Not the Monthly Post

Waiting for the Next Panic

When I first started blogging more than thirteen years ago, the main focus of my online essays was peak oil. It was a good time to discuss such things. The price of crude oil, which had been rattling around a little above its all-time lows for more than a decade, started rising not long after the turn of the millennium. The corporate media yammered endlessly about how that was just a temporary blip and it would head back down soon, but the price of oil wasn’t listening; it kept rising, slowly, raggedly, with any number of dips and lurches and vagaries, but the direction didn’t change. Those of us who read between the lines could feel the fear as pundits tried to avoid dealing with the fact that the universe was refusing to do as it was told.

What’s more, there was good reason for the fear. Starting in the late 1990s, a handful of petroleum geologists and retired oil industry insiders started going public about an awkward fact that everyone in the industry knew, but nobody was willing to discuss with outsiders: despite frantic efforts and extravagant funding, oil exploration was falling short of oil extraction. It was getting to the point that less than half as much oil was being discovered each year as was being pumped out of the ground. (Imagine that you spent more than twice as much money each year as you earned; it’s the same kind of problem.) Nor was it a matter of inadequate exploration budgets or something similar. The difficulty was something far more threatening.

Look for the pipeline.

Most of my readers have seen a picture of the Earth from space. (For those who haven’t, here’s a good example.) Take a close look and you’ll notice that there’s no pipeline from Neptune or anywhere else, to replenish the 82 million barrels of crude oil our species pumps out of the ground every single day. That’s the difficulty oil exploration was facing:  the Earth isn’t flat, so it contains a finite amount of oil, and by the late 1990s the vast majority of that oil had been discovered. There simply weren’t that many places on the planet that petroleum geologists hadn’t gone over on their hands and knees, looking for any trace of oil.

By the time I started blogging that was a serious issue.  Oil had risen past $50 a barrel—at that time, an unheard-of figure—and was still climbing. Industrial economies worldwide were creaking under the strain, because oil yields nearly all the transportation fuels that keep the global economy moving.  Worse still, other nonrenewable resources weren’t in much better shape.  All this caused a significant minority of the public to remember all those warnings of crisis from the 1970s, the last time oil prices did the same thing.  A movement—the peak oil movement, as it came to be called—gradually took shape in response to the rising cost of oil and the recognition that you can’t extract an infinite amount of anything from a finite planet.

Not our future.

There were two standard flavors of peak oil activism during the heyday of the movement, from 2008 to 2012 or so.  The first flavor insisted that as the price of oil kept going up, alternative energy sources would become more affordable, and the world’s industrial societies would finally get around to transitioning over to some other energy source.  Fans of nuclear power formed one bloc in that wing of the movement, fans of what tended to be lumped together as “renewable energy” (solar, wind, biofuels, and the like) formed another, and the two factions belabored each other with a right good will, each insisting that the other wasn’t economically viable. (For what it’s worth, the evidence suggests that they were both right.)

Then there was the other flavor, which can be described readily enough as warmed-over apocalyptic fantasy using peak oil as an excuse.  Every month or so I could count on fielding yet another claim that peak oil would bring the global economy crashing down any day now, or uleash some other kind of eschatological mayhem on the world. Here again, there were two competing blocs within that wing of the movement. The first, the straightforward survivalist bloc, feverishly stockpiled canned beans and ammo in the hope of being able to open fire on live targets sometime soon. The second, the utopian bloc, insisted with shining eyes that the total collapse of industrial civilization would inevitably usher in some much more perfect society—though of course it was hard to find any two of the people who held this opinion who agreed as to what exactly that much more perfect society would inevitably be.

Not our future either.

There were a few of us in the peak oil scene, to be fair, who didn’t buy into either the alternative-energy camp or the instant-apocalypse camp. We argued instead that the soaring price of oil would peak and then, after inflicting a great deal of damage on the global economy, decline again for a while. Part of the decline would be driven by demand destruction—the process by which people who can’t afford a resource stop buying it—and part of it would be driven by the ordinary workings of supply and demand, as soaring prices made it economical for oil companies to extract oil from low-grade deposits. We predicted that the price of oil would drop again, though it wouldn’t go as low as it had been a decade back.

We argued, furthermore, that nuclear power and renewable energy were both hopelessly uneconomical as ways to power either the electricity grid or the transport grid, the two main uses of energy in a modern industrial society, and that the grand plans for an energy transition being brandished by a range of enthusiastic activists would go precisely nowhere. Some of us even suspected, and mentioned in print, that the peak oil movement would be shoved right back out onto the fringes just as soon as energy prices started dropping again.

Those of us who proposed those things were denounced six ways from Sunday and thirteen to a dozen by the alternative-energy camp and the instant-apocalypse camp alike. For a while there, it was a common entertainment of mine to see if I could arrange to get an equal number of irate comments from both sides—say, six alternative-energy advocates insisting that I was wallowing in unjustified pessimism while six apocalypse fans chided me for groundless optimism. Ah, those were the days!  Then the price of oil turned down and kept going down, all the alternative-energy fans went off and found some other techno-bandwagon to board, all the apocalypse fans started talking about climate change instead, and those of us who had been trying to talk some basic common sense into both sides found ourselves talking to empty air.

All that might as well be ancient history at this point, except for two things. The first, of course, is that the price of oil is starting to creep up again. As I write this, depending on what grade of crude oil you’re talking about, it’s around $60 a barrel, up from around $30 at the bottom of the post-crisis lows and then again after the 2015 slump. (There was a similar double bottom between the mid-1980s and the turn of the millennium.) Those of my readers who were around for the previous version of this story already know that pundits are all over the map at this point, some insisting that the price of oil will climb further while others claim in soothing tones that of course it will decline again. Next to nobody is ready for the current slow, ragged upward ramble to turn into sudden sharp upward bounds in petroleum prices, blowing past $100 a barrel with contemptuous ease and quite possibly breaking the $200 a barrel mark before it slows, wavers, and begins to decline—but yes, that’s what we can expect at some point in the next decade or so.

My trolls are rarely this cute.

That’s one of the warning signs I’ve been tracking. The other’s a sudden shift in the online chatter and attempted trolling that comes my way, back to the alternative-energy fantasies and warmed-over apocalypses I used to field in the days of The Archdruid Report. That may seem odd, even whimsical, as an indicator, but in my experience such shifts provide a remarkably useful barometer of the collective conversation of our time.

For most of a decade, nearly all the comments I got from apocalypse fans fixated on the notion that anthropogenic climate change was sure to broil us all by next Wednesday at the latest, and most of the alternative energy wish-fulfilment fantasies I’ve fielded fixated just as rigidly on the notion that windmills and solar panels would surely save us from the well-heated broiler in question. That’s hardly been a surprise; apocalyptic beliefs are as subject to fashions as K-Pop bands, and since oil prices slumped after the 2008-2009 peak and peak oil stopped being fashionable, anthropogenic climate change has been at the top of the charts. Of course it’s had the huge advantage of lavishly funded publicity from a galaxy of corporate interests, which peak oil never had, but we’ll talk another time about how odd it is that so many self-described radical activists have bought into a protest movement that’s dominated by corporate funding and receives constant favorable publicity from the corporate media.

(Just to minimize a certain kind of confusion, I should make something clear. Anthropogenic climate change is a real and serious issue, and it’s being used to manipulate the public on behalf of some extremely dubious political and economic interests. It fascinates me that so few people seem to be able to hold these two ideas in their minds at the same time.)

As the saying goes, though, that was then and this is now. Of late I’ve started to get comments highly reminiscent of the ones I used to field back before peak oil dropped off our society’s collective radar screen. I’ve began to hear again from people who are convinced that once US shale oil reserves run down, oil production will tip into a permanent decline, the global economy will crumple, and away we go down a toboggan ride into survivalist territory. I’ve also begun to hear again from earnest individuals who are sure that abiotic oil or helium from the Moon will  solve our energy crisis once and for all.

The thing I find most striking about these claims is not that they’re being made. Nor is it that they’re being made now, when most people think that peak oil has had a stake made of shale hammered through its heart and will never rise again. It’s that they’re exactly the same claims, down to the fine details, that were being made during the last period of peak oil activism. What’s more, most of them are exactly the same claims, down to the fine details, that were being made during the energy crisis of the 1970s, when what to do about petroleum depletion was the assigned topic of debate for my high school’s debate team in the 1978-1979 school year.

It must have been peak oil.

We can discuss some other time how much this odd repetition of the same old claims has in common with Hollywood’s reboot culture, where endless rehashes of outworn franchises try and fail to make up for the fact that the studios and the screenwriters are too deep in groupthink to come up with a single original idea any more. The point that’s relevant here is that people on the fringes are starting to notice the issues around petroleum supply again. That’s worth noticing. In an era of collective mental stagnation like the present, when the cultural mainstream proclaims and enforces a rigid set of intellectual and social dogmas to which all respectable thinkers must kowtow, the fringes are the only place where changing realities have a chance of being noticed. That doesn’t mean that everything on the fringes reflects some new reality, far from it, but if you keep an ear turned toward murmurings from the fringes, tolerably often you’ll get to hear tomorrow’s news long before the officially approved pundits get around to mentioning it.

Or maybe it was Donald Trump.

With that in mind, let’s turn our gaze back to the realities of petroleum extraction—that’s usually misspelled “production” in the media, but nobody’s producing oil, they’re just extracting it from nature. Over the last decade or so, most of the growth in the world’s petroleum supply has come from a dramatic ramping up of drilling and extraction of oil and natural gas liquids from North American shale deposits. According to the most reliable figures I could find, the US currently produces 12.5 million barrels of oil a day (mbd), of which well over half comes from “tight oil”—that’s industry jargon for oil extracted from shales and other low-porosity rocks by hydrofracturing (“fracking”).  That’s up about a million barrels a day from last year, and the US government predicts that next year the figure will go up again to an average of 13.2 mbd.

Longtime readers of my blog will have noticed that this isn’t something I predicted, or expected. Like most peak oil bloggers back in the day, I assumed that shale oil extraction would be subject to ordinary economic forces, and that these would put a hard lid on the extent to which shale oil would be able to make up for declining petroleum extraction from other sources. Fracking isn’t cheap, and tight oil deposits have very high rates of depletion: where a conventional oil well can keep pumping for decades at a steady pace, fracked wells taper off very quickly, and it’s a rare shale deposit that will still pay for the costs of its upkeep ten years after it’s first drilled.

Extraction, not production.

Those of us who expected the shale oil boom to turn into a bubble and then a bust were wrong. We were wrong because we forgot the first law of petroleum: when it comes to oil, politics always trumps economics. Access to petroleum is so crucial for industrial nations, and especially for extremely wasteful industrial nations such as the United States and Canada, that all other factors get to sit in the waiting room when decisions about petroleum are made. That’s why Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, for all his environmental rhetoric, has backed a petroleum pipeline meant to get Canadian crude from the tar sands to the Pacific coast. He knows perfectly well that when push comes to shove, Canadian voters love to give the environment lip service but don’t want environmental protections to affect their lifestyles, which is why Canada is one of the only countries on Earth that uses more energy per capita than the United States.

That’s also why shale oil producers have continued to drill and pump away in blithe disregard for the fact that in terms of strict economics, their activities don’t make enough money to keep them from going broke. It doesn’t matter, because the US government sees to it that a steady stream of cheap credit makes up the difference.  Having another seven million more barrels of oil per day is important enough to the US economy that gimmicking the money system to cover it is a small price to pay, and so an unspoken bipartisan consensus supports the necessary gimmicks. That was the point that we missed back in the day, and I missed it as much as anyone.

The phrase “subsidy dumpster” comes to mind.

It’s important, in other words, to realize that all the criticisms of shale oil—valid as they are—are outweighed in practice by the hard political realities surrounding domestic US oil production. Is fracking an environmental disaster?  Of course. Are US communities going to be paying for the current fracking spree for decades to come in a galaxy of direct and indirect ways?  Sure.  Does fracking fail to make any kind of economic sense?  No question. Will the US dollar sooner or later lose the global reserve currency status that allows the virtual presses to keep on spinning, pulling dollars out of thin air to prop up an otherwise uneconomical industry? Yes—but when that folds out from under the shale industry, another gimmick will be found. (Modern political economy is a gimmick-rich environment, and finding a slush fund to prop up a business model that won’t work otherwise is child’s play these days; just ask Elon Musk.)

There are only two problems the economic gimmickry surrounding shale oil won’t solve. The first is that even with tight oil deposits producing flat out, the US doesn’t extract as much oil as it uses. That awkward fact has been ignored, finessed, and falsified so many times that it’s going to be necessary to talk hard numbers. At present, according to publicly available data, the US extracts right around 12.5 mbd of crude oil every day, 6.5 million barrels of it from tight oil. At present, according to that same data, the US consumes 20.5 mbd worth of petroleum products. Our domestic extraction is thus equal to a hair under 61% of our domestic consumption. Without shale oil, we’d only be extracting about a quarter of our domestic consumption, and the US would be twisting in the wind, its economy hemorrhaging wealth to overseas oil producers.

Obviously it would be more welcome still to American political and economic managers if extraction could be boosted even higher—to equal or even exceed consumption. The problem here, of course, is that nature isn’t cooperating. Remember that picture of the Earth from space? The same problem applies to shale oil. The US has very substantial shale oil deposits. More to the point, it had very extensive shale oil deposits, and it’s spent most of a decade drawing those down as fast as fracking technology permitted.

Remember all the shale drilling in western Pennsylvania early in this decade?  Most companies that were busy there have moved out West, because the “sweet spots” in the Pennsylvania shale fields have been drained dry and there are no good prospects there for further drilling. Again, this is one of the major differences between tight oil and conventional oil deposits. There are conventional oil wells in Pennsylvania that were drilled in the late 19th century and are still producing at a modest rate today. Fracked wells don’t have that kind of production profile. With them, it’s up with the rocket and down with the stick.

That’s the second problem with shale oil:  it runs out. As petroleum geologists like to say, depletion never sleeps.  Next year, the shale oil industry will have to find and drill enough new wells to make up for the ones that are running dry.  They’ll have to do the same thing the year after that, too, and so on into the future, until they run out of places to drill in the US.  I don’t think that’s going to happen in the next couple of years; I wouldn’t be at all surprised if US tight oil extraction rises further, to 14 or 15 mbd before it finally peaks and begins to slide.  Sooner or later, though, and almost certainly well within the next decade, it’s going to peak and start to slide, and then we’ll begin to see headlines very reminiscent of the ones we saw in 2005-2010, or for that matter in 1972-1979.

A long slow sunset.

Does that mean that the long-awaited energy transition will finally happen then, or that the global economy will get around to collapsing at last? No, we’ve been here often enough now that it’s not at all hard to predict what will happen. The price of oil will spike to jawdropping levels, dealing a body blow to the world’s economies; then demand destruction will cut in, and the sky-high oil price will make it economical for some other low-grade, high-cost oil source to be brought online and bring prices back down again. (My guess is that other countries that have substantial shale oil deposits, and sensibly held off on developing them until the US ran through its tight oil reserves, will jump on the fracking bandwagon in turn.)

The price of oil will go down, though never as low as it was before the spike, and yet another round of activists will have to go running after whatever the next fashionable cause du jour happens to be. Meanwhile, without more than a few of us noticing, the industrial world will have taken another step down that prolonged process of decline I’ve named the Long Descent.

In the meantime, while we wait for the next panic to hit, there’s a good deal that can be done, and there’ll be even more to do once the price of oil starts to climb in earnest. Before we can talk about that, though, we need to discuss what’s going on with the global climate…and what’s going to happen when the current fad for climate change activism finishes jumping the shark.


  1. “Without shale oil, we’d only be producing about a quarter of our domestic consumption”

    In other words, fracking postponed rationing.

    I won’t guess on the arrival date, I had thought Mr. Trump would preside over this, but unless he gets a second term it seems likely to be after him.

    There are no shortage of oily swans that could change the scenario. Drones flying into Saudi oil facilities is not the only potential.

    Here on the Pacific coast, almost no one has heard that the Alaska Pipeline is coming to the end of its production. Two million barrels a day in 1988, about a half million a day now. Low flow shutdown looms. That is the reason for the “ANWR” drilling but it’s never mentioned by supporters nor opponents. Musical chairs for the remaining supplies to run the refineries.

    You may remember from the ASPO USA meetings a State Senator from Connecticut who was very concerned about how to heat New England on the energy downslope. I’ve used solar PV since 1990 – it’s nice in the summer but not that helpful during blizzards. Fracked gas is also being used to heat Boston, New York, Chicago, et al., something the “100% solar!” reports conveniently ignore.

    The climate only movement is currently split into two main factions: solar and wind will power everything, and for those who see through that, building lots of nuclear reactors to boil water to spin turbines. Few are embracing relocalization, “Transition,” permaculture, degrowth, whatever term you like to represent responding to the limits to exponential growth on a round, abundant, finite planet.

  2. John–

    With respect to your observation regarding potential shale oil reserves in other countries waiting in the wings yet, what implications do you see in the nearer future for the present theatrical production we know as US hegemony? I would think–though I’m admitting using logic here, which I’ve learned is not always applicable in these situations–that once the visible dominance of shale oil production has departed US shores for another home elsewhere (China?), that the little boy whispering about a sky-clad emperor might begin to be noticed by the broader populace. Do you see an economic challenge in this manner, versus a military challenge (a la TLG), as another possible “final feather” for the US empire?

    Some relevant news links that came in today, pertinent to this week’s post:

    Energy demand growth in Asia

    Nuking the world

    Cooperation, or none of us is more foolish than all of us together

  3. Hi JMG,
    that is truly a blast from the past! I remember how naive I was, believing that governments and people would actually try to deal with the oil problem early and effect some kind of transition to post-petroleum economy. After all, 60% of oil in US is used in transportation. Just building railroads in the middle of all highways combined with making motorists actually pay for the road maintenance – that would probably be a 10% reduction in oil consumption.

    I am actually surprised how well you understand human nature. That may be another advantage of being outside looking in at some emotional thinking?

    One more comment about subsidizing oil production – at the end of the day, isn’t that equivalent to using a larger share of fossil fuels to produce fossil fuels (lower EROEI)? The only difference is that the people that benefit (rich americans) are different from the people that pay (anybody that uses inflated dollars).

    So this subsidies are probably the worst thing to do, in term of impact on poor people, future of the civilization and Earth’s ecosystems. Would that be a good rule from now on? For every problem, think about the absolute worst solution in long term impacts, and bet that TPTB will select it?
    If that is the case, I hope you will talk about (ad-hoc) geoengineering in the climate post, because that is what I expect to happen.


  4. Sign of environmental movement jumping the shark in Canada #1? Justin Trudeau marching in the ‘climate strike’. Who was he protesting? Himself?

    I like Greta Thunberg, and so much of the hate for her does seem to come from adults who can’t bear to hear children speak, but the way she is being used by political and corporate leaders is downright vile. They remind me of the worst kind of Christians, crying for forgiveness in church and whipping themselves into a frenzy, only to go out to their jobs on Monday selling beat-up used cards, sub prime mortgages, or candy flavored cancer smoke. One opinion shiller already compared her to Joan of Arc, and I think she may end up the same way.

    The spectacle continues, and meanwhile the empire continues to spiral and the outlying areas continue to dim, even if they have yet to go dark. It gets harder and harder to find public transit connecting Toronto with my hometown, and I might actually have to drive. I’m in a privileged position, and can afford the car rental, but others are already being stranded by the receding tide.

  5. JMG, I rarely disagree with your analyses. But it does seem as though climate change has the potential for truly disastrous results, at least in terms of food production, mass immigration, and war. And thus I’m puzzled by your dismissal of climate change activists–not those who see a continuation of business as usual by using renewable energy, but those who advocate for less fossil fuel use and an overall drastic decrease in energy consumption. If not that–what’s the best course?

  6. Thanks JMG. When you mentioned $200 oil barrels possibly within the next decade, that’s got to lead to a recession, right? What political gimmick can cover up that stinker of a price?

    I think the so called austerity we have now will be nothing on what’s coming. Of course Greta et al want the oil to be left in the ground not realising that’s the foundation of the nice lifestyles they enjoy..

  7. After the Saudi oil refinery was bombed, I was amused to hear everyone with a mic or a pen in the mainstream media repeating the words American Energy Independence, many of them saying we are a net-exporter; that latter statement implying that we extract more oil than we burn. Then I heard Trump say it too.

    Every time I talk to a liberal about the belief that we will transition to renewables soon, I say, renewables will never scale to make society look exactly like this one, and there is nothing particularly renewable or green about wind towers or solar panels. The response is usually something about me not having any idea what I’m talking about.

    If I say to a Republican, we wouldn’t be fracking or drilling in 10,000ft of water if oil were abundant; besides, we are 7.4 billion now, everybody wanting to live like the West; oh and BTW we have about a 7 million barrel daily shortfall in America: “Resources are abundant, America is Energy Independent.”

    I used to be someone who thought it would all come crashing down soon. Now I see that this thing we call the American Way will be clung to with every fiber of most people’s being, the remaining oil will be burnt more or less as we do until we can’t, and the renewable dream will be a bitter pill whether it is attempted or not.

    While most people dream techno utopian dreams, or dreams of imminent apocalypse, I am thinking about moving from the city to a forgotten rural place where I can mostly live off the land without having to go 25 miles in any direction. Write about that life, while most of the rest of society wallows in delusion and fantasy.

  8. I haven’t forgotten the lessons of the Great Recession, when the predictions of Kenneth Deffeyes from “The End of Suburbia” all came true: “I have this list of things: seven trillion dollars lost out of the U.S. stock market, two million jobs lost in the United States, federal budget surplus – gone, state budget surpluses – gone, the middle class disappearing.” That’s what made me show the movie to my students from 2009-2017, when relatively cheap and abundant oil from fracking made the message fall on deafer ears. Besides, it was time to update the movie assignment.

    As for the current run-up to the next panic, I wrote in an analysis of the 2017 tax reform that a rapid rise in oil prices could foreshadow the next recession, although the failure of the spike in oil prices after last month’s attack on a Saudi oil facility has me doubting that will trigger the recession I’m expecting next year. For that, the inverted yield curve looks like a better omen. Just the same, I think oil depletion will be a major factor in the recession after next, which I think will begin between 2025 and 2029. Tight oil extraction should be in obvious decline in the U.S. then.

    Finally, when you write that “the sky-high oil price will make it economical for some other low-grade, high-cost oil source to be brought online and bring prices back down again,” my fear is that it will be oil shale. That’s even more low-grade than tight oil and has even more environmental costs.

  9. One small quibble: I don’t really see the price of petroleum starting to creep up just yet. Ever since the big price-crash of late 2014 (before which the cost hovered between 100-110 dollars for a three-year period), the cost of a barrel of oil with the exception of a few blips up and down has remained between the 50-55 dollar level. It hovered around at least sixty dollars for most of 2018. Last year’s big price-plummet happened when oil hit 75 dollars a barrel, so the price will have to hit at least 70 before yours truly would take notice.

  10. “…which is why Canada is one of the only countries on Earth that uses more energy per capita than the United States.”

    In Canada there’s no shortage of outraged intellectuals and columnists who demand the government do something and invest in green energy, all the while driving enormous SUVs to their remote suburban McMansions and eating fresh organic kale salads imported from California by diesel truck in -40’c January weather. Also they wouldn’t be caught dead using public transportation. But hey, they recycle, and shun those who don’t.

    I imagine Canada will do very well in the coming decade as oil prices rise. The CA$ was above the US$ in value when oil was over US$100. One of the big energy companies, Husky (HSE), is trading at historical lows for various reasons, but this will probably turn around in the near future. Drilling for oil in the arctic will also be another revenue stream for the state, which is taking on enormous debts to fund unsustainable long-term spending. Those who advocate for all sorts of social programs seldom seem to consider where all that money is supposed to come from. The usual response is to suggest taxing rich people and going after their panama accounts (that’s a drop in the bucket even if they can seize those $$$).

    Business as usual up north…

  11. “if production could be boosted even higher—to equal or even exceed production.”
    Was that supposed to be “equal or even exceed consumption”?

  12. Dear Mr Greer

    Great post. It’s good to see you going back to peak oil again. There is only one thing I think you have missed out in your analysis of shale oil. That is EROI. You have mentioned this before in other posts and you may be intending to deal with this later on, but I thought it would be a good idea to raise it here.

    I’ve read Richard Heinbergs Snake oil, and according to the estimates he quotes, the EROI of shale oil is about between 1 to 5 to 1 to 3. This compares to anything between 1 to 20 to 1 to 40 for conventional crude, although that has been getting lower. It is pretty much impossible to run a modern industrial economy on this kind of EROI. If the energy equivalent of 1 in 4 barrels has to be used to produce those 4 barrels of shale oil, this reduces the energy available for the economy. It is like a currency that has been devalued. If I am a tourist in the USA and for every £1.00 I can get $30 I’m laughing and living in clover. If for every £1.00 I only get $4.00 I am probably going to have to exchange the posh hotel for a doss house.

    According to a Srsrocco report from 18 June 2019 global oil production increased by 11.6 million barrels a day. Sounds really good doesn’t it. Our economies should be booming. However 10.5 million barrels or 90% of this increase comes from tar sands and shale oil from America and Canada. This means that conventional oil production has stagnated and the increase has come form unconventional production. The captital costs of producing unconventional oil are incredibly high and the capital costs for producing conventional oil have increased quite a lost. This probably explains why economic growth has largely stagnated in the last ten years and which is why average earnings in the UK are still lower than they were in 2007. Basically what is happening is that the economy is having to use more and more of its capital in order to get the oil and other resources it needs. The result of this is that the economy stops growing and will start contracting as this process continues. We don’t run out of oil, it just keeps getting more expensive to get out of the ground.

    I agree with you that the political imperative of getting oil out of the ground trumps free market economics. However the economy suffers as a result of this. There is only so much capital and the more that you shift it into oil production the more your economy contracts. No amount of financial manipulation can stop that.

    There are other problems with shale oil. If I understand it correctly is that if is a light oil and cannot do many of the things that conventional oil can do. Therefore it has to be mixed with conventional oils in order to be used for transportation etc.

  13. @JMG,

    I enjoyed reading your post as always. Personally, I am baffled by the ease with which most people dismiss peak oil and lump it in with other apocalyptic predictions that didn’t pan out; the logic seems to go something like:

    1) A bunch of environmentalists predicted that global oil production would peak in 2005
    2) It didn’t peak in 2005, therefore
    3) The amount of oil in the Earth is infinite.

    The illogic is so transparent that, even when I was a climate change denier (for the first 20 years of my life) I still took it for granted that oil would run out eventually. Because I still had a lot of faith in progress, I just imagined a future of abundant nuclear or solar power and lots of electric cars.

    Now? Not so much. There are a few countries – Brazil, France, Norway, Sweden, etc. – that manage to run their electrical grid mainly on non-fossil energy sources. But these countries are in the minority, the United States has no plans to become one of them, and on the bigger issue of transportation fuels, it’s still oil all the way. Electric cars are expensive enough that, even in an optimistic future, they’ll always just be status symbols for the rich (and an “upper middle class” American who can afford to spend $35,000 on a Tesla is, from the global perspective, part of the very rich).

  14. Countries exporting oil to places that have their own oil, but don’t seem interested in developing it, brings to mind a metaphor.

    When they were developing the Falcon Heavy rocket, the plan was for the two side boosters to run their own engines and also crossfeed fuel to the main rocket engine. Then the boosters would fall away empty, leaving the main rocket still full of fuel. In the end they went with the less efficient but mechanically simpler solution of using the main engine on liftoff, then throttling it back until booster separation.

    Either way, if you are one of those petroleum exporting countries, consider how these images may represent your future:

    You did save enough for a propulsive landing, right? 🙂

  15. Yeah I hear from many sources how the US is now “energy independent”, and a “net exporter of oil products”. It’s amazing how easy it is to confuse people. The US has the refinery capacity for handling difficult (e.g., “heavy”) oils. So we import some oil, refine it, and export the products (diesel fuel, gasoline, etc). But, we still consume much more oil here than we extract from the ground here. Thus, counting both oil and its products, the US is still a major net importer, as JMG wrote above.

