böller (fireworks or cannon) Stiftung.

    That is a very interesting theory though that the current round of spit-fueled Green war mongering is a visceral wounded vanity reaction to Russian man bad pulling up the Green skirt to reveal a bare bottom beneath.

    I have an alternative (woo woo) idea you may be interested in and is inspired by discussions on these pages in former years concerning national “symbols” but this is probably not the correct word I am afraid.

    I am talking about you mentioning the national significance to the French of the Notre Dame and its burning a few years ago and not rebuilding it in its exact form would be akin to damaging the French national psyche in some way? I was also impressed when Phil Knight (give us a wave Phil!) pointed out, just before the Brexit vote, the reburial of Richard III as an important omen in the outcome of that vote and the division in the UK ever since over it.

    Meanwhile, in Germany, did you know that the Berliner Schloss in the center of Berlin has recently been reopened (in parts over the last year) to house a number of museums, having been rebuilt for this purpose after having been destroyed by the DDR after WWII, and to replace the Palast der Republik/DDR parliament building, which was ripped down 15 years ago, sadly, because the Palast had been converted to a vibrant cultural center.

    Now the Berliner Schloss is a different beast, traditionally housing the Prussian monarchy, who are not exactly famous for spreading peace on Earth and goodwill to all mankind. Is it possible that something here, a latent cultural attitude or some such, has been rekindled or materialized by the reopening of such a culturally and historically significant place?

  205. Odd practicalities: I have a windup watch as backup, and my totally PM oldest daughter mentioned that she’d wanted a windup watch as backup from power failures, but that nobody makes them any more. I told her the Vermont Country Store sells them – from time to time, but this was one of those times. I’m thinking of getting one for her for Yule.

    She asked me why I wear pants in Florida summers when skirts are so much more practical. (Because I’m short, and knee-length on the model comes down to an awkward length on me.) Coincidentally, one of the catalogs that hit my mailbox offered 3-tiered denim skirts, one of them at a good length for me, and a longer one of better quality at what they laughingly called “Petite” length. Just above the ankles. And I am amazed at just how all-around useful it is! Unless you have to climb steep steps. Of course, as every female re-enactor soon discovers, such a garment is the most practical one around for doing what bears do in the woods. Not to mention period headwear for warmth and against high winds.

    I now return us to our sober discussions on nuclear, greenwashed, and remnants of fossil fuel, energy.

  206. @Johnny re: milkweed – the monarch butterflies are most grateful to you for retrieving those and planting them.

  207. French leaders — at least Macron and the minister of the economy, Bruno Le Maire — truly believed that the financial sanctions would make the Russian economy collapse in a few weeks. They said it on French TV. Such incompetence is hardly believable, but it did happen.

    I’ve talked about this with fellow French people (reasonably affluent baby boomers like me) and most of them said that Bruno Le Maire isn’t incompetent, he lied because he had too. He had to lie because sanctions are the only things we could do to show our disapproval of Putin’s actions and our solidarity with the Eastern Europeans (as if us committing economic suicide would impress the Russians). He had to lie because of pressure from other European countries (by which I guess they mean Germany). Interestingly, those of say this don’t mention the elephant in the room: the USA, which has a history of collecting unethical but efficient means of pressure on foreign leaders.

    My friends just don’t seem to understand when I tell them that someone who lies to keep his position as a minister of state (which is what Bruno Le Maire did, they say), knowing that his lies will have very painful consequences for millions of his countrymen, is despicable, to say the least, considering that losing his position will not make him fall into poverty (I never heard of such a thing happening to a former minister of state, even those who were fired for having done things like cheating on their tax returns).

    I guess that my friends can’t accept the alternative: Bruno Le Maire and Macron didn’t lie, they are incompetent, totally incompetent. They didn’t know that fossil fuels have become scarce, and they believed what they said, that Russia would collapse very fast because of the financial sanctions. Macron and Le Maire don’t read your blog, Mr Greer.

    Human beings need leaders, even pathetic ones such as Macron and Le Maire. It’s part of our DNA, I guess. The French obeyed Napoleon until the very end, when Paris was captured by enemy troops. So did the Germans in 1945.

    Two weeks ago, at a local fair, the mayor of the town where I live, in a multiracial suburb of 35,000 residents east of Paris, made a speech. He said that in 2022 the energy bill of the town was 2.3 million euros. In 2023, it will be 10 million euros, almost five times more. Some streets will have to be without lights at night, but they won’t be less safe, he said, because people will be more cautious in dark streets (nobody laughed or jeered). He implied that the situation would be better in the future. He also said that the German government’s energy policy was responsible for our predicament.

    I smiled when he said this, because all the ethnic groups you can think of are represented in our town, except for the Germans. I expect the French to move from denial to anger in the Winter, and I guess that the mayor, who is a smart guy, expects it too, and seemingly he has chosen to deflect the anger of his constituents against people they see on TV but rarely in real life.

    The mayor didn’t say it, but everyone understood that he meant much higher local taxes for those of us who still pay taxes in our impoverished town, the end of the swimming-pool and the ice rink, among other things, on top of the inflation.

    The idea that the Winter of 2022-2023 will be the time when we Europeans become poor again, after seven decades of plenty, is slowly creeping into people’s minds.

  208. @forecastinginltelligence – am reading your article on the Zoomers and the world of their childhood, and am thinking how very, very like Grandma’s (or Great-Grandma’s) world that sounds. And their attitudes… and whatever today’s equivalent of a post-crisis March on Selma would be like. The only thing lacking here is the size of their cohort, which I’d venture to guess is far smaller than that of their Millennial or Xer parents. (Well, maybe not smaller than the Xers.)

    This is not theory – this is looking in the time machine and finding it to be a mirror.

    Pat, born early in 1939 – run the numbers yourselves.

  209. >Owen, there have been a few attempts at backyard nukes. That I know of, the results haven’t been good.

    Well, now, I’m kinda curious and went digging again. Most who have tried have been hassled by the cops. Most of them have been weirdoes of one sort or another, but then again, that’s what you’d expect innit? But as far as results go, nobody has actually built anything, much less anything that would actually be useful. There basically have been no results at all.

    Then there’s this guy, blah blah blah, somewhere over the rainbow, blah blah blah. All talk, no action.

    https://www.ted.com/talks/taylor_wilson_my_radical_plan_for_small_nuclear_fission_reactors

    It’s not going to matter, if nobody can build anything viable in their backyard, it’s going to go away. Computer chips have a better chance of surviving the collapse than nuclear energy, at least people have demonstrated you can build computer chips in a garage, although it’s 1973 computer chips, not 2022 computer chips.

  210. @ Rod – Maybe. But Kunstler has been saying we are six months from people getting strung up on lamp posts since 2012. I’ll wait….

  211. @ JMG – You mention good sanitation as one of the techniques that hopefully makes is through the coming dark age, and posit the early 19th century as a possible floor humanity ends up landing on at the bottom of said dark age. I don’t disagree, but I had a thought about that yesterday. Even as crude as early 19th century medical technology may have been, when paired with good sanitation and germ theory, I would guess that a good number of people will not die prematurely, from largely avoidable illness, than would have in, let’s say 1804 England.
    With that in mind, do you think that will mean the population might rebound quicker than the centuries it took for Western Europe to approach Roman-era levels of population?

  212. @ Njura – Go ahead and ride a bicycle in Oklahoma during the summer heat. I’m guessing afterward, you’d probably agree that an electric scooter is preferable. And mechanically, they’re probably not that much more complex than a bike. And cheaper than a horse.
    On that note, lots of people still ride horses for off road transport here in Oklahoma. I don’t see anyone trading in F-150s for a sturdy steed right now, maybe in twenty years?

  213. @Jerry
    I realized yesterday that I have more and more detailed books about freshwater fish than my city’s main library. Better not lose those books on microaquariums, fish diseases and health, fish breeding, aquatic plants and generalized fishkeeping books… I may literally never find their like again in physical form, and the way the net is going… and maybe I should actually finish that partly-written book of mine on keeping aquariums properly on a budget, with its information on coldwater and subtropical species, nano fishes, and simple and inexpensive but effective filtration methods etc. It might be an idea to do that now, if I’m going to do it at all.

    Budget fishkeeping doesn’t have to mean keeping a goldfish in a bowl until it dies in a few months from lack of oxygen and being surrounded by too much waste. It is possible to do good aquariums without spending an arm and a leg, or using large amounts of electricity, or large amounts of space.

  214. From Bloomberg, sadly behind a paywall, about copper.

    “As the world goes electric, net-zero emission goals will double demand for the metal to 50 million metric tons annually by 2035, according to an industry-funded study from S&P Global. While that forecast is largely hypothetical given all that copper can’t be consumed if it isn’t available, other analyses also point to the potential for a surge. BloombergNEF estimates that demand will increase by more than 50% from 2022 to 2040.
    Meanwhile, mine supply growth will peak by around 2024, with a dearth of new projects in the works and as existing sources dry up. That’s setting up a scenario where the world could see a historic deficit of as much as 10 million tons in 2035, according to the S&P Global research. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimates that miners need to spend about $150 billion in the next decade to solve an 8 million-ton deficit, according to a report published this month. BloombergNEF predicts that by 2040 the mined-output gap could reach 14 million tons, which would have to be filled by recycling metal.”

    Copper is already one of the most recycled metals out there, so someone is being optimistic.

  215. @Reese #197: Many heartfelt thanks for introducing me to Posadism! I had somehow managed to live my life without knowing about this spectacular bloom of utopian thought…

  216. JMG, yes, the stupid ones from the past which we have out-stupided! Our Faustianism is helping us out, big time! I like Orlov’s quote – Stupidity permeates every where at the speed of light. And of course, your’s, about the brain being 6 inches across.

  217. >I look at farmers’ fields covered in solar panels and I despair.

    I look and I wonder “which delivers more net energy? Is it the field of PVs or a field of sugar beets converted into something like ethanol” If growing (the right kind of) plants and then converting that into fuel is more efficient, that’s what will win out in the long run. Or maybe it’s some frankencrop that skips all the sugar making steps and goes straight to making ethanol. The magical Booze Tree.

    At least PVs are net positive, although not by much. Those windmiils are the real cringe-inducing contraptions, they are hopelessly net negative as I understand it.

  218. “I don’t think Generation Z has what it takes to keep modern civilization running.”

    The oldest members of Generation Z are 25, it’s a little soon to write them off yet especially given the virus panic. It set my daughter back nearly two years, but she is on her feet and employed in her field, albeit at wretchedly low pay for a STEM degree.

    On the other hand the Army can’t find enough people fit to even be cannon fodder.

  219. @Patricia,

    Hi, yes that is why I was doing it also! We never had monarchs until a couple up the street set up a pollinator garden and planted a bunch. Then we started to see them flying through our yard occasionally, and this year they were feeding here which was really nice. I have some plants coming up, I think off rhizomes the same neighbour gave me, and I threw some seeds down earlier in the spring but read apparently they need to get a winter in to work. Next year might be interesting!

    Thanks,
    Johnny

  220. BCV, nice! Thanks for this. As for the efficiency numbers, the figures I’d seen didn’t specify that the 80% number was round trip efficiency — I assumed, apparently wrongly, that it was 80% efficiency per transformation. Are you factoring in the efficiency of conversion of the original energy source into electricity, btw?

    Team10tim, that’s basically the conclusion I’ve come to. Chinese agriculture and a wide range of other raw materials production — bamboo very much among them — are stable over multimillennial time scales and can scale up and down very readily to deal with dark age conditions and expansion. That gives China a degree of resilience most other parts of the world don’t have. I’m hoping that as intensive organic agriculture gets more solidly established in other parts of the temperate zone, that will have a similar impact on historical cycles.

    Guillem, I don’t think you’re mistaken at all.

    Reese, I didn’t mean it as an exaggeration. I’ve watched privileged pseudoenvironmentalists cash in their ideals over and over again for decades, and literally nothing would surprise me at this point.