    12.5 million barrels of oil a day “produced” in the US sounds too high. The linked EIA page links to another: that reports almost 1 mbpd less for 2018. It all depends on what counts as “oil”. E.g., do the “natural gas liquids” that come out along with the (fracked) gas count? They are used for propane, butane, making plastics, etc, even a bit blended into gasoline, but are no-good for trucks and bulldozers and planes. And is ethanol counted? It takes about as much in other fuels to “make” ethanol via growing and processing corn. Which brings up the concept of net energy, or energy returned on energy invested: it also takes a lot of truck fuel (thousands of truck trips) to frack a well. So there’s a lot of double-counting in that total of 11 or 12 mbpd, and it’s getting worse every year.

  16. “…how odd it is that so many self-described radical activists have bought into a protest movement that’s dominated by corporate funding and receives constant favorable publicity from the corporate media….” So, they can make a profit/benefit out of funding these radicals… thus, they do fund them. I think the approaching ‘shark’ is their current high profile, well-coordinated and many-faceted campaign against meat eating (‘EAT Lancet, Greta T., etc., etc.). I think the response with nutritional and environmental actual facts will puncture the ‘balloon’.

    (PS – I’m in favor of total freedom in dietary choice…. just don’t push your food religion at me – the ‘my way or the highway’ folks in every sphere turn me off.)

  17. Dear susalson, about those climate activists, there a few questions you might want to ask them:

    How would they feel when the next door neighbor grows vegetables in his or her front yard?

    Are they willing to support in principle the notion that renters should be allowed to maintain vegetable gardens with reasonable restrictions such as don’t inconvenience others, pay for water or keep collected water mosquito free, keep the patch weeded and so on. Don’t be surprised to find that the holy grail of “Property Rights” comes ahead of all other considerations.

    Do they know how many miles were traveled by their clothing from factory to store?

    Have they any idea how their mutual funds or pensions are invested?

    I find myself wondering sometimes if activism can even be considered an honorable career anymore.

  18. That was a very cogent summation and prediction for a very complex issue. Well done and much needed return to the most important issue of our time. Thanks.

  19. Great post John.

    Agree that other countries will try and develop their own shale oil.

    In the UK the government has tried in part over the last decade but huge local opposition has killed most of the projects. In America it seems there is more popular support for shale production.

    Also, not sure how good the fields are outside of America but broadly agree with your overall view on where we are going.

    I’m expecting American shale to peak around mid-2020’s.

  20. A grammatical issue in need of repair: “Obviously it would be more welcome still to American political and economic managers if production could be boosted even higher—to equal or even exceed production.”

    One of those “production” s needs to be changed, if I’m misunderstanding correctly 😀

  21. Searching for patterns!

    1972-2005: 33 years
    72: peak US conventional
    late 70s: loss of good blue-collar jobs for all, urban blight and decay, private pensions/unions in major decline

    2005-2021: 16.5 years
    05: peak world conventional
    late 00s: death of promise of good jobs for college graduates, permanent full-time employment on the lower end replaced with temp/gig work

    2021-2029: 8.25 years
    21: peak US unconventional
    early 20s: FT jobs scarce, gig work hard to get. government programs, helicopter money, inflation

    2029-2033: 4.125 years
    29: peak world all?
    war years. world can no longer abide a profligate reserve currency, oil market tensions as US increasingly reliant on oil imports, climate change crises

    2033-2035: 2.06 years
    cleanup and new world order and economy established on realities of energy availability and climate concerns. fossil fuel use strictly controlled and restricted to wind down or transition as appropriate. Much lower standard of living in comparison to post-WW2 order unless some energy breakthrough presents itself.

    Boomer: Got my SS and pension!
    GenX: At least I’ve got a FT job and maybe some SS.
    Millennial: Gig work FTW!
    Gen Z: Government benefits cause I can’t get any work
    Gen alpha: ???

  22. BTW, my comment was to support my favorite ‘analytical question’…. “would they if they could?” I.e., … yes, they can/will benefit from funding the activists, so they do.

  23. Hello John Michael Greer,

    finally some honest thought on this topic .
    I have seen so many half-truths by all sides concerned. Thank you. 

    Dmitry Orlov mentioned developments in Russia’s nuclear industry that will lead to safer reactors and to using a much more abundant kind  of nuclear fuel supply. China is making progress also. If they succeed,  I think abundant electricity can be used to produce hydrogen that powers hydrogen cars.  A long term prospect to have real impact in 20 to 40 years, yet it seems to me to be a realistic one. What do you think ? 

  24. It seems to me that the relation between oil resources, politics, oil prices and energy return on investment are much more complex than the original Hubbert curve for world oil production let it seem to be. The fact that even today, political shenanigans play an important role in the price of oil leads me to make the following prediction: Somewhere in the future, the question of oil prices will become meaningless as the production and distribution of oil is taken out of the free market and into the hands of governments who still can afford to get oil somehow. It was JMG who pointed me to this kind of scenario.

    By the way, I have a further data point on the mass madness of modern society: In one of the railway stations of my town, someone hung a placard, written in faulty German, probably written by an immigrant, where he extolled Greta Thunberg and the adolescent climate activists as heroes and exhorted to fight fiercely against the coming climate apocalypse when the planet will get destroyed.

  25. Hi John Michael,

    Ahh, this takes me back to those heady days of the Peak Oil movement, when I first came upon the Archdruid Report. Thanks for this updated analysis of where we’ve been and where we’re likely headed for the foreseeable future. As I was reading your bit about why fracking is persisting, I began thinking that the covert ‘financing’ method was awfully subsidy-like, then I noticed the photo/caption you inserted nearby. I’m sure you’re right that every last drop that can be gimmicked for extraction will be extracted. I still think of it as a bubble — just not ready to pop quite yet. The bursting will be quite damaging/traumatic here in the US as the drop off in ‘production’ may be very steep. Catastrophic collapse of global industrial civilization? No. Lots of very real suffering and misery? Unavoidable for many.

    Our fracking boom seems to have produced a side effect that I’ve only just begun to sense. Fracking apparently produces a nasty mix of fluids/gases a large portion of which can’t be turned in to really useful things like jet fuel, diesel fuel, gasoline etc. But they serve very nicely as feedstock for all manner of PLASTICS! Has anyone else noticed the absolute plague of plastic everywhere? Not just in the plastic bag encasing more and more mail, not just in the grotesque volume of it in Scamazon Primo’s packaging, not just in our shoes and clothing…it’s just everywhere. Plastic’s been around for a long while of course
    but I’m pretty sure there’s been an explosion of it here since fracking got underway. It’s useful stuff but, in true all-American style, we’ve gone so overboard. What a crummy legacy.

    Incidentally, you’re slipping in some might fine wry/dry/sly humor here and there…laughed out loud a few times! Also, I wanted to thank you for recommending Raphael’s small volume Mundane Astrology. I had no idea what to expect when I purchased it online and today received a nicely printed 100 year old edition from England! I can’t wait to delve into it.

  26. Hi John.

    Here is one sign that the next oil panic is coming. The Wall Street Journal ran a major article a few days ago discussing the slowing of tight oil production. Among other things, it notes that the US Government projects total oil production next year to be 13 mbd, but the analysts they talked to say that may be overly optimistic and that there is good reason to believe that tight oil production in the US is close to peaking. Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall. If your local library gets the WSJ, you might want to have a look.

  27. I have a question. What would our situation be right now if we had back in the first energy crisis gone all in for renewables. Let’s say we had pushed really hard for solar panels and wind turbines such that most houses in the US have solar panels. A majority of rural houses have small wind turbines. That we have big solar arrays in Arizona and lots of big wind farms across the plains. With the stipulation that everything else remained the same. Would we be better off, worse, or about the same.

    Thanks again John Michael

  28. A few questions. First I wonder how much of our fresh water supply we might contaminate with fracking ? Not only here but around the world. We can live, in some fashion w/o oil. We can’t live, in any fashion w/o water. 2nd I wonder if we won’t try just about everything -wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, in a desperate attempt to maintain our current lifestyles? Any thoughts? 3rd, and related to #2, do you suppose we’ll start to see that solar/wind/geothermal (not sure about Nuc) will be for the well healed -primarily? (We’re kind of there now, but we’re still pretending that costs will come down and it will be available to everyone) Will we start to see the difference between the salary class and the working class not throug the type of car they drive or the designer brands they wear, but by whether or not their houses have electricity and comfortable levels of heat?

  29. JMG,

    I used to be a peak oil apocalypse believer of the James Kunstler variety back in the early 2000s. It was on a drive from Ann Arbor to Detroit that I first heard a peak oil discussion and it made a lot of sense to me, especially as a college kid always railing against the absurdity of the expectations of infinite growth on a finite planet. I had expected peak oil to crash the economy, but instead, a lot of people crashed out of the economy and shale oil was discovered.

    Until just now, I have been mystified as to why oil in the age of shale has been so cheap when it’s so obviously unprofitable, but you’re right, politics trumps economics and cheap oil is more important than anything else on earth to keep the economy running.

    My question is about the Limits to Growth study. If I remember correctly, that study assumes that humans are so adept at product replacement that nothing starts to runs out until everything does or until negative externalities become so extreme that the population starts dropping. Is that your understanding of the long decline too? And is Limits to Growth the best trajectory we have?

  30. Man, this post takes me back. Remember when Venezuela started sending subsidized heating oil to New England? Remember when Bush was president, and the major right-wing talking points were that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with oil and that peak oil was a fantasy?

    If you had told me where we, and where I, would be, just 10-15 years later, I don’t think I would have believed you. I was very much in the First Apocalypse, Then Utopia camp of would-be peak oil activists. I devoured all the radical literature I could– kampf after kampf by people like Derrick Jensen, John Zerzan, and Ward Churchill. It’s hard to keep it straight after all this time, but I think the theory went like this:

    1. Civilization is White People is Capitalism is Christianity is Technology is BAD.

    2. American Indians and People of Color and Women and Gays and Children and Animals and Nature are GOOD.

    2. Peak oil, resource depletion and global warming are going to cause civilization to crash, sometime in the next 10-15 years. (Yes, we believed that.)

    3. For some reason, it’s important that We (We = Good) do our best to further civilization’s collapse, by acts of terrorism meant to kill as many people as possible. (Modification 1: This was another source of division; people like Jason Godesky and his fellow travelers believed that we didn’t need to do anything, because Civilization– or Civ, as it was invariably abbreviated– was coming down all on its own, soon.) (Modification 2: What this all meant in fact was that We needed to sit around in bars, living rooms, and seminars run by Derrick Jensen and his cultus and talk about the need to commit acts of genocidal terrorism. As far as I know nobody actually got around to doing any terrorism.)

    4. After Civ (=Bad) is gone, We (=Good) will build an egalitarian world of ecological sustainability and perfect gender equality in its ruins, just like all the egalitarian world of ecological sustainability and perfect gender equality that existed in North America prior to the arrival of Europeans (Europeans are Bad).

    …Well. Here we are, 10 years, 15 years later. The president of the United States is an economic nationalist who has been targeted for removal by the CIA after the same manner as Jacobo Arbenz or Mohammed Mossadeg, which is how you know that he’s a Nazi. Not only has technological civilization not collapsed, society has now been reorganized to make life increasingly inconvenient for anyone not willing to shill out $50-100 per month for a device meant to track and record its owner’s every move. And instead of living in a hunter-gatherer tribe, prowling for deer under the ruins of skyscrapers, I find myself living a relatively ordinary working life, struggling each month with the challenge of paying the rent in Southern California but otherwise reasonably content with a family, a career, and an active spiritual life.

    Oh, and with my constant bafflement at having seen the political Left and Right switch sides on a host of issues without anybody noticing, so that last night I listened to Tucker Carlson explain, to his Fox News audience, that American foreign aid often comes with the stipulation that it must be spent making specific purchases from US companies, thus amounting to a direct transfer of taxpayer wealth to corporations, which is something I originally learned about 20 years ago in books by Noam Chomsky.

    I guess this post is rambling and I don’t have much of a conclusion. Except this– I bought into the fantasy of apocalypse back in the day. Bought into it HARD. And the result was that, for years, I didn’t bother to make any serious plans for my life or provisions for my future. Now I find myself pushing 40 and scrambling to catch up. Hard times come and hard times go, but the Apocalypse never comes. Don’t do Apocalypse, kids.

    At the same time, I’ve noticed that all the things I imagined myself doing “after civ” are all things that I can actually do today. Seriously– I imagined that in the hunter-gatherer anarchist utopia of 2019, I’d be some kind of shaman or medicine man, communing with spirits and making use of healing herbs and the like. Well, here in the technological dystopia that we actually got, I have a growing backyard garden full of herbs chosen for their magical and medicinal properties. I’ve done extensive training in a number of martial arts. I am a practicing ceremonial magician. I work in a healing profession, and I’m very good at my job. None of this stuff had to wait until the Apocalypse, and if I hadn’t wasted time with apocalyptic fantasies, I might’ve gotten to work on all of it much earlier. Maybe this is a lesson for anyone still stuck dreaming about the Apocalypse.

  31. Dear Mr Greer

    I thought I would split up my comments. I have been following Peak oil closely since 2008 and I have to admit that the rise in shale oil was a total shock.

    I remember reading David Strahans “The Last Oil Shock” back in 2008. It is a very good book which covers the technical aspects of peak oil. Probably out of print by now. It showed a graph of American production which which follows fairly closely a Hubbert bell curve of oil production. It shows American oil production increasing up to about 10 million barrels a day in about 1971 and then starting to decline. There was a second peak in oil production in about 1980 as Alaska came one line following the oil crisis on 1973 and the huge increase in the price of oil. However that peak was not as high as the one reached in 1971. Form 1980 onwards the the line of the graph decreased to about 5 to 6 million barrels. I remember thinking about this carefully and was sure that as a result of the new high oil price there was bound to be a third peak in American oil production, and most of this would come from difficult to produce unconventional sources. Given the fact that there had been 35 year of oil depletion since the all time high on 1971, and that the second peak had never reach the same height as that in 1971; I thought that there was absolutely no way that this third peak would exceed the all time peak of 1971. That would be impossible. And of course I was wrong.

    You have to give it to the fracking industry. Their feat in exceeding the 1971 all time peak was incredible. It was something I never expected. Of course there are a hell of a lot of problems with shale oil like EROI, high decline rate, incredibly high capital costs etc. So there is a big element of showmanship about it. However you have to admit that it was one hell of a show and it sure beats anything that comes out of Broadway, Hollywood and Disney. It was this feat that killed the peak oil movement stone dead and I can understand why. I have to admit that it made me question my own thinking about peak oil for a time.

    While I think that the peak oilers got it wrong about shale oil, the one big thing they did get right was the peaking and plateauing out of conventional oil production since 2005. Even though conventional oil production has not fallen, it has had some quite spectacular real world effects such as the 2008 financial crash and the decade long stagnation of many economies since. This has had political effects which has made themselves felt in recent years such as the euro crisis, Brexit and Trump. It is beginning to dawn on people that progress is stagnating and I think this is one of the reasons why the middle classes are freaking out about Trump and Brexit. They realise that their security blanket has suddenly been removed and they are to dazed to know what’s going on.

    I think we can say that the peak oilers got one thing wrong (Shale Oil) and they also got one big thing right (Peaking of conventional oil). Conventional oil production will start to go down as some point and that really will cause a crisis. It won’t be the end of civilisation, that will take another 100 or so years, but it will be another step down

  32. I don’t get the utter disregard for thermodynamics inherent in chasing solar power. We got civilization by glomming onto the most concentrated energy sources we could find. Lacking ancient sunlight, I think the best bets are flowing water and biomass (good old fashioned wood). That would put a floor at something like early 19th century technology – not so bad. Will it wreak environmental havoc? Sure, but i recall Sharon Astyk’s line that we’d happily stuff live baby harp seals in the tanks of our SUVs to keep them running, all the while convincing ourselves that the harp seals like it.

  33. I look forward to your future discussions on avenues of action. I’ll compare it with the personal, societal and economic changes I observed in Italy after the crash a decade ago (from which there has been no recovery, only eventually, acceptance and behavior adjustment )

  34. John,

    Sitting tight on shale while waiting for USA to deplete theirs may yet turn out to be a disappointment. You may have heard of a discovery of large (i.e. potentially several decades’ worth of supply) deposits of mostly gas-bearing shales in my country of origin, Poland, in the early 2010s. The national media spent a year or so trumpeting it up, and then the whole matter promptly disappeared from the national conversation.

    A few years later I have learnt that the exploration wells did reach gas roughly in the quantities predicted by models. But the gas had such a high nitrogen content that it just would not burn…

    Also, all may not yet be lost for the renewables. Here is one approach that seems to be successful enough:

    I find it inspirational. I had no idea it could be done in this way.

    The catch is that this approach has no room for the large-scale renewables projects which have already been built. I can’t imagine big investors liking it.

    Migrant Worker

  35. Re: “the failure of the spike in oil prices after last month’s attack on a Saudi oil facility” – I think they’re papering over the impact of those attacks by drawing from stored oil and by talking about swift repairs. We’ll see in some weeks or months whether they’ve really repaired the damage – and whether new damage is inflicted. So the future stability of the Saudi regime and its oil exports is still in doubt.

    Another geopolitical question is Iran’s potential oil exports. If the world oil market gets tight, will countries such as China ignore the US sanctions and buy Iranian oil? To do that, they would have to set up alternative money-transfer arrangements. That would further erode the US dollar’s role as the petrocurrency, and thus hasten the fall of the empire.

  36. Eventually more and more people will become enlightened to the energy, fiscal, political realities around them and hedging will gain traction mainstream. You have the wealthy buying up bolt holes in New Zealand and the Glenn Beck apocalyptic types stockpiling for collapse/catastrophe, but I think more mainstream people will get into the game. I suspect a shadow economy and underground societies to become the norm. Just like we have cord cutters now, there will be above the board life cutters in the future. I also suspect the fake news wars to erupt into complete political chaos complete with a couple martial law episodes to drive what’s left of ‘the real world’ completely underground while the political outer world remakes itself. We’ll get a taste of the Russian dichotomy lifestyle.

  37. Dear Mr Greer

    I am being pretty active tonight. I hope you don’t mind me making another short post. Its just that I wanted to point out that I have noticed that figures for crude oil production often include the figure for Shale oil production from America. This is of course a complete con as shale oil is at best only a partial substitute for conventional crude oil. I have outlined some of the reasons for this in my first post. I wanted readers of this blog to be aware of that.

    PS Thank you for shedding some light on the darkness, chaos and confusion of this troubled world.

    Yours sincerely


  38. There is both an energy and financial component to the ” gimmicking” of the shale business by political forces. There is more than just money at play here. These tight oil operations can’t break even just because of costs in money, but because the massive amount of energy and resources ( steel, water, sand, trucks etc) they use to drill ,frack , and pump a well is not adequately compensated by the energy content of the oil they produce due to high inputs and a quick ( and getting quicker) depletion time. This “borrowed” energy and resources have to come from somewhere and though it is hard to track I would guess it is stolen from the resources available to average citizens and energy imported from other countries using the power of having the worlds reserve currency. This will force us in to a downward spiral of pushing more credit in to the shale industry but at the same time importing more oil to make up for the declining real energy yield and diverting resources from the building or repair of needed infrastructure. This acts like an accelerator pushing us down the stair steps of catabolic collapse.

  39. ‘Will the US dollar sooner or later lose the global reserve currency status that allows the virtual presses to keep on spinning, pulling dollars out of thin air to prop up an otherwise uneconomical industry? Yes—but when that folds out from under the shale industry, another gimmick will be found.’

    Losing reserve status IS the gimmick. A sharp decline in the value of the dollar will make shale oil more competitive against foreign producers. The government knows this, and will keep the credit flowing until that happens. A lower dollar will also make other industries competitive as well. Trump is wrong on many things, but he is right about that.

  40. “Just to minimize a certain kind of confusion, I should make something clear. Anthropogenic climate change is a real and serious issue, and it’s being used to manipulate the public on behalf of some extremely dubious political and economic interests. It fascinates me that so few people seem to be able to hold these two ideas in their minds at the same time.”
    this is not that difficult. naomi klein explained it in detail in The Shock Doctrine. what i suspect is actually difficult is setting aside one’s tribal affiliations that require rigid adherence to a set of, largely irrational, beliefs.

  41. We up in the “frozen north” have lots of tar for sale, and Venezuela has lots of heavy black stuff for sale (if China does not corner the latter for itself). Just have to keep getting the natural gas liquids and lease condensate from everywhere that that stuff is available to ship to us so we can ship syncrude to you and whomever pays the most. Our propensity in Canada and the Excited States toward loss-aversion would seem to cover almost every income level and thus every political offering we are subject to (as opposed to the oligarchs, their MSM, and their politicians proclamations that this is the best that can be had!)

  42. I have nothing to add to this, fantastic as always.

    @William, you should see the looks I get when I suggest to the more environmentally focused people that, yes we will still have an oil industry in a hundred years. It wont be anywhere near what we have today but it will still be there. We will burn through every last economically viable drop of oil we can get our hands on and a fair bit of the uneconomical stuff as well.

    I do hope people at least try to make the “green future”, if it works then that is great! I am more worried about how people may react when this dream of the clean future never happens. Most likely however I suspect they will just keep insisting till the end that it is around the corner while everyone else just gets on with life in whatever form it takes.

  43. I remember posts on the Archdruid Report about peak oil and the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. I suggest that climate change is going through the same kind of thing, indeed in multiple iterations.

    1. Denial
    Initially this was saying there is no anthropogenic climate change, that factors other than CO₂ are the dominant factor in determining the Earths temperature e.g solar variability, etc. Some people are still here, but reality disagrees.
    There can be a more sophisticated form of denial, saying that nuclear fusion is just around the corner, or carbon capture and storage will save us from ourselves, biofuels (forgetting there isn’t a planet B to grow our fuel crops on because we need planet Earth for growing our food).
    Alternatively people could say that there are negative feedbacks and the world won’t warm as much at a given CO₂ level as most of the climate scientists are telling us, or that economic growth will make adaptation easily affordable in 50 years time.

    2. Anger
    This is the XR activists position, though where this is directed to varies.
    The deadline of 2030 is based on the fact that the 23rd December 2012 came and went and we’re still here, and also from one of the versions of peak oil where the industrial age was predicted to last about 100 years with the decline being faster than the upslope, and the start of widespread petroleum use being taken at 1930. This is what many members of Extinction Rebellion mean when they say we have 11 years left.

    3. Bargaining
    I suggest there are multiple phases going back and forth from 2 to 3. In recent years we have had Kyoto, Paris in an attempt to limit emissions, however this has not been all that successful leading back to 2.

    4. Depression
    With Extinction Rebellion clamouring for carbon-neutrality by 2025, and some local and national governments setting such a goal at 2030, the realization that this won’t be achieved, and the 1.5°C warming, and then the 2°C will be exceeded no matter what we do at this stage, could lead people to say “what’s the point we might as well drive our SUVs until the pumps run dry”.

    5. Acceptance
    It will be a long while before humanity collectively gets here so I’ll skip speculation on this.

    I think after this iteration of 1.-3., after people realise how big the sacrifices that the Extinction Rebellion demands would require, and that their goal is impossible, and 2°C+ is inevitable, some people will end up in 4.
    There could be another round of 3. – but this time talk about adaptation to a warmer climate rather than mitigation (limiting emissions) will be more to the fore, i.e. we don’t need to cut emissions because if we focus on economic growth we can afford the adaptation in the future. Ignoring the problems involved in this leads back to 1. and thence to 2. again.

    Then the iteration after that repeats 3. but with geoengineering on the table. Elon Musk promising a sunshade in space or something of that sort.

  44. Hi JMG, long-time reader, first time commenting.

    “Anthropogenic climate change is a real and serious issue”.

    Would you please briefly explain why you believe this? A pointer to somewhere you’ve discussed it at length would be more than acceptable. I’m not a denier, I can easily believe that human activity could influence the global climate, I understand the basic facts of greenhouse gases, etc. But I just can’t reconcile myself to the idea that climate science as it is right now has settled or proven anything. It can’t conclusively answer simple questions (eg, how much of the observed warming is due to human activity, how much warming has there been, etc) or make accurate, testable predictions. To me it seems little better than economics — it uses simplistic mathematical models to mimic an extraordinarily complex system, and does so with questionable historical data. It seems to be the equivalent of predicting the striking point of a hurricane still forming off the African coast, only at an even higher level of complexity and uncertainty. I find myself unable to believe that the correct answer to any non-trivial question about the climate is anything other than “I don’t know”, for experts and laymen alike.

  45. As to fracking in other countries: don´t you think, that what these other countries lack is the ability to print seemingly infinite amounts of money to pay for this folly. The US has this privilege, since others are still convinced that it´s paper is good. But if the US starts to run out of frackable juice, its economy will definitely take a hit, which will have global repercussions. Which economy will then be able to conjure another “reserve currency” to pay for another fracking-ponzi.

  46. Our local energy company here in Michigan just got a 7-8 percent rate hike approved for natural gas. I think that the increase is to be “phased in” all at once, immediately, just in time for winter heating. Near here, there’s a well that is flaring off gas pretty constantly. I want to say 24/7 but I don’t pass by there every day. Apparently that company is in the oil business and nat gas is just a nuisance to be discarded. Can’t be bothered with making some use of that particular “byproduct.”

  47. Greetings all,
    Not much to add actually. Very succinct resume of the peak oil scene world wide. US light tight oil really saved the day your country. Much will now hinge on US light tight oil extraction. When that peaks we will be back to the 2008 – 2014 days with higher oil prices and lower economic performance. I expect governments to be just as clueless as before. Nothing much to expect from either government or business. It will be down to individual citizens to initiate intelligent responses such as implementing the LESS programme of yours! (Less Energy Stuff and Stimulation!!!).

  48. Hi John,

    I’ve found Gail Tverberg’s website to be quite helpful, with insights that dove tail with yours.

    Greta Thunberg reminded me of the hero in the original, The Time Machine movie (1961) when he rages at The Eloi, who were oblivious to the near-drowning of Weena. Although it’s a matter of some debate whether Greta was thundering at the Eloi or the Morlocks.

    I believe a major hazard of the new Roaring 20’s (hear that waterfall?) is demand destruction becoming people destruction.

  49. This map provides a fascinating look at energy infrastructure around the US. By clicking on a project symbol, you can find out who owns it, and what its capacity is. For example, the IKEA store near me hosts a 1 MW solar array, the hydroelectric dams on the Ausable River in Michigan each produce less than 10 MW, the cogeneration gas turbine at our local university generates 21 MW of electricity, Conowingo Dam produces ~500 MW, and Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant produces about 1700 MW. By looking at existing projects, you can start to imagine… if we take CC off-line, we just need 1700 IKEA stores to make up the difference, except CC keeps working just fine on dark winter nights.

  50. Thanks, as always, for the essay!

    6th last paragraph, beginning: “Obviously it would be more welcome still to American political and economic managers if production could be boosted even higher—to equal or even exceed production.” Should that last “production” be a “consumption”?

  51. > Meanwhile, without more than a few of us noticing, the industrial world will have taken another step down that prolonged process of decline I’ve named the Long Descent.

    This is important. Looking at historical examples, descent is gradual and people (and the natural world itself) adapt to each step down. There are fits and starts along the way.

    I think something mundane as my front lawn is a good analogy. The previous owner of my home installed a fancy sprinkler system to maintain it. I was proud of that little green square and kept it mowed and edged. But one day the sprinkler system broke. I found a broken pipe and fixed it. It broke again and I couldn’t figure it out. I called “the guy” to take a look. It was going to be expensive.

    I had other bills to pay. I postponed it. I hand watered it. Then a long drought came. I let it go brown in the summer. The world didn’t end. In the meantime, I learned about native plants. One early winter’s day (planting time in Mediterranean climates), I tore it all up and planted climate appropriate plants.