    Forecasting, delighted to hear it. I have my eye on a solar water heater system once housing prices crash again and Sara and I pick up a place. As for investments, I’m not in favor of them yet, but in due time — well, we’ll talk about that in a while.

    Wer, thanks for this. We have plenty of similar stories over here, including the really bad roads and the useless wind turbines. It seems to be a pervasive issue in the twilight of the industrial age.

    Johnny, of course she vacationed in Australia. Most of what drives Extinction Rebellion and other well-funded, professionally promoted pseudoactivist movements is the frantic attempt by the privileged to insist that everyone else has to cut back on carbon so they don’t have to.

    Wer, I have to admit I was wondering whether the Polish government had rocks in its head when it sent all its tanks to Ukraine without first arranging to get more right away. A happy autumn equinox to you too, and stay safe!

    Forecasting, my take is that the hyper-liberal end of the generation is a small if loud minority. I know a lot of young people in that generation who are alt-right, and even more who are politically moderate or uninterested. Of course the media is making as much noise as possible about the hyper-liberal minority, since those are the ones who have bought into what the corporate system is selling.

    Denis, massive overconstruction is a commonplace event in the last, blowoff stage of a bubble. I think we’re past peak internet and there are some very bubble-like aspects to the internet these days…

    Bofur, I’m not talking about short-term vagaries, the sort of thing that lurches down and then up in a matter of days. Consider the housing market in 2008. I know quite a few people who sold out of real estate at that time, cashing out while there were plenty of people ready to buy, and stuck the results in money market accounts for a few years. In 2010 and 2011 they bought houses at pennies on the dollar. In the same way, anyone who walked away from the tech-stock bubble in 1999 and stayed out of it until the rubble stopped bouncing was in a great position to go back into tech stocks in 2002 or 2003 and do very well. The basic rules are, first, you don’t try to time the market — “get out before the peak and stay out” is the strategy that works — and second, you wait a couple of years at least, so the immediate volatility is over and you can assess where you want your assets to go. Speculative bubbles are not that hard to recognize, and their aftermath is utterly predictable.

    TamHob, your uncles and their neighbors clearly still remember how to deal with times like these. That’s good to hear.

    Conan, I’d point out that far too many employers have also forgotten that they have to give their employees some reason to be interested in working. A rock-bottom paycheck and the occasional pep talk does not cut it. I know quite a few young people in generation Z who are perfectly willing to work hard for themselves, and do so, but they’re not willing to spend their days working like dogs for a pittance so someone else can profit off them. Unless employers grasp that, no question, a lot of businesses are going to go out of existence because nobody is willing to put up with the pointless misery of working for them.

    Phil, you really ought to do your own research instead of simply rehashing nuclear industry talking points. The French nuclear industry? Check the news; it’s in the process of being nationalized because the maintenance costs are driving it into bankruptcy. Nuclear power never pays for itself, and in the long run, as other sources of energy run out, that’s one more luxury we won’t be able to afford.

    As for pulling out your money and waiting for the bottom not being an option for most people, say what? Cashing out your investments, putting the money into a couple of federally insured money market accounts in conservatively managed banks, and leaving it there for a couple of years is not rocket science. I’ve done it myself, and I’m not exactly a hotshot financier! In an economy full of speculative booms and busts, it’s not at all hard to recognize when a market is going batshale crazy, pull your money out of it, wait a few years until the inevitable crash takes place, and then reinvest. Right now many pension funds are in deep trouble and anyone who trusts the pension system to remain stable for the long term is taking a far greater risk than the prudent person who extracts their funds from a failing system, puts it someplace safe for a little while, and then invests conservatively in a balanced portfolio of unfashionable but stable investments.

    Rod, I doubt anybody’s going to be stringing up whole parliaments, but Jim tends to be a bit overexcitable on that subject. It will certainly be interesting to see how the current hot mess unfolds.

    Martin, I know. It’s idiotic.

    Patricia M, I wonder if the guy who wrote that for Ars Technica realizes that the identical claims were being made 40 years ago.

    TheCrowandSheep, they rebuilt the Berliner Schloss? I hadn’t heard of that. Ouch. Once the capital moved back to Berlin I knew there was going to be trouble; this just guarantees it.

    Patricia M, and thanks for these!

    Horzabky, I get the impression a lot of people thought that the sanctions would crash the Russian economy. If Russia had been isolated internationally, that might have worked, too, but we’ve seen with brutal clarity just how far the global power of the US has waned and just how little most of the world cares about the latest edicts from Washington.

    Owen, you might be intrigued to look into the backyard fusion scene. People in that really have built things, and gotten them working — the Farnsworth fusor is a common starting place, and that was first built in 1964. I’ll have some comments on that in an upcoming post.

    Ben, that’s an interesting question, and not one I can answer yet; I need to do much more research on the demographics of decline, to get a sense of how disease fits into that. I have that research in mind in the near future, for other reasons.

    Celadon, the word I would use instead of “optimistic” is “gullible.” As for the apes, so noted!

  221. @ Jon Zybourne #51
    @ JMG

    Regarding the “strange notion that energy doesn’t matter” I came across one of those magic wand wavings that seems to have some influence among supposedly “green” (but so very techno-hopium obsessed) people that I know.

    Quotes below are from the following article… https://changediscussion.com/3-disruptions-8-technologies/

    “Batteries, wind and solar are not fuel. They are not consumed. At the end of their economic life are recycled and used again. The free energy (sunlight, wind, wave etc) are infinite. Free.”

    “Failure to understand solar, wind or batteries are not “fuel” means many still cannot see how this will play out over the next decades.”

    “Coal, gas, wood, uranium are fuels. Finite. Therefore fuel cost is dependent on finding new sources, extraction (mining) costs, transportation, and costs of waste and remediation.”

    So… now we know! And, if only we had known that all it needed was for us to stop being obsessed about *fuel* and relax. All that “free energy (sunlight, wind, wave, etc)” which we never knew was “infinite” and which has always existed, but somehow never been properly tapped by any human before us, just awaits our genius inventiveness in the matter of “solar, wind, and batteries” to be fully realised!

    /end sarcasm

  222. >People in that really have built things, and gotten them working — the Farnsworth fusor is a common starting place

    Great as a toy or if you need neutrons but I’ve yet to see anyone talk about electrostatic confinement as being economically viable. Unless I’m missing something, fission is the only viable proven nuclear tech I know of. And nobody outside of a government, corporation or academia has managed to build even an old-fashioned graphite pile, like they did back in the 40s (and Chernobyl). Mainly because anytime anyone tries, the cops come.

    I tell you what I think what’s likely to be the main source of energy 500 years from now – something like a “Booze Tree”, because you can do biotech in your basement or backyard supposedly. Although I’ve yet to see anything biotech come out of anywhere except a corporate or government lab.

  223. @BobInOK, #190: That is pure speculation, at best, with no supporting evidence. It may in fact be correct (I don’t think so though I could be wrong), but we need something more to go on than theory.

    If you or anyone else have links to any objectively reasonable reports of NATO troops fighting in Ukraine, please post them.

  224. Oh, I don’t know that I’d agree that you failed to change society.

    You and voices like yours have changed more lives than just a few. We’re a threat to the status quo. Societies change slowly, barely at all and then all at once.

    A huge pot is coming to boil. The bubbles are barely visible.

    I never thought I’d see smoking banned in bars in my lifetime. I never thought I’d see smoking banned at all in tobacco growing states like the Carolinas. Yet it happened, barely at all and then all at once.

  225. JMG, and to think Kunstler was once a proud leftist Democrat. Now you can find him selling Donald Trump Bobbleheads from the back of his car. A truly scary thought indeed at the sight of a Trump Bobblehead. Who would want to touch the hair on that doll? That’s like getting too close to spent fuel rods. Too risky!

  226. @ Bofur #74 – “I have to say that as I’ve been cutting back on stuff, I find it’s almost like ripping off a bandaid – the worst part is resolving to do it, but afterwards I actually feel much better about ONE LESS THING I need to pay for or worry about.”

    This is exactly what it was like for me when I traded my car for a bicycle in 2017. I agonised over taking the plunge, but have never thought much about it since. (And was pleased to *immediately* find I had more money in my pocket. I have since been able to comfortably reduce the income, so not so much loose change… but lots more peace of mind).

  227. Life imitates Twilight’s Last Gleaming: a brief newsflash from one of my sources said “Air Force Generals not worried about Chinese J20s.”
    Signs of the times: “adulting” is long gone, “The Art of Manliness” is in, and I, definitely a woman, am finding the first piece of advice that hit Pocket (about treating the To Do list as a river, not a bucket, with backpacking analogies) to make more sense than 90% of the helpful hints elsewhere. Another site that makes sense is Outside Online. Just FYI.

  228. At the third-rate UK university I worked at until a few years ago, there was a large – comparatively, as teaching was its main concern – sustainable environment research unit that in the early 2000’s became mainly focused on hydrogen power as more and more research money from UK and EU bodies became available. By 2010 it had taken over almost all of a medium-sized building and was supporting a diverse ecosystem of professors, other academics, PhD students, post-doc researchers, technicians, admin and management people. Plus of course, the university-wide HR, IT, finance and central management departments skimmed off their shares of the incoming money too. There was even a hydrogen vehicle filling-station and hydrogen-powered minibus. By the time I left both had fallen into disuse.
    Most other science academics would privately say that they were sure hydrogen power would never be useful, but were otherwise happy to let those involved play with their toys as long as the money came from outside. This is not to say that those involved did not believe in what they were doing, indeed I know that several of the profs frequently worked 80+ hours per week on grant applications, supervising students, writing papers and other work. As with most such things, the fault really lay with those at high governmental level who made the money available for such boondoggles, believing their own judgement of what needed funding was superior to that of commercial bodies.

  229. Dear Archdruid:

    With respect yo your comentary to Phil about the French nuclear Industry. I’ll like to comunícate you that ,acording with an Spanish podcast, a number of power plants wich is aproximately the half of the total, suffer fragility in the metalic tuberies of its primary ciruits caused by radiación.

  230. Scotlyn, no surprises there. I’ve been seeing that sort of serene cluelessness in the green energy scene for a good long time — it’s right up there with the nuclear scene’s serene indifference to economics.

    Owen, you asked whether there were people actually building something in their backyards. I told you of the example I know of. If you don’t like it, hey, not my problem. 😉

    Teresa, well, we’ll see.

    Rod, funny.

    Patricia M, it’s not as though US generals have a choice. If they admit publicly that the F-35 is a total flop which got into production solely through bribery and graft, and that the US military can’t find the money to keep its planes and ships in decent repair, what’s going to happen to their chance of getting a cushy consulting job with a defense firm once they leave the service?

    Robert, no argument there. These days the universities dance to whatever tune the money boys play, no matter how obviously stupid it is.

  231. @Johnny #200

    “I see it as an area where I have a lot of influence, but it’s still a relationship”

    Thanks for that, I like that.

    @Phil #211

    As I said, I largely agree with you. I differ here though:

    “Taking money out of a pension plan, particularly a federal or municipal one, is almost never a good idea”

    I know where you’re coming from, but I don’t necessarily agree with this as far as it goes. A number of years ago, in a context which I won’t go into, I put some effort into crunching some numbers and found that the value of a commuted pension, properly invested in a balanced and diversified portfolio, was going to earn about the same as what the pension plan would have paid. After all, what does anyone think the pension funds are invested in but the same stuff we could all invest in? If your portfolio really and truly goes bust, so will the pension funds.

    I used to work with a nurse who would make noises about leaving for another job “that would contribute towards a pension”. I tried telling her that she could just, like, set aside some money and invest it properly and it would amount to the same thing, but many people are just not comfortable with this, which I think is too bad as I put it in the same category as any other form of self-sufficiency.

    Anyway – the advantage of cashing it out is having control over the money. As a hypothetical, rather than a pension that promises (say) $1000 a month, I personally would prefer having the cash and being able to forecast for $500 a month with the option of also being able to purchase some gold or land *right now* as a hedge against various forms of unpleasantness.