    Most of those plants died in the first year. A few thrived. Over the years, I learned what worked. I planted fruit trees in the back and now it gives back instead of being something I throw money at. My point is not to virtue signal about my front yard but rather that I needed to feel the pain to make changes. And that change was a long learning process.

    Obviously, disengaging from fossil fuels will be much more painful than letting a lawn go brown. People will get hurt. On the other hand, people are surprisingly inventive when faced with hard limits in their daily lives. Multi generational housing, the Maker/DIY movement, permaculture… these may be false positives but the seeds are being sown.

  52. JMG,
    In a literary side note to the peak oil discussion is a comparison I have heard several times on blogs and discussion groups the last 2 weeks. Many think that Arrakis in Frank Herbert’s “Dune” was intended to represent modern day Saudi Arabia with the Spice representing Oil. And that is about as as far as the analogy went. Now it seems that this literary comparison has sprung to life with the Houthis playing the part of the Fremen to the Saudi’s House of Harkonnen. If this is taken to its conclusion we are now seeing the final climactic battle of Dune as the Houthis rise up from the Desert where they have been exiled and defeat the Saudi’s to change the flow of spice (oil). What do you think?

  53. Ten years ago, I dropped by your blog occasionally, but did not stick around because I was busy over on Mike Ruppert’s. He was apocalyptic, and at that time The Oil Drum was too. None of us could see all of the trickery you’ve described that would pop up out of nowhere to prop up business-as-usual. Within a year or two, it became obvious to me that the system had a lot more resilience than any of us had imagined. I proposed at Collapse Net that we anticipate further rabbits being pulled out of plutocratic top hats and redefine collapse accordingly as a succession of people being thrown under the bus. Jeff Epstein is a good example, in an indirect way, and it will always be indirect. I think Mike had staked his self-worth on a fast collapse, though. RIP MCR.
    Your idea of “collapse now and avoid the rush” was very sensible and useful. Trying to keep up in a vicious dog-eat-dog scramble to hang on to some sort of stupidly ill-defined excuse for an illusion of prosperity is a tragic way to waste one’s life, unless you’ve got both the business acumen and lack of conscience to have fun doing it. Jeff Epstein had a bad couple of months there, but didn’t he have a ball until then!

  54. I decided to go to the recent very large climate protest, and this is what I saw in my local area (Victoria BC, Canada)

    I couldn’t get on the bus. Two buses passed in succession, both full. It’s a long walk, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get on the next bus either, so I walked, as did a couple of other people sitting wauting. When I finally got there, the lawn in front of the parliament buildings was full. I do not know how many people were there, but it was in the thousands. When they wanted to be loud, the crowd roared. It felt really different from most protests I’ve seen, especially in the past few years. It kind of reminded me of the anti-Iraq war protests back in 2002-03. Lots and lots of kids, teens, university students, and other people of all ages. The local green party candidate was there, not that that is a surprise. The march afterward filled the main street as far as I could see. Most were walking, but also plenty on bikes or those little scooters you stand on and push with one foot, or skateboards. As things began to disperse, many were wandering off still on foot or other human powered things. The tone of the placards was rather apocalyptic in many cases. Some of them were clever or funny. Others were not.

    There did seem to be an assumption by some of the speakers that green energy and similar changes could solve the climate problem without wrenching disocation or much personal action ahead of government, but there was also mention of conservation and personal action. This was more true of the placards than the speakers. I should also mention that the favorite chant during the march was ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’.

    First Nations had an outsize presence among the speakers.They’re a massive part of local anti-pipeline and environmental activity more generally.

    Figured I’d share what I saw with the people here.

  55. At the risk of being flippant, Helium from the Moon would be a great name for a rock band! We now return you to serious discussion of important issues.

  56. Mark, I figured I’d hear from you pretty promptly! Yes, fracking postponed rationing, and once the next spike and crash is over, whatever gimmick they come up with next will postpone rationing again. Get out in front of the spike, and you can probably get a modest but real number of people to pay attention to decreasing consumption and other real responses to the current mess; that’s the way we can get this stuff to the future.

    David BTL, I expect to see the US declaring victory and bringing the troops home a lot over the next decade or so. If it’s done expeditiously enough, we may be able to avoid having a carrier or two end up on the bottom of the Indian Ocean. It’s encouraging that — outside the chattering classes, at least — so many people here are tired of the constant wars and might well support a British-style retreat from empire…but we’ll see.

    NomadicBeer, wasn’t it Churchill who said that the American people can be counted on to do the right thing, once they’ve tried everything else? The thing about feeding EROEI back into energy production is that it achieves the goal of economic contraction while making everyone think that the economy is still expanding. Hey, more dollars are being spent, and more barrels of oil pumped! That the rate at which dollars and barrels are being used to keep the wheels turning is rising faster and faster isn’t something most people want to look at, and so we walk steadily up the down escalator, striding boldly upwards while being carried inexorably toward the bottom. As for geoengineering, yes, I’ll have some things to say about that as we proceed.

    Andrew001, I’m not a fan of Thunberg at all, but that’s largely because her role as the corporate Left’s darling little scold is giving all the rest of us with Aspergers syndrome a bad name. Props to you for paying attention — despite all the chatter about progress, the decline continues, and yes, watching transit systems wane is part of that.

    Susalson, I’ll discuss my issues with climate change activism in a forthcoming post. For now — er, are these climate change activists who talk about an overall decrease in energy consumption actually decreasing their own energy use? Not that I’ve seen — and that’s one of the core reasons why climate change activism has jumped the shark. Until climate change activists consistently start embracing the low-carbon lifestyles they claim they want everyone else to accept, the majority of people will treat them as hypocrites of the “do as I say, not as I do” variety.

    Bridge, labels like “recession” are blunt instruments. We recently saw several “recoveries” in which joblessness increased and nothing recovered but corporate profits; I think it’s quite possible that we could see one or more “recessions” in which speculative markets got clobbered but the unemployment rate dropped, because lots of people are being hired to do things that machines were doing before the price of oil spiked. The disconnection of markets from the production of real goods and services has gotten pretty dramatic at this point, and it may get more dizzying still.

    William, that’s always an option, and I know people who’ve done it and enjoy the results. Me, I find history just as fascinating to watch when it’s happening around me as when it’s in a book, and a city of modest size with good farmers markets, public transit, and libraries makes a fine place for me to watch things lurch toward their destiny.

    Vincelamb, that seems about right. I expect the next oil price spike to hit in the early 2020s, as US shale production begins to slide, and a good decade of economic turmoil thereafter seems likely enough. I’m not too worried about kerogen shale, though; nobody’s been able to find a way to use it that isn’t a gargantuan energy sink. Politics may trump economics, but physics trumps politics…

    Siliconguy, yep. Wind and solar are excellent sources of intermittent energy, but if you’re going to build a society around them it has to be a society that uses energy when it’s available, instead of expecting to have it 24/7.

    Mister N, stay tuned… 😉

    Jeffrey, that sounds about right. For what it’s worth, I expect Canada to come through the Long Descent in decent shape, not least because its north coast is going to be a massive resource once the Arctic Ocean is blue water in summer. I wonder how many people are covertly thinking about that, and making pro-environment noises only because that’s fashionable right now…

    Reese, it was indeed, and has been corrected. I also changed the misspelling of “extraction.”

    Jasmine, two things to keep in mind when it comes to EROEI are, first, that what matters is the overall net energy of your society’s whole suite of energy resources — if you’ve got some that are high EROEI, you can leverage them by using them to extract others with lower EROEI to boost the total available energy your society has to throw around. That’s what’s behind shale, and also sun, wind, and nuclear — they’re all ways to stretch out the supply of high-EROEI fuels. Of course you have to feed more and more energy into those low-EROEI resources as they deplete, leaving less for all other purposes, but you can see the results of that by walking down Main Street in most American communities today.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that nobody actually knows for a fact how low EROEI can go before things start grinding to a halt. Richard and the other people who have written about that are proposing hypotheses, which have not yet been tested. We’re testing it right now.

    Wesley, exactly. I’ve occasionally wanted to wear a button that says “What part of ‘finite’ don’t you understand?”

    Yorkshire, granted! One of the downsides of democracy is that its vision of the future extends only as far as the next election. (As Churchill noted, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.)

    Moshe, and that’s also an excellent point. Double-counting is a major issue, and there’s also the fact that nobody’s subtracting the amount of energy used up in extracting fuel — it’s as though you know the gross profits from a company but not the net profits. Watching the decay of US infrastructure, it’s pretty clear that a lot of corners are being cut and a lot of energy and wealth are being siphoned out of the rest of the economy; I suspect that much of it is going into a variety of subsidies for energy.

    Nancy, excellent! I’ll be posting something about the latest round of vegan propaganda in the not too distant future. Like you, I certainly encourage people to eat whatever diet their health and their beliefs require; as a moderate Burkean conservative and thus a supporter of (small-t) traditions, I’d consider it basic courtesy as well as a basic human right to permit and indeed encourage Jews to eat kosher, Muslims to eat halal, politically correct liberals to eat vegan, and so on — but every person’s right to decide who gets to eat what ends at the tip of their own fork, and emphatically does not extend to mine.

    Tom, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Forecasting, I wonder how much of that opposition will pop like a punctured whoopee cushion when petrol hits £4 a liter.

    Temporaryreality, no, both of them need to be changed — the second to “consumption,” and the first to “extraction.” It’s been done. 😉

  57. To add to what Nastarana said he would ask so-called climate activists:

    Are they willing to buy used ahem I mean “pre-worn” clothing (with the exception of underwear and socks), housewares, and furniture for the rest of their lives?

    Are they willing to have fewer children than they’d originally envisioned, adopt, or forgo having children altogether?

  58. Re: “abiotic oil or helium from the Moon will solve our energy crisis once and for all.” For those late to the science fiction scene, David Brin’s 1990 novel EARTH is a fantastic example of salvation via Unobtanium, because “otherwise, we’re doomed.”

    @Jim W. on the proliferation of plastics – I’d been wondering what was causing that. Thanks for the explanation! And these plastic envelopes, unless transparent, can NOT be recycled either in Alachua County or at the grocery store (reprocessed into reusable grocery bags). Not to mention a similar proliferation of polyester clothing.

  59. Re Greta Thunberg– Last month I went to see the play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.” The first act was largely about 15-year-old Christopher’s incessant pestering of the neighbors in his attempt to solve the mystery of the dog’s “murder,” as he called it. The sight of an adolescent off on a crusade and obsessive about out was amusing until, of course, the play turned dark at the very end of the first act.

    Draw your own parallels.

  60. @ Phutatorius

    Re rate increase for NG

    I might be able to help explain that. While MI may structure its retail utility rates differently, generally with NG service, the NG itself (the “commodity cost”) is a pass-through. That is, the cost of the commodity to the utility is passed along to the ratepayer. The utility earns its profit (rate of return) on “plant,” in this case, the network of pipes, pumps, and other equipment needed to deliver the commodity to your house. The rate increase is likely to do with the increase in costs (or per-unit costs) for that infrastructure. As with other utilities, there are a lot of fixed costs involved (the pipes don’t go away just b/c no one’s using the gas) and whenever fixed costs are recovered over variable consumption, issues can arise. Of course, the fixed costs themselves might be rising as well.

  61. JMG, sure I have agreed with you for a while on the Peak Oil conundrum. The problem right now lies elsewhere. Its in the credit markets that are beginning to crack. The level of debt in the FIRE economy has now reached the point where it can no longer be serviced unless the Fed drops to negative interest rates. That creates ever so many problems for a world that wants to get out from the hegenomy of the dollar. We can already see other economies creating mechanisms to insulate themselves from the dollar.
    So now we go out over the next two years and the promise of any return on investments other than asset inflation disappears. Already the oligarchs are dumping assets on the sly to get into cash. They have been using derivatives to mask the exit. As this compounds itself, much of the baseline capital for future investment disappears. So there is a real prospect of actual inflation as the depth of the ponzi scheme is reavealed. Since shale olil only exists at a loss for the lenders, there is the possibility that future investment could be non forthcoming as the dollar inflation exceeds the promised return, as it has for the past 10 years.

    So it is not just energy markets that determine the coming disruption, but the failure of the entier monetary system. We shall see.

  62. DT, not at all implausible — but we’ll see!

    Tony C, we’ve heard this song and dance before. Every new generation of nuclear reactors is going to be clean, safe, and cheap, until it gets built — then it turns out to be just as dirty and wildly overpriced as the last one (though levels of safety do vary from one nuclear technology to another). That’s why private investment shies away from nuclear power — these days it’s always and only governments who invest in them. Until someone actually builds a nuclear reactor that produces cheap electricity without gargantuan subsidies, I remain highly skeptical.

    Booklover, very, very few people pay attention to the actual Hubbert curve, i.e., the one that was presented by M. King Hubbert himself. Here it is:
    Hubbert curve
    As you see, he was assuming that the great majority of oil had yet to be discovered, and that the tapering off process would be long and slow — by his estimate, as the chart shows, petroleum production in 2050 would be above where it was in 1950. Of course the curve was more ragged than his estimate showed, and his estimate of where and when it would peak was exactly that, an estimate. So take that much broader curve and factor in the political shenanigans you’ve mentioned — which are of course massive factors in this whole process — and you can see exactly where most of the peak oil activists of a decade ago, shall we say, ran out of gas…

    Jim W, I don’t think of fracking as a bubble these days; rather, it’s a leaky parachute, part of what we’re using to try to cushion our descent from the peak of cheap conventional oil. You’re right, though, that the impact when we hit the ground isn’t going to be fun. Glad you ordered Raphael, btw — you’ll be able to follow along the forecasts with a lot more insight

    Jacurutu, thanks for the heads up! I’ll be visiting the local library sometime soon anyway, so I’ll look for it.

    Will, we’d be in much better shape. To begin with, if we’d gone heavily into renewables in the wake of the 1970s, the core lesson of that decade — “weatherize before you solarize” — would have reduced energy expenditure drastically; most buildings, commerclal as well as residential, would be well insulated, with earth sheltering and the like very common, and so we’d just need less energy to start with. Reviving electric streetcars for urban use and rebuilding the nation’s rail system so that every town of any size had passenger rail service would have made a lot of cars, trucks, and planes unnecessary, so again we’d need much less energy. The US would be a net petroleum exporter, so its economy would be thriving; there would be plenty of jobs for all, since so many things we now do with energy would be done instead by employees; the end of commuting would have helped drive the return to livable neighborhoods in which residences, businesses, and workplaces would be in walking distance of each other, as used to be the case before the Second World War — I could go on. When we cashed in our ideals and bought into Reagan’s cotton candy fantasies, we closed the door on a much better future.

    Christopher, dead on target in all three cases. Yes, all those are very likely as we proceed.

    Dennis, the Limits to Growth forecast so far has been the most accurate prediction we’ve got, and trends are continuing to follow the curves of the LtG standard run — for example, demographers are starting to talk about the approaching peak and decline of global population, right on schedule. The study’s assumptions concerning resource replacement have turned out to be fairly accurate so far — of course it’s also true, and relevant, that so much of current economic production is unnecessary that there’s a lot of built-in wiggle room in the system.

    Steve, I know a lot of people who went through that same curve. In the early days of the peak oil scene, when I was still getting up to speed on the political and economic dimensions of our predicament, I expected things to fall apart much more quickly — but I put some time into learning how civilizations actually fall, and things more or less unfolded from there. The last part of your post strikes me as very hopeful; we live, after all, in a post-peak world, and so there’s no reason not to live accordingly! 😉

    Jasmine, a lot of us were astonished by just how fast shale oil was ramped up. You can find some very inaccurate predictions of mine online in various places! Still, it was the speed and the volume that was a surprise, not — as you point out — the fact that there would be another peak. There may be more…but since each one will have lower net energy and higher costs, the slow ratcheting down of industrial civilization continues.

    RPC, solar energy is great if you need a diffuse heat source. If you want to heat water to bathtub or dishwashing temperature, for example, a solar water heater is a great technology over most of the temperate and all of the tropical world; rig it together with a wood stove with a waterback, and get the wood from intensive coppicing, and you’ve got something that can meet some very definite human needs for the long term. As a way to generate electricity for a national or regional grid, though, you’re absolutely right that it’s absurd.

    Zhao, I’ll look forward to your comments! Crashes without recovery are the way of the future, of course, and my advice remains what it has always been — “collapse now and avoid the rush.” We’ll discuss in detail how that works in practice.

    Migrantworker, well, we’ll see; the first person who devises an effective chemical means for removing nitrogen from natural gas supplies will make a fortune in zlotych…

    Moshe, those are among the points that deserve very close attention. For a variety of reasons, I remain very doubtful that the Saudi regime can remain in place indefinitely.

    Dave T., thank you for the phrase “life cutters”! It strikes me that much could be done with that… 🙂

    Jasmine, in fact, some 58% of US crude production is shale oil. There’s a lot of quasi-oil filling out the production figures these days — and there will be much, much more as we proceed.

    Clay, got it in one. Look around and notice how much less real wealth there is in most American neighborhoods these days — how steeply services have decayed, how many products have been debased. That’s one measure of how much real wealth is having to be siphoned out of the economy as a whole to keep the fuel flowing.

    Jeff, that’s certainly one potential gimmick! As I noted, the modern economy is a gimmick-rich environment, but you’re right that once the dollar finishes losing its reserve status and starts to slide in value, just as US manufacturing will boom, US shale production will be even more affordable in terms of other currencies.

    Jaymo, it’s very straightforward, but try getting the true believers of either side to understand it!

  63. In August 2019 I spent two weeks at the Dancing Rabbit Community in Rutledge, Missouri, a rural community near Hannibal, MO. They are an ecovillage devoted to demonstrating the feasibility of a sustainable lifestyle. They are great in many ways, with an ecological footprint much lower than mainstream Americans. I’m definitely considering joining them, if only because it would be nice to have some friends during the Long Descent who actually know something about how to grow food and raise chickens. However, there were a few troubling signs while I was there. They have wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels. When I brought up a question as to EROEI on these, I was told my thinking was outdated, the newer versions of these devices produce much more power over their lifetimes than it costs to make them. I don’t think that’s true, but I don’t quite know how to argue this point with people who really are making a serious effort to live within earth’s limits. I also noticed when I was there that certain of the energy systems, including a solar thermal system and various battery systems, were not in working order at the time of my visit. Reasons given for that were the expense of replacing worn-out batteries and the difficulty of maintaining complex systems under real-life conditions. To me, this seemed like an indication that simpler systems might be preferable.

  64. “Anthropogenic climate change is a real and serious issue, and it’s being used to manipulate the public on behalf of some extremely dubious political and economic interests. It fascinates me that so few people seem to be able to hold these two ideas in their minds at the same time.”

    Or worse, how people view the possible contribution of non-human factors to the current warming trend as somehow absolving them of any responsibility for making things worse. It’s not as if this is a difficult concept — people on a sinking ship are usually pretty clear on the relative wisdom of bailing more water in versus bailing some water out.

  65. Time Magazine has a good example of the sort of corporate faux-green propaganda we’ve been talking about, written by Bill McKibben, in which the “Greta Generation”, the Green New Deal, electric trucks, a Hillary expy, corporate do-gooders and other assorted “privileged progressives” save the world from itself.

  66. Re: Greta T. The main skepticism I have is why the corporate media give her so much coverage when many others who are equally worthy of attention are ignored.

    As for nukes, we are no closer to detoxifying nuke waste than in 1942 when the first reactor went critical. How post-petroleum humans (assuming there will be some) will be able to babysit the “waste” is unknowable. What’s the EROEI of managing waste dumps for eons?

    The late geologist Walter Youngquist said that oil shale / kerogen was the energy source of the future and always will be. A bit like thermonuclear fusion – 20 years in the future for the past 40 years. And if one thinks the ice caps are not melting fast enough, experiments with fusion could help speed that up with 100 million degree C plasma!

  67. An additional comment. Not sure if you ever met Jan Lundberg at any of the peak energy events, but he was a huge fan of sailing. He died about a year ago but I assume he would have appreciated Greta T’s choice to take a sailboat from Europe to the USA instead of flying. Jan spent his final years promoting sailing between Greek islands to transport wine, olive oil and other local foods.

  68. One of the things I learned, after the attack on the Saudi oil “processing” facility is that the process of removing hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas from crude oil involves blowing some natural gas (mostly CH4) through it, then burning off the CH4/H2S blend. So, just because we see big gas flares burning near oil production facilities, it doesn’t necessarily mean that valuable CH4 is casually being wasted. H2S is flammable, corrosive, and toxic, so it’s a dangerous contaminant. If you had enough of it, you might extract elemental sulfur, but at small scale, it’s only feasible to burn it off.

  69. “Anthropogenic climate change is a real and serious issue, and it’s being used to manipulate the public on behalf of some extremely dubious political and economic interests.”

    If you’d be interested in a post elaborating this line of thought, I’d definitely be interested to read it (I’m likewise interested to hear your takes on the rise of veganism.)

    I’m trying to become conversant in the debate around climate change, but it is slow going, weather and climate have never been an interest of mine, and my knowledge of science is pretty limited. Nonetheless, I’ve collected up a bunch of books on the subject and am working my way through them, taking notes & comparing what the books say. It’s slow going.

    Where I live (Winnipeg, MB) anyone who is concerned about the environment, including the few who think about energy and resource scarcity and problems with the econonomic/financial system that we live in, usually they subscribe whole-hardheartedly to the “climate justice” movement, and to the climate strikes that took place last week. Locally, I didn’t hear of a single person who thought that anthropogenic climate change was a concern, who at the same time was concerned about the political agenda of people promoting these strikes. Either one was for them, or against them.

    Anyways, I’d be interested to educate myself in the sort of systems that could emerge from this pressure for “action on the climate crisis” that would largely fail to address the problem, while benefiting the wealthier classes at the expense of the wage class, if nothing else to keep my own sanity through the upcoming years (though I would raise these points where I could in meetings of people concerned with ecological living & local resilience.)

    On the veganism issue, I definitely sympathize with those who oppose the standard industrial practices of the factory farming movement, but I also think it would be a disaster to abandon the practice of keeping grazing animals, and omnivores like pigs and chickens, in the long-term food situation we are facing, to be supplanted by crops like soybeans. Raising livestock such as these was obviously a valuable strategy through much of our history, I think the aim should be to scale these back to intelligent levels.

    Great post, it brings me back to the old Archdruid Report days!

  70. For everyone:

    I grew up on the Texas coast in a town of less than 500 people. There is still only one road that goes into the town. The town still has no traffic lights (the nearest traffic lights, grocery store, bank, and fast food are about 20 miles away). There is a harbor, where you can launch a boat into a bay that leads to the ocean (via a manmade channel) and alongside that channel a tiny piece of a pipeline is visible. It juts out over a tiny inlet between two sand dunes. All my life I wondered where it started and where it ended. There are no buildings or roads for miles.

    The reason I mention this is to illustrate the scale of the fossil fuel infrastructure. I include here a few maps of oil pipelines (unfortunately they are a bit blurry).

    I think the debate over key pipelines create the illusion that they are rare. I just want to provide a small snapshot of the vast scale of our current energy infrastructure so that we all know what we are talking about. This is just one tiny part of it. Our tiny brains often oversimplify things, and I want everyone here to please take a moment to consider the scale of our oil and gas infrastructure that runs alongside our electrical grid. If you consider the highway system and the plastics industry as the outputs of the system, there must be inputs of a comparable scale.

    Here is an article containing images of a field of fracked oil wells.

    Though not specifically mentioned, here are some other faces of the fossil-fuel based energy system we currently use today.

    This is what the tarsands look like.

    This is mountaintop removal coal mining.

    I am withholding my opinion at this time. I just want everyone to think about the system in its entirety for a moment. Thank you, everyone.

    Thank you, JMG, for bringing this up.


    Jessi Thompson

  71. I daresay, Mr. Greer, that your prediction (and those of your readers) for America’s energy future has skipped over a very important energy technology that is growing in popularity and implementation. I am talking about “waste-to-energy” (read improved incineration) conversion of plastics. There’s two basic types: pyrolysis (fire without the oxygen) and gasification.

    These technologies are widely used in Europe, accepted in the renewable energy portfolio standards of multiple states, and mainstream enough among environmentalists to be featured in Paul Hawken’s “Drawdown.” Significantly, they can use waste plastic as a fuel stock. Syngas, the end product of gasification, can be converted into synthetic diesel fuel.

    There are dozens of plants in operation right now in the US and, given the right mix of hype and government subsidy, I can see the construction of yet more being promoted as a “green” solution that can solve the waste plastic crisis and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The fact that it will continue to allow people to drive individual cars (expect a tax break for your “clean diesel” vehicle in California!) surely won’t hurt either.

    We may not produce enough oil to meet our consumption needs but we certainly produce enough garbage that we should be able to kick the can down the road a bit longer.

  72. “True things we have learned about Greta include: She is made of poisonous cheese – She feeds live Pomeranians to her pet killer whale Beelzebub – Her real secret plan is to put all the billionaires into climate re-education camps – She is actually 100,000 socialist bees in a teen suit – She is from Atlantis/Pluto”

    From “First Dog on The Moon” - Well, it made me laugh 🙂

  73. Yeah, none of us expected the tight/low net energy oil production, and it’s been a valuable lesson on how hard existing systems will fight to survive. But it IS low net energy, so the economy bounces between two unstable oil prices – high enough for the frackers but too high for the rest of the economy, and low enough to be generally tolerable but too low for the frackers. These ranges don’t seem to overlap anymore.

    Somewhere out in front of us still lies Venezuela. The present inept attempts to get that high net energy oil on the cheap may make it seem like that danger has past, but I doubt it. Eventually when the tight oil extraction rates begin their terminal decline, the US will make a go at it for real.

    Still, I’ve found the time since Peak Oil was debunked and became a bad joke ;‑) to have been very useful. The topics I explored, and many of the writers and thinkers who’s ideas I considered, led me down many side paths and into new areas of study. My views on so many things have changed since that time, and I see PO now as just the backdrop for the lives we will live this time – and probably the next couple too.

    The effects of the loss of high net energy sources are obvious throughout the society, but human civilizations have faced equal or worse crises many times before. During the heyday of the PO scene there were once many discussions about strategies for coping and dealing with the crisis, but I now know that seeing and understanding a society wide crisis does not mean you can avoid it. I don’t even want to, as I see the interconnections of my life here and now, and that this will be playing out for lifetimes yet. I just try to make useful changes to lifestyle and energy use, within the limits I have to work with, and hope my understanding can be of use along the way.

  74. Re population: I’m not linking to the source because I don’t have a subscription so it would be behind a paywall, but it struck me as worth remembering and is relevant to the Limits to Growth scenarios.

    A week or two back the St. Louis, MO paper of record reported on the current average life expectancy in the metro area and differences in mortality rate between generations. Turns out the average life expectancy declined by 0.1 year in 2018 versus 2017; moreover, the average life expectancy hit its peak in 2012 (in the metro area) and has been declining since. As for the mortality rate, in 2018 versus 2017 the rate for age 65+ did not change while the rate for age 45-64 increased by about 15% and the rate for age 15-44 increased by about 30%. The latter was explained as due to suicides, homicides, and accidents, the last category including drug overdose.

  75. John Michael, I am curious about your thoughts on two points:

    1*What matters to each person is the amount of oil per capita,  and since the world population keeps increasing, and young people are growing up and consuming more, there is more and more competition for oil. The issue at the moment is increasing competition for a flat supply of oil .

    2*From what I have heard the middle East does not have much shale oil . Russia is the only place where there are significant  reserves of that kind . It could last a while , and will not compensate  for the regular oil production decline.

  76. re: Cob Basey’s comment about burning plastic as an alleged “source” of energy.

    Any plastic burning includes PVC (poly vinyl cancer) which is impossible to screen out from the waste stream. Burning PVC is extremely toxic regardless of which type of incinerator is used. This includes creation of dioxins and other ultra hazardous carcinogens and “xenoestrogens” that disrupt the hormonal systems. Preventing the waste would save more energy than the energy extracted from the garbage.

    Some PVC has lead and/or tin used as stabilizers since it’s not as stable as chlorine free polyethylene. Combustion cannot destroy elements.