  232. Moved by the historical cusp we seem to have arrived at, I’ve recently added the first new piece to my somewhat intoxicated skintnick.blogspot.com rants for more than 7 years. I argue for living by the principles of frugality, self-reliance, and opting out of adding to the power of mega-corporations; a somewhat arbitrary trio that seem important at this time. Thank-you for guiding me on this journey JMG.

  233. Has anyone here read Michael Swanwick’s novel “In the Drift”? It’s a post-apocalyptic he wrote in 1985, soon after Three Mile Island. It centers on a bizarre new Philly (with mummers!) and the devastated landscape between Philly and TMI and what’s living inside the cooling tower.

    You won’t get a warm glow from this one; it’s creepy and what happens to the nuclear reactor is something I’ve not seen before. It becomes almost … alive. A god coming into being, if I recall correctly.

  234. @ team10tim #62.

    Thank you for your explanation! It makes perfect sense.
    I’d always wondered why we didn’t drop spent nuclear waste in deep ocean trenches and now I know.

    I do believe that navies (perhaps not our own) scuttle their spent nuclear subs in deep ocean trenches. If the fish look a little stranger, how could you tell?

  235. Azby Brown’s book about Edo Japan; Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green From Traditional Japan.

    This is indeed a gorgeous book. I have a copy.

    However.

    It makes it sound like Edo Japan was heaven on earth with happy, singing peasants. It carefully omits the frequent peasant revolts, the rigid social structure (peasants were treated like dirt by anyone higher up), the sex trade, the military, and how a reasonably well-fed society controlled its population.

    They did it with infanticide. This is never mentioned in the index and gets one paragraph in the text.

    Just Enough is a very biased book because it never admits the trade offs the Japanese had to make to function as well as they did. Edo Japan was great! For a lot of people! But it came with significant costs.

    For a clearer, more detailed picture look for:

    Mabiki: Infanticide and Population Growth in Eastern Japan 1660 – 1950 by Fabian Drixler

    and

    Peasants, Rebels, & Outcastes: The Underside of Modern Japan by Mikiso Hane.

    A lot of Hane’s book addresses the Edo period as its policies directly affected the Meiji Restoration.

  236. Phil at #237
    Re: NATO fighting in the Ukraine

    I doubt that there are large numbers of NATO soldiers as infantrymen or tankers slugging it out with the Russians on the battlefield. What I think is likely is that a relatively small number (a few hundred?) NATO personnel have been “laundered” by being introduced into the Ukraine via the Ukraine’s International Legion. (mercenaries) These could be directly operating some of the newer, more complex weapons systems that the Ukrainians have not been trained in the use of. Also in receiving, interpreting and distributing satellite and electronic intelligence, etc. among various Ukrainian military units.

  237. @Owen,

    I don’t know about a magic booze tree, but have you heard of Copaifera Langsdorfii? Common name is “The Diesel Tree”. Supposedly when you tap it, hydrocarbons run out like syrup from a maple. I’ve seen annual yields reported as high as 40-53L per tree, and you can supposedly just filter the sap before pouring right into an engine. (I’d rather try that with a Lister than a VW TDI, but you’ll be much more likely to see a Lister-oid than any kind of direct-injection turbodiesel in 50 years time I’d bet.)

    Of course they only grow in the wet tropics, but I suppose their range might spread in the future. Native to Brazil they are apparently being introduced to Aus.
    https://www.oilseedcrops.org/diesel-tree/

    A good breeding program could probably expand the range faster than global warming will. Maybe biotech can, too; I don’t know if genes for cold resistance have been isolated.

  238. I really can’t get my head around the fact that governments are prepared to use great gobs of an increasingly constrained resource in order to get a few more drops of it. Surely looking at a change of lifestyle would be far more productive. War has always seemed totally pointless to me and, as yet, I see no reason to change my mind.

  239. Patricia Mathews (no. 242), I second your praise for the “Art of Manliness” site.For those who are unaware of it, it has nothing in common with the Manosphere / Incel movement, or anything like that. The site owner is a Mormon. The comments are unfailingly polite, including to any women who join in. Most of the posts would be of interest to both sexes, and any gung-ho, muscle-flexing stuff tends to be presented humorously (like the article on how to gird your loins–if you ever wondered what that phrase meant–or the mustache-growing month of November.) Here’s the site: https://www.artofmanliness.com

  240. @ Martin: The future of large-scale solar is a lot less dire than you think. I have a relative who rents farmland to one – first of all, you can run sheep underneath the panels as about half of the sunlight still gets to the ground. If you don’t run sheep, the solar people will mow the ground underneath the panels. There’s no blanketing the ground with pesticides, that would be far too expensive. Even concrete or gravel is pricey on that scale, so the grass is left mostly unmolested.

    It’s also designed to be fairly easy to remove, since the company is responsible for cleanup. Even if they don’t – detach the panels from their frames and almost all of the sun will get to the ground, then you can fully stock the paddock again with some odd-looking steel bits in it.

    The major pollution issue is disposing of that many solar panels at the end of their useful life. Salvage opportunity for the age of scarcity industrialism?

  241. Teresa (239) and JMG

    I am with Teresa on the degree of constructive changes from your open sharing, and also from many others who contribute.

    As mentioned previously, there are some (hopefully many) who make changes quietly, and may not comment online (though certainly share with families and others interested). Folks who take up constructive practices, subtlely at first, and then more openly, are noticed by the attentive. Sharing thoughts and methods, collecting information and prying minds open may give delayed payback. People remember, down the road, and some ask questions. Gardeners talk and share plants and ideas. Non-apocalyptic decline does have advantages, time to adapt.

    I long since gave up expecting green-wizardry style leadership from current elites, who depend on the current system. The MSM or advertorial/surveillance social media also rely on the system, and seem to reliably play down any withdrawal. Adaption is slow and less than hoped, but change is happening. I expect that as the tide goes out, we will have a better idea.

    On another front, historically, serious pandemics have resulted in labor shortages and secondarily improved relative conditions for workers. The same happens with aging societies. Whatever the cause, excess deaths are substantial in Europe and the US, even as acute Covid death rates decrease or are not counted. Currently, workers may benefit more in the black market, actually productive workers, with less or negative effects for middlemen and moneychangers. Time will tell.

  242. A number of years ago a friend of mine who loved U.S. trains put an old railroad bond in my hand. It was issued in 1895 and matured in the year 2250 if my memory serves me correctly. He said he had seen another one that did not mature for 800 years. Apparently people back then thought that trains were the wave of the future and would last forever. Of course, trains in this country went into a massive reduction in the 1950s and have never recovered, but during their heyday no one could imagine getting by without them…

    Solomon was right. There is nothing new under the sun.

  243. It’s truly amazing how quickly most green energy “ideas” fall apart once you do even a little bit of basic research. I am eternally in debt to JMG and St. Thomas Aquinas for teaching me the value of asking pointed questions about pretty-sounding speculations. (Thomas Aquinas may have been a more skilled logician, but JMG has a better beard).

    Uranium enrichment is hugely energy-expensive, and the CANDU reactors that can use unenriched uranium rely on heavy water, which costs around $1,100 a kilo. A typical CANDU reactor needs about 50,000 kilos of heavy water to get started and another 5,000 to 10,000 kilos every year to replace lost water in the most optimistic case scenarios I could find).

    And then there’s fusion.

    According to the experts once fusion gets off the ground within the next decade, we’ll be using readily available hydrogen to power reactors that will make electricity too cheap to meter. But most of the hydrogen used in hydrogen experiments is a deuterium/tritium mix. Deuterium costs around $13 per gram and tritium around $30,000.

    https://www.powermag.com/fusion-energy-is-coming-and-maybe-sooner-than-you-think/

    In this article, “Fusion energy is coming and maybe sooner than you think,” the author notes near the end of a very optimistic article that a working fusion reactor would need about 50kg of tritium per year, and we are currently capable of producing no more than 2 to 3kg. He also acknowledges that we haven’t exactly figured out how to transform the solar levels of heat produced by fusion into electricity; designed materials that can handle the confinement of fusion reactions; nor created a magnetic field that can confine the plasma for longer than a few minutes. Yet he ends as optimistically as he began:

    “It is worth noting that the likely time frame roughly coincides with the period when many U.S. fission plants will be reaching the end of their license periods, as well as with the 2050 target date for net-zero carbon emissions that is the subject of significant attention worldwide. In such an environment, the advantages of fusion power could well be economically and socially compelling.”

    What he is saying here, in so many words, is that “We’re going to get fusion off the ground just in time to get net zero carbon, because we set a target date.”

    And that’s another thing I got from JMG. As he says here and has said many times before, the universe is not obligated to give you anything just because you have run out of necessary resources. We are neither the first nor the last civilization to outstrip our resources and suffer the consequences.

  244. @doomer

    Lol, the Diesel Tree. And I bet the EROEI on those trees is way better than anything you’ll get out of PV panels. Then again, maybe not, has anyone else heard about these trees, lol? With some bioengineering to enhance the output, you could probably get decently close to the theoretical maximum for solar energy collected.

    It’s still solar energy and there’s limits on how much you can collect and that represents a hard energy budget but I bet that it will be hard to make a PV as resilient, as durable and as efficient as a biological solar collector.

    As inefficient as heat engines are, I really don’t see them going away anytime soon. You can rebuild a combustion engine in your backyard, you can’t do that with lithium-ion batteries. The most I’ve seen is backyard chemists scavenging the packs for the lithium to use for other things but nobody I’ve seen has tackled taking a bad battery and bringing it back to life.

  245. In regard to decommissioning nuclear powered ships in the US;

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship-Submarine_Recycling_Program

    If you are really curious I found this;
    “The principal activation products present in reactor materials at shutdown are 55Fe, 60Co, 59Ni, 63Ni, 39Ar, 94Nb (in steels); 3H, 14C, 41Ca, 55Fe, 60Co, 152Eu, 154Eu (in reinforced concretes) and 3H, 14C, 152Eu and 154Eu (in graphites). In terms of radiation levels, 60Co is the most predominant radionuclide. For steels, 55Fe and 60Co account for the major part of the inventory in the first ten years after shutdown [36]. In the following 50 years, most of this activity has decayed, leaving the longer lived nickel, niobium and silver isotopes to dominate.”

    in this reference.
    https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/TRS389_scr.pdf

    The niobium is mostly in the reactor vessel itself, and there isn’t very much of it on a percentage basis. The bad news is its 20,000 year half life. The not so bad news is that it is not soluble and won’t be getting into the ecosystem. Star’s Reach type salvagers might have to worry.

  246. “Are you factoring in the efficiency of conversion of the original energy source into electricity, btw?”
    As a rule, no. Standard practice for round trip efficiency for storage is to look at power output vs input atthe facility terminals. So generation efficiency is not considered. Nor are transmission losses considered. Remote facilities would be burdened by an additional transmission loss coming and going. I would expect these to be fairly minor in most cases.

    Just as general information, I am hearing that interconnection queues are just choked with renewable generation, just about everywhere in the country. BPA’s interconnection queue can be reviewed here: https://www.bpa.gov/energy-and-services/transmission/interconnection

    I would quibble over some details in your essay, but I have been trying to put in an asparagus garden before the rain comes and I am too tired. I really like my rock trommel though.

  247. Hi Johnny,

    Mate, it isn’t just Canadians in Australia (lovely people that they generally appear to be), but Australian’s heading overseas to equally distant parts of the globe on a whim whilst happily upbraiding me for using local firewood. Definitely an equal opportunity problem!

    As to gardens, well if you let in external interests, of course yields are going to plummet. But here’s the thing, the fertility of the system itself increases and likewise resiliency increases. I’ve had some local pollinators on the almond flowers, not many orchards would have that, and due to utter carelessness varroa mite is now down under. It’s a very constipated system to try and monopolise all of the output, but I can understand why people would think that to be a good thing.

    Not a bad place for a holiday!

    Cheers

    Chris

  248. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for the laughs – you almost had me there. 🙂 As an author, how would you approach such a story? I’d probably aim for either farce or tragi-comedy as the narrative, but that’s me.

    Cheers

    Chris

  249. Lazy Gardener,
    unfortunately I can’t. I have very little experience in/knowledge of aquaculture, since most of the species used require warmer water than my climate allows, or are predatory and require very clean water and space, and I have never lived anywhere I could build a pond large enough.

    I knew this and therefore haven’t spent much time learning about it because it wasn’t practical for me.

  250. Skintnick, glad to hear it.

    Teresa, now there’s a blast from the past. I read it not long after it first saw print.

    JillN, you’ve got to remember that most people — including most politicians — literally can’t get their minds around the idea that we can run out of energy resources. It’s not a thought they’re capable of thinking. So they do amazingly stupid things.

    Gardener, when it became clear to me that the peak oil movement had failed I retooled what I was doing to focus on giving individuals the skills they needed to deal with the mess ahead. That was when I launched into the series of posts that became my book Green Wizardry, for example. I’m glad to see that that’s been useful for some people — more useful, certainly, than the big conferences of the peak oil era, which tried to change public policy and public attitudes, and flopped.

    Stephen, good heavens. Thanks for this.

    Kenaz, thanks for this. Exactly; the mythic narrative blinds people to straightforward economic realities. I consider this Exhibit A in making the case that human beings are much, much less smart than they like to think.

    Siliconguy, thanks for this. Nasty stuff all around.

    BCV, thanks for this. I’m concerned about whole-system efficiency, not least because the fetish to convert every form of energy into electricity usually means very serious losses.

    Chris, I’d do it deadpan, with tragic and comic elements understated. Half the impact would be showing people living their ordinary lives in and around one of the great cataclysms of human history.

  251. Someone way up above asked about windup watches, they still exist, for a price,

    The standard (battery) Timex Expedition is $40. The mechanical windup version is $229. A mechanical hand wind pocket watch is $150.

    All are on Amazon

  252. @Bet Dewei

    “Incel movement”

    The problem is the idolization of having sex as a determinant of meaning and personal value. This gives rise to such movements over being voluntarily celibate and being content.

    Its fundamentally the result of social isolation as in not even having male friends which gets such Men to pine after romantic relationships to fill in that void.

    The religious like the Christians avoid that generally. Since they have a solid spiritual foundation for life and meaning. And they are more likely to form connections at Church.

    Unfortunately the negativity of life that they experience which when they congregate together results in a reinforcing feedback of negativity. Resulting in infamous incidents that have happened recently.

  253. Bei,
    Thank you for the link to The Art of Manliness. I lost my link to it in the last round of Microsoft improvements to my computer. I really think it should be The Art of Adulthood.

  254. BCV #191, I’ve seen loads of options for load shifting or demand management – pumping in water treatment plants, asphalt kilns, pressurising industrial compressed air systems… The other thing a lot of people don’t seem to know is on-demand generation doesn’t have to be done with regular power plants. Emergency generators that hospitals, data centres and industrial sites have to have anyway, and need to be frequently tested – ideally on-load – can take a lot of the strain.

    Conan #209, that’s strange as my high street is almost nothing but restaurants and barbers (so many barbers). Maybe we can spare you a few. 🙂

  255. There’s a lot of talk now about small modular reactors. I’ve seen explanations of why the nuclear industry went with big reactors in the first place. It was because there are only a finite number of people who know how to operate reactors and going big concentrates them and lets them work most efficiently. Have they thought through how they’d staff all the SMRs, or is the design supposed to be very labour efficient?

    In industrial safety there’s a story to illustrate how safety isn’t just one thing and isn’t the same for everybody. Imagine you have a chemical works and need to unload 100 tonnes of chlorine. You can either do it from a single 100-tonne rail tanker car, or 100 one-tonne intermediate bulk containers. For someone who lives a mile away, only the rail tanker is a threat to them. But if the person doing the unloading makes a mistake, they’ll get a facefull either way. And the IBCs give them 99 more chances to make that mistake. Whenever you hear someone champion the virtues of many small modular reactors, remember the words ’99 more chances to make a mistake’.

  256. @JMG ” simple fact that nuclear power plants are very complex and all that complexity has to be disassembled and dealt with. It’s a mess, and very few countries have prepared for it.”
    Even more may be true of fracking operations. When the “goldilocks” producers go bust they just walk away from all the environmental ruination, having never adequately included the clean-up costs as part of the overall budget.

  257. When considering investments, another thing is to look up what you’re allowed to keep if you get sued or go bankrupt. It’s different in different places and the last time I looked, in America it includes pensions. That and the Florida homestead exemption is how OJ Simpson is still rich. A couple of books of interest:

    https://johntreed.com/collections/john-t-reed-s-book-on-hyperinflation-and-depression/products/how-to-protect-your-life-savings-from-hyperinflation-and-depression

    https://johntreed.com/collections/real-estate-investment/products/an-american-principal-residence-is-the-most-advantaged-investment-on-earth-maximize-yours

    Also just an addendum to my previous comment about chlorine tankers – I know a railway tanker car would be unlikely to hold a hundred tonnes. In Britain at least it’d weigh around 20 tonnes empty and hold 80 tonnes. The example’s just written as round numbers so it’s easier to visualise.

  258. @JMG: sorry about the snark, it was indeed not necessary. :p

    @Elodie: my point wasn’t that the European reserves would be enough to pass the winter (they aren’t, and a steady flow of LNG will be necessary during the winter to keep up with demand), just that European leaders started making preparations as early as March (the reserves start to shoot up in early April, as shown here : https://www.politico.eu/article/europe-gas-storage-inventory-number), knowing full well that Putin would turn off the tap. I agree with JMG that they didn’t expect Brexit at all and threw ridiculous tantrums after it happened, but Russia’s reaction was much more predictable than Brexit, and despite what was (loudly) said in order to paint Russia as liars who are in the business of breaching contracts, it was all for show.

  259. @JMG :

    “Phil, you really ought to do your own research instead of simply rehashing nuclear industry talking points. The French nuclear industry? Check the news; it’s in the process of being nationalized because the maintenance costs are driving it into bankruptcy. ”

    This is only very partially true. The nationalization of EDF stems from many problems.
    The French government forced EDF to sell megawatts way under market price. Also, due to technical issues (corrosion) that led to under-production, EDF had to buy electricty on the market, at the current inflated price.

    The maintenance costs (which are indeed going up, due to gross underinvestment over the years) are only part of the story, I’m afraid. You should remember that EDF made a profit 17 years out of 19 since 2005.

  260. @Aldarion #229:
    Yeah, it’s… really something, alright. I definitely wouldn’t claim to be an expect on it, but even a surface encounter is… something. 😀

    What makes it perhaps even funnier is that, if I remember correctly, _I_ first learned about it from a My Little Pony mod for a WWII grand strategy computer game. Yes, really.

    @JMG #234:
    I find that saying about fiction vs. reality coming to mind: that only the _former_ has to make sense…

  261. @JMG

    In your reply to Fragile City, you spoke about Atlantean usage of crystals, and how the said attempts caused the Atlantean civilization to end. Could this be the end of the ancient global civilization that Graham Hancock speaks of? I’d be interested to read your take on this.

    @Violet

    Thank you for your reply, and I’m sorry for answering rather late. Regarding your point about mathematical knowledge being passed on via myth, I have one interesting tidbit that you may like – there is a Sanskrit hymn called the Katapayadi Sankhya. While on the surface, it appears to be a typical Hindu hymn invoking the Gods, when decoded using the proper key, it can be used to calculate the value of pi to a surprisingly large number of decimal spaces.

    I know this because my great-grandfather personally saw it being used. My great-grandpa was one of the few Indians to hold the position of a judge in the colonial period. He had a friend who was a professor of mathematics at a reputed college in the city (although the college is not so reputed today). This friend had hosted a lecture by a respectable Hindu sannyasi, who had done some interesting work in mathematics education, especially among the poverty-stricken masses of the time. The lecture was held in the auditorium of the college, and the place was packed with Europeans (mainly Brits, but also a few Frenchmen) as well as Indians (of course). Everyone, including the Europeans, was listening with great interest (yes, racism was institutional at that time, but that still didn’t stop the Europeans from appreciating genuinely good non-European contributions to STEM, and these ones were no exception). Then the sannyasi recited the hymn, and called a British professor on the stage. He then gave him the key to decipher the hymn, and to his utter amazement, the British professor found that the hymn was yielding the value of pi to a greater degree of accuracy than that found in engineering textbooks at the time! The hall burst into applause; everyone unanimously appreciated what they had just seen.

    Unfortunately, I have no written evidence of this. My great-grandpa told my grandpa (his only son), who told my father, who told me. Maybe if I can dig through the archives of The Times of India pertaining to the late 1930s, I might find it, but that will have to wait…

    @renaissance

    Thank you for your reply, and I’m sorry for answering rather late. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Traditional methods of mathematics require more patience and work than the data-driven methods, but they’re more reliable. Despite all the cheering about ML, it’s not all that reliable – a friend of mine who works in CFD says that the traditional models and algorithms are still preferred to the hotshot ML methods.

  262. @Johnny,
    It’s great what you are doing with your garden!
    I’ve got a couple of small citrus trees, and I transfer swallowtail larvae between them to whichever looks best able to handle them. Both seem to be thriving, though I reckon the frogs help. Also, whenever I see other swallowtail larvae in the carrot patch, I quickly cut off the leaf and move it down lower where my brother-in-law won’t see it… Our biodiversity seems to be pretty stable for the moment.

  263. Hi John Michael,

    An intriguing project.

    Dunno about you, but what I heard was that it was in western Atlantis, where the supply of power crystals first waned. That was when the scientists pushed the technological boundaries so as to extract more energy from the crystals which remained to them. Sadly the experiments only proved that the more energy they extracted, the more unstable the geology of the islands became. With the land shifting and heaving, the fearful population sought to restore the previous conditions, by warring upon their neighbours – who it should be said had by mere luck a reasonable supply of power crystals remaining.

    The war groaned on, and the energy smashers used more an more of the little energy left to the Atlanteans. The ground shifted, heaved, before a tidal wave sunk all of Atlantis below the waves. The Gods had judged, and it was not good.

    In latter days, when the occasional power crystal turned up on a beach, the wise ones knew the ill omen, and arranged to have them thrown them into the mouth of an active volcano (sure I pinched that bit, but yeah!). The Earth was placated and the evil technology was given back from whence it came.

    Mate, you could have some fun with this story! 🙂

    Cheers

    Chris

  264. One of the things I’ve been pondering lately is how do I know I’m not embracing resource depletion as a form of cope?

    You’ve mentioned over the years that the ideas of fast apocalypse is a fixation on “look how powerful we are, we can destroy the world” or “it’s all going to crash, so let’s party now” and is twisted thinking that doesn’t lead anywhere productive. If I think “oh they’ll run out of resources to do X”, then I can sleep at night and go on with my life. But what if they don’t run out of X that they need to do things like digital ID, more vaccines, more war, and other forms of suffering? There’s just been so much suffering and no one really wants to talk about it (present company excluded).

    One thing that is very clear to me now is there are powerful people who want to do horrible things to people using force and nothing is going to stop them. And the reality is they’ve done those things to people around the world for decades and although I protested it (yes in the streets with exercise), if I really honest, I didn’t really think my yelling about was going to change anything. And I certainly never thought they would do it here. I really bought into the narrative of America is special etc.

    The acceleration in so many areas – and I agree with Toynbee that this is what happens at the end of a civilization as they try furiously to get control of the fall down – is truly frightening, and is this belief in the crash of it all just a form of coping with the ugliness?

    How do we know what we see is real and we aren’t fooling ourselves?

  265. JMG,

    We have discussed this before here, but it’s worth repeating. Financial gimmickry played a big role in helping the society pretend, for a little while longer, that energy is still cheap and abundant. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the US abandoning the gold standard, the beginning of the explosion of both government consumer debt, and the start of the deregulation of banking all happened around the decade the USA hit Peak oil.