    “Waste is a terrible thing to mind”

  77. Bruce, yes, and that tar will keep on being mined, mixed with solvents, and sold as a crude oil extender — which is basically what it is — if it has to be done by slave labor, using shovels. Thus my comment.

    MawKernewek, I think that’s quite plausible, in some circles. The problem here is that climate change activists have been caught out rather too often in various bits of — well, let’s call it “prevarication” for the time being — and that plus their consistent unwillingness to walk their talk has convinced a lot of people that they’re lying through their teeth. Thus denial is likely to become a good deal more popular for a while.

    Mandrake, fair enough; I’ll be covering this in a future post. The very, very short form is that we know from paleoclimatic data that the Earth’s climate is very sensitive to CO2 and methane climate forcing, and thus it’s pretty certain that dumping trillions of tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is going to have an effect. The fact that costs from weather-related disasters have been climbing steadily for a couple of decades is a useful quantitative measure that this is in fact happening. That does not mean that the apocalyptic fantasies being retailed by various activists are worth the smoke and mirrors they’re written on; it means that there’s ground for reasonable concern that messing with an unstable system by dumping wastes into the atmosphere is a dumb idea. I’ll talk at more length in the upcoming post about the precautionary principle, but I trust you get the basic idea.

    Mmorgue, printing money is only one of the possible gimmicks; it’s the convenient one for the US here and now, since we’re printing so much money anyway, but it’s far from the only game in town, especially if we’re talking about nations without free markets — and we are.

    Phutatorius, yep. Welcome to the future. 😉

    Karim, got it in one. We’ll be talking more about L.E.S.S. as we proceed.

    Greg, we’re rapidly approaching peak human population anyway, but yes, there’s likely to be some dieoff in the decades ahead. It’s a rare century that doesn’t have a burst of that, you know.

    Lathechuck, the map doesn’t appear to have come through.

    A. Karhumaa, thanks for this!

    Geoff, yes, and that first “production” should be “extraction.” I’ve edited accordingly.

    Brian, that’s a great metaphor, and it’s also a good thing all by itself. Huzzah for native plants and xeriscaping in dryland ecosystems!

    Clay, there are claims (as yet unconfirmed) that Houthi irregulars and units of the Yemeni army invaded Saudi territory, seized the town of Najran in late September, drew three Saudi army brigades into battle, surrounded them using a classic pincer movement, and forced them to surrender. If that’s true — and what I know of the situation suggests it may be — the Saudis are in serious trouble, and will either have to negotiate a peace or face the kind of military debacle that brings down regimes. There’s been some speculation that the Houthis could punch through the Saudi lines west of Najran, march north through ‘Asir and Al Baha provinces, and seize Mecca itself — and that’s not a blow the Saudi monarchy could survive for long. So I think the metaphor may not be too far off base…

    Patricia O, I’m not sure that I’d want to use Jeff Epstein as a role model, but your point stands nonetheless.

    Pygmycory, thanks for this. It’s really good to hear that so many people walked or took the bus — that’s not something I hear often about climate protests, and it suggests that some basic common sense may be sinking in.

    MikeL, hah! Yes, it would.

  78. I didn’t mean to do a sortes, but when I opened up Ivan Ilyich’s Tools of Conviviality, the first paragraph I read was this:
    “Lewis Mumford in his The Myth of the Machine: The Pentagon of Power points out that one particular enterprise, namely mining, set the pattern for later modes of mechanization by its callous disregard for human factors, by its indifference to the pollution and destruction of the neighboring environment, by
    its concentration upon the physico-chemical process for obtaining the desired metal or fuel, and abo~re all by its topographic and mental isolation from the organic world of the farmer and the craftsman, and the spiritual world of the Church, the University and the City. In its destruction of the environment and its
    indifference to the risks to human life, mining closely resembles warfare—through likewise it often, through its confrontation of danger and death, brings into existence a tough, self-respecting personality … the soldier at his best. But the destructive animus of mining and its punishing routine of work, along with its environmental poverty and disorder were passed on to the new industries that used its products. These negative social results offset the mechanical gains. This new attitude toward gainful activity is well reflected in the introduction of a new term to designate it. Tripaliare meant to torture on the trepalium, which was first mentioned in the sixth century as an instrument of impalement made out of three wooden sticks. By the twelfth century the word in both French and Spanish expressed a painful experience to which man is subjected; only in the sixteenth century did it become possible to
    use the verb trabajar interchangeably with laborar and sudar on the job. Equally significant is what happened in the English language. Things began to work—first medicines (1600) and then
    physical tools (1650), even though these were not yet tools driven by any outside power. The alchemist’s dream of making a homunculus in the test tube slowly took the shape of creating
    robots to work for man, and to educate men to work alongside them. The ideology of an industrial organization of tools and a capitalist organization of the economy preceded by many centuries what is usually called the Industrial Revolution. On Baconian premises Europeans began, according to Mumford, to save time, shrink space, augment power, multiply goods, over-throw organic norms and displace real organisms with mechanisms that stimulated them or vastly magnified some single
    function they performed. All these imperatives, which have become the groundwork of science as technology in our present society, seem axiomatic and absolute only because they remain
    unexamined. The same change of mind appears also in a transfer from ritual regularity to mechanical regularity with an emphasis on time-keeping, space-measuring, account-keeping, thus translating concrete objects and complex events into abstract quantities. According to Mumford, it was this capitalistic devotion to repetitive order that helped undermine the unmeasurable personal balance between the workman and his tools

    Someone else mentioned that slaves, for Rome, were roughly equivalent to petro-chemicals for us. That makes a ton of sense. The Middle Ages, then, were the period in which man (literally) stood at a crossroads, and tried to decide whether to follow the Gothic spiritual impulse (with the esoteric meaning behind it), or double-entry book-keeping, mining, and the budding corporations that arose in the new towns. Maybe both at once, some decided, but it now abundantly is illustrated for us that ye cannot serve both God and Mammon. Too bad that the Puritans squelched the Rennaisance in England: England set the tone for the centuries after that.

    What purpose did this massive side road in humanity serve? Besides nearly destroying the Europeans?

  79. Wow JMG – was like a sweet summary from the old days @ TOD!

    Just to ease everyone’s mind a bit – there are still a lot of untapped conventional reserves, but they are at depths below 20.000′. It takes a fairly high oil price to enable them to be economical due to depth and the associated pressures. We made some economical 30,000 footers in the GOM in the last ten years, and they are still producing very well.

    It’s the payback for the deepwater rigs/technology/logistics that determine if we even go there. At $50/bbl – nope. But that’s kind of good – it will keep in place, and when oil price hits the right note economically, they will drill.

    Not only that, but more drilling always happens when price rises – because a small field may not be economical at $40/bbl – it is left sitting because nobody can make any money due to extraction and lease costs vs payout – but at $80/bbl it is suddenly worth drilling.

    I find it interesting that at TOD, we kept imagining the “rolling plateau” on the back side of Hubberts Curve. We are there, albeit fracking has temporarily flattened the curve somewhat.

    The other issue has always been financing – and with interest rates so unbelievably low, it does not get any better for drillers. Yet the economics are not working – expect some fracking folks to go bellyup in the coming years and sell assets to the next, lower overhead tier of extractors.

    My guess? When people see how much oil is actually left in KSA, that may well cause the next panic. Then again, one crazy nutbasket sinking a ship in Hormuz would also do it.

    Truth is, we cannot survive on just fracking – the SG is too low for even making diesel economically. Refineries are designed to fractionate and distill heavy into light products. We are not set up to make longer hydrocarbon chains, and likely that will never be economical due to EROEI anyway.

    When pundits start bringing up Fischer-Tropsch, then it is time to panic…

    Thanks for this one, my friend. And so glad to read ‘depletion never sleeps’, because it doesn’t.

  80. Thank you for all the work you’ve put forth on providing context to the events we’re living through, walking through frameworks for engaging constructively with the world as it is, and presenting new positive narratives showcasing a different way to meet our current and future challenges.

    I pray that after the next big trauma that these frameworks you’ve elucidated and the narratives you’ve crafted or inspire are the ones that capture the imagination of our rebuilt culture.

    Thank you.

  81. Patricia M, yeah, that’s about what I’d expect from Brin.

    Dan, monetary systems fail all the time. I expect the US to default on large portions of its foreign debt well within my lifetime, and it’s not impossible that the dollar will end up losing most or all of its value and being replaced by a new currency. Again, these things are fairly common in the history of economics. You might want to read up on that before falling for the notion that this time the global economy is going to collapse once and for all…because that same claim has been being made over and over again since I was a teenager, and the promised apocalypse never happens, because nation-states have a very wide range of options for preventing or stopping economic collapse, and use those options when needed.

    Paula7, that’s a familiar song and dance to me. I’ve seen a lot of places that tried to go green and still maintain a modern standard of living, and they constantly had to struggle with the gap between the promise and the reality. I’m quite convinced that solar water heaters and solar space heating are viable if they’re done simply and competently, but a lot of the other technologies don’t work to spec, and a community that doesn’t have a steady supply of resources from the industrial world will be much better off ignoring them and focusing on things that actually work.

    Bipeninsular JB, another excellent point!

    Jacurutu, thanks for this. I’ll read it when I need a good emetic.

    Mark, yes, I met Jan, and I’m very sorry to hear that he’s gone! We had a very lively conversation about sail transport, some of which ended up helping to shape a few scenes in one of my novels.

    Alacrates, you’ll get that post. The climate change movement has morphed in some extremely troubling directions of late, and that needs discussion. As for swine and the like, I couldn’t agree more — animals have an important place in any sustainable agriculture.

    Jessi, thanks for this.

    Cob, no, I’m aware of it. That’s one of several ways of using low-grade energy resources that I expect to see put to use as high-grade fossil fuels run short, even though waste-to-energy schemes have horrific problems with toxic air pollution, and the energy density of plastic waste is quite low compared to natural gas or bunker oil (and thus much more has to be burnt to produce the same amount of energy). I’m quite confident that industrial nations will do anything, up to and including rendering down the fat of political prisoners and burning that for fuel, before they accept that the age of cheap energy is over.

    Colin, funny. No, she’s just an unpleasant teenager who yells a lot, and who is being manipulated by a very well funded corporate publicity campaign.

    Twilight, I think a lot of us have been through experiences like that. Peak oil remains; depletion never sleeps; but there’s a lot of other factors in the predicament of our age that also deserve discussion.

    SLClaire, thanks for this. Population bust, here we come…

    Tony C, (1) yes, that’s about right. (2) I don’t happen to know how widespread tight oil and gas deposits are, but Britain and China both apparently have significant reserves. I’ll be looking for a good global overview of tight oil geology.

  82. Arkansas, not every human choice has to serve a purpose. Sometimes we just do something really stupid, and then have to deal with the consequences.

    Oilman2, deepwater oil is another source of oil I expect to see come into play as we proceed. I recall Poul Anderson’s very good novel The Winter of the World, set in a future Ice Age — it was published in 1975, when (despite the evasions of current climate change activists) that was what a lot of scientists were predicting — in which the scientists of a far future age think that there may have been an ancient civilization that used a lot of petroleum, because the only oil deposits they know of are under areas that used to be deep underwater before the glaciers came and sea level dropped…

    Misty, you’re welcome and thank you.

  83. Re: what Moshe Braner and Jim W pointed out about the residues of fracking extraction being a feedstock for plastics, I submit this quote (from the Sierra Club magazine*):

    “Facing intensifying global efforts to curtail the use of oil and gas for transportation and energy — and at the same time seeking markets for the torrent of oil and gas from the US fracking boom — the fossil fuel industry is looking to plastics as a lifeline.”

    In the face of people’s resistance to plastic, we get wonderful lobbying organizations like Californians for Recycling and the Environment, which was an industry effort by some South Carolina plastics makers to influence the move to ban single use plastic bags in, you guessed it, California.

    The drive for profit is very very motivating and the methods and marketing are taking forms that creatively attempt to hide extractive excesses.

    The petroleum-based industries and all the things and flows generated by them have a death grip on our lifeways.

    *I’ll grant that I do sometimes find informative journalism in the copies I get from a relative who was a subscriber…in there between the ads for international sightseeing tours. Heh.

  84. JMG, what is your take on Battery Electric Vehicles and their effect on peak oil? Even today, by some calculations a BEV’s total cost of operation (assuming home charging) is near parity with a gasoline vehicle for states with higher gasoline prices, and certainly for countries with high fuel taxes in Europe. Should oil price double, triple or even quadruple, and gasoline prices would follow suit, Electric Vehicles would have a significant cost advantage and could become prevalent, hastening demand destruction and putting a permanent dent in oil consumption, while driving up electricity demand. IMHO, this significantly lowers the potential top price for oil at peak scenarios. These BEVs were not available in the previous episodes, but now and in the coming few years many models will be available from most traditional car manufacturers. I would love to read your take on this.

  85. I think it is worth remembering here that the western world is no longer comprised of nation states , but is an assortment of transnational oligarchic elites .
    Take ‘Australia’ for instance, whose gas resources are extracted by mostly US owned transnational corporations who then sell it back to the hapless populace for the going global market rate.

    Energy production of “The U.S “ is a much bigger beast than just what they can pull out of their own ground.
    Chevron for example has $200 billion invested in North West of West Australia alone.
    I guess we have to consider all the various vassal states of the Empire as potentially being accessible to prop up its shenanigans .

    However, There are indeed rumblings about a looming bottleneck for energy , i

    It seems “The Asian Century” may not pan out how we think in terms of energy either

    Apart from the huge rare earths stockpile and military considerations, I guess this is why Trump recently tried to buy Greenland, the New Alaska

  86. JMG, thanks for the Hubbert curve! It is easy to misremember it as symmetric. Another interesting point which I would like to mention is, that in the standard model of The Limits to Growth, the timeframe from 2020 and 2030 looks as if the were real trouble ahead for that decade.

  87. Hi John Michael,

    Well this essay will bring them out of the woodwork! Well done you! 🙂

    I may have mentioned before that this house is almost entirely powered by the sun using an off grid solar photovoltaic and battery set up. It works more or less OK for my needs which are fairly small – but still quite comfortable. Anyway, it makes no economic sense at all. It’s resilient, and that is a different goal than seeking an economic return – unfortunately it does not pay its way. The economics of your shale plays are no different.

    People assume that goals are what they believe they are. Sometimes the goal posts can shift and then the world looks really different. I tell you this, paper is still cheaper than the fracked light oil. 😉



  88. @Nastarana & JMG, regarding your reaction to Susalson.

    I happen to know some people from Fridays for Future, and its supporting movement Parents for Future. So, to your questions:

    1. How would they feel when the next door neighbor grows vegetables in his or her front yard? – If they noticed, they would probably see it as a positive change.

    2. Are they willing to support in principle the notion that renters should be allowed to maintain vegetable gardens with reasonable restrictions such as don’t inconvenience others, pay for water or keep collected water mosquito free, keep the patch weeded and so on. Don’t be surprised to find that the holy grail of “Property Rights” comes ahead of all other considerations. – Generally, yes. They would probably be surprised of such question.

    3. Do they know how many miles were traveled by their clothing from factory to store? – No, but they are aware that a lot of emissions are locked in the way economy works. That is why one of their slogans is “System change, not climate change.”

    4. Have they any idea how their mutual funds or pensions are invested? – Inapplicable, our pension system is better then what USA has, it works without investments. Money from working people is simply used to support people who cannot work. Works since 1924.

    5. are these climate change activists who talk about an overall decrease in energy consumption actually decreasing their own energy use? – As far as I know, they are trying. Of course, they are not too radical (they are travelling by train instead of walking, for example). But they are making changes in their lifestyle while pushing politicians for action on their level.

  89. JMG, Thanks for the leaky parachute metaphor for fracking…it’s helpful. I’m picturing the jumper’s growing sense that they’re picking up speed (as the chute’s holes rip larger). They won’t quite be in free fall when landing but prospects for ‘hitting the ground running’ will be poor. Seems as though flexibility will be of high importance in minimizing the landing’s impact…roll, baby, roll!

  90. Dear Mr Greer

    This is one I put on an one of your open posts some months ago. It seems so relevant to this post that it seemed a good idea to put this up again.

    I have been thinking about why free markets and the price mechanism are incapable of dealing with peak oil. I wonder if you would be kind enough to run your eye over a few thoughts I have been having on the subject to see what you think.

    In theory free markets and the price mechanism should be capable of handling peak oil. The theory tells us that when the supply of a resource or good goes down, the price of that resource goes up. In this situation price becomes like a signalling mechanism. Higher prices signal higher profits, so producers put more capital into production and output increase. If producers are unable to raise production because the resource is being depleted, then the higher prices act as a signal to consumers to look for substitutes or alternatives. However when it comes to peak oil this price signalling mechanism starts to break down.

    When the price of an energy resource as important as oil rises, the price mechanism starts operating and producers increase production while consumers look for substitutes, so things are looking fine However this is where the price mechanism breaks down. For energy is the foundation on which the economy runs. Without energy nothing gets done. This means that when energy prices rise, the price of all other goods in the economy rises and people have less money and the economy goes into recession. This means that oil producers stop investing in new oil production and the rate of oil discoveries goes down. It also means that consumers stop looking for substitutes or alternatives to oil. Therefore the price mechanism stops operating and the problem of peak oil is simply not dealt with. In order for the price mechanism to work the price of oil has to stay high until there is fundamental change in the economy to cope with the predicament of peak oil. This does not happen because the reduction in the price of oil removes any incentive to do anything about it.

  91. @ Mandrake. “how much of the observed warming is due to human activity”

    If you will accept that the warming is due to extra CO2 in the atmosphere, then the question becomes, “Can we prove that the extra CO2 is due to human activity?” and the answer is that we can, through isotope analysis.

    Elemental carbon is C-12 with six protons and six neutrons. But a small amount of carbon in the atmosphere gets converted to the isotopes C-13 and C-14 due to collisions with cosmic rays. It so happens that plants have a preference for C-13, so plants, and the animals that eat them, contain more C-13 that might be expected, and as they die, get buried, and converted to coal and oil, that coal and oil is richer in C-13, and the atmosphere gradually gets depleted of C-13.

    We can measure C-13 in the air of centuries ago trapped in air bubbles in ice cores, and it turns out it contained less C-13 than today’s atmosphere. So where did the extra C-13 nowadays come from?

    There are three candidates: volcanoes, carbonate rocks, and burning fossil fuel. But the carbon in volcanic gases and carbonate rocks has the usual amount of C-13. Only fossil fuels have the excess C-13. So we can conclude that human extraction and burning of fossil fuel is responsible for the increase in C-13, and hence the increase in CO2.

  92. Not exactly. Using the same monetary gimmicks, the U.S. has used the world’s oil for 50 years, primarily Saudi’s and Russia’s, and has yet to drill the East and West coasts. Meanwhile, the Gulf has oil at 30,000 feet as proven by Deepwater, and they can get more oil out of ANWR, and indeed each time the flows in Alaska reach critical, they magically find just enough new oil to keep it going perfectly.

    So we have substantial oil in the East, West, North, and even South coasts that are not being fully commercialized yet. I think that sounds like Peak Oil is a long way off, 50 years perhaps.

    …The problem for the U.S. was never the oil, it was the PRICE. Once easy Texas dried up, the fresh new world like Gawar could forever undercut our price. Not until the easy oil was gone and prices reach equivalent of $100 could you compete in expensive offshore oil and be worth tapping into your treasure box. So that’s what the U.S. did: first using world oil, then blowing up all the world’s oil flows in Iraq, Libya, and Sudan, locking up Iran and Venezuela to get the prices to rise. For us. Because we DO have the oil. That’s also why we hate, hate, hate Russia and Iran.

    That only moves the same problem into the future with still-more bbl’s burned daily, but it changes the complexion of the field and our strategy in it.

    On the demand side, the answer is easy: “waste not, want not” a thing Americans can understand. Half our oil is spent in residential transportation, simply drive half as far to work and school and you have 25% more oil overnight. Nobody like driving anyway and as Kunstler would say, we’ve created a Geography of Nowhere, a structure without a future. Reverse it to 1940, where you drive maybe 10 miles a day with fewer cars, to your smaller stores on East Main, with products made 20 miles away, not 20,000.

    Incredibly solvable by things that everyone likes and can agree on. So why isn’t it? Why the Monofuture™ instead?

  93. @Arkansas Thanks for the Illich…what a brilliant thinker he was! Your comment about how Roman slaves = our petroleum reminded me of the magnitude of our energy slaves predicament. A single barrel of oil contains the energy equivalent of 9 to 11 YEARS of human labor. The US consumes 20 million barrels daily…the math and implications are staggering.

  94. JMG,

    That might be of interest in foreseeing the shape of future:

    Australia’s state utility is first to start cutting power lines and leaving people outside the grid with solars and wind turbines. So we can have the scenario, where all the important cities have not changed their energy consumption profile and the countryside is increasingly left without much of electricity after next decade of so of economic troubles.

    Second, considering comments, are you planning update on Saudi Arabia? Can we get your full opinion on (coming) conflict around Persian Gulf and what will happen to world oil? That might be even more panic-inducing than slow grind of depletion in american shale.


  95. Am I wrong to think the “collective mental stagnation” you mentioned has been intentionally manufactured and vigorously weaponized by a certain socio-economic strata of people? What I’m trying to wrap my head around is how otherwise not unintelligent people can be made to believe with conviction such absurdities as ‘the Earth is flat’, and ‘there are more than 2 (3) genders’ ,among others, despite overwhelming and readily accessible scientific data to the contrary.

  96. Hi John & fellow Ecosophians,

    “In an era of collective mental stagnation like the present, when the cultural mainstream proclaims and enforces a rigid set of intellectual and social dogmas to which all respectable thinkers must kowtow, the fringes are the only place where changing realities have a chance of being noticed. That doesn’t mean that everything on the fringes reflects some new reality, far from it, but if you keep an ear turned toward murmurings from the fringes, tolerably often you’ll get to hear tomorrow’s news long before the officially approved pundits get around to mentioning it.”

    This paragraph reminded me of one of David Holmgren’s permaculture principles, “Use edges and value the marginal”. It’s great to see that principle at work here.

    There is a proverb that goes with this. “Don’t think you are on the right track just because its a well-beaten path”.

    I really appreciate all the bushwhacking that goes on here!

  97. If we can assume that tight oil well will live for about 20 years and extract around 1,000,000 barrels of oil in its lifetime (granting that these are gigantic assumptions)…

    Then the world consumes the lifetime production of a single shale well over a period of 17.5 minutes.

    Nothing to see here.

  98. Unfortunately, when “peak oil” is mentioned to others these day, common reactions include the assertion that it has been completely debunked (even though peak oil writers were wrong about some of the details of short-term future, the larger narrative of depletion is real).  In current times, is there a better term to use when bringing up the same issues that is less likely to get a reaction of automatic dismissal?

    As for me, when I talk or write about these issues these days, instead of saying “peak oil” I often use “petroleum depletion.” My choice of language reflects a changed emphasis from the peak (less fixation on the exact year of the peak) to the process of depletion going on all the time (regardless of the time of peak, every moment oil is being extracted,  a finite resource is being depleted…that’s harder to argue with).

    I’m reminded when “global warming” was the term used a lot and then most switched to saying “climate change” to reflect a broader array of climate changes than just warming.

  99. Oren, I think BEVs might be a worthwhile part of the mix, but their adoption on any scale will put significant strains on electrical production capacity. It would help if lightweight BEVs not designed for highway use were to become common in urban areas — the lighter the vehicle, the less electricity it needs — and it would help even more if electrified mass transit were to be ramped up to take part of the strain off the personal vehicle.

    Pantouflager, while your analysis has quite a bit of validity, it seems to me that it’s a bit too simple. Yes, we’ve got the transnational elites, but we also have nation-states, and some of those nation-states are showing a certain definite enthusiasm for taking control of their own destinies and telling the transnational elites to get stuffed. I would suggest, in fact, that the great political conflicts of the next two decades will pit populists who are loyal to their countries against elitists who are loyal only to their class.

    Booklover, no argument there. I expect the decades ahead to be fairly rough.

    Chris, that’s a crucial point, of course; economics are by no means the only game in town.

    Jim W, that metaphor works.

    Jasmine, well, maybe in theory, but I’d encourage you to look at what’s actually happened. In the last two rounds of the peak oil saga, the price went up, and speculators piled into oil, driving the price up faster; producers responded by bringing online reserves that weren’t profitable to extract at lower prices; that cut in right about the same time as demand destruction (i.e., people who couldn’t afford oil stopped using it); so the price started falling, Speculators then bailed out of oil and the decline turned into a crash. The new price floor was higher than the old, though, and so some of the new supply remained on the market. That’s a tolerably normal market response to supply and demand, and suggests that the market is actually responding to the reality of peak oil — which is not the same as the market responding to what peak oil, according to the activists, was supposed to be like…

    Jasper, I’d be interested in where you got the idea that there’s enough oil off the US coasts to delay peak oil for fifty years — do you have sources to cite for that? More generally, of course it’s a matter of price — but price doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Price represents a measure of the amount of real wealth that has to go into oil extraction. That wealth is a good proxy for energy, among other things, and so as the price of extraction goes up, all other things being equal, the net energy goes down — and it’s net energy, not gross production, that determines how complex of a society you can support.

    Vorsti, thanks for this. Yes, I’ve seen a variety of things along these lines; I’m waiting to see what happens next.

    Changeling, thanks for this — the beginning of rural de-electrification is something I’ve expected to see for some time now. As for Saudi Arabia, the situation is very much in flux at the moment, with the war in Yemen apparently turning hard against the Saudis; I’ll see what if anything I can sort out from the flux.

    YCS, I’ve noticed quite a few media outlets on the left suddenly starting to veer from the approved list of ideas. I wonder what’s up.

    Disciple, it’s more complex than that. Certainly there are people hard at work trying to push nonsense of various kinds into the collective conversation, but people also pick and choose which nonsense they want to believe in; they’re not simply passive receptacles, but active gatherers of nonsense. Both the examples you cite serve a single underlying belief system, which claims that if people in the comfortable classes want something, nature is not allowed to get in their way. Grasp the belief system and you grasp the reason so many people are actively choosing the nonsense in question.

  100. I’ve been following the Peak Oil game since the 90s, and have seen the swing of the comments. John, this is the best article I have seen in years. This is a slow, but relentless tide of events. There is tremendous capacity for demand collapse when prices spike upward. Mass transit, trains, and buses could make an incredible come back.

    McMansions may go abandoned, or become “group houses” depending on population pressures.

    Kunstler’s “Geography of Nowhere” was off in many ways, but still a good read. (Especially when ‘time stamped’ as you read…) Actually, a lot of the old discussions are worthwhile for review when considered in their appropriate timeline: we learn as we go.

    Hold on to your money. There will be a day when someone will gladly sell you an F-Gargantuan Pickup truck for a laughable amount.


  101. Here in Nova Scotia, there is a fracking ban, which from time to time comes under a little pressure to be rescinded. I wonder if the ban is there out of genuine concern, or if it is a convenient way to to hold off on fracking until a strategically convenient time, when the reserves of other nations are depleted, as you and other commenters have suggested. By then, the lifestyles of many in the public will be sufficiently challenged by rising energy prices such that support for the ban will likely dwindle.

    Speaking of climate change activism: I normally stay out of debates about climate change with people I know because in some ways I haven’t yet ‘lived the changes I want to see’. Although in a lot of ways I do try to reduce my impact on the environment I still drive a small pickup that we bought used a few years ago, but it is a very visible gas guzzler so I try to keep my mouth shut and keep downscaling.

    But this week I may have put my foot in my mouth in a sudden debate about climate change activism, full of the usual tropes, which took place in an online chat with work colleagues. In a moment of weakness I entered the fray with a pointed comment which used some of the ideas which come up on this blog about society living within limits; ideas which rarely come up in these debates. My comment basically silenced the debate, perhaps because I hit on sensitive territory, but such ideas are a little rich coming from me, who drives a pickup.