    The abandoning of the Gold standard effectively helped the USA to start debasing the dollar. You could print as much dollars as you want, and the other party still had to pretend that a Gold-backed dollar was worth as much as a Paper dollar. When you add the expansion of cheap credit, it allows you to borrow from the future income, and bring forward some of the future consumption to the present. Because the USA held geopolitical power, it could force the other nations to accept the debased currency.

    Behind the baroque arrangement of jargon and complex trade and financial transaction arrangements, it is just a tribute system, like the one the Roman Empire employed to extract wealth from its conquered territories. All this bought Americans another three decades or so where they imported some cheap energy from the middle east, using a debased currency and a credit card, and pretend everything was just fine.

    The can only be kicked down the road so far. The debt keeps building up in the system with no way to pay it off. Maintaining the consumption at the same level needs ever increasing amounts of debt to be created out of thin air, which debases the dollar even more. Other countries saw through the unfair currency arrangement and started to slowly get away from it in a variety of ways. So here we are.

    Something else struck me. The EU currency and monetary arrangement was a poor man’s version of the US-led financial hegemonic arrangement. Germany and the Northern European countries tried to use it to extract wealth from their poorer neighbors to the south and the the east. Not surprisingly, it is coming apart so quickly.

  266. For all those still clinging to EV dreams…

    The amount of lithium needed for backing up one large 1000 MW modern coal plant for 100 hours would require 32,000 tons of lithium. In 2018, the global production of lithium was 62,000 tons. So it would take more than half a year’s worldwide production of lithium to back up a single large coal plant.

  267. Good comments here. I’m replying to the one that reads
    skintick says:
    #274. September 24, 2022 at 5:55 am

    “When the “goldilocks” producers go bust they just walk away from all the environmental ruination, having never adequately included the clean-up costs as part of the overall budget.”

    I work for the State of New Mexico as my “hobby.” I think of my inner and personal spiritual work as my actual job. Heck, I’m old enough to make that claim, I think. Anyway, one of the things I lately had to do was ensure that the state’s price agreement for mining companies prepared to handled abandoned oil wells remained fully in place. There was some urgency about it. I had thought that what you said might well be the reason, now I’m sure of it. Multiply what happens in my small state (admittedly rather larger in the oil industry than many states, but still…) by all the places where fracking has taken place, is taking place, and you’ve got a lot of “abandoned oil wells” for someone to deal with.

  268. Yorkshire, small modular reactors have been being chattered about for decades now. I’m not sure why nobody seems to have gotten into building them; my guess is that once you get past the rhetoric and try to pencil out the cost/benefit ratio, the results are even uglier than they are with ordinary nukes.

    Skintnick, no argument there. Fracking’s another thing that’s propped up by subsidies — in this case, nearly free credit manufactured by spinning the presses — and it only stays in business because, first, it’s politically useful to draw down the last of our oil and gas in a hurry, and second, most of the costs are being shoved off on the future.

    Yorkshire, also a good point.

    Quos Ego, since I was trying to respond briefly, I didn’t go into the details. The “gross underinvestment” is another way of saying that maintenance costs for EDF were far higher than they were budgeted to be, and the corrosion is another side of the same thing — replacement of failing components is part of a normal maintenance budget, after all. As for selling electricity below market rates, electricity isn’t cheap in Europe, so what you’re saying here is that EDF’s costs to produce electricity were much higher than the market would bear.

    Reese, ha! Very true.

    Viduraawakened, that was a satiric comment. That said, I’ve believed for many years that the Atlantis legend is a distant folk memory of the collapse of a global civilization at the end of the last ice age.

    Chris, one could definitely spin that in any number of directions!

    Denis, that’s a good thing to reflect on now and again. Mind you, it’s not as though decline isn’t happening around us right now…

    Anonymous, yes, and it’s good to keep that in mind.

    Troy, yep. Thanks for this.

  269. Dear JMG, thank you for your response, those are all good points.

    Dear PLK, you nailed it!

    Dear Viduraawakened, thank you so much for the response! That is so fascinating and a great story, but not quite surprising to me. Given the many thousands of years of continuous traditions in India, I would be more startled if some of the traditional hymns _didn’t_ contain precise mathematical information easily decoded with the right key.

  270. Hmmm..
    “You should remember that EDF made a profit 17 years out of 19 since 2005”. How many of those years did it have government subsidies? I’m sure in France they are not like the U.S. of A, where we encourage corporations to privatize profits and socialize losses , right?

    Another data point on peak internet, the cooks and bakers in my family have gone back to using cook books. At one time they would just look up recipes on the web and if they had to scroll through an add, Okay. But now if you go to many sites you are completely high-jacked and get trapped. So they went back to books 😁
    Used to be just Candace, but someone else has been using that handle recently.

  271. @JMG:
    “As for selling electricity below market rates, electricity isn’t cheap in Europe, so what you’re saying here is that EDF’s costs to produce electricity were much higher than the market would bear.”

    Hmm, that’s not it. The state forced EDF to do so to prevent the bills of individual consummers to skyrocket in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian context. And they haven’t.
    The nationalisation of EDF is a protectionist measure before it is an indictment of nuclear power, and I dont believe it constitutes proof one way or the other. As I mentioned in my previous post, EDF has netted a profit 17 years out of 19 since 2005, and I don’t think it should be discounted either.

  272. I sometimes think that antiseptic and Band-Aids have saved more lives than all the doctors put together. As someone who gets plenty of cuts and scratches while gardening and doing odd jobs around the place, I go through a lot of the stuff, and fortunately have never got a serious infection. I hope that the knowledge and materials for treating wounds make it through the collapse, because we’ll undoubtedly be doing a lot more manual work in the future.

  273. Ben – fair enough. Here in a city of 2 millions, e-scooters are dangerous toys that incite all kinds of people to dangerous behaviour on the sidewalk (riding way too fast, sometimes watching their smartphones at the same time), and then they are dumped anywhere on the road, blocking the way for wheelchair users and baby buggies. In terms of safety, they can’t compare to a bicycle, and often enough they end up in kids’ throwing contests. The waether here can be hot in summer, but in winter your hands might freeze on the scooter, while biking with your own muscles keeps you warm. Not that tourists would be aware of that. So, you’re right, theu might be a good solution for some people where you live, but I’m far from sure those gadgets will save the world!

  274. @Ben: calraification – I was talking about “free” rental scooter provided by the city government as part of their saving the world.

  275. Out local news was pimping an electric fire truck last night.No mention of the cost of the battery for a a vehicle that big, or how far it might go on a charge, but the actress—I mean, the reporter—displayed the proper girlish enthusiasm for the wonder she beheld.

  276. JMG (no 287) “I’ve believed for many years that the Atlantis legend is a distant folk memory of the collapse of a global civilization at the end of the last ice age.”

    What level of industry do you think they had? For example, if they used oil, you’d think all the “easy oil” would have been depleted before our own era.

    What do you mean by “global”? Like, along the Atlantic seacoasts on both sides?

    I’m interested in the William Ryan-Walter Pittman theory of the Black Sea deluge, which is a bit later but still end-of-ice-age related. Not so much for the mythic resonances with Noah and Atlantis, but for the role a hypothetical large, settled civilization there might have played in the spread of agriculture and Indo-European languages. (There was another in the Tarim Basin, hence the mummies.)

    I suppose you’ve seen Joscelyn Godwin’s book on Atlantis…?

    ————————-

    Chris at Fernglade Farm (no. 282), viduraawakened (no. 280), I remember Edgar Cayce talking about Atlantean crystals (one of which was called the “Firestone”). His version of Atlantis also had dinosaurs in it! There might be an earlier source for the Atlantean crystal stuff (maybe Philos the Tibetan?), but I’d have to look it up.

    Speaking of dinosaurs, I always thought the Godzilla movies missed a bet by not having Atlantis be the origin of all the monsters.That could explain all the weird features of Godzilla et al., that don’t make any sense from an evolutionary standpoint (like fire-breathing). They were bred / genetically engineered for warfare with the Lemurians! Maybe there was another monster that shot a freezing-ray out of his eyes or something, and that’s how Godzilla got frozen into suspended animation. They probably had whole hatcheries full of little Godzookys!

    —————————-

    Darkest Yorkshire (no. 275): Every state has different laws.

    —————————-

    JillN (no 271), you are most welcome! As a fan of the Chopra Mahabharat TV series, I was thrilled to see articles on both mace-fighting, and how to grow those dapper mustaches! They’ll make a man out of me yet…

    —————————-

    info (no. 271), I think

    the Manosphere : sexism = white nationalism : racism

    …but do feel sorry for a lot of them. (Some are just grifters and predators, though.) I do blame technology, at least in part–both for taking them away from social contexts that might encourage them to grow out of this behavior (I’m thinking primarily of younger men here–I’ve had students like this), and also for putting them in touch with toxic people and ideas that they come to identify with. Jordan Peterson is actually an excellent guru / coach for this generation. (“The Art of Manliness” would do them good too!) A lot of the older participants have obviously been traumatized by a bad divorce, and taken to blaming women in general. It’s hard to read them without trying to diagnose them!

  277. Hi John Michael,

    It’s a fun topic, that’s for sure. 🙂

    I watched the peak oil movement die too. Possibly, it was one thing to discuss the idea in an abstract sense, and another entirely different feeling to experience the implications in the flesh, especially after 2005 and later, when the numbers were in. Dunno, because the underlying concept was and still is sound. It’s not even a complicated idea: Err, keep using the stuff, and eventually we’ll run short, then run out. Most people can grasp that concept, and have first-hand experience with it.

    The climate change rhetoric on the other hand keeps getting pushed back. It wasn’t that long ago when 2030 seemed to be the big bang year. Then as the year approached, the dates quietly slipped out to 2050, and the even more remote 2100. I’ve noticed with people that as long as the concern remains as an abstraction, they seem pretty good with that. Whaddya mean I can’t fly to Europe this year? Mate, their actions tell me all I need to know.

    And the stupid thing is that it probably is a bad idea to dig up all those minerals and chuck them into the atmosphere.

    The real joke of it all, is that peak oil will set hard limits on climate change. How could it not? But what a mess.

    Cheers

    Chris

  278. We were vendors at the Harvest of the Arts in Carlisle, PA today.

    Two customers stood out.

    The 40-something woman who insisted solar power would save us all. (She didn’t buy a book).

    The young couple near the end of the show who told us about their cutting back, using less, living low lifestyle. (They bought two books including Fed, Safe, and Sheltered).

  279. Hey JMG

    This essay has reminded me of some of my own counter-arguments I’ve had, though have not really bothered saying yet, to a family member of mine who believes in the common “mainstream conspiracy theory” that a lot of people use to explain away the failure of green energy to fulfill its promises, which is that oil companies use their economic and political influence to interfere with renewable technology development.

    Firstly, if it is true that renewable are capable of providing as much energy as fossil fuels then there is no reason for any country to act more favourably to fossil fuels, or to tolerate the FF industry manipulating it and society for its gain, since it is energy that actually allows people to do work such as building, industry, weapons, ect. Whether it is from renewable or FF should be irrelevant so long as it is capable of providing sufficient amounts of it.

    Secondly, there are immense military advantages to renewables since there are little or no ways to interfere with it logistically compared to FF.
    An enemy can block fuel supplies, but they can’t block sun or wind. I doubt any government would play along with the FF industry preventing them possessing such a powerful asset.

    Thirdly, even if you assume that the FF industry is successfully preventing renewable development in America by manipulating its government, there are many other countries that would not have that issue. Also, if you think that the FF industry would use the American government to force other countries to play along then this would still stand since there are many countries that both wouldn’t care much about what America wants and could defend themselves if America tried to use force. Japan and china are good examples since they both have some level of animosity towards America, are patriotic enough that they wouldn’t tolerate traitors and spies working for the FF industry, desire energy independence and are technologically capable.