    My question: in this case clearly I was the hypocrite, but at what point does one shut up about environmental issues if one is not yet ‘living the change’? At what point along that scale are arguments of that nature by detractors of environmental activists invalidated? The one drop fallacy comes to mind here: detractors of activists could keep using the argument that activists aren’t living their ideals if they don’t live, to exaggerate, ‘in caves without any energy’. In case it’s not clear, my questions are not rhetorical, the recent experience I had has triggered these questions.

    @Christopher Henningsen: If you’re reading this, last week you asked if anyone from Halifax, NS wanted to meet. I’m in Halifax, and would love to. How do I get in touch?

  102. Interesting to see this analysis on a mainstream site (relevant to my plastics/increased extraction comment above):

    It seems that we’ve created the majority of plastic in existence in the last 10-13 years, which correlates with the increase in US fracking. With the influx of new plastic partly responsible for the collapse of recycling, we see a complex interaction of factors: corporations’ profits through plastic manufacture vs low social strata gig work collecting a now valueless commodity, fracking waste product turned into marketable commodity vs the detrimental suffusion of plastic in the biosphere, mountains of trash hidden here but visible in poorer regions where they can’t deal with it.

    It’ll be interesting to see if the currently yuppie hipster zero waste trend gains traction. At least bulk goods survived being classified as merely a hippy thing. We really need to make plastic-free the norm.

    I know the majority of petroleum goes to fuel, but so long as we accept its waste products in our daily lives, we excuse its extraction use for any and all reasons.

    I’ve switched to bar shampoo (couldn’t find it in stores for a few years, but it’s around again now), make yogurt, am planting a pecan tree so I don’t have to buy nuts in bags, and a few other things…yet a glance around my house reveals still so much plastic. In many cases, there aren’t other options, in others, I have to make a trade off that I don’t like.

    Are we relegated to awaiting price changes to trickle down so that only when people find it cheaper to make their own yogurt in glass jars (or what have you) will we see widespread rejection of plastic containers? That’ll be a long time coming it seems.

  103. @YCS I thought in the Guardian article you referenced, it started like he seemed to get the idea, but then mostly demolished his own argument.

    compare the heading we must decomputerize: why we need a Luddite revolution with Decomputerization doesn’t mean no computers.

    It might have been better if he had been a bit more focused on the “cloud”, which is always overhyped in my mind.

  104. Justin, nicely put. Thank you.

    Tidlosa, nah, it’ll be two weeks from now. Next week’s post is a book club post.

    Versling, exactly.

    Beneaththesurface, oh, granted. The label “peak oil” probably needs to be left to the era that spawned it.

    John, no argument there.

    Jbucks, it’s complex. I’ve found that if you’re moving in the right direction, a lot of people take you more seriously — but how much is enough? I don’t think there’s a fixed rule.

    Temporaryreality, I wonder if it’s time to push renunciation of plastic as a lifestyle issue…

  105. JMG –

    I had ‘Winter of the World’ until I tossed out all my old SF paperbacks that were falling apart. Sure hated to toss out some of them – Andre Norton AND the entire Lensman series…but we can’t take it with us on the long journey anyway.

    I saw this a minute ago – pretty much backs up things:

    Not much need for risk when shale oil is shallow and already defined. But as I said, it will take another jump in price and another price plateau before the pendulum swings away from shale.

    Oh – I may be running out of popcorn and my sides hurt:


  106. John–

    So, from that meditation conversation I mentioned previously, the managed way down doesn’t exist. The frustrating thing is, it doesn’t not exist because it isn’t possible, but rather it doesn’t exist because we human beings won’t do what we need to on a large enough scale to make a difference until it is far too late for that difference to matter. We are truly our own worst enemy here.

    Given that the necessary leadership will not emerge because no one running on a platform of LESS is going to get elected anytime soon, we’re stuck in a situation where we either have to support someone who at least doesn’t meaningfully worsen our situation *or* we need someone who mouths all the right platitudes about boundless progress (in order to get elected) but then actively pursues something closer to the needed goals without talking about them. In which case, we have to intentionally elect a deceitful leader (and not only that, but be able to identify that s/he is practicing the “right” kind of deceit, while being outside the loop, so that we can vote for that person).

    I know that leadership ain’t engineering, but this is just ridiculous. Here’s the problem: the Long Descent. Here’s your objective function: minimize the aggregate pain of that descent, given constraints such as the allocation of the pain over the various segments of society (fairness), allocation of the pain over any given segment of time (suddenness), control of resources by any given polity (decentralization), and the like. Obtain a feasible solution. Execute that solution. QED.

    I know it doesn’t work like that. But still. It’s frustrating.

  107. It seems not to be widely recognized by the public that our addiction to electronic devices is consuming staggering amounts of energy in quantities that almost make the transportation sector look energy efficient. The design and manufacture of ever more wonderful electronic gewgaws continues apace, each of them destined to consume greater quantities of electrical power, which as this article points out, is still generated largely by coal:

    Eschewing plane trips and demonizing private automobiles may be fashionable with the current crop of climate warriors, but will they give up their smart phones? Their tablets and fitness trackers? Probably not; the virtue signalling brownie points aren’t worth the deprivation.

  108. @ JMG

    Excellent post. Is it odd I find the post in some sense optimistic? The idea of a slow ragged descent at least leaves room to adjust and adapt on the way down as energy becomes more expensive.

    @ Anyone

    I do not know enough about the economics of current nuclear technology to make a guess myself, but is it possible nuclear energy may become “economic” at some point just to keep the lights on? For example, if nuclear costs 4 times as much as current electricity sources, people may be willing to pay it in the form of higher bills and increased conservation just to maintain some creature comforts. I just don’t know what the economics really are and, of course, this leaves aside the huge issue of what to do with the waste.

    @ jbucks

    re: Environmental Hypocrite

    If I may, I feel much the same way as you about these debates. Some time ago environmental activism was discussed on this blog and JMG responded to a comment from me about how “[activists] scurry like rabbits back to their SUVs.” I’m not an activist but the reply hit home because I live in the Conejo (Rabbit) Valley and drive a 4Runner. I did not point out the irony of my own situation at the time. The way I’ve come to terms with my new understanding of limits is that I acknowledge my own failings and try to do better. However, life circumstances may be such that immediate change in some areas is not practical. I’ve had my 4Runner for almost 17 years and it should last the four years or so until we downsize to one car. Replacing it now doesn’t make financial sense so we just try to minimize driving it. We’re also over-housed for a family of three, but we live in a temperate area and our cooling and heating bills are not very high. Like with the SUV, our awareness has changed in the 16 years we’ve lived here and we already plan to downsize when our son finishes high school. Others may disagree, but I think it’s fine to discuss environmental issues and resource limits even before you’ve been fully able to adjust your own lifestyle as long as you acknowledge where you fall short. The problem with hypocrites is they don’t acknowledge their own failings. If people dismiss your opinion anyway, try not to let it bother you.

  109. @ Oren:

    Problem is oil prices quadrupling is a situation that cannot last. $100 per barrel oil translates roughly into $5.00 a gallon gas. Quadruple priced oil would be a bit in excess of $200 per barrel, so we would be looking at $10.00 a gallon gasoline. There might be a few months lag time, but the effect of $10.00 gas would be brutal Demand Destruction, causing the oil price to crash to the $30-$40 per barrel range.

    And then your BEV is no longer competitive.

    Antoinetta III

  110. Over at Moon of Alabama to-day the lead article is about Joe and Hunter Biden and their sleazy dealings in the Ukraine. The article is a chronology of the long trail of slime and corruption in the Ukraine, but of particular interest is the first of the comments posted.

    This explains that it has been US policy since at least 2014 to encourage Ukraine and other Central and Eastern European countries to fast-track their shale oil/gas activity, with the purpose of reducing their dependence on Russian gas. Hunter Biden was appointed (at $50,000 per month) to the board of the Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, primarily to push the shale strategy forward. Unfortunately for Ukrainian shale, virtually all the shale-fields are located in Donetsk, one of the two ethnically Russian regions who have effectively broken off from the Kiev government. Furthermore, the population in the shale regions is strongly opposed to shale development due to its environmental nastiness.

    Antoinetta III

  111. Hi John,

    Many thanks for this post, a great debunking of “peak-oil is debunked” myth

    About electric vehicles, some pundits use the example of Norway as the policies all countries should follow, but in fact the norwegian policy with the electric cars is a clear exercise of promoting class privileges that you have so many times denounced.

    This is a good article about this issue:

    Some interesting data about this policy

    EV incentives:
    • EVs are exempt from VAT and other taxes on car purchases and sales.
    • Parking in public parking spaces is free.
    • EVs can use most toll roads and several ferry connections free of charge.
    • EVs are allowed to use bus and collective traffic lanes.
    • The company car tax is 50 per cent lower on EVs, and the annual motor vehicle tax/road tax is also lower.
    • Battery charging is free at a rapidly growing number of publicly funded charging stations.

    ICE Sticks:
    • 25% VAT.
    • CO2 Tax.
    • NOx Tax.
    • Weight Tax.
    • Exorbitant gasoline and diesel taxes.

    “ The likelihood of purchasing an EV is 15 times higher for the richest 25% of Norwegian households as compared to the bottom 25%. The fact that 84% of the richest households own at least one additional ICE car against only 21% of the poorest households seems to indicate that without access to a second ICE car, owning an EV – despite all the incentives – is less appealing to the average person.”

    Poor people need to buy a ICE car because, in many cases, they do not have a private garage or the expensive private charging station to charge the car, and also the autonomy of the battery is low except in the case of the very expensive EV cars, so poor people cannot have two cars and then need to buy a ICE car even if today is much more expensive in the life cycle.

    “Cited research by Halvorsen and Froyen Indicates that such an extreme support for EVs is encouraging Norwegians to rely less on public transport and on walking and cycling. Only 14% of EV owners use public transport, cycle, or walk, as compared to more than 50% for non-EV owners. And also more than 64% of households that have a EV have one or more ICE cars, and most of the travel (in Km) they do with the ICE cars.”

    It seems that rich people, the people who buy the EV, do not like public transport and cycling but now it is much better for them with the EV, because they can access in their cars the centers of the city, have free parking, can use the bus and taxi lanes, and have a green & clean “safe space” free of ugly deplorables with their noisy, old and dirty cars; and at the same time they are “saving the planet”. Win-win situation it isn´t?

    ¡Ah! and the costs of the subsidies to the norwegian government is “only” 8100$ per car and year, so I ask: what kind of improvement could you make in the public transport with this huge amount of money, and helping, at the same time, the poor people? Subsidizing the rich again.

    ————– ————– ———————

    A bit off-topic, but recently some news remind me Monty Python:

    Meanwhile in Impechmentville….. “Nobody expects the Democratic Inquisition” :

    “Our chief weapons are surprise, fear, and a fanatical devotion to money…”



  112. JMG,
    I recently got a taste of what you have to deal with everyday. I was commenting on a Climate Strike article on the Portland Bike Website a few weeks ago and pointed out that if we were really serious about climate change we would phase out production of new personal auto’s immediately, phase out commercial air travel quickly and put the energy and carbon budget in to a massive buildout of sensible renewable energy, short and long distance rail and the conversion of exurbia and outer suburbia back in to farmland. I was called the two big swear words in the techno-utopians lexicon, a Nihilist and a Luddite. In addition I was informed that I was clearly uniformed about the latest research from the IPCC on “Climate Mitigation Pathways” and “Climate Adaptation Strategies.” I gave a sigh of relief, I guess we can all drive Teslas, fly battery planes to Disney World and have our meal delivered to us by Amazon with drones because Climate Mitigation Pathways will take care of things for us, no effort involved.

  113. John–

    As we’re discussing energy production and consumption this week, more news re Asia:

    Petronet and Tellurian explore partnership in proposed Driftwood LNG facility

    On September 21, 2019, India’s Petronet LNG Limited signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Tellurian Inc. to explore purchasing up to 0.7 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Tellurian’s proposed Driftwood LNG facility. Previously, Petronet LNG Limited signed an MOU in February 2019 to consider equity investment in the facility. India’s government has a stated goal to expand its natural gas use.

    Driftwood LNG, a subsidiary of Tellurian LNG LLC, is developing a 3.6 Bcf/d liquefaction export facility near Lake Charles, Louisiana. In April 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted authorizations for Driftwood LNG (under Sections 3 and 7 of the Natural Gas Act) that include building a 96-mile natural gas pipeline to interconnect with the facility. In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy issued an opinion and order granting long-term authorization to export LNG from Driftwood to non-free trade agreement nations.

    Two-thirds (1.1 Bcf/d) of the Driftwood LNG capacity has been subscribed to Petronet LNG Limited, Tellurian Inc., and Total. The remaining capacity (0.5 Bcf/d) is uncommitted. Assuming a positive final investment decision (FID), the proposed project schedule anticipates an in-service date in 2023. According to Tellurian’s CEO, the MOU between Petronet LNG Limited and Tellurian Inc. is valued at $7.5 billion, including $2.5 billion for an 18% equity stake in Driftwood. Petronet LNG Limited, the largest importer of natural gas in India, operates LNG receiving and regasification terminals in Dahej, Gujarat, (2.3 Bcf/d capacity) and Kochi, Kerala (0.7 Bcf/d).

    The Indian government’s stated goal for natural gas is a 15% share of primary energy demand by 2030, more than two times higher than current levels (6%). India will need to invest in natural gas infrastructure, including regasification capacity to accommodate increased shipments of LNG, to expand natural gas service within the country.

    According to EIA’s recently released International Energy Outlook (IEO2019), demand for natural gas in India’s industrial sector is projected to grow more than 250% between 2018 and 2050, causing a greater reliance on imports given the country’s relatively small natural gas reserves. IEO2019 projects that India will increasingly manufacture energy-intensive goods such as chemicals and primary metals.

    Some of the links:

    The cited MOU:

    Re India’s policy goals

  114. I really, really hope that industrial society will give up before we end up burning political prisoners’ fat…

  115. JMG, “Arkansas, not every human choice has to serve a purpose. Sometimes we just do something really stupid, and then have to deal with the consequences.”
    Nicely put, indeed sir. That may indeed be “the final verdict”. It’s hard to imagine some civilization not tapping the oil resources and then going berserk. But perhaps that is a little too Hegelian. As you’ve pointed out, there was a brief moment in the 1600s when it was possible to have turned in a different direction, just as in the 1970s, it’s also possible to imagine an attainable “turning”.

  116. @Martin Back:

    Extremely useful bit of info, thank you.

    @JMG: Thanks for the reply, and look forward to the future post. While the rise in weather-caused property damage over recent decades is an interesting data point, it’s hard to suss out the signal from the noise, given the rise in population along the coasts, the associated rise in property values, the construction on formerly marginal properties (like in flood zones), and the degradation/destruction of natural barriers like wetlands and mangrove forests. I agree that there is lots of circumstantial
    evidence supporting a warming trend, but this (and quite a few others) aren’t always as clear as they seem at first.

    Since my previous post was my first after reading you off and on for many years, just wanted to say what a pleasure it’s always been and how much I enjoy breadth of your knowledge and wisdom. I’ve read a number of books you’ve discussed over the years. I’ve read quite a few Conan stories, for instance. Never finished the whole book mainly because of just how surprisingly many there are, but I’ll finish it eventually. I can’t remember at this point whether you led me to Lovecraft or whether I got there by some other path, but at any rate it was interesting to see the way the Conan stories were subsumed into the Lovecraftian universe.

  117. Jasper wrote:

    and has yet to drill the East and West coasts. Meanwhile, the Gulf has oil at 30,000 feet as proven by Deepwater, and they can get more oil out of ANWR, and indeed each time the flows in Alaska reach critical, they magically find just enough new oil to keep it going perfectly.

    my reply:

    The main place on the West coast that has lots of drillable oil is around Santa Barbara, where there are wealthy contributors to the Democratic Party (the reason drilling there wasn’t resumed after the 1969 spill). Here in Ore-is-gone, the coast is the wrong geology for petroleum traps. Same off the coast of Washington. I’ve read that exploration efforts on the East Coast were not successes, the reason oil and gas companies are not drilling there. Most of the offshore oil has been being drilled for decades. Depletion is the reason for ultra deep water drilling like the BP Deepwater Horizon, but that was almost never mentioned when there was the accident.

    As for Alaska, it peaked in 1988 at about two million barrels a day and now is about a half million barrels a day. No one is magically finding more oil to keep it going perfectly. North Slope / Prudhoe Bay has pumped over 17 billion since 1977. Estimates of what might be in ANWR vary, some say a billion, some others say several billion. Northwest Alaska, the Naval Petroleum Reserve, was originally estimated at 10 billion barrels. More recent estimates are at 800 million. But even if the biggest estimates are correct it’s likely to impact the downslope more than sustain the pipeline for another half century. It takes a minimum flow to keep the pipeline’s contents above freezing in the Arctic winter and even with climate change it will still be very cold in central Alaska in January.

  118. JMG
    You wrote to Tony C: “(2) I don’t happen to know how widespread tight oil and gas deposits are, but Britain and China both apparently have significant reserves. I’ll be looking for a good global overview of tight oil geology.”

    Britain is highly populated, even in the rural areas. In most of England and lowland Scotland. there is a dense network of roads amid legacies of the agrarian landscape.
    Quote via British Geological Survey website; article; ‘What does it mean to local people?’. Quote:”This means a large amount of truck traffic: between 7,000 and 10,000 single truck journeys have been estimated per well pad through the period of construction and fracking, though this would diminish very quickly when the well begins to produce commercially.” And that is a lot of water and mud etc,
    I cannot put numbers to this, but to maintain over decades a significant national flow of NG, it seems likely tens of thousands of wells would be needed. The sites become accumulated derelict land. The BGS work suggests fairly large geological structures with ‘potential resource’ do exist, but there is as yet very little knowledge as to how much of this could convert to recoverable reserves. It is not simply the economics of the costs of extraction v/v retail price of the NG. They do not know yet geologically what is there. Presumably only parts of the structures will be ‘frackable’.
    My guess is that the economics are not good enough to warrant wholesale development i.e. we can’t afford it. The only cost advantage is that there is already a dense distribution network in existence for shale gas to be pumped into.

    Phil H

  119. It will be interesting to deal with the return of peak oil, whatever people end up calling it. I guess whether peak oil or climate change are dominant in people’s conversations is going to flip back and forth as the long descent continues and begins to steepen. This will be my second go round. I’m not old enough to remember the 1970s! Hard to remember things from before you were born, after all…

    I am glad to see you returning to talking about this topic, JMG. There isn’t much discussion of it elsewhere, and it is important. Thank you.

    I have to ask, what is Greta Thunberg doing that is giving people with aspergers’ syndrome a bad name? I’m asking as someone who is probably somewhere on the edge between aspergers and merely eccentric.

  120. JMG,

    Would “Blood of the Earth” make a good text for meditation in these times? I think I’m ready to bite into that.

  121. And today, extinction rebellion look to disrupt or shut down a bunch of cities. Climate activism will likely end sooner rather than later as all they do is just piss everyone off.

  122. John,

    It’s hard to say with confidence what happened in Saudi Arabia, but it appears the Saudi army suffered a major defeat at the hands of Yemeni forces. One of the blogs I follow closely besides this one and Forecasting Intelligence is Sic Semper Tyrannis, run by Colonel W Patrick Lang, a retired US Army intelligence and Special Forces officer who served as a senior civilian official for several years at the Defense Intelligence Agency after leaving the army. Among other things, Colonel Lang was a Professor of Arabic at West Point and served as US military attache in both Saudi Arabia and Yemen, so he has extensive experience in the region.

    His blog has had some of the best coverage of the current round of wars in the Middle East. He believes the Yemenis are telling the truth when they claim they lured three Saudi brigades into a trap and defeated them. Among other things, it has been reported the Yemenis used missile and rocket artillery strikes against Saudi air bases to neutralize their advantage in air power.

    Colonel Lang has stated he thinks its entirely possible we may see Yemeni forces invade Saudi Arabia and capture Mecca and Medina, which would be the death-knell of the Saudi government.

  123. JMG, I am curious if you know of Strong Towns and if so what you think of them. Their core message is here:

    Basically they say suburban sprawl has bankrupted American towns, counties, and states, and we should stop building infrastructure (especially for cars); maintain the most valuable stuff we have; and make lots of small reversible changes, seeing what works and reinforcing success (and letting the failures fail). All good, as far as it goes, and far saner than what most American towns and cities are doing. Not nearly enough, I think, but any movement in the right direction is to be welcomed – and they have some techniques readers can use to make their own towns incrementally better.

  124. Regarding the peak oil discussion:

    In my normal life, aside from reading this blog, I don’t think I’ve seen any mention of the concept of resource depletion for years in the mainstream discourse – and if I have and simply forgotten, discussion of the depletion issue occurs at well under 1/1000th of the rate of discussion of climate change. Then again, I don’t read too much mainstream stuff.

    My not-too-risky prediction: The rhetoric about ‘eco-fascism’, during the next spike in oil prices, will be re-purposed to attempt to silence discussion of peak net energy and related issues.

  125. Mr Greer,

    You assert: “nuclear power [and renewable energy were both] hopelessly uneconomical”

    Yet France’s electricity grid is 75% nuclear, and has been running fine for decades, without any accident, no newfangled new tech needed – and EDF is running a profit.

    You write later that no one but a government can do it. OK, let’s suppose that indeed no one but a state can do it… still good enough for me! If it’s either the end of techno-industrial society, or using the same old nuclear power plants that the French government manages to handle… it looks like a no-brainer to me!

    What do you think?

  126. @Mark Robinowitz

    > A bit like thermonuclear fusion – 20 years in the future for the past 40 years. And if one thinks the ice caps are not melting fast enough, experiments with fusion could help speed that up with 100 million degree C plasma!

    You are far too kind on fusion. I know of folks who visited the Princeton reactor and they said “Fusion will only be 10 years away”, this was back in 1962. They are now almost 50 years late and still waiting.

    For those interested; there are a few dark secrets to fusion that they don’t want most folks to know. First look at the ITER that is being built in France. It has been worked on since 1985 and they are not expecting the reactor to be switched on until about the 2030’s with the ‘potential’ energy positivity in the 2040’s… maybe. 45 years to get a TEST reactor switched on at a cost of over $15 billion USD despite doubt if this thing will even produce positive energy, yet alone electrical energy.

    All this even though they switched to the easier to produce fusion fuel source of Tritium, a material that has about a total of 25Kg available world wide (with a 12 year half life) and is only produced via fission reactors. I will re-state this. They switched to a material that is consider vastly more viable for fusion, that we can only source via fission reactors. This is the equivalent of using fossil fuels to produce ethanol.

    Combine that with the fact that if there is even a .1% percent loss on this material in operation than it will become physically impossible to produce energy positivity. That then need a separate power plant just to cool the system when it is not producing energy and it becomes apparent that the whole fusion experiment has the possibility of becoming a bizarre curiosity in the history books of the future. The same way folks used to think Zeplins were the transport of the future (I have seen this idea pop-up again recently) and that electricity would be the fountain of youth by zapping people back into their prime.

    I really do hope they try to make fusion work, maybe one bright spark will figure it out but just don’t bet everything on it happening.

    I have probably mentioned this here before but I call technologies like this the ‘Fusion Horizon’ because of its nature. It is always on the horizon and every step forward also moves it one step away. I’m thinking of things like Self Driving cars, AI, cures for aging etc. It can be fun to have a goal that you will probably never achieve and you can learn a lot along the way, just don’t build a civilization on the idea of it.

    There is the Zen saving, cross the bridge but do not build your house on it. That seem fitting here.

  127. On the subject of plastics: It occurred to me during the last few years how there is a trend even in German supermarkets that fruits and lettuces come with plastic packaging, but luckily, it is not ubiquitous. I have observed a curious opposite trend, too: styrofoam has become more infrequent as a packaging material.

    There are several books about living plastic-free, but it is anything but easy to pull off. Probably it is more workable for most people to reduce consumption as a whole.

    An an idea occurred to me: maybe part of why people didn’t understand peak oil was that peak oil is complex, with all the systemic interrelations of effects, with energy return on investments, which isn’t in the focus of most people’s thinking about oil and with the effects of demand destruction, especially when, as it may sometimes happen, demand destruction is running ahead of resource depletion.

    A further point about consumer goods, not directly related to peak oil is that crapificaton leads to a situation where one must replace a product more often, which gets expensive with time, or abandoning it. A considerable amount for abandoning things might come from that direction in the coming decades.

  128. Beekeeper in VT – thanks! I’ve checked that site out before, but it’s been a while. The deep down gist of my point, though, is how do we get everyone to be interested when a huge array of corporate lobbyists, advertising departments, and product packaging decision makers, not to mention petroleum extraction companies are in alignment to favor the plastification of everything and to leave the rest of us to extend our heads a little higher as the tide of crapola rises.

    That said, I’ve been stumped by toothpaste. Baking soda tastes terrible and the greenveganhip versions are stupidly expensive. All I wanna do is brush my teeth with something that isn’t encased in plastic… I’m off to see what’s on that site. (You wouldn’t believe the challenge I had coming up with an alternative to a plastic dishpan and nobody’s plastic free kitchen tips helped there, fingers crossed for toothpaste or powder though).

  129. Colonel W Patrick Lang on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, discussing the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

    I never had anything to do with “The Kingdom” except in so far as it was an intelligence collection or analytic target of the US. I never worked in retirement for any company that did contract work for Saudi Arabia. That was a deliberate choice for me. I know the place well and it has ALWAYS been a sinkhole of medieval theocratic barbarism adorned with modern infrastructure that was constructed by foreign contract “slaves.”

    Colonel Lang also described how far too many American military officers have allowed themselves to be corrupted by dirty money from the Saudis.

    “When I arrived in SA many years ago to be the military attaché in the US Embassy, I discovered that my five immediate predecessors were all retired from the US Army and working in SA for “big bucks.” How could it be I thought that the chief US military intelligence officers in the embassy who had been Counselors of Embassy could be doing that? Simple, they had all been bought and paid for.

    I did not follow that path. Throughout my tour of duty there I relentlessly told the story in my office’s reporting of the military ineptitude of the Saudis and the corrupt practices common in the awarding of all foreign military sales contracts to The Kingdom. The goal of these hard money purchases from the US, the British, the French, etc. was always the same. It was the enrichment through “commissions” of all Saudi and foreign agents in the transactions. In the case of the foreigners the “pay off” was often made after retirement from government service.

    I made this clear in my office’s reporting, and the DIA of that time stood bravely behind me even as they were threatened by the “friends” of Saudi Arabia in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. I, personally, was threatened with career destruction by several seniors including the USAF major general who headed the US Military Training Mission (USMTM) established in country if I did not desist from exposing the situation. I did not desist.

    It is nevertheless true that many, many retired senior military officers and diplomats have sold themselves either directly to Saudi enterprises in that country or to foreign companies which represent the House of Saud. Their contribution to the enabling of the spread of Wahhabi fanaticism throughout the world is immeasurable.

    It should be noted that this enabling persisted under both Democratic and Republican Administrations.

    I am sorry for the self-referential nature of this post but I felt I must speak out.

    For shame! pl”

  130. Re @Jasper comment about West Coast oil… ( I’ve no idea how this compares to other reserves but it’s certainly there. Mostly along the Central Coast. It shows up on the beach from time to time:

    There’s been a moratorium on new coastal drilling and severe restrictions elsewhere since I’ve been alive, but I suspect that will come under pressure. It’d be a shame. Nice spot for a stroll:

  131. This one caught the Zen Basterd’s eye – “the fringes are the only place where changing realities have a chance of being noticed. That doesn’t mean that everything on the fringes reflects some new reality, far from it, but if you keep an ear turned toward murmurings from the fringes, tolerably often you’ll get to hear tomorrow’s news long before the officially approved pundits get around to mentioning it.”

    That sounds about right to me. I’ve been noticing that some of the conversations now entering the mainstream, about Climate Change, Sustainability, Energy usage, resource depletion, decline. environmental degradation, economic inequality and insecurity – once taboo subjects (and still somewhat suspect) in the mainstream corporate media – were topics and discussions we’ve been having out in the fringes for over a decade.