    Fourthly, even if the FF industry found itself no longer needed for energy they would still be valuable for plastic and chemical production, and would still possess a fair amount of economic influence.

  280. > If you’ve been wondering, dear reader, why the Green Party in Germany stopped being a bunch of peaceniks and is currently breathing threats of all-out war at Russia, there’s a very simple reason for it. Vladimir Putin has proved to the world that the German Energiewende was nothing more than an empty façade. I don’t imagine German environmentalists will ever forgive him for that.

    unfortunately it’s worse than that, those Green Parties haven’t been “pro peace” for a very long time, they have been for at least 2 or so decades, the willing lackeys of the corporate and political establishment, and great cheerleaders for “wars for democracy” and anything else their State Department friends suggested

    one reason is that those parties were never real political parties, with a solid popular grassroots core or old-style ideological consistency, whether conservative or even traditional leftist (as the latter in western europe has historically meant a lot deeper things that mere US-Democrat-party style politics or Stalinism)

    instead those green parties were apolitical opportunists, who grew out of the 70s and 80s enviromental movement, and started getting into politics with some fuzzy touchy-feely ideas in favor of the environment. well, they soon discovered how well paying a career in politics and mingling with those in power can be, and they quickly became shills for corporate interests, pushing various subsidied plans for wind, solar and co, and some even getting a liking to nuclear power. they also quickly sold to the higest bidders, which are corporations and the usual geopolitical interests…

  281. I have to say that even today ,if you choose to live a more rational life you will be shunned by society as a whole ,I live in a tiny house converted from 1930s milk house ,and I am called a loser by my mother and my sister says it’s a shack ,nevermind that my sister and husband both work to buy propane for a standard 2 story house ,I must say I feel desperately lonely ,I feel like fighting a literal ocean of insanity …..I just don’t know anymore .

  282. Quos Ego, are you factoring government subsidies into those profit figures?

    Martin, fortunately there are antiseptics that are quite easy to make. I hope enough people remember how!

    Your Kittenship, and how long does it have to sit around charging between runs? That could be a problem if you have two fires close together…

    Bei, occult tradition has it that in the Atlantean age the various civilized nations had a relatively high level of technology but it was strictly limited to the priesthoods and the upper class; the vast majority of the population lived in what we would consider a relatively primitive mode, supporting themselves via food production (a complex mixture of intensive gardening, gathering from managed ecosystems, and meat harvesting from semidomesticated animal herds) and handicrafts. So you had a much stronger contrast between the elite technologies and the ordinary way of life of the common people than we have now. My working hypothesis is that the Atlanteans didn’t know how to use coal or oil — the fact that shallow, easily accessible reserves of both were available at the dawn of the modern era proves that, as you’ve indicated — and that that’s why their technologies were purely an elite thing, like literacy among the Maya or the Mycenean culture.

    By “global” I mean that there were relatively civilized communities in various regions around the globe, linked by maritime trade and quite possibly a long-distance means of communication; there were certainly urban centers on what were then both sides of the Atlantic (and is now part of the continental shelf), various parts of the Mediterranean littoral, and coastal regions of south and east Asia now a couple of hundred feet under water. Up on what’s now dry land in Eurasia and North America, the weather was by and large too cold and dry for large communities, and those regions were mostly left to nomadic hunter-herders of semidomesticated herds, rather like the Lapps in early modern times, who traded with the urban centers but otherwise followed their own traditions. It was a very different kind of global civilization, without anything like the modern notion that everyone in the world should live the way we do.

    And yes, I’ve read Godwin’s book, several times. He’s always worth reading.

    Chris, I sometimes think that the reason so many people dropped peak oil like a hot rock is precisely that it puts hard limits on climate change. Once climate change started getting all the funding and publicity from our corporate overlords, peak oil became unfashionable in a hurry, and I watched quite a few former peakistas turn on a dime and start preaching the climate change gospel; it was very clear that what mattered to them was favorable attention from their masters.

    Teresa, two worthwhile data points!

    J.L.Mc12, the fossil fuel companies have invested heavily in green technology and would have made a mint off wind turbines and solar PV if those really were viable. Most people who blame the fossil fuel companies aren’t aware of that…

    European Reader, ouch. That’s really sad to hear.

    Gusgus, many of us have been through the same thing. Hang in there! Your tiny house is a smart investment in a sane future; join the conversations here and elsewhere where people get it, and ignore your family’s clueless comments.

  283. For decades Don Lancaster has been saying that solar cells are a net energy sink, and that solar would need to be 25 cents a watt hour to actually be worth while. Solar seems to be almost low enough to be break even, but then I saw the following headline: “Biden lifts tariff on slave labor solar panels”, and wondered if we really are at the break even point, or it’s just a loss leader by the Chinese.

  284. J.I. Mc12 #299: The thing about renewable energy is that if it were viable, the fossil fuel industry would be investing in it rather than suppressing it. You’ll note that the overwhelming majority of “green energy” funding comes from public coffers, not from Fortune 50 corporations. If they thought that wind and solar energy could replace oil they’d start selling windmills and solar panels.

    Another thing about conspiracy theories is they generally involve a very powerful and very evil organization pulling the strings behind the scenes. The oil industry certainly has lots of money and can go on the attack when individuals start threatening the bottom line. (Steven Donziger knows a thing or two about that). But suppressing technology in a global market rarely works for long. If solar power were a viable replacement for our current system, other countries without their own oil would have put it into widespread use decades ago.

    The biggest thing stopping the widespread development of green energy is not the oil industry, it’s the laws of thermodynamics.

    As the clerisy continues to plumb ever lower depths of idiocy, I can see why many find conspiracy theory so comforting. A world is ruled by smart but evil men is far less frightening than a world run by clueless morons.

    Unfortunately, more often than not those extended narratives linking the Bilderbergers, Trilateral Commission, Freemasons, Vatican bankers, Zionist hoodlums, and reptile aliens from Sirius never get around to actually fighting the conspiracy. Either the narrative comes with a “Plan” you’re supposed to trust, or the act of “exposing” the conspiracy becomes an end in itself.

  285. @ European Reader and others

    This is a story that I like telling cos it involves my home country. It sounds like you know the history, but for those who don’t, the name of the Greens political party in Europe and elsewhere was inspired by the “green bans” here in Australia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_ban

    The green bans were run through the unions and local community groups. They were aimed at preserving heritage buildings, parks and bushland from real estate development. The unions, at that time, still had the power to stop development via strike action.

    Here in Australia, the movement was led by a union leader named Jack Mundey. He was kicked out of the union by another union leader who, surprise surprise, was later found to be in the pocket of real estate developers.

    So, yes, it was business as usual in politics. The leaders who could be bought out were and those who couldn’t were removed by other means. Divide and conquer.

  286. JMG (no. 302) “occult tradition has it that in the Atlantean age the various civilized nations had a relatively high level of technology but it was strictly limited to the priesthoods and the upper class… My working hypothesis is that the Atlanteans didn’t know how to use coal or oil…”

    What kind of technology are we talking about, then? Indoor plumbing? (Other ancient civilizations had that.) Radio?

  287. “As for the Thwaites Glacier, I want to see if it actually happens; climate change activists have rather a reputation for crying wolf at this point”

    That was something I forgot to mention, so thank you for that. The green Prince of hypocrisy, Al Gore, did say that New York would be underwater by 2020. Yes that town is starting to see the beginning issues, particularly with the subway system, but it was completely over blown.

  288. JMG, for the last several days the site has been cutting off the bottom 2/3 of what I type—thus the unusually large number of typos.

    Also, can anyone provide some antiseptic recipes?

  289. @Chris in regards to folks dropping peak oil. There is also a big sector of people who see peak oil and see that it completely cancels out their idea of a future of progress and of lower classes getting all the same goodies that the upper classes promised them. A lot of the socialist types are betting big on a future of plenty for all.

    In admitting peak oil is a thing, they have to admit that they will have to take the hard path. It is easier to deny it, sweep it under the rug. Our of sight, out of mind. But as the saying goes, ignorance is bliss but it’s consequences are dyer.

  290. @JMG Quos Ego

    This thing on Nuclear “profit” is easily explained I think, Quos Ego says they had a profit 17 out of 19 years. That just means all the capitol expenditures where written off in the first 2 years. That does not mean that they have had an overall profit. Also, since they are down due to the metal degradation, they did not have maintanance done, and they have yet to be decommissioned, which is exceedingly expensive. I note that they are about to be “nationalized” right at the time they need upkeep and/or decommissioning ! So, sure, I bet that if the costs of building the plant and starting it up and decommissioning are not included, that nuclear at the high electric rate of Europe would show break even or small profit !

  291. @Princess Cutekitten #309

    You can get quite a long way with white distilled vinegar which is around 5% acetic acid IIRC or brine solutions. Breweries often use something called peracetic acid which you buy in concentrated form and carefully dilute. It’s a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid and it breaks down rapidly into plain water and ascetic acid but clobbers all the microorganisms it comes into contact with first. Then there is hypochlorous acid which you can make by running a charge through a weak brine. You can get machines to do this but the cheap ones from china are not very good, and the ones which are good can be quite expensive.

    None of these are any good for disinfecting wounds btw. Vinegar is the one I use regularly when making cheese, and if there are any cuts on my hands I generally regret it. It is a good practical choice for cleaning and sanitising food preparation areas and tools though.

  292. Hello JMG, I spoke to you several years back at the AOL conference in PA (Thanks for the shot of Wild Turkey). We have both been on a long and winding road since the seventies when we noted that ” somethings not right here”. When I hear people speak of the predicaments of our time and offer solutions I am struck by how very few will speak plainly about the matter. I have never heard an elected official say that “We can have a civilization without fossil fuels, but we can not have THIS civilization without fossil fuels. Previous civilizations, before 1750, used a combination of wind, water power, draft animals, and human ( usually slave) labor for their energy needs. I have heard plenty of people calling for change, but are not willing to change, believing that we cam merrily go on with BAU without confronting this problem.
    I admire your ability to cut through the happy talkers and doomsayers to get to the crux of the biscut.

  293. A family that rebuilt their home after the fire here just posted an update, they are very happy that they are “using” less electricity than comparable homes on the power company chart for their home. But, they realy are not.

    First, they realy did choose a good building method, for those that can afford it, they built a net zero house. The house had each wall and ceiling panels built to size in a shop then a large truck and crane brings them here and connects together. That means the walls can be built to tighter tolerances. The walls are R35, 10 inches thick of compressed cellulose ( recycled paper) covered in some type of plastic wrap on both sides. The wood framing is not contiguous so no conduction path for heat. Ceilings more insulated. Our climate here is considered fairly mild. Dont know if double or triple paned windows. Air to air heat exchanger. But, they also put in all the new stylish all electric house appliances. Their house that burnt down did not have air conditioning prior to the fire, the new house does as it is air connected heat pump heat/air conditioning, just set to one temp. The bathroom fans are always on at a low set speed then higher when in use, etc…

    So, he says the house is very quiet and comfortable, which is nice. the high insulation is a good thing. He posted the 2 high summer chart points showing them using many hundreds of kWh less a month than a comparable home. Then I asked if the installed solar electric and how large. 8.6kW of panels ! That is a large system (8.6kWx5hrsx30days is 1290kWh for the month. But the summer days are longer than that, so I bet about 2000 kWh were produced in each of the months he showed the charts of July and August). They also have at least one electric car, I dont know if the other is gas. They are absolutely using much more electricity than the average house in reality. Most houses here do not have air conditioning or electric cars, but but it is becoming more common. As well as whole house generators connected directly to a very large propane tank. Ironically, most houses around here, not just theirs are using more power it keeps increasing ! Expectations are MUCH higher on constant comfort each passing year it seems. This family has not been there for a winter yet, as they just moved in a couple months ago, to see how much power the heat uses. Relatively speaking, it should not be too bad considering the insulation and air sealing. But, houses here are typically heated with the abundant wood or with propane, both of which are alot less expensive than electricity rates.

    1290kWh a month of electricity at a minimum would cost $516/month at .4/kWh, but some of that amount is tier 2 and some of it would be at peak times, so some amount of that would realy be at .49 or higher. California is playing the game of high rates to give subsidies for solar and batteries. The point is, most families here would not be paying over $500/month electric bills in the summer, and the propane for their cooking and water heating would not be much. Anyway, they have it so it pencils out as a money savings for the clerisy to put in solar, $50,000 for the system amoritaized over 20 years is $208/month, new connection fee from teh power company of $80/month to connect a system of that size to the grid, looks to that family like. well, $288 total bill for house and car power.

    But, they are amandating it for ALL houses. Most people cannot afford this, Governor just vetoed the bill, he didnt sign it, that would have exempted the fire rebuilds from the solar requirement ! Most of the fire rebuilds are not the clerisy.

    California is now importing 33% of our power, this has been increasing, we are actually less energy independent.

    The natural gas power plant in this county was closed by the power company and the site is being used for large scale battery storage. So far, there have been 3 battery fires, in 2 years. ( Moss Landing California) There are 2 separate battery set ups there. The first one has been in operation 2 years and has had 2 fires. The second one went on line last april and had a fire last week. Looks like 1 fire a year is the average. The whole thing does not burn down, just one battery bank each time. I think we are getting more air pollution from these chemicals burning than the very clean burning natural gas generation we used to have. BUt California thinks alot of battery banks can replace a power plant

  294. JMG, Quos Ego’s assertion that the French Nuclear industry showed a profit in certain years is only true if you know and understand the accounting involved. Determining profit from long-lived capital intensive, high maintenance systems with high retirement costs is tricky and open to interpretation. If one looks at a given nuclear plant and determines profit by saying this is this years share of the capital cost of the plant , this years operating expenses and this years maintenance costs then it could show a “book” profit in any number of years at the beginning or middle of a plant or systems service life. But if one evens out and ” accrues” the costs for the entire life cycle of the plant or system over the number of years in operation that profit may quickly turn to a loss. While I am not privy to the French Nuclear industries accounting I would guess that for public consumption they assume the longest possible service life, the most optimistic maintenance costs for the future and little or no decommissioning costs along with leaving out the costs of disposing of spent fuel which they have been stashing in ponds on site. My wife is something of an expert on this type of accounting when applied to municipal sewage systems and wastewater treatment plants ( which have 50 year service lives). Most municipal governments use the same over-optimistic accounting I am accusing the French Nuclear Agency of using and then find they can not afford to keep these systems running when they get older and have to go begging to the voters for a bond measure because they collected too little revenue over the life of the asset to pay for its upkeep and replacement. A system that can not afford to maintain or replace itself at the end of its service life without subsidies is by definition, ” not profitable.”

  295. Re: dropping peak oil for climate change

    I concur with Michael Gray (#310). The climate-change narrative allows for continued anthropolatry and for whatever actions we take to mitigate it (or ostensibly to mitigate it) to be seen as progress. It meshes well with the progress narrative: “In the evil past, people burned fossil fuels for industrialization. This was better than the pre-industrial eviler past, of course, but we enlightened folk of the present now know this is seriously bad for the environment. We CHOOSE, of our own will, to stop burning them and to invest in ‘green’ energy instead.”

    And, of course, there ARE ecological consequences, which helps. Peak oil nullifies the more apocalyptic end of the climate-change predictions – you can’t have the “business as usual” model results when peak oil puts paid to business-as-usual – but there will still be evident and disruptive cilmate change, which would both seem to vindicate and galvanize them, and the apocalyptica is (ideally) still far enough into the future that its failure to materialize will be a moot point by the time that future actually rolls around.

    A peak oil narrative doesn’t do that, though. You’d still encounter peak oil even if there was absolutely no environmental effect from fossil fuel consumption at all, because it’s based on thermodynamic realities that don’t care about what we think. There’s no “we” here, nothing that can really be cast as progress here.

  296. Gusgus 2021,
    that is pretty nasty of your mother.

    Do you have some like-minded friends, or a different family member you can find fellowship/strength with? Even just having one person in your life who understands can make such a difference.

  297. Bradley, do you happen to have a link to Lancaster’s arguments? That strikes me as worth looking into.

    Quos Ego, outright cash subsidies are officially illegal. That simply requires governments to use any of a hundred convenient workarounds to subsidize their industries, as of course they all do. That said, thank you for the link; I’ll add it to my collection of sources and assess its claims.

    Bei, it’s been ten thousand years, so it’s hard to say! They clearly had some way to determine accurate longitude — the maps Charles Hapgood discusses in Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings demonstrate that clearly enough. They clearly had effective maritime technologies for travel and exploration, ditto. There’s good reason to think they had some form of non-fire-based indoor lighting, type unknown. They may well have had something more or less corresponding to modern radio; they may also have had some form of functioning aircraft. Beyond that? Your guess is as good as mine. (Though it’s quite reasonable to suggest that they might have had indoor plumbing…)

    Michael, that’s just it. The climate change fanatics have made reasoned discussion of actual climate change all but impossible, in the same way that the apocalypse squad made reasoned discussion of actual peak oil all but impossible. New York isn’t going to be underwater in this century…but the subway system and the whole network of underground utility tunnels is going to have increasing problems with flooding, and the economic burden of rising sea levels is going to nibble away at what’s left of the city’s prosperity year after year after year.

    Your Kittenship, how odd. Have you tried using a different browser?

    River, that’s one thing I’d certainly look for.

    Mike, good to hear from you! Thank you; I figure someone has to talk plain common sense.

    River, thanks for the data points. The fine Spanish phrase sal si puedes comes to mind…

    Clay, thanks for this. I’m not familiar with the ugly mathematical details of that sort of bogus accounting, the way your wife is, but I know the principles and they’ve been applied to nuclear power six ways from Sunday since the first commercial reactor was on the drawing boards.

    Brendhelm, exactly. I’d also point out the mythic dimension. The climate change narrative is yet another version of “Look at us, we’re so almighty we can wreck the planet!” — that is to say, a rehash of the same old blather about Man the Conqueror of Nature. The peak oil narrative, by contrast, is about the limits to human power, and thus is anathema to believers in progress.

  298. Chris & JMG
    I had a friend ,now deceased, who was very involved in the climate movement, went to all the conferences, knew all the big names. He accepted the Gore version of continuing growth of fossil fuel use. When I pointed out to him that peak oil/fossil fuels in general would make their more dire global warming scenarios not play out the way they predicted, he said he didn’t care; he was going to continue as he was. He was an intelligent man and, i think, realized that I was right, but didn’t want to give up the prestige and sense of importance that his involvement had brought him. I guess this reaction is pretty common amongst academics whose life work is challenged by new information.
    Stephen

  299. Kfish #257, thank you for reassuring me that the soil below solar panels will remain agriculturally useful. As artificial fertilizer becomes more scarce we will need to cultivate extra land to make up for the drop in production per acre. You can’t eat electrons!

    We have an electric bus undergoing trials here in Cape Town. I finally got a chance to ride in it. It’s fast, with impressive acceleration for such a big, heavy thing. Not as quiet as one might think. There was a bit of a growl from somewhere. Modern diesel buses are just as quiet. And the driver stopped for no reason in a shady spot for a few minutes. My guess is the battery was overheating.

  300. I really find a lot of help from alot of blogs ,guys like Greer and Kunstler really help ,I know I am right ,but I think most people cannot even grasp the idea that all this may not go on ,I personally can tell from the stores that there are alot of empty shelves…..home depot Grocery stores etc

  301. Patricia Matthews, I am making long skirts for myself. They are, indeed, practical and comfortable. It is easy to draw a gored skirt pattern for oneself; anyone who passed HS geometry should have no difficulties.

  302. Well we know all this, and so do the heads of industry etc. These people control the flow of Capital, they basically control the trillions in savings, investments, and pension obligations as well. Part of the transition from cheap energy must incorporate the loss of these future promises and it’s that I am quickly preparing for. The rapid closure of bank branches and ATMs, the wildly overinflated stock markets, it’s all evil signs as far as I am concerned. I have a lot of money saved over the years and the “promises” I am going to hold them to so I’m getting my money out and into safe tangible instruments. Good luck to all.

  303. Gusgus @301

    Hang in there. Much of my family have (and most continue) questioned my green wizardry style actions, yet time has made a difference. They now acknowledge the empty grocery store shelves and rising energy costs. My interest in organic gardening, home cooking/preserving and skill building is more appreciated. Quitting my fine job in conventional medicine, and learning more about alternatives may well be next.

    Consider looking into master gardening or some other alternative – you may not find those who appreciate the big picture, but helpful companions with a shared interest are worthwhile.

  304. Well, it looks like the UK Labour Party who are having their annual conference at the moment, have in mind a British Energiewende! They plan to double onshore wind, treble solar panels and quadruple offshore wind which combined with nuclear, hydro and biomass will supposedly make UK electricity zero-carbon by 2030. There seems to be no explanation of what happens on dull windless days in winter – hydrogen maybe? How do they think they will work that up to supply the missing 30GW or so for several days, within 8 years? Have they not looked at the mess Germany is in and do they think the public has not noticed they are still hugely dependent on gas? That lot are the apparent alternative to the current Tories who seem determined to turn the pound to waste paper with their mad borrowing and tax cuts for the wealthy. Unfortunately, all UK banknotes are now made of plastic so they will be no use in the bathroom either.
    My own take is that in the current phase of steep decline, the UK will go down first and fastest, followed by most of Europe, then by the US.

  305. Re antiseptics, plain bar soap is a good mild antiseptic. Anyone around me who has a cut is told to let it bleed, to let the blood cleanse the area first, then to wash in soap in water. If it is an old wives’ tale I don’t want to know, thank you.

  306. @Clay Dennis:
    Of course these costs are not accounted for (externalities and future costs are never accounted for).

    I’m not saying nuclear is viable in the long run, I’m just saying that maintenance costs are only a small part of EDF’s problems: the company was netting record profits until october last year, but then it ran into technical issues, as a result couldn’t produce the amount of electricty it was committed to, had to buy some on the over-priced market to compensate, and to add insult to injury, the French government forced it to sell way under market price to protect French households.

    In a nutshell: the very partial nationalisation of EDF (as the French state already owned 84% of it) doesn’t prove much, one way or another.

  307. Owen (#173) the idea that people are “supposed to” extract buried carbon is fleshed out semi-satirically in “The Carbonist Manifesto” of 1992.

    https://www.beyondweird.com/occult/carbonmf.html

    From the intro: “It is also distinctly tongue in
    cheek, but the author has spent some serious moments wondering
    whether the belief system outlined below is any more unreasonable
    than certain “mainstream” viewpoints.”

  308. Johnny (and anyone else thinking about planting milkweed) – I planted some a few years ago, and have found it to spread vigorously. It now comes up in my neighbor’s lawn, up to a few meters from our mutual fence, and in a garden plot across a sidewalk from the original planting. (The roots grew under the sidewalk, not just the seeds having blown over it.) Transplanting a rhizome (root) was a very easy and reliable to propagate it, and I’m always delighted to see monarch butterfly larvae chewing up the leaves.

    I’ve also wondered how practical it might be to extract an adhesive from the milky sap, and/or fibers from the stalks. I’ve heard that there’s a video clip on how a man makes a bowstring from these fibers. I have crushed a few stalks and twisted the fibers into twine. I’ve also cut dry stalks and bundled them together to make a “bee hotel”, but have not determined occupancy yet. It certainly appears to be a cozy spot.

  309. Owen – regarding the potential efficiency of a “diesel tree” vs. PV panels. It’s easy to find contradictory statements. I’ve read that plants use almost all of the light energy that falls on them simply to vaporize water from the leaves, so new, nutrient-rich, water will be pulled up to replace it. You could compare a plant that makes sugar from CO2 and H2O with light against a semiconductor system that makes electricity from light. I suppose sugar could be burned to make heat to make steam to spin a turbine to make electricity, but I don’t know how to make sugar with electricity, so I’d rather have an “inefficient” system that provides what I truly need than an “efficient” system for making something that I merely desire.