    Famously, or infamously, we’ve been talking about what we’ve been calling the Age of Limits at Four Quarters for something like fifteen years, to a decidedly mixed reception, and have been called unpleasant doomsayers by the unicorn and rainbow brigade. However these same conversations are apparently not nearly dystopian enough to please the Mad Max apocalypse crowd.

    All of this of course perfectly accessible to anyone paying attention and willing to look outside the wall of the collective consensus box. Of course in the past two years, the mainstream media has been too caught up in either loudly criticizing or furiously defending the bright shiny (and profitable) object of the 24/7 Trump show to pay much attention to the actual state of the planet.

  132. Andrew001 said – {the empire continues to spiral and the outlying areas continue to dim, even if they have yet to go dark. It gets harder and harder to find public transit connecting Toronto with my hometown, and I might actually have to drive. I’m in a privileged position, and can afford the car rental, but others are already being stranded by the receding tide.”

    In the mid-80s I had occasion to be near-stranded by a self-destructing used car midway in from a drive from NYC to Atlanta GA. We took a bus the remainder of the route, and that Trailways bus stopped at every small town, crossroads, and wide place in the road between South Hill, VA and Atlanta.

    Fast forward. I now reside in Berkeley Springs, in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. My younger son lives in Buffalo NY where he briefly attended Buffalo State College [separate Dad rant]. The nearest a bus can get him is Baltimore, a three hour round trip drive to pick him up. Pittsburgh is farther. Lately Megabus is cutting back their service to Baltimore to four days a week. And the route still passes through NYC. It’s an overnight or all day ride. Greyhound is no faster, costs about as much as flying, and no more convenient.

    So I wondered, there are Amtrack stations in Cumberland, MD and Martinsburg, WV. But the optimal route was nearly 30 hours? He would have to leave the night before, to get into NYC early enough to take Northeast corridor service to Washington, to take the once a day Capitol Limited out to Martinsburg. Ouch.

    Wait. The two lines cross in Cleveland, OH. What? Two Days? The westbound North Shore Express blows through Cleveland one hour after the Eastbound Capitol Limited, resulting in a 23 hour layover in an Amtrack Station in Cleveland. Jebus Apollo. Never mind.

    The drive from here is 5 hours. It’s faster to just drive up and fetch the lad.

    There is a classic Small town train station in Berkeley Springs that has hasn’t seen passenger service since 1935, now gathering dust and dreams of historical restoration. I have recently heard that the Commuter Rail to DC from Martinsburg is going to be discontinued due to lack of funding. Continue to dim, indeed.

  133. @Jasper

    I know this is a bit of an amateur citation in terms of source but this guy has his finger on the pulse of the energy market far closer than almost anyone I know.

    His prediction is that there are between 400 billion and 1 trillion barrels still undiscovered globally. To be fair at current usage rates this gives us an extra 10-25 years BUT there is no way we would be able to extract this stuff at that pace if it will ever be economical viable.

  134. Huh, I came here to post about the Houthis and how the Saudi regime will collapse (certainly MBS is done for – probably the Al Saud dynasty itself) if they do actually manage to capture Mecca from the 3rd highest military spending nation in the world.

    After all, the Saudi King can’t be the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques if he does not in fact have custody of them!

    I will post this very interesting book though – I haven’t read it yet – it’s very new, but it’s been recommended in a few places:

    It’s called “The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs” by Andrei Martyanov and it is – unusually – a book in English by a respected Russian military writer and strategist.

    It’s quite short and looks like a very interesting perspective on American military dominance and why it is likely to fail in the 21st century and an assessment of relative military power and technology etc. Basically the kind of person who liked JMG’s Twilight’s Last Gleaming will probably like it.

  135. Depletion, huzzah! This is very nostalgic. Having joined you when ADR was starting to hit its stride, its great to see an older-and-wiser JMG revisit the topic.

    Plastic avoidance is, unfortunately, becoming another virtue signal. That’s what’s behind the straw bans. Actually avoiding plastic? Well. That’s too hard! (Admittedly, it is very hard.) There’s two problems: one is again, the salary class’ belief in Sola fide (“I know plastic is bad, so I can use it if i feel guilty. It’s those darn deplorables thoughtlessly polluting, they’re the problem!”); the other is perfectionism. Not practical to go plastic free? Then don’t work too hard at cutting back; just gripe around the water cooler.

    OTH, the silver lining in disposable plastics is that it is carbon sequestration! It’s made of petrochemicals and we’re burying it, right? So it’s not in the atmosphere. The water supply, sure, but not the atmosphere. (This is a pretty tarnished lining, I will admit.) As long as nobody gets the bright idea to dig them up a couple decades down the line…

    Yeah, someone probably will, so there goes my silver lining. I can’t argue. ‘Everything up to and including the rendered fat of political prisoners’ ought to be hyperbole. Then again, I remember a certain nation that went through petroleum withdrawal* in the 40s that was testing out synfuels from Fischer-Tropp and shoving people into ovens. Remembering that makes what might have been a bit of humorous hyperbole in the essay in to a chilling prophesy.

    *(Was there more going on than that? Sure, but after the hunger blockade, the Germans were the most resource-aware people on the planet. Part of the motivation behind the death camps was to get rid of “useless eaters”. Not a sane reaction, perhaps. Can you say your nation will stay sane in the face of depletion, though? I am not entirely confident.)

  136. Antoinetta’s observations about the next big oil price spike clearly show how it will lead to a very sharp recession. If you thought the Great Recession was rough, the Greater Recession is going to top it, possibly quite significantly. Here in New England at least half the homes are heated with oil and I recall vividly our $900-$1000 monthly oil bills from the winter after the price had spiked to $147/barrel. Imagining a winter of $1500/month is not pleasant…we’re working on accumulating a ‘slush fund’ to help get us through the next spike. Gail the Actuary at has written extensively about demand destruction and, while she tends at times to veer into fast collapse speculation, her work may be of interest to many folks here…she’s pretty sharp.

  137. Hi John Michael,

    Concepts of transitions from fossil fuels to electricity usually include batteries. I’m not certain how many people have experience with deep cycle batteries, but most people I know tend to believe them to be the equivalent of a fuel tank.

    Fuel tanks are wondrous things in that they don’t weigh much, they’re not particularly complicated to construct, they fill up really quickly, and best of all the last couple of drops of fuel provide the same energy as the earliest drops of fuel.

    For a while now, I’ve been tending to feel that batteries are closer in operation to that of a balloon. When a balloon is full of air, and the air is released, a huge gush of air whooshes out of the opening. Batteries are sort of the same, and when they’re full, the electrons whoosh out of them and the pressure is high and they can force their way into useful things like circuits and motors. The batteries Voltage (Volts) is represented by the pressure at which the air rushes out, and the batteries Current (Amps) is the amount of air that rushes out. And the awful thing about batteries is that the more electrons (or air as in the balloon metaphor) you let out of them, the lower the pressure (Volts) and amount of electrons that can physically flow (Amps) from the battery becomes. And just like a balloon, the thing may be half full, but don’t expect it to provide enough energy to do useful things.

    Anyway, I don’t believe that there are enough materials around that are economically extractable with which to produce any large scale transitions. If it was economical to do so, it’d already be in place and happening.

    And yes, if your solar panels are producing energy during the day, it is far better to use that electricity then and there. That is the real joke about this stuff, it often produces electricity when people aren’t around and can make use of it. Electricity is very hard to store in the sort of huge quantities that our society has become accustomed too.

    Of course, Blind Freddy knows that now is the time to put this fossil fuel energy stuff to good use – few notice the opportunity though.



  138. Hi John Michael,

    I’m surpised by the focus on money as being the only game in town. Back in the Great Depression down here we had ‘sustenance workers’. People forget their history. My now deceased grand dad grew up in the Great Depression and despite being very comfortably well off – beyond the average by a long stretch – he always grew a huge garden of edible plants in his backyard. I wish I’d taken more notice of how he did that, but one thing was not lost on me – despite being really well off, he still grew the huge edible garden. And what does that say!



  139. I can remember watching a Greenpeace demonstration against new offshore oil drilling in the Arctic.

    They arrived in a steel ship, whose structure was made by reducing iron oxide using coal. This had been propelled across the Atlantic using diesel engines. They then boarded little dinghy boats made from synthetic rubber; wearing life-jackets made from plastics; over waterproof clothing made from polyester. They used a winch carrying polymer rope, to lower their little plastic dinghy boats into the water. They then started little petrol engines on their little plastic dinghies to power themselves out to the oil rig. When they got close, they had to shut the engines off and use little plastic paddles to row out to edge of the rig. They then climbed up one of the rig supports, using plastic harnesses, before rolling out a huge plastic sign carrying writing that had been printed with acetone based inks that displayed the message: Stop Drilling the Arctic!

    At no point in this process did the irony of what they were doing occur to them. I suspect the same is true for Greta Thunburg. This little upstart has no doubt been propelled around the world using fossil fuel energy, in order to moan about ‘other people’ using too much fossil fuel energy.

  140. DFC: Many thanks for this post, a great debunking of “peak-oil is debunked” myth

    surely this should be “re-bunking”

  141. Hi all

    Earlier today, the book in the image below caught my eye as I walked past the front window of my local bookshop.


    If you can’t make out the text in the yellow circle, it reads, “Become A Climate Activist”. Not sure what to make of it. First thing that comes to mind is that it’s pure opportunism. I could just be being cynical though.

    Yet another fantastic essay. Thanks John Michael.


  142. I just have to pipe up and say…I really don’t get how people get gushy about the future potential of electric cars. The fossil fuels used to generate the electricity obviously don’t just disappear from the equation – and the costs of the electricity (at a minimum) reflect the cost of the fuel used to generate it, as well as the infrastructure needed to transmit it – plus then you also need the resources to manufacture the batteries. Sure, it shifts the pollution elsewhere and into the future… but thats about it, it seems to me.

    I also feel the need to point out that as far as the likely future of personal internal combustion engine driven transport goes – in much of SE Asia, where the cost of cars and their fuel is more than the general working population can afford, most people commute on small capacity motorcycles (scooters). These are an ideal single person vehicle (although it’s not uncommon to see a whole family with livestock and/or cargo piled onto one) and use only a tiny fraction of fuel and other resources, compared to a motor car. Disclaimer: I also happen to think motorcycles are a whole lot of fun to ride, and find it fascinating how few people use them here in Australia.

    As depletion kicks in and economic conditions decline for the general population in the West, I think we may see their use increase accordingly.

    Also, a quick question for you JMG… What is your general take on the abiotic theory of oil and it’s ramifications, if proven true? I don’t recall you discussing it before.

    Regards to all.

  143. Re the discussion of BEVs and the electrification of transportation

    As one in the industry, I can report that the electrification of transportation is a BIG DEAL in the power sector, pubic and private. I was recently at a conference of the national trade organization for municipal utilities (the American Public Power Association) and the topic was absolutely everywhere. (Among other things, it is an attempt to boost flat-to-declining sales which have been the trend these last few years.) During one of our round table break-out discussions, I pointed out that this push to electrify transport is simply poaching from the oil & gas sector. We’re not growing the economy; we’re just sticking a shiv into the ribs of the guy standing next to us. I got a few chuckles, but no real response.

    Again, we’re stuck in this trap of short-term thinking, with no one able to look beyond the immediate to develop a long-term plan to get us from Point A to Point B in a more palatable and less catastrophic manner. I know deep down that it isn’t a real solution, but I swear there are moments when the God-Emperor Leto II seems like a good idea…

  144. Energy is outside my wheelhouse but my cynical guess is the next energy pyramid-scheme boondoggle will be ‘liquid natural gas.’ At least in Virginia.

    Here Dominion Power is building a natural gas pipeline (entirely at rate payers’ expense of course) through land taken by eminent domain in order to pipe natural gas to the Atlantic coast where it will be shipped by tankers to Europe. At least that’s the most coherent account of the whole business that has been offered to be public.

    Not only is this an extreme misuse of eminent domain (taking American land in order to create a commercial conduit to ship a limited natural resource abroad for corporate profit), but everyone who knows about energy (not me) blatantly states that it can’t possibly be profitable. Even with the free pipeline, tax relief, free port facilities etc, the price of natural gas in Europe can’t possible justify the shipping expenses.

    But needless to say both of our state’s great political parties fully support it (including the governor who campaigned against it) because Growth, Progress, Markets etc.

    Happy to be wrong.

  145. We could see a radically different political situation by next Summer.

    “How President Pence Would Blow Up 2020 – If Trump were removed from office, the Democratic race would be turned upside down.”

    Basically, if the Senate Republicans vote to impeach Trump, we get President Pence. If Pence then fires some of the more clearly corrupt administration officials Trump put in, moderates some of the far right social actions Trump has supported and makes an effort to appear bipartisan with programs that the Democrats also support like health care and infrastructure then he would appeal to the undecided center of the Electorate.

    If the Middle East blows up, and Pence keeps the US out of it, that would appeal to a big portion of the voters. If a series of climate related disasters here in the US happens at the same time, there could be a swing back to domestic concerns. When that happens people don’t want “big structural changes” like what some on the Left are proposing.

    It looks more and more like Warren is going to be the Democratic nominee. Biden is going to be tainted with corruption from the Impeachment circus all through the campaign. Sanders is looking unhealthy and his age has come up. So too Biden.

    Warren is looking fit, and seems to have a way of distilling complex policies down to TV ready slogans.

    She’s also a woman, which helps her because I think a lot of people are ready to have a woman President.

    It would all come down to whether people believe she would moderate some of her more radical positions once in office. We are used to having our politicians back off of their campaign promises once elected. I think more and more people realize that climate change is happening and we need to do something about it BUT are turned off by the radical proposals for the response to be “climate justice”.

    A Pence versus Warren election would be interesting.

  146. Temporaryreality:

    My plastic dishpan is on its last legs and I wondered what to do too, because I definitely didn’t want to buy another plastic one. I emailed Beth Terry and she suggested I look at restaurant supply places for a stainless warming pan, the kind that food services use. Here’s the link she sent me:
    The darn things are expensive, but it will be the last pan I ever need to buy. I keep hoping some food place has a ‘going out of business and selling all our fixtures’ sale sometime and I can pick up one cheaper there.

    You’re right about baking soda as toothpaste: it does taste terrible. Nonetheless I’ve been using it for almost a decade and have gotten used to it. Tip: rinse really, really well afterward. I can’t prove anything by it, but since I started using it I haven’t had a single dental problem.
    I’ve been meaning to make up a batch of this tooth powder but just haven’t gotten around to it – not to mention that the ingredients would have to be gotten in plastic-free packaging or the effort is moot.

    Duskshine (and everyone else):

    You mentioned the idea of ‘useless eaters’ and it brought to mind the recent town hall meeting organized by AOC in which a clearly troubled woman, terrified at the idea that climate change means we only have a few months left, suggested we need to start ‘eating babies.’ Video here:
    In her tweet after the event, AOC referred to a ‘woman in crisis’. I wonder why this poor woman thinks we only have months left; could it maybe be something AOC has said?


    I’m not surprised about that children’s book, but I am definitely not Greta. That would be too exhausting.

  147. I’m accustomed, by virtue of location, to hydroelectric being the main source of power.

    I expect that we’ll get to see power routed right past us to be transmitted to wealthy urban locations in the future, which of course will lead to predictable infrastructure destruction on this side as people attempt to bypass the stops to get the power they desperately need, or to scrounge copper. The physical dams will probably be all right, being as local water owners have a vested interest in their safety, but the miles upon miles of lines? Not so much.

    On the subject of plastic, one of the big box stores here (a Kroger entity) is advertising that they will go single use plastic free in a year or eighteen months. I asked “With what will you replace these little plastic doohickies?” indicating the bits of plastic that hold tags to clothing. “I have no idea.” was the answer from the clothing clerk.

    I suspect they have no intention of actually eliminating single use plastic, but that it is actually a gimmick to insist people buy their reusable bags at check out. Who, after all, is going to buy paper wrapped meat sight unseen? They would have to reconfigure their meat department and hire butchers for that purpose. At that point, they are competing on quality and price with the local butcher store, and I doubt they can, or they already would: they quite successfully put the organic co-op out of business in January.

  148. Tony_A , I took astrophysics from Thomas Gold ( the originator of the abiotic oil theory in the west) in college and heard his thoughts on it at a time he was developing the theory. His thinking was astrophysical in nature and looked at the wide dispersion of hydrocarbon molecules in the galaxy, and postulated that it must be possible for them to be created in a non-biological way. His further experiments tried to prove this theory with little results. He never arrived at either a theoretical or experimental construct that showed that even if oil was created this way that it could be reached economically or that it would be in sufficient quantities to be useful. His theory has been hijacked and twisted by others to mean that all oil is created this way, that the center of the earth is filled with oil, and that it is reproduced endlessly in a kind of geologic perpetual motion machine.

  149. JMG,

    for fossil fuels to be inexhaustible Earth must both be flat AND infinite, otherwise petroleum geologists would fall off the edge of the world (and get eaten by a giant turtle, presumably).

    Greta is not the only strange Swede in climate change activism. A behavioral scientist Magnus Soderlund from the Stockholm School of Economics argued that we must “awaken the idea” of eating human flesh in the future, as a way of combating the effects of climate change.

    I think he may be ahead of his time, maybe we are getting a bite of Mad Max future after all.

  150. @ Tabarnik

    The history of nuclear power plants in France is interesting (and in some aspects also the canadian one)

    The government of France had always special ideas about the “sovereignty” in particular after the Suez fiasco; France has not been a lap dog of USA (as UK), and was afraid of a serious disruption of oil supplies if the american “friend” or any other problem in ME hit their oil supply, and that was the reason of the Messmer Plan of 100% energy independence through nuclear power (“too cheap to measure”); and also they want to have a huge nuclear power design and construction business, and use France itself as a showcase.

    This plan accelerated after the 1973 oil shock, and from 1971 to 1984 (in 14 years) France started to build 56 nuclear power reactors of a total of 58 in service today. The others two, after Chernobyl, were Civaux-2 started in 1991, it is a 1495 MW PWR reactor with an energy cumulative factor of 78,5% (far away from the +95%); the last one is Flamamville-3 started in 2007 that I think it will never be finished (after Fukushima the costs and delays pile up exponentially)

    All this 56 plants was made in short period almost with similar design (Westinghouse), so you have a very concentrated design risks from the very beginning. If the designs were faulty in any aspect, normally you should learn from failures through the operation of a technology with time, and you will include this learning in future designs, but France could not do this. And now you have five big reactors with severe welding problems (probably in many more reactors when you inspect them, because they are similar):

    As an engineer I would like to hear some explanation from AREVA about how they will solve these “little” problems, and I have some beers and popcorn with me for that. A personal recommendation: please be at least at 300 Km away from any of them.

    Now the plan of the France government is to have “only” 35% (down from 75%) of electricity from nuclear power by 2035, but the problems is the costs of shut-down and clean the nuclear reactors sites; when they have to pay for the costs of decommissioning they will see the real cost and dangers of the nuclear power, and almost all the nuclear reactors will be at the end of their life at the same time….”Houston we have a (huge) problem”



  151. You recently suggested that Canada might pull through somewhat favorably in the coming energy decline era. Russia would certainly have to be included in that assessment. These are the giant Arctic nations as well and some significant oil discoveries in those regions may factor in to the global energy story in the coming decades.

    The more I think of it, Russia seems to be in awfully good shape as we launch into this century’s third decade. Plus they’re in the vanguard of the global movements to shake off western Liberalism. The Good People over here aren’t too pleased.

  152. @Jasmine King,

    It seems to me that your analysis that markets and the price mechanism can’t handle oil scarcity is overlooking some major points. It seems to me that it’s common within the peak oil movement to acknowledge that people usually adapt to scarcity through resource substitution, but then say something along the lines of “energy is the foundation on which the economy runs” – and hence, resource substitution own’t work with energy.

    And yet, in practice, it often does. For instance, if you respond to higher gasoline prices by riding a bicycle to work, then you’ve just eliminated a major energy sink while still getting the same desired result – i.e. you still show up at work every day. Now, the downside is that biking takes a bit longer than driving – some what you have done is to substitute a resource that you have – namely, time – for a depleting energy resource.

    Likewise, if you decide not to burn as much gas to heat your home in the winter, and use thick sweaters and blankets to keep yourself warm, then you have, once more, successfully substituted out an energy resource – this time it’s gas for wool.

    In both cases you have people successfully replacing an energy resource when it becomes too expensive, and the price/market system, far from being an obstacle to overcome, is perfectly capable of providing people with bicycles and sweaters when those are the most economical way to meet one’s goals in life.

    Now the problem – the reason this isn’t compatible with the way our economy actually runs – is because the modern economy is set up to require endless growth. If people are finding ways to consume less resources, then no matter how well those adaptations meet their individual needs, it won’t make the economy grow.

    And the economy will always need to grow as long as we have a debt-backed economy. When the amount of debt exceeds the amount of money available to repay it, the debt will grow no matter what the real economy does, and so growth becomes the only way to keep ahead of the debt. And that’s why it’s such a disaster in America if the quarterly GDP numbers come out and it only grew 2% instead of 3% or 4% – it means that so many more people won’t be able to stay ahead of their creditors and keep their houses and cars.


    I would love to get your take on this. I’ve read over your old ADR posts, as well as the posts on this blog, and seen you take on the issues of peak oil and resource depletion from an impressive array of angles, finance among them. Nonetheless, I am curious to know what role you think that central banking and universal indebtedness, specifically, have played in driving our whole society to demand endless growth.

  153. @Tony C, Ryan S, Tabernick and JMG,

    Regarding nuclear power: I find the argument that nuclear power won’t have a viable future because it isn’t economical to be rather unconvincing. I’m not a nuclear cornucopian, so I have no trouble admitting that nuclear power is quite a bit more expensive than natural gas, hence its tendency to lose money whenever it has to compete against fossil fuels on a level playing field. But that doesn’t really say anything about its role in a post fossil fuel world.

    And it’s also true that nuclear power is an expensive project that always requires government support, but again, expensive public works projects have always been a part of human civilizations. It’s only a rather recent development to look dismissively at anything that can’t be, or wasn’t, built by private enterprise, and even the people who make the most noise for that worldview still have nothing against using things like the interstate highway system when they want the benefits it brings.

    So my prediction is that some countries, though nowhere near a majority of them, will keep at least their major cities electrified with nuclear power after the age of fossil fuels is over. The electricity will be expensive (not least because the reactors will have to be constructed using biofuels and muscle power) and it won’t be able to replace liquid fuels and save the personal automobile, but it will be the best energy source that’s left in many parts of the world.

    Nonetheless, I am still worried about nuclear waste. I am really, really hoping that a close-call at one of the containment pools will scare the politicians into taking action before it’s too late. As far as I can tell, there isn’t any solid technical reason why we couldn’t go with the borehole proposal – i.e. stick it in the bottom of a three-mile-deep shaft in the desert, fill in the borehole, and forget about it – but it seems that in the dysfunctional politics of the time, too many people would rather keep this as a live issue about which they can make speeches and protests, than see it dead and (literally) buried.

  154. Dear SamuraiArtGuy , “unicorn and rainbow brigade”! Thank you for this. I read a lot of criticism of SJWs, on this blog and other places, and much of it is completely justified, but those whom I privately call the adorable chipmunk and rainbows crowd are, IMHO, equally annoying and doing us all a great deal more harm. The SJWs are a mostly urban phenomenon. The followers of Steven Cosgrove (writer of a line of wretched children’s fantasy books all about princesses, rainbows, etc. etc.) are everywhere, shock troops and unwitting, well possibly unwitting, face of mass market consumerism. Myself, I don’t think the sentimental darlings are nearly as dumb as they pretend. I think this group knows what is about happen and is positioning itself to grab as large a share as possible of whatever is left.

  155. From the last world energy outlook (reality has always been consistently worse than its forecasts)

    Today’s flow of new upstream projects appears to be geared to the possibility of an imminent slowdown in fossil fuel demand, but in the New Policies Scenario this could well lead to a shortfall in supply and a further escalation in prices. The risk of a supply crunch looms largest in oil. The average level of new conventional crude oil project approvals over the last three years is only half the amount necessary to balance the market out to 2025, given the demand outlook in the New Policies Scenario. US tight oil is unlikely to pick up the slack on its own. Our projections already incorporate a doubling in US tight oil from today to 2025, but it would need to more than triple in order to offset a continued absence of new conventional projects. In contrast to oil, the risk of an abrupt tightening in LNG markets in the mid-2020s has been eased by major new project announcements, notably in Qatar and Canada.

  156. Oilman2, ouch! I was never much of a Lensman fan but Andre Norton is a serious fave of mine.

    David, as Immanuel Kant said, “out of the crooked timber of humanityno straight thing was ever made.”

    Beekeeper, doing without all those yammering electronic annoyances doesn’t exactly seem like a deprivation to me! Still, you’re probably right.

    Ryan, it’s optimistic if you expect an apocalypse, and pessimistic if you expect perpetual progress. As for nuclear power, remember that it’s being propped up by energy subsidies from fossil fuels — the uranium isn’t being mined, refined, and shipped by nuclear-generated electricity, after all, nor are reactors being built and decommissioned, spare parts manufactured and shipped, and nuclear waste disposed of using the output from nuclear power plants. As fossil fuel prices rise, the cost of nuclear power will thus rise accordingly.

    Degringolade, it really is shooting fish in a barrel at this point.

    Antoinetta, thanks for this. Exactly; if you understand our energy predicament you understand a good half of global geopolitics.

    DFC, yep — and that’s why the privileged classes in the US are so slavish in their reverence for the Scandinavian countries. They want the same kind of privileges that their Norwegian equivalents get as a matter of course.

    JeffBKLYN, no need to. If you understand the laws of physics the daily news is easy to anticipate!

    Clay, yep. They’re so far into denial I’m surprised you didn’t see pyramids rising on the banks.

    David BTL, of course! US natural gas is cheap by international standards, so other countries are interested in getting some. Of course that means the price of natural gas here will go up, putting the squeeze on poor US families, but nobody’s talking about that…

    Will J, so do I, but history isn’t in our favor.

    Arkansas, exactly. It’s no fun to realize that we had several chances to have a different kind of future, and blew them all, but that’s part of the human condition sometimes.

    Mandrake, thank you for this. Of course it’s hard to tell the signal from the noise in any really complex natural system, and it’s especially hard when a good many people out there are trying to amplify the noise as loud as possible — to the volume of a Swedish death metal concert, one might say — but it seems reasonable to pay attention to warning signs that a process that can be predicted from physical first principles is in fact taking place. As it happens, there are real possibilities for mitigation that don’t involve handing over political power to an unelected elite that claims it knows what’s best for us; I’ll be discussing those as we proceed.

    Phil H, I didn’t say that it’s a good idea. I said that it will probably happen. I’m sure you can easily name at least a dozen really stupid programs the British government has pursued in recent years…

    Pygmycory, you’re welcome. As for Aspergers, I just hope people don’t start expecting other people on the autism spectrum to launch into shrill public tirades all the time…

    Tripp, quite possibly yes.

    Peter, I’ll be discussing that in a couple of weeks. There’s an astonishing degree of failed thinking in the radical scene these days.

    Jacurutu, thanks for this! That corresponds closely to what I’ve seen from other sources. Still, the proof of the pudding is in the eating; we’ll know that the Houthis have accomplished what they’re said to have accomplished if either the Saudis either make peace in a hurry, or the Houthis score another victory in the next while.

    Isaac, yes, I’m familiar with them, and I think their program could be an important part of a constructive response to our predicament.

    Justin, wouldn’t surprise me at all.

    Tabarnick, France went all in for nuclear power in the 1950s for political reasons, at a time when it could still draw on American money for the purpose (the Marshall plan was still in full flood) and the relevant resources, including energy inputs, were stunningly cheap by modern standards. You might try sometime costing out an equivalent program in terms of current costs for nuclear power plants!