  310. Bradley – In #303, I don’t think you’re using the right units, when you say that solar needs to cost less than “25 cents a Watt hour”. Electrical energy is usually measured in “kiloWh”, where 25 cents per kWh is plausible. But panel power would be measured in Watts, where 25 cents a Watt would probably be within the plausible range.

    Speaking of kWh, I’ve been informed by my electrical utility that the rate is going up 52% next month. (That’s substantially more than the overall inflation rate (8.3%), isn’t it!) And my natural gas supplier just informed me that gas for next year will be provided at $1.06 per therm, which is about 75% increase over this year’s $0.60. I predict that the Big Home Improvement chains will be running short on DIY insulation products this winter.

  311. @ pygmycory #227

    Write that book! You’d be surprised how many niche books sell to niche audiences. Don’t try for a contract with a publisher; just write it and self-publish via Print-on-demand. If you can get copies in the hands of people who need your information, even when Print-on-demand goes away, you’ve got your information available.

    I can beta-read for you. Since I know nothing about fish or aquariums, I’m the perfect idiot audience.

  312. Hi John Michael and Michael Gray,

    You know, I’m slowly coming to acceptance that in order to believe in the concept of ‘progress’, a person has to maintain an ability to disregard information which suggests that progress is an impossible goal.

    Peak oil is not a complicated idea. Pretending it isn’t a problem, now that’s complicated!

    Climate change differs in that there is no end point, and because of that it fits the narrative of progress really well. We can fight climate change, whilst also causing it. That’s complicated!

    The main problem as I see it, is that we’ve somehow become over civilised, then that is all that most people want to see. When abstractions become the preferred myth driving a society, poor decisions get made. And here we are today. It would be amusing, if it wasn’t such a great problem don’t you reckon?

    Michael. If you get the chance, you’d be welcome to come and visit with the rest of the gang later in the year. Always an enjoyable day.

    Cheers

    Chris

  313. “Walt, that seems quite reasonable. I’d note, however, that it’s one thing to have a worldwide maritime network hunting whales for whale oil, and something rather more demanding to have a worldwide trade network to get the dozens or hundreds of raw materials that go into LEDs and the other technologies needed to use them.”

    It’s so hard to tell. Maybe those exotic raw materials will be the “spices” of future trade. Or are more locally obtainable than is currently apparent in an economy geared for worldwide price competition and massive economies of scale. On the other hand if it takes centuries to run out of already-manufactured salvage LEDs, once the current manufacturers shut down and people realize how valuable they are, the knowledge probably won’t be preserved for long enough to restart production later. (I own hundreds of them, as parts of things like tools, emergency gear, and holiday decorations, without making any particular attempt to stockpile them.)

    Anyhow, that’s just one example of the general issues I was pointing to about the difficulty of prediction. Some predictions are easy: high-value low-complexity technologies (blades, canals) will persist; low-value high-complexity technologies (bread machines) will not. High-value high-intercomplexity technologies (GPS) also will not. (I stipulate “intercomplex” to mean dependent on other distinctly different complex technologies to be functional or useful.) But high-value high-complexity low-intercomplexity technologies (chainsaws) are more difficult calls. Some of them could remain or re-develop early, joining older retro-cutting-edge technologies like guns and sailing ships.

  314. Hurricane Ian is headed up the Florida peninsula as we speak. Last time, my daughter and her family evacuated to a place in Gainesville proper, one more weatherproof than their house. She was at me to pack a go-bag (on wheels, with my bad back) so I could evacuate if need be. Old-timers tell me the building I’m in, Lake House, is the safest place to be in town: if it goes, then Gainesville itself is probably in ruins. I think I’m probably more likely to see the people in Cottage Place evacuating to my building!

    Anyway, I’ll probably go silent for a few days sometime later this week if it hits here. Have stocked up on canned meats, shelf-stable milk (vanishing fast from the stores) and a bag of mandarin oranges for Vitamin C, as well as the supplies already laid in.

  315. I realized in the late 90s as I was driving to high school sitting in 12 miles of heavy traffic of the San Fernando Valley ,that I could not do it ,every bone told me to pursue skills over college ,so I learned metal work construction etc …..what’s really funny now is they are absolutely desperate for skilled trades people ,I have noticed that these days especially its slowly starting to pay off ,both with food growth and just not having to pay anyone to fix anything,.I never could explain it but I always knew somehow it’s not going on forever

  316. Hey JMG,
    Recently there was a post on r/collapse claiming that sustainable/ecotechnic societies are impossible because “unsustainable, complex societies always outcompete and conquer simpler, sustainable societies.” How would you counter this argument?

    My response was that complex and unsustainable societies are only advantageous and competitive in a context where energy is abundant, climate is stable, and resources are plentiful. Our global complex society is only possible in a world full of fossil fuels, with a stable climate, and generous amounts of resources. After fossil fuels are depleted, resources are plundered, and the climate is weirded out, the scales will be tipped in favor of simpler, sustainable societies. There will still be regional empires that will rise and fall, as there always has been, but there will also be plenty of room for sustainable, simpler societies. What do you think, John?

  317. @Brunette Gardens #327:
    I saw your comment, got interested, and thought I’d chime in; I hope you don’t mind.

    While I don’t know how reliable their numbers are, I did notice this line that strikes me as somewhat problematic even based just on what’s on that page:
    “As diet habits change to free up more grassland, green gas potential could even rise to 923.1 TWh by 2050, over double the North Sea figure.”

    Earlier on the page, however, they answered the question “Do green gas mills take vital land away from farming and food production?” with “No. The plants used to feed the green gas mills (herbal ley mixture species) don’t need agricultural land quality land to grown, so they won’t compete with food production.”.

    So… if there’s no competition with food production, exactly how are changing diets supposed to free up more land for gas production? What I’m guessing they’re implying is people shifting from meat to plant-based “meat”, but, uh… where are the plants to make the fake meat out of supposed to come from? And, of course, as I understand it, the UK _already_ doesn’t produce enough food for its population and has to import.

    What I’d guess we have here is a _technologically_ viable system, one that might indeed have some genuine use in the future on a smaller scale — but simultaneously a system that can’t actually be scaled up to do anything near what they’re proposing to do with it without massive negative consequences elsewhere.

  318. “Quos Ego, I don’t see Putin as a master chess player. He has a very cautious streak, a habit of using minimal force and going slow when a far more forceful approach would be more effective.”

    Am with you on this one JMG. For mine, it harks back a little to Putin’s ham fisted handling of the sinking of the Kursk. Too many people tend to think Russia= Putin, and the media encourages that. He is a dour little ex KGB intell officer, and there are plenty of other players behind the scenes, (including lots of other dour ex KGB officers, lol). I guess the Prezdent of ‘Murrica would be a lot more cautious too, if the war was being fought in Mexico. As for the Eurocrats, they seem like brain dead gamblers with nothing left to lose, as last drinks are being called at the bar.

    For a more realistic insight into the dynamics of the current Russian Federation and its leadership cadres, thismis the best academic piece I have yet come across, by a chap called Aldo Ferrari in 2016 ..

    https://www.ispionline.it/sites/default/files/pubblicazioni/putins.russia_ebook_0.pdf

    Reality is predictably far more complex than cookie cutter western caricatures allow..Attempts to equate it with white nationalist anti woke are even more laughable, it is one of the most ethnically and religously diverse political entities on the planet. Their only crime is that they are sittng on all that oil and gas which could potentially give the magical kingdom of Tomorrowland another kick along for a good fifty yeare or more, maybe,

  319. “ I think it is very unlikely that there are NATO troops fighting in Ukraine. It seems that would be a very hard fact to conceal, especially once a few get killed or seriously injured. If anybody has a link to credible evidence of this, please provide it. I am willing to be surprised, but until then it is just a conspiracy theory or Russian propoganda.”

    Phil, I think most of the backfilling would be done by mercenary groups like Blackwater, Dyncorp and Mozart. Billions of dollars of arms are streaming in from the west though, and their satellite, comms and intell are also being supplied.

    If caught, any embeds would be wearing Ukrainian uniforms, and one would suppose that Russia would need to think very carefully before outing them for fear of escalation at innopportune times. You seem sceptical of the facts regarding the extent of western NATO involvement. Let me clear this up for you, they are “all in” mate.

  320. Brunette Gardens #327, I’m a customer of Ecotricity and I’ve been giving gas mills the side eye for years. In all the illlustrations and the model they have at headquarters I see a lot of diesel engines. Combine harvesters and tractors harvesting the grass and taking it to the digester, front-loaders moving the feedstock around the site. Of course it could all work out fine. But the fact they’ve never suggested what the net energy or EROEI is like, gives me pause.

  321. @ Bofur,

    Hi Bofur, thanks!

    @ Chris

    Hi Chris, thanks for the information! I’m still early in all this so appreciate your insight. Luckily we haven’t had a major problem with animals, or at least in a way that was meaningful to us. Our produce is just a bonus at the moment, I’m trying to get the hang of it, relatively, so that hopefully we are in a decent state with/if it becomes essential, and hopefully whatever basic practical knowledge I can glean on the subject can be passed along to my kids.

    I like Australians too for what it’s worth!

    @ Patricia

    Hi Patricia, thanks for the stories! We had a tomato hornworm this year which ate all the leaves off one of my plants, and just looked so cool I took the kids out there to see it (the plant looked kind of cool too stripped to it’s stalks. Never saw what it turned into, but I gathered later that this was another pest I was supposed mobilize against. Fortunately round here we’ve got more tomato plants than we know what to do with.

    @ Lathechuck

    Hi Lathechuck, I know it’s a big spreader. We already have trumpet vines, mint and Virginia creeper (and British Ivy) that are all big spreaders and grow similarly so I figured it’d be OK. I rarely weed, but I do have to deal with some of my perennials and some from people before us. Our neighbours on one side are renters and already have our trumpet vines and bamboo inherited. On the other side the guy removed his lawn and replaced it with rocks, so as of the moment nothing grows there aside from his trees, but nature tirelessly works to rectify that – should be entertaining in a few years. Speaking of which, perhaps I’ll wish I heeded your warning at that time – so stay tuned =).

    Thanks for the bee hotel idea too! I think my bamboo is too narrow for that, although I did try some, so we’ll see, so I’ve been recycling other things into them. I’ll try your suggesting if I get any next year.

    Thanks,
    Johnny

  322. Brunette Gardens #327: I gave that website a gander, and this jumped out at me.

    “The UK has 6.46 million hectares of suitable grassland, which is enough for around 5,400 green gas mills. This would provide up to 236.5 TWh capacity – enough energy to heat 98.8% of British homes if they’re made energy efficient.

    This assumes green gas mills with approximately 5MW capacity, requiring 1200 hectares of land each in line with current technology.”

    According to this calculation we could heat 98.8% of British homes “if we made them energy-efficient.” I’d want to know what was involved in making them energy-efficient, and what those figures looked like for current British homes. But let’s keep exploring this claim.

    To power these homes on methane with “green gas mills,” we would need to use EVERY hectare of suitable grassland. And it appears that an average gas mill provides 5 megawatts, which I am guessing is its peak rating, not its average capacity, which is generally 50-75% of the peak rating.

    Here’s an article explaining megawatts from an American power company
    https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1209/ML120960701.pdf

    I quote:

    “Going through the math, a 1,000 megawatt rated coal generator with a 75 percent capacity factor generates about 6.6 billion kWhs in a year, equivalent to the amount of power consumed by about 900,000 homes in the Northeast but only 460,000 homes in the South.”

    Using this math, and the more generous Northeast rating, a single gas generator with a 75% capacity factor could take care of around 4,500 British homes. So this idea might work for powering a small town that had 1,200 spare hectares of grassland to dedicate to methane production. But I don’t see any way it scales up to power London.

    I have no idea of what waste products are produced by this methane generation plan, so I cannot comment on any environmental impact or lack thereof. But as a matter of scale this plan is dead in the water.

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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