    Utilities have given up on nuclear power because even by the standards of present-day subsidized energy, nuclear’s insanely expensive — the recently closed Three MIle Island power plant in Pennsylvania, for example, required nearly a million dollars a week in subsidies, over and above the income from sales of the power it generated, just to keep operating. Nuclear power is just too complex and finicky to produce electricity at a cost that people can afford to pay — and that, ultimately, will be its downfall.

    Booklover, that strikes me as a sensible analysis.

    Temporaryreality (if I may), have you looked up recipes for old-fashioned tooth powder? That’s easy to make and can be flavored as you wish, and it’s easy to put in reusable containers.

    Jacurutu, hah! Yes, that sounds about right.

    Samurai, exactly. Bit by bit, despite all the efforts to shut it out, reality seeps in…

    BXN, if the Houthis do that the Saudi regime will be gone in a matter of weeks. (I wonder if the Saudi royal family realizes this.) As for the book recommendation, thank you for this — I’ll see if I can find a copy as time permits.

    Dusk Shine, all in all, plastic isn’t the most important challenge we face. It’s not even in the top twenty. It makes a good opportunity for virtue signaling; they also make a good opportunity for becoming aware of the ecological impact of your lifestyle — and of course these can blend into each other on the edges!

    Jim W, er, remind me — how many times has Gail predicted that the Greater Recession would begin in the next year, this time for sure? I lost count a while back.

    Chris, that’s a fine metaphor — thank you. I’ve noted rather more than once that the only people who think that renewable energy can support a modern developed world lifestyle are people who haven’t tried it. As for money, exactly — money isn’t wealth, it’s just a system of tokens we use to control access to wealth. Your granddad knew that being able to produce real wealth outside the money economy was the key to real prosperity in hard times; it’s a lesson a lot of people will have to learn again.

    TonyH, well, mostly. Thunberg’s at least willing to refuse to fly — unlike a lot of self-proclaimed climate activists. (Hmm — for some reason that came out “cactivists” the first time. A Freudian slip, maybe — is it a reference to how prickly they are, or something rather more scatological?)

    Jez, you’re welcome and thank you. I don’t think it’s pure opportunism — rather, it’s an opportunity for people who are living absurdly extravagant lifestyles, wasting energy right and left and burning enough carbon in a month to keep a small town in the Third World going for a year or two, to identify vicariously with Greta Thunberg and so convince themselves that they aren’t part of the problem.

    Tony_A, scooters make a lot of sense, and so do certain other very lightweight vehicles of the kinds you see in various corners of the Third World. As for abiotic oil, facts have shown conclusively that even if the theory’s correct, which I don’t think it is, it’s not going to make up for oil depletion. Do you remember during the 2008-2009 price spike when oil soared way past $100 a barrel, and hundreds of shut-in wells in Pennsylvania and other states, closed down because they didn’t produce enough to pay the cost of pumps, were brought back on line? If abiotic oil was being generated at a rate fast enough to matter, they should have recharged at least partly with new oil. Instead, they put out the same trickle they’d been producing when they were shut in at the end of the 1970s oil crisis. Thus abiotic oil isn’t an answer for our predicament. QED!

    David BTL, thanks for the heads up! I’ll start gathering data to deal with the electric-car salescritters I’m sure we’ll attract here once the energy situation heats up.

    Joeljones, the first law of petroleum also applies to natural gas: politics trumps economics. Of course it won’t make money. The goals are (a) to give US allies an alternative to Russian gas, so they can choose American puppet strings instead of the Russian equivalent; and (b) to have a source of hard currency when the US has to default on its foreign debt and the dollar becomes worthless in international trade.

    David, I think you’re right that Warren probably has the Dem nomination — Biden is going down hard, and none of the other Dem candidates are doing well — but I see zero chance of Trump being removed from office by Congress. The Democrats have already lost the initiative, and too many leading Dems were up to their eyeballs in nepotism and corruption in the Ukraine — including Pelosi and Biden — and that’s starting to hit the news. I suspect a Federal grand jury is already busy with such matters.

    Beekeeper, the woman who started yelling about eating babies at the AOC town hall was apparently a pro-Trump troll. There are already jokes spreading across the rightward end of US society about the Soylent Green New Deal…

    BoysMom, two good points. Thank you.

    Legal Alien, yes, I heard of that. Now we have trolls making fun of the Left with jokes of the “baby — it’s what’s for dinner” variety…

    Jim W, no argument at all. Russia’s got some changes to go through, but once the Arctic Ocean is blue water and the Ob-Yenisei and Irtysh river basins can drain freely (instead of being blocked by ice and forming vast swamps), Siberia’s going to boom.

    Wesley, to my mind economics — and especially the dimensions of economics that involve arbitrary tokens of wealth (that phrase used to be spelled “currency” and now consists of a galaxy of unpayable IOUs of various kinds) — is a secondary, derivative phenomenon, yanked this way and that by the primary factors of energy, resources, and political power. Thus I don’t think that central banking et al. created the demand for endless growth; rather, the reality of soaring growth from 1750 to 2000 created central banking, fiat currencies, and the rest of it, as ways to manage the immense expansion of real (i.e., nonfinancial) wealth. There’s a certain degree of air time at the end of that process, as there normally is, but as the reality of a decisive change in conditions sinks in, you’ll see economic institutions shift accordingly.

    As for nuclear power, I think you’re right that it will be tried by some countries, but wrong that it will be sustained. The financial problems with nuclear power are proxy markers for the simple fact that nuclear power is basically an elaborate way to turn fossil fuels into electricity second hand; nearly all the energy inputs that go into making a nuclear power plant operate, from the mining and refining of uranium through the building and decommissioning of reactors to the creation and replacement of the equipment — all that comes from fossil fuels. This amounts to a huge energy subsidy that’s almost never taken into account when we’re considering the future of nuclear power. When all those inputs have to be supplied out of expensive, low-grade energy sources rather than cheap, concentrated fossil fuels, the price of nuclear power will rise to the point that nobody will be able to afford it. I expect that some cities will have electrification in the future, but it’ll be hydroelectricity that does it.

    El Duende Oscuro, thanks for this! Your forecast seems quite plausible to me.

  157. Beekeeper,

    I ended up frequenting the local thrift store enough times to finally locate a rectangular granite ware roasting pan, like this: for about $5.

    It works decently – different dimensions and so it fits differently than the plastic one – and I do need to mend a rust spot before it grows.

    Now I know to keep an eye out for another so when the plastic rinse pan kicks the… bucket (haha), I’ll have an alternative.

  158. Re: tooth powder, nope hadn’t gotten there yet, many other irons in other fires, but a quick search shows recipes abound.

    I’m inclined to lump plastic within the greater pollution problem (the waste of industrial civ)… but not even top 20, huh? I’m not trying to virtue signal, personally … but if it’s a lifestyle issue, then … am I barking up the wrong tree even if it’s a tree I can reach as opposed to the many I can’t?

    I’ve seen first hand the plastic trash, uncontrolled, in parts of Asia. It’s sobering. And permanent (unless they burn it, whoopee, and that has a particular smell to brighten anyone’s day).

  159. I liked going to The Oil Drum for energy information. I haven’t found a good place to keep track of energy-related information since. Like everyone else I missed the oil fracking boom. I remember there were some folks who were advocating for it, but they seemed mostly to be economists, so I discounted them. I don’t think my fundamental views on Peak Oil have changed much, just pushed back a bunch.

    Peter Zeihan says in one or another forum, that the oil boom has been in part benefitted by “scared stupid” money fleeing China. He lectures about how, as problematic as the US financial system is, it is dramatically better than a lot of places in the world. So the US receives direct foreign investment. If capital controls are going into China, that may dry up some investment capital. I don’t have sources to confirm his view, but he seems mostly credible.

    The one are where I have become a lot more optimistic, is renewable power. When they shut down San Onofre in 2012, when I was still an HVDC engineer, I noticed that the power orders on the Pacific DC Intertie went from middling to full bore export. I thought we would never import power on the PDCI again. In less time than it has taken to move the fuel from wet storage to dry cask storage, utility solar installations have replaced that energy output multiple times over.

    Now days I have shifted into doing weekly power flow studies to set limits on the PDCI and the California-Oregon intertie to keep them in a stable operating region. I have a lot of visibility to the Western Interconnect. I would caution against drawing any particular conclusion about the viability of renewable power based on the BPA webpage referenced above. The BPA balancing authority is not the same as the BPA service region. It does not include, for example, Seattle City Light, Portland General Electric, or Pacificorp, as well as other big players. There is a lot of generation –solar, thermal, and wind– not included. Rooftop solar also does not show up in any way on this plot or the CAISO plot for California. It is, in the industry jargon, “behind the meter”, and shows up as reduced load when generating. In Oregon and Washington there is significant solar generation happening year round that does not show up on the plot.

    But also you really need to get a view of the entire western interconnect to really see what is going on. I don’t think that information is gathered anywhere. CAISO does make their generation public. They were generating 10 GW today for most of the daylight hours, not including rooftop solar.

    The western interconnect has gotten a lot better at integrating more and more renewable power. Rules have changed to be less biased against it, new power markets have come online and are being increasingly adopted, generation predictions for wind and solar have gotten a lot better, visibility of what is happening on the power system has gotten a lot better. Ten years ago, I never would have thought we could have gotten this much renewable energy on the grid. We seem to be able to do this without intermittency issues causing reliability problems by cooperating across the entire interconnect.

    Renewables do rely on subsidies, but I see that as part of the democratic political process. People do not want to burden the future with pollution problems of various sorts. Based on the last 10 years of experience working on the bulk power system, I don’t really agree that solar power, and renewable power, deserve to be labelled absurd, or at least be labelled more absurd than the other decisions that could be made to power industrial civilization.

  160. @JMG,

    About the role of debt in the growth economy – I am agreed that central banking and debt-backed didn’t create the demand for growth in the first place; still, I think its present-day importance is underappreciated.

    To use a (highly oversimplified) example: the fact that people see 2% growth as a disaster and 4% growth as good times is so much easier to understand once you realize that the whole society is buried under a mountain of debt that grows at somewhere around 3%.

    Obviously the real world is more complex than that, and you are right that central banking only took off after the discovery of new energy sources had launched the industrial revolution. Still, the finance industry did a pretty good job making sure that most of the benefits of that growth went go to the people at the top of the heap, and that people are the bottom will get hit the hardest when the boom times end.

    As for nuclear power, I think we’ll just have to wait and see. In the United States, that industry has been a complete white elephant for three decades, with sums of up to $15 billion getting shelled out on new power plants that always get abandoned in the end. But Russia and China are still powering up new reactors nearly every year, at much lower costs. Whether those countries can adapt fast enough keep their model going when they have to use expensive biodiesel instead of cheap petroleum is an open question in my mind.

    And a lot of it is rolled up in the bigger mystery of just how much liquid fuel a post-fossil society will have in the first place. When algae oil got touted as the next plentiful energy source, it was pretty easy to see that the economics made no sense… as long as you had to compete with petroleum. Once the petroleum is gone, the relevant question will simply become: how many man-hours of physical labor, drenched in sweat and wading waist-deep in an algae paddy, does it take to make a barrel of oil?

    And if that number turns out to be 50, we’ll likely have a very different type of civilization than if it turns out to be 500. But in the present, nobody has the remotest economic reason to find out what that number is.

  161. JMG – Here’s the energy resource map that I somehow failed to attach in my earlier post.

    The URL say “Petroleum”, but it includes many other energy infrastructure items.

    By the way, it includes the “Wheelabrador Environmental System” Municipal Waste to electricity generator, which provides about 61 MW of “biomass” fueled electricity.

  162. Boys Mom:
    We have a local grocery store, a tiny place that still manages to have nearly anything you need, where all the meat is wrapped in butcher’s paper. You go to the meat counter – everything is displayed so you can look at what’s available – and you tell the nice person what you’d like and how much you need and s/he weighs and wraps it right in front of you. Works beautifully. If you’re ever in Chester, Vermont, stop in at Lisai’s Market and see for yourself.

    David Trammel:
    I’ve been seeing a lot of articles in the last few days reporting that if Elizabeth Warren wins the democratic nomination, big corporations and tech companies may not throw their support behind her and might even back the opposition because of her hard-line positions on taxing and regulating their businesses. Might be interesting.

    I hadn’t heard that the woman at AOC’s town hall was a troll but it makes sense. Awfully convincing actress, too. LaRouche people are still around?! I’d thought they’d have found something else to do with their time after Lyndon moved on to that great presidential race in the sky.

  163. To Temporary Reality:

    I’ve made my own toothpaste for years for the exact reason you cited. What follows is essentially a recipe for doctored up baking soda… it works well for me though and you might already have the ingredients:

    Put 2 tablespoons or so of baking soda in a bowl with about ⅛ of a teaspoon of stevia (or to taste) and 2-3 drops of mint, lemon, cinnamon, or other edible essential oil. Moisten with a teaspoon of olive oil or plain vegetable oil at a time until the mixture is pasty and fluffy. Can be stored for weeks without refrigeration because after all, it’s baking soda and oil!

  164. I read cactivists as those who promote the indiscriminate use of cacomagic against the deplorables, but it could be about poo or prickles. Hopefully they won’t try to combine those with Boom or orange though. 😁

    Your response isn’t selling me on “Blood of the Earth” as a meditative text. Another suggestion maybe? Although my new books from Weiser just arrived and I imagine I’ll be nose-down in LRM for the next 9 months.

  165. Here’s a news site that actually does intelligent news. Unfortunately they only cover 1 topic per day, but it’s better than propaganda and the antics of celebrities.

    I saw a tweet today—couldn’t get it to link, sorry—in which the tweeter explained that Democratic politician Kamila Harris is an inspiration to his daughter.

    His daughter is 7 weeks old.

    I swear this country is in the plight of “The Stand,” except that here in real life, you don’t catch superflu, but super-stupidity. I pray we here are all immune. 😳

  166. Temporaryreality, tooth powder is a lot easier to make than toothpaste and doesn’t require plastic, thus my mention of it. As for plastic, if that’s something you want to do something about personally, don’t worry about its overall rating; high-level nuclear waste is way up there in the top 20, but I hope you’re not in a position to remove that from your life!

    BCV, thanks for this. My concerns about renewables focus, first, on their intermittency — I’ve read repeatedly that when you have more than a modest percent of total grid electricity dependent on renewables, maintaining a steady supply becomes a formidable problem — and second, on the tendency of their proponents to finesse just how much energy they consume in manufacture, maintenance, and disposal.

    Wesley, people on the top always prosper most from any economic expansion, and people on the bottom usually — not always — suffer most when the bottom drops out. (The exceptions are when the people on the top end up dangling from lampposts.) The current great cycle used debt as the mechanism for that, but there are plenty of other ways to do it, as the history of other civilizations has shown. As for production of liquid fuels via farming, remember that farmland is also a finite resource; there have been plenty of breezy estimates of biofuel production that failed to notice that people also have to eat.

    Lathechuck, thanks for this!

    Beekeeper, amazingly, they’re still around, and took credit online for the troll. It really was a brilliant parody, in its own way — I can imagine The Onion doing that in an article.

    Tripp, good, because I wasn’t trying to sell you on it. Suggestions? Find a text that intrigues you and go from there.

    Your Kittenship, I’ve cast several powerful spells to banish excess stupidity (and now and then, the excessively stupid) from this comments page. I’d be interested sometime to see how many of them my readers recognize as such. 😉

  167. A quick glance around my house reveals no nuclear waste, so I think I’m OK there, on the personal level. 🙂

  168. JMG: Thanks! I’m glad I survived the cut.

    Can you cast a spell powerful enough to banish the excessively stupid from amongst our rulers? I know a lot of mansions may end up vacant, but if you wanna make omelets…

  169. Algae I think will be used not only for food but increasingly as fuel substitutes. It remains to be seen how viable as our industrial civilization decline.

  170. Was having conversation today with someone about Chevy (& Ford) stopping their production of Sedans. They’ll be only producing trucks, SUVs, Crossovers (small SUVs on car chassis).
    Next oil price spike they’ll be nicely positioned to go out of business completely this time (last time prices spiked everyone stopped buying the big SUVs in mass and started selling their used SUVs cheap).

  171. A couple of points from varying topics over the past couple of weeks:

    1) Since people have commented on mass transit recently, mass transit in the North Township in IN (Hammond and immediate surrounding cities) has been pretty much abysmal (outside of the South Shore Line) for many years – except for a year and a half period when they sent buses up and down the two main roads (Indianapolis Blvd and Calumet Avenue) and had a couple of circulators to serve the surrounding neighborhoods. Then, that was stopped and a stunt route was put in to use federal monies intended for transit (and, of course, a few bridges for the few bikers who use the bike trails). I really miss the Indianapolis Blvd route now, wouldn’t mind using the bus to go to work and letting my car sit for five days a week, even if it meant paying for taxis on the return trip (although with the local cab service now shutting down at ten PM, THAT would have become problematic even now). Am now looking for a place within walking distance to work, wish me luck.

    2) While it looks like many rural interstates are turning into obstacle courses, there’s been a boom in road fixing in NW Indiana. Lots of repaved roads, from main drags to side streets. Never saw nearly as much road fixing during the Bush or Obama years…. Wondering how other cities are doing, street repair wise.

  172. Basically, the only renewable grids that work have substantial amounts of hydro storage to back them up. Scandinavia is tops here. They have years of energy storage in their deep lakes. Where I live, in NZ, we have three to four months max in a few lakes, and rely desperately on it raining, and have a few fossil fuel backup plants. Intriguingly, the government recently commissioned a report wanting a pathway to 100% renewable electricity. The engineers who were writing it said that wouldn’t work, and instead said don’t worry about the last few bits of fossil fuels left in the system and instead focus on electrifying transport and industry, which the grid can easily handle. Time will tell if it happens – there’s a bit of work on decommissioning coal boilers and replacing with electrodes for steam/process heat for instance.

  173. Sorry, I should have added – I think that the Russian incremental approach to nuclear development, particularly its VVER design, seems to be something of a 70 year lifespan battery – a heck of a lot of energy goes into making it, and you get it back over the lifespan of the thing. Of course, the way the Russians seem to do it is to offer cheap Russian-backed credit as well as a supply chain over the life of the asset, and knowing Russia, it can probably hold to that in some form. It’s nuclear geopolitics, as well as economics. I don’t like nuclear much, and don’t like the thought of what happens once the trucks stop running, but I have a suspicion that like peak oil, politics will trump economics on nuclear, especially for the European nations that literally have no other source of electricity.

  174. JMG wrote re shale gas in Britain:
    Phil H, I didn’t say that it’s a good idea. I said that it will probably happen. I’m sure you can easily name at least a dozen really stupid programs the British government has pursued in recent years…

    Sure, and Brit government will throw a bit of subsidy & encouragement for a while, certainly if Tories stay in power and there is still a United K.

    I was trying to say:
    1. we don’t yet know whether shale gas (NG) is there in any significant quantity
    2. even if it is there, it seems improbable perhaps impossible, that it will become mined in serious quantity, a) because of the impressive local destructive activity that it causes, and b) because we won’t afford it.

    If we can’t afford it in the next decade or two, then I guess we never will.

    For the next few decades my guess is that if Germany & Russia manage to sort out the politics, bulk Russian NG will be cheaper and still sufficiently available to augment the dwindling Norwegian supply. Who knows, we might on a good day sell a bit of off-shore wind energy to the Continent’s grids to help balance the books. Whether the investment in wind actually pays off, and how long that sort of accommodation might last, is anyone’s guess. My guess however is there will be a punt in that direction.

    British economics appears fragile. ‘Global financial services’ account for about 10% of GDP and just about make up for our otherwise scary deficit in ‘balance of payments’. That ‘industry’ seems to have been the priority since 2009. Your guess is as good as mine. Smile.

    Phil H

  175. I can respect the intermittency concern. It is definitely a problem. Still, I think a surprising amount of the problems integrating more renewables on the grid ten years ago were not actually technical problems, but rather problems with rules that made it difficult for renewable power to participate. Today there are market incentives that discourage renewables providing their own ancillary services (like reactive power support or spinning reserves) — one more area that could improve integration. The Western Interconnect may also be unusually well suited to integrating renewable power. It has a lot of hydro, including an immense amount of storage, in the form of pumped hydro. Also, the Western Interconnect was purpose built for long distance transmission. There are times when it is very clear to me that solar power in southern California is driving generation in central Washington, and even into Canada.

    I cannot comment authoritatively on the real energy costs of manufacture, maintenance, and disposal of any particular technology. I do think that there are no really good numbers for any technology. It is too easy to fudge the data. I do have a couple of anecdotes: When I was a brand new engineer, I worked for GE in Schenectady. The facility where they made steam turbines and generators was absolutely immense. I mean it was gigantic. I am at a loss to describe it. Look at it on google earth, maybe, though the buildings may have been torn down since then. In an era of energy decline, I have to wonder if that level of industry can be maintained. Later in life, but still years ago, I toured a facility in Vancouver, WA that made wafers for single-crystal PV panels. It was maybe the size of a local furniture factory. Maybe a third of the size of the window factory where I had my first summer job. This experience tends to make me think that solar panel manufacturing will at least scale down reasonably well.

    I guess I would just say that if I have seen a blind spot in your thinking on the future, you might be discounting renewable energy a bit too much. While I think it is fair to say that a renewable paradise of happy motoring is akin to magical thinking, I also think there is some reason to think that wind and solar might work — at least at some “more than just modest” level — fairly far into the future, especially if we can maintain some kind of long distance power connection.

  176. About plastic – like all things, scale matters. In talking about resource depletion and climate change, it’s way down the list of priorities. But here, it’s a hot issue because statewide, Florida is almost all coastline, and plastic in the ocean is proving very destructive to whatever lives in the ocean, whether the cute-animal manatees, or the fishing and seafood which is so major out here. Here in landlocked Gainesville, loose grocery bags are fouling the springs which help feed the land (and the economy) even as, back in the desert, they got into the sewer gratings on every street corner and clogged the wastewater system. And once one blows away, it’s almost impossible to catch.

    So local authorities are trying to cut way, way down on single-use plastics here, regardless of party (The governor is a Republican.) Opposition comes from the restaurant industry, who see their pocketbooks will be hurt, and many eateries are indeed running on a small profit margin, and from people who see such bags as indispensable for collecting and disposing of pet waste and, for people in apartments who use communal dumpsters, for bagging household trash neatly.

    And I was thinking over the virtue signaling matter last night and realized that, while doing it for its own sake is mere vanity, it really helps if people can see you’re walking your talk. However, I’m not going out of my way to replace the plastic takeout dishes one must have in this place with something that must be packed and shipped from a long ways away. Empty salsa jars for storage, now, that’s easy. And cheap.

    My $0.02 from ground level.

  177. Hi John Michael,

    Me tired. An epic project on the farm was completed just as the sun set today. I’m in the process of expanding the growing space for annual plants by a factor of about three times. One must occasionally reach for the stars if they wish to take advantage of the big fusion reactor in the sky! 😉 Unfortunately that also entails a lot of seriously hard work. Today (and the past two days) were bonkers, and years ago I used to know a bloke who’d use far less polite language to describe the sort of work days that we occasionally indulge in down here. Who would use such ungentlemanly language? It was spoken with a sense of wonder though.

    My granddad was a clever bloke, and unfortunately I never really knew him as an adult. In a strange twist of fate, he never wanted to retire and so he willed himself to death – and achieved his goal of not retiring. An unusual choice and I’ve noticed other people take that path, but I have not gained his age (by a long shot) so I can’t really know how he felt at the time – and he did not confide in me, other than occasionally mentioning his deep fear of that particular state of being. However, I do not necessarily agree with all of the choices that he made during his life. You’d appreciate that as a form of dissensus, but I respect his final decision.

    Mate, you are going to totally love this article: Standalone solar replaces power lines in remote WA farming community. WA refers in this instance to the Australian state of Western Australia – not Washington…

    Not to encourage you to gloat or anything dirty and untoward like that, but mate: Hashtag, you called it! I am in awe of your prescience…



  178. @Temporaryreality, re: toothpaste

    I made a quite palatable tooth powder for a couple years with a combination of bentonite clay, calcium carbonante, baking soda and powdered cloves. I’m not happy with the lack of fluoride, but as we’re on city water right now ’tis no issue. If I wasn’t I’d probably just swish tea around in my mouth rather than going through the hassle of getting a hold of sodium fluoride.

    If I remember, I based it on this recipe:
    but left out the Xylitol, as that compound triggers my IBS.

    It does NOT taste of baking soda.

    When I couldn’t find calcium carbonate (sometimes hard to get outside of plastic containers) I baked and dried eggshells to grind to powder. (Powder them well! Ground eggshells have sharp edges; powder doesn’t. To your gums, that matters.)

    I have never discussed this tooth powder routine with my dentist, but have not noticed any tooth decay. Indeed, my gum’s recession seemed to slow with this stuff.

    If you prefer a paste, you can add coconut oil. The powder alone makes a bit of a mess in your sink, though. I can only imagine adding oil would make it a sticky mess. No thanks.

  179. A little OT: but on recycling – there was an article online headed “Why your used shirts are headed for the dump and not the recycling center.” The short reason: “mixed fabrics.”

    There is an equally short solution. “Patchwork quilts.” In fact, if anybody is doing that, put me on their mailing list.

  180. @JMG,

    About farmland being a finite resource – acknowledged. I am fully aware that there is no way to support the kind of civilization that America currently has using biofuels.

    When I bring up algae oil, it’s because I think it has the potential to replace a land-intensive system with a labor-intensive one: that is, the algae in a one-hectare pond will multiply fast enough to produce a barrel of oil every day. Attempts to economically harvest that oil under present day conditions (in which labor is expensive but the petroleum you’re competing against is cheap) have failed dramatically. The thing that I’m really curious about, though, is whether you could get that one-barrel-per-hectare-day without any fancy machines, by just putting four or five or six laborers on the pond. The reason it’s such a big mystery is that, even though it would have a huge impact on life in a post-fossil-fuel world, there is absolutely no reason for anybody to attempt to do such a thing in the here and now, so we’ve got no empirical data on whether it’s possible or not.

  181. Dear Temporaryreality, avoiding plastic may or may not be “virtue signaling”. I frankly don’t care. I simply don’t like the stuff and never have. I figure no one cares what an eccentric hermit does anyway. It has some uses. Opaque cottage cheese containers are good for storing vegetable waste until I can find a time when no one is looking to bury said waste in the compost pile. Translucent containers can be used for winter sowing or for food storage.

    I will say I am rather suspicious of the motives of those who squawk “virtue signaling” whenever someone departs from fashion or participation in the mass market.

  182. Regarding the open questions of how low EROEI can go before causing our present civilization to collapse, or how low an EROEI suffices to sustain an industrial or technical civilization (these are two different questions): the more I examine such questions the more convinced I become that EROEI alone is too crude a measure for those questions to be meaningful.

    An abstract example: suppose, living alone in a forest, but feeling lazy one day, I look for ways to build a Tin Woodsman to gather and prepare firewood for my fireplace. One design, Type A, has a negligible cost to build, but for every cubic foot of wood it adds to my woodpile, it must take away half a cubic foot the next day to fuel itself. Another design, Type B, needs no refueling, but to build it requires the immediate consumption of a huge amount of firewood, equal to half of the total amount of wood it will gather over its entire (let’s say 20-year) lifetime.

    Both types have an EROEI of 2. But it’s pretty clear that the two types are not equivalent in practice. For me, in the woods starting from nothing, only Type A would be practical. And all other things being equal, a Type A Tin Woodsman would seem an excellent value. I never need notice the wood it collects and burns to fuel itself. I’d see only the “free” wood added to my wood pile day after day. There is of course actually a large externalized cost: the net sustainable firewood-providing capacity of the forest is reduced by half. Nonetheless it’s a pretty safe prediction that if Type A Tin Woodsmen were really possible for the wood-using forest-dwelling people to make, they’d make them.

    On the other hand, if Type B were the only workable design, Tin Woodsmen would likely not be made, and not even be continued if they already existed, unless certain other conditions also existed. Where would the mountain of firewood needed to make one come from? Few would have the discipline to laboriously collect double the amount of firewood they need, and then save half of it, for twenty years so as to acquire a Tin Woodsman and gain more leisure later in life. Especially in the face of attractive alternatives such as “raise some kids instead!” Even if one already possessed a legacy Tin Woodsman, saving half of its yield to afford the next replacement, in the face of cold nights and an already enormous (and vulnerable) fuel stockpile on hand, would be a daunting challenge. Only a sizable central government or stable Firewood Bank, pooling taxwood or wood accounts from a large number of people, could reliably manage it (and having done so, would likely arrange to reap most of the benefits themselves).

    And that distinction, up-front versus ongoing energy investment costs, is just one of several variables that can alter the scenario. Up-front and operating labor inputs, and material inputs besides fuel/energy, all completely disregarded in the above fairy-tale version, are others.

    Large-scale and high-technology streaming (“renewable”) energy systems are much more like Type B Tin Woodsmen than Type A. Even this crude model suggests some implications of that. Interestingly, many processes and beings in nature are a lot like Type A Tin Woodsmen (except that they don’t subserviently stack their accruals on your woodpile; you have to go out and seize it from them). Appropriate technologies are in between, which is what makes them appropriate.

  183. I recently read a book by a Scottish guy called Irvine Welsh. Part of his “Mark Renton” series of novels, the most famous of which, Trainspotting, was turned into a film. I can’t remember whether it was “Trainspotting” itself or one of the other books in the series that I read but they’re a well written, gritty and thought provoking portrayal of a marginalised and demonised demographic – Heroin addicts.

    As is so often the case, the books are far more detailed than the films they spawned. Inevitably I suppose. Putting what would take twelve hours to read into a ninety minute flick is always going to need the abridgers talents.

    Point being though that if you’re addicted to a substance like heroin, you’ll do whatever it takes to avoid the comedown.

    Rob a grandmother at knifepoint? Rip off your friends and family? Throw your career, personal relationships and your health under the bus? Nae problem.

    But what Welsh says, using Mark Renton’s voice, is that no matter what you do, no matter how many people you screw over or hurt, you’re going to have to do it all again tomorrow.

    Portraying our dependence on oil as an addiction is nothing new or original of course. I came across it in Kurt Vonnegut’s 2005 short story collection, “A Man without a Country” and have since seen it, in different words, in many other places. The analogy though has some merit.

  184. “Jim W, er, remind me — how many times has Gail predicted that the Greater Recession would begin in the next year, this time for sure? I lost count a while back.”

    JMG, er, I never said I thought the timing of her forecasts was impressive. I think she has a good grasp of many relevant ideas and trends which will contribute to the eventual arrival of the Greater Recession, just as you do. I reckon you’d put forward the same critique about Jim Kunstler. You know as well as I do that the Greater Recession/Great Depression 2.0 is almost certain to be triggered in the coming decade, a classic ‘not if but when?’ scenario.

    You have the advantage of being able to peer somewhat into the future through astrology and your forecasting prowess has been good so far. I know you’ve grown quite impatient/intolerant of people handwaving about catastrophic collapse and I totally get that…me too.

  185. Temporaryreality, my point. You can, on the other hand, do something about plastic in your own life.

    Your Kittenship, unfortunately I don’t know of any way to induce politicians to read my posts and, if they get offended by them, storm out of the legislature and never return!

    Info, algal biodiesel got a lot of publicity during the last oil price spike. Unfortunately the figures for profitability and EROEI were impressively dismal even when compared to other biofuels — bad enough, in fact, that none of the highly touted startups managed to get off the ground. Thus I suspect we’re going to hear a lot of talk about algae as fuel, but actual fuel production? Not so much…

    David, oh man. Stick a fork in them; they’re done.

    Godozo, many thanks for the data points! It occurs to me that an entrepreneur with some backing and the skills to maneuver around local governments could put in an old-fashioned electric streetcar line down Indianapolis Boulevard and do very well indeed.

    Peter, exactly — hydro doesn’t have the intermittency problem, and it stores energy extremely well. As for nuclear, that doesn’t surprise me at all; if Russia can use subsidized nukes to extend its control over its near abroad, you can bet that that’s going to happen.

    Phil H, as long as Russian gas is available, you’re probably safe. It’s further down the road that I’d expect to see frantic drilling for shale gas. As for “global financial services,” I figure one of the main advantages of Brexit is that Britain can go even more deeply into global money laundering than it is already — which is saying something — and float its economy on the cash flow as long as that lasts. It strikes me as a sensible strategy, all things considered. 😉

  186. Nastarana – “Avoiding plastic may or may not be ‘virtue signalling.’ I feankly don’t care. I simoly don’t like the stuff and never have.”

    I think you’ve oretty much just summed up my relationship with about half the technologies in the modern world. 😉

  187. David BTL & JMG
    Our “local*” energy company, National Grid, has been working their way through approvals to install a compressor station to serve a large LNG tank here in Providence. The tank is currently filled by truck delivery, and the stored LNG is used to fill the system when demand exceeds pipeline capacity.
    All the local right thinking people are protesting the installation of this industrial facility near the poorer neighborhoods of Providence, especially the use of “fracked gas” to be compressed. The protestors don’t protest that current delivery of LNG by some 2,000 truck loads is already polluting the neighborhood. The protestors don’t link “fracked gas” to inexpensive home heating. And what really gets me, they don’t realize that the entire facility is in the Port of Providence, where it would be very simple to build an export facility to ship that LNG out of the country. The increased price of gas due to sales on the world market will, of course, give them something else to protest in future.

    (Off topic:) Yesterday, I just heard an interesting call into NPR’s “Science Friday” They were discussing the Internet of Things, and all the connected devices in your home. A woman called in to tell of a game which can be played on “Alexa”. It’s a form of 20 questions where Alexa tries to guess which person you’re thinking of.
    The woman’s daughter was playing, and she was thinking of her father. Alexa asked whether this man lived in the same home – yes. Alexa then asked whether this person made the decision who in the house should get inoculated. The mother stopped the girl from answering, and Alexa asked the question again, whereupon the mother told Alexa to mind her own business. Alexa then asked whether this man is the girl’s father.
    The host and the guests kind of laughed it off – oh that Alexa, always gathering up your data! Yet another reason to minimize use of that crap. Of course, “Their” algorithms probably scan even the comment section of Ecosophia….

  188. @Davis J. Peterson re: car industry — have they never heard any proverbs about having all one’s eggs in the same basket?!?

  189. JMG,

    Insightful as always. A quick alternate hypothesis to your assertion that Hollywood screenwriters lack creativity. As a software engineer, I love this one. Check out a book called “Algorithms to Live by”. In it, the authors present a bunch of famous computer algorithms in layman’s terms. One of them is called “search and exploit”. It’s a way of optimizing solutions to problems like how many apartments you should look at before pulling the trigger on the best deal you find. What percentage of resources should an investment firm spend exploring new strategies as opposed to exploiting proven ones? What percentage of bees should exploit known nectar sources versus seeking new ones? Got it? The main input parameter is timeframe. How long do you have? It turns out if you look at Hollywood, and you consider existing franchises, sequels, remakes etc. as exploit, and everything else as search, the major studios are currently allocating resources like they’ll be out of business in about ten years. Full on exploit. You run the algorithm in reverse to get the timeframe they seem to think they have. Maybe they’re actually really smart afterall, they just see the writing on the wall.

  190. @JMG

    The American political Left is very easy to make fun of as of recent. 🙂

    Also, the menu of the future:

    Yes I do have some dark sense of humor.

    But I have a question, which I think is valid. Venezuela has gigantic oil reserves according to this map:

    1) Why is it doing so poorly?

    and more importantly

    2) Why the US wasn’t all over Venezuela and its oil until recently and decided instead to get involved in a land war in Asia and the Middle East? Venezuela is much closer and the logistics of influence whether economic or military would’ve been a lot simpler.

  191. JMG, Christopher Hope, et. al. re costs and EROEI/EPT of PV

    John, a good post about the peak oil predictions being wrong, and I was there too, surprised by the speed of the Light Tight Oil boom, never thinking that the Bakken would reach, never mind exceed, 1 million bpd.

    I was wrong in another case – about 10 years ago, I was at a crystalline silicon workshop – a small conference specializing in silicon PV. One of the features is asking questions/polling of this group of researchers from industry and academia, and a question was: “how low will the cost of a PV module go?”. This was back when module prices were flirting with $2/Wp (Watt peak). “So how many think that module prices will go below $2?” Everybody raises their hand. “$1.50?” A few doubters. “$1.25?” at least 95% think so. “$1.00?” maybe 90%. “Below, say 80 cents?” maybe 40 % still have their hands up. “75 cents?” I’m part of a minority of about 20%. “60 cents?” I was too doubtful, but there were one or two hold outs. “how low can it go?” 50, maaaaybe 40 cents a watt.

    We all were wrong.
    Factory gate module prices are now as low as 19 cents a watt, though 30-something cents is more like what a decent quality module is. AFAIK, the factory building subsidies in China are long gone.

    PV infolink has spot prices for polysilicon, wafers, cells and modules and PV glass, in both US dollars and Chinese Renimbi.

    One can cross-check with PV insights.

    U.S. retail prices are higher of course, tariffs and middlemen…
    But for larger modules, well under $1/Wp – and these are low quantity, retail prices.

    As far as tracking system prices,
    in Europe, with a German focus, is the Fraunhofer Institute “Photovoltaics Report”, updated yearly.
    They cover EROEI, and Energy Payback Time, which vary due to the installation site (and other things),
    which is now down to 0.7 to 2 years for EPT. (see pages 32-35).

    They give a quick world overview, PV was just over 515 GWp at the end of 2018. Growing by another 100+GWp in 2019.

    Their English site is a pretty good mirror of the German, lots of info on PV and renewables in general.

    For the U.S. I suggest a set of ongoing reports from LBL (The Berkeley Lab), updated yearly.
    “Tracking the Sun” (now) focuses on distributed (small) systems. the latest edition is the result of tracking 1.6 million PV installations in the U.S. (81% of the distributed systems).
    The current edition isn’t yet published, 2018 edition at:

    They also split off the utility scale info into “Utility-Scale Solar”.

    Many other items of interest for the renewable energy aficionado in their publications list.

    For a comparison of the Levelized Cost Of Energy among various technologies,
    I recommend the Lazard LCOE report, latest version is v12 from Nov. 2018, so should be an update soon.
    direct link:
    They quote cost of electricity in $/MWh (like utilities do), so it’s a bit annoying for us consumers who pay in kWh.
    A few examples of unsubsidized LCOE translated to $/kWh off of page 2.
    Solar PV – residential $0.16 – $0.27 / kWh
    Solar PV – rooftop Commercial and Industrial $0.08 – $0.17 / kWh.
    Solar PV – community $0.07 – $0.15 / kWh
    Solar PV – utility $0.036 – $0.046 / kWh
    wind – $0.029 – $0.056 / kWh
    nuclear – $0.152 – $0.206 / kWh
    coal – $0.06 – $0.143/kWh
    gas combined cycle – $0.041 – $0.074 / kWh

    The solar numbers have been surpassed (?underpassed?) in some cases lately.
    Los Angeles just signed a deal to get 400 MW (ac) solar at $0.01997/kWh, PLUS 300 MW/1.2 GWh of battery for an aggregate of $0.03962/kWh.

    One can see that solar and wind are often cheaper than conventional.
    As a typical economic analysis, they do sensitivity analysis, cost of capital, etc.
    A nice chart on page 7 shows the history of average LCOE for various utility scale technologies.
    In 2009 solar was $359/MWh ($0.359/kWh), declining to $43/MWh in 2018.
    That’s a pretty radical decline – almost an order of magnitude in ten years.
    The LBL Utility scale report shows that a bit more than half of the 60 GWp of US solar is utility scale,
    so in fact the poor are using some of it, assuming they pay any electricity bill (or someone is paying for them).

    Poor people have many other obstacles: lack of home ownership means they’d have to deal with a landlord to put solar on a rent house and pack it up/abandon it when they leave, or if living in an apartment, don’t even have a roof of their own. Being poor, they prioritize food and other immediate needs, and don’t have a long term focus.
    Community solar offers poor-ish people a chance to buy into a part of a solar system, though that field is still new, and heavily dependent on policies and politics to allow people to do that.

    If the EPT is 2 years, and a system life is 20 to 30 years, EROEI is 10 or 15 to 1.
    Even if one says EPT is 3 years to account for inverter replacement and degradation over time, it’s still pretty good (considering the EROEI of LTO, oil sands, etc. ).

    I was looking for another article, but this one on EROI of Marcellus shale is pretty thorough.
    They say EROEI of Marcellus shale gas to electricity is about 10,
    and give some (old-ish) numbers for PV as 5.9 for silicon to 11.8 for CdTe.

    So I would concur with BCV that the costs/capability of renewables are discounted too much.
    Though as John notes, politics all too often trumps economics/reasonableness, and so I don’t see a solar supported BAU happening – some decline seems inevitable. But I’ve been wrong before, though I’ve also been right before too 😉

  192. I’d like to suggest cardboard containers like those used for Chinese takeouts as a substitute for the plastic and foam containers you find at restaurants, deli counters, supermarkets and just about everywhere. Even as some of us try to find ways to reduce single use plastic (or even somewhat more durable plastic items that in the past were made of wood or metal) we can be assured that there are people “racking their brains” to find new markets for their plastics. Plastic teabags, for example, were in the news recently, replacing the old-fashioned paper teabags or simple loose tea. And, having said that I must admit that Dart/Solo, a major manufacturer of single use plastics, is THE big employer here in the town where I live. .

  193. Wesley (and JMG) – Re: algae-based biofuel. If I understand correctly, the problem with getting the oil out of the algae is not quite like the problem of getting oil out of olives, or corn. There’s just so much water bound in the algae cells, and the cells so small, that something difficult has to be done to separate the water from the oil. I don’t think it lends itself to manual labor.

    This description looks fairly rational,, but we should all by now be asking questions about how much energy goes into the process(es), for each unit of liquid fuel that comes out, and what waste products are produced.

    As should be obvious, too, the amount of energy that can be released by burning algae-derived fuel is absolutely limited by the amount of sunlight absorbed by the algae, and probably a small fraction of that. (Some of that energy will just heat the water, and evaporate it, so the facility needs fresh water, and the water must be clean enough for the algae to thrive, etc.)

  194. Hi there JMG,

    Thank you for being a clear voice in the world.

    Can you or anyone point to a good tooth powder recipe they use?

    Thank you

  195. Re the electric grid, North America is a patchwork of systems and results will vary with geography and political authority. There are three interconnections, each with some municipal utilities, some commercial vertically integrated utilities, and some RTO/ISO organizations running partially deregulated semi-markets. Some areas have lots of wind, some solar, some coal, some oil, some hydro, some gas. Areas with lots of “pumped storage” hydro (Quebec in particular) will likely do well. Other areas will vary greatly. Cities with dependable hydro, even run-of-river without storage, are lucky too – see Holyoke, MA.

    A big unknown is how PV, wind, and batteries will combine in the medium term. That too will vary based on the local generation portfolio and state policies, not to mention technological and manufacturing changes. Whether any of those three components will be able to survive at grid scale long term is another question.

    My only long term prediction is that Quebec will be in good shape. French North America may yet have its day!

  196. David J Peterson,

    It was my team’s research that led to Ford’s decision to drop sedans from their lineup. I was a data scientist at Ford until around May of this year, and we found that we were selling Sedans for less than the price of their parts, not even including labor costs. This is because the American car companies have very large numbers of possible vehicle configurations (there are often more possible combinations than there are sold vehicles of a given car model in any given year) while their Japanese competitors only have a few hundred to few thousand possible configurations.

    Thus, they benefit much more from economies of scale, not to mention have less warranty issues because their factory workers don’t have to put in as many unfamiliar parts. Our suggestion was that Ford should likewise reduce its complexity to match the Japanese automakers, but the executives, in their infinite wisdom, decided otherwise. Tangentially, I often like to say that, “Idiots can only hear the sound of their own voice.”

    Back on point, fuel efficiency for pickup trucks and SUVs has risen a lot in the last few years, and the American automotive companies are betting that, by the time gas prices do skyrocket, the majority of their sales will be electric and hybrid. Problem is that American consumers don’t want hybrid or electric vehicles if that means they have to pay more money up front. There’s not much demand, and they’re exploring ways to increase it, but they’re in quite a quandary at the moment.

    I wouldn’t expect them to go out of business, simply because this cycle has happened many times before. The big 3 bet everything on Trucks and SUVs, it works for a few years, gas prices go up, everything tanks, they have to sell off a lot of their business and lay off a bunch of people and ask for government bailouts, then they rebound, a little smaller than before. Most workers at Ford and GM understand this quite well, but C-Suite management always thinks it can outsmart the cycle, just like most people in charge of Earth right now expect humans to be able to outsmart the natural cycle.

  197. BCV, maybe so. I consider renewables essential — they’re what we’re going to have when the nonrenewable energy sources are gone forever — but I’m unconvinced that habits of energy use that were developed in an age of cheap fossil fuels are going to be anything approaching viable in an age of expensive renewable energy. Those societies that adapt their habits of energy use to make best use of intermittent power are going to be more successful than those who remain stuck in wasteful habits relevant only to past conditions of abundance: that doesn’t seem like a controversial idea to me, though of course you’re welcome to disagree.

    Patricia M, thanks for this. Empty salsa jars and other forms of do-it-yourself repurposing — now that’s something I can get behind.

    Chris, hah! It’s shooting fish in a barrel at this point.

    Patricia M, another fine example of the same principle.

    Wesley, in theory, algal biodiesel is a great idea. In practice — well, I’d encourage you to look into the gap between rhetoric and reality in the algal biodiesel projects that have tried to scale up beyond the laboratory level. It’s much less simple than it looks! Here’s a useful article on the dismal economics of algal biodiesel, as demonstrated by the galaxy of pond scum ponzi schemes that went broke after the 2008-9 energy price spike crashed; the points it makes might be worth integrating into your view of things.

    Walt, that’s an excellent point. I wonder what would be the best way to frame that insight into easily quantifiable terms.

    Paul, it’s a good analogy, and helps explain some behavior habits better than a lot of others.

    Jim, no, I don’t “know” that a Greater Recession is on its way. In fact, I find that claim increasingly hard to support, not least because the people who insist on it have made so many failed predictions of its imminent arrival. My core model is the Long Descent, remember? I could very readily see that working out by way of ordinary economic cycles, with each peak and each trough a little lower (and that fact heavily obfuscated by statistical noise), extending over the one to three centuries of decline we’ve got ahead of us. All things considered, that strikes me as more likely prospect than the Greater Recession. So it’s not when, it’s if, and I’d need to see some conclusive reason why it’s actually going to happen before buying into the claim.

    Peter, yeah, that sounds about right. As for the “Alexa” spyware — which is of course what it is — to my mind, anyone who allows that program in their house has basically sold themselves into the internet equivalent of chattel slavery. Yes, there are plenty of ways that big internet corporations scoop up data, and I’d like to encourage everyone reading this to wave at the NSA computers that are watching as we converse — hi there, spooks! — but I have a hard time figuring out why people go out of their way to encourage that…

    Yvonne, hah! That’s really funny.

    John, interesting. Yeah, that makes sense.

    Legal Alien, the thing to remember about Venezuela is that what it’s got isn’t conventional crude oil. It’s vast amounts of tar, which can be thinned out with solvents and broken down in specially equipped refineries to produce some petroleum products. The process is costly and fussy, which is why nobody bothered with it when conventional crude oil was abundant. Now that we’re scraping the planet’s barrel for anything that can be turned into liquid fuei, it’s one of the obvious options, and that’s why the US is busy trying to destabilize the Venezuelan government so that our oil companies can move in and strip the country to the bare walls.

    Sunnnv, thanks for this. If that’s the case, we should see solar PV expand rapidly without any need for government subsidies in the US — at that price, if the PV systems live up to their billing, it would make economic sense for investors and homeowners alike to pursue that option. I’m going to wait a while and see whether that happens; as I’m sure you know, it’s not exactly unheard of for an industry to, shall we say, put the best possible light on the numbers in order to move product — and we have the case of algal biodiesel to show just how wrong those numbers can turn out to be.

    Phutatorius, works for me.

    Matt, there are a couple further up the comments stack. The one we used for quite a while was roughly equal parts of finely powdered salt and finely powdered prickly ash bark, with just a pinch of myrrh — it didn’t taste especially good, but then I don’t worry about that. These days we support a favorite eco-cleaning products company by buying their toothpaste, but the tooth powder is always still an option.

  198. Congratulations on attracting thoughtful, respectful comments. If only the rest of the internet was this way …

    Two replies to various comments.

    One asked why we can’t just stuff nuclear waste deep underground. One word: groundwater. Even the driest deserts have acquifers (and some spots, such as Yucca Mountain in Nevada, also have seismic and volcanic concerns). I recommend reading about the “WIPP” test facility in New Mexico. Putting nuke waste into a deep hole might seem good now, but in case of accident it would be almost impossible to retrieve. Not making more nuke waste won’t solve the problem of the irradiated fuels rods and uranium mine tailings, but not making more would be a start.

    Others have raised algae as a substitute for petroleum. It seems reasonable, but apart from EROEI concerns there’s the detail of genetically altered algae pooping petroleum all over the place. What could possibly go wrong? Sorry if it reminds me of the gag in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” where “ice nine” ruins the biosphere.

    It’s hard to imagine that we’ve all lived at the time of peak everything.

  199. Re: Algae:

    One problem with algae for biofuels is that only certain types, or species of algae will work. What tends to happen is algae ponds or tanks exposed to the air risk having the spores of other forms of algae, toadstools, or any life-form that reproduces by spores, get into your algae breeding ponds. These invasive spores will take over your algae pond and ruin your batch.

    Ponds can have structures built to shelter them, but then costs go up, and an already bad EROEI goes down even further.

    Antoinetta III

  200. Hey, JMG,

    A hearty sele of the morning!

    I’m more than half way through William Morris’ The Well at The End of the World. Tho when forced to clomb with holpen naught through copses of forgotten Old English verb tenses and common words, I wot your rede goodly as through the lands I trot with comely Ralph.

    And oh, yeah, oil (or rather the coming lacketh thereof). Problem, that.

    Back to dream of the Lady of Abundance!


  201. Thanks JMG, that was my attempt to use humor to say I’d gotten your point.

    Thanks everyone for the conversation on toothpaste/powders – recipes and links bookmarked for later, and yeah, it’s not a necessity, but sometimes you just want a fresh taste after brushing, no?

    Likewise thanks for the conversation on plastic and, as with the toothpaste topic, I didn’t mean to go so tangential to this week’s post (at least superficially so; my point originally being that plastic proliferation is a byproduct of the boost in extraction and how the politics of profit run the whole show). Lots of reasons to resist Atlantic Republic’s “biofilm suits” – from ick factor, to waste heaps out the ears and in the critters, to just plain stick-it-to-the-profitmaking-man.

  202. “Anthropogenic climate change is a real and serious issue, and it’s being used to manipulate the public on behalf of some extremely dubious political and economic interests. It fascinates me that so few people seem to be able to hold these two ideas in their minds at the same time.”

    As someone who has been involved in climate activism for quite some years I would be very interested to hear more of your thoughts on the “extremely dubious political and economic interests” you mention.

    And yes, I make sure my lifestyle is as close to sustainable as is possible, my carbon footprint is as low as possible etc. And yes, I get very hacked off with those who tweet the need for climate action on their flight to the latest foreign holiday…

  203. About the Greater Recession: In the days of the Archdruid Report you regularly prognosticated such a kind of crisis. During the fall of civilizations, big crises happen, but I’m increasingly considering the possibility that there will only be the ordinary, unremarkable economic cycles in the near-to-middle future, with a slow ratcheting down of the economy, and qua the Limits to Growth, an acceleration of crapification and dwindling industrial production.

  204. Hello JMG

    I’m a long-time lurker, (very) occasional poster on the ADR, first time here. I’m a retired academic engineer, interested in how we may manage the transition to a low energy future, and mostly I find your views, and those of many other posters here, closest to those I have come to (you have been a very big influence). I am writing now because I have been exploring insulation options, roof-mounted PV and solar thermal for our house in the southern UK, and thought the data points might be useful.

    I recently obtained quotations for a small PV and solar thermal installations on our roof. The PV installation cost is well over twice the cost of the panels. The firm quoting suggests that we will get about 50% more output than the UK Energy Saving Trust estimator. Using the latter figures the payback time is over 20 years, even if we use all the electricity generated ourselves, which is unlikely (feed-in-tariffs in the UK are now very low).

    The quote for the solar thermal is about 8 times the price of the vacuum tubes themselves. The installer’s estimate of our fuel cost savings is 65% of our total heating and hot water bill, which I think is too high. My lower figures again give a payback time of over 20 years, but we would get a government ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’ grant (i.e. subsidy) of about half the cost of the installation.

    I also obtained a quote for under-floor insulation (walls, roof and windows are well insulated) – again the payback time is again well over 20 years by my calculations.

    What is the point of all this? The real costs of the energy transition are made much higher than the electrical and mechanical component costs by the labour costs of installation – and, so far as I can see, that applies also to small-scale wind and hydro where the ‘civil engineering’ costs dominate, even if the electro-mechanical parts can be mass produced. Those costs make many changes unviable in conventional economic terms (unless subsidies are provided, as you note). As a consequence, as you and others on this forum have said, these technologies are still the prerogative of the well-off, and are a long-way from providing approaches that ‘everyman’ can use.


  205. I am with you JMG on the idea of there not being a giant global crash. It all sounds so similar to the same idea as the talk about decline. Some folks are just out there waiting for everything to come crashing down in a spectacular fashion so that they can say “I told you so!” and yet things rarely happen like that. The markets will probably do exactly what you have been saying all along. Markets rise, crash and then come back a little lower than before – rinse and repeat a dozen times or more until the excess of the 20th/21st century is but a thing of the history books and legend.

  206. @Chris at Fernglade: right on brother, your battery/balloon metaphor is a cracker. As one who has lived off-grid ashore with solar panels/batteries, solar hot water, and an LPG powered 5KW generator (for when you want to spin up a 3hp mains electric motor on the table saw) for 4 years, and on a sailboat with solar panels/batteries and a towing generator for 17 years, I can relate. The cluelessness about energy and where it comes from of your average Bruce and Shelia is staggering.
    On the yacht we replaced the 4 big 12vt deep cycle batteries on average every 5 years at a cost of around NZ$1,000, and treated them very nicely to get that life span. The volt and amp meters were displayed in the place of honor and consulted often!

  207. @Patricia Mathews – I have recently discovered the joys of visible mending, which is basically patchwork on your clothes using patches made of other old clothes, with a running quilting stitch to hold it all together. It is beautiful and functional. I have decided that with this technique I will never have to buy clothes again! I will look like a colourful bag lady, which I am looking forward to immensely:)

  208. JMG, I do have a faint recollection that you might have mentioned “My core model is the Long Descent, remember?”😉 Thanks for your detailed response, reversing the if/when question. I am inclined to think that we may be in for a major downturn/contraction like a Greater Recession during the coming decade but I wasn’t implying it would lead to the disintegration of society. We’ll pull out of it, just as we did following the Great Crash of 1929. In my mind it would very much be a part of the normal ‘working out by way of ordinary economic cycles’ of the Long Descent. I’m recalling (and I could be completely mistaken) that you were leaning hard into the strong possibility of a Greater Recession notion a few years ago…I think that’s where my “you know as well as I do'” comment came from. As you so often affirm, we’ll see.

  209. re: Plastics,

    The virtue signalers aren’t actually cutting out plastic. They are talking loudly about plastic and getting laws passed against disposable straws — while wearing polar fleece!

    There is a difference between doing a thing and signalling a thing. If you’re struggling to remove plastics from your life because you hate them, well, that’s very different from talking endlessly about your “struggles” to save the environment– while holding a PE shopping bag and wearing polar fleece.

    Me, I make jokes about not recycling plastic to sequester carbon to these people… but am moving towards an all-natural fiber wardrobe as I can, since I think the micro-plastics are the worst aspect. Hence why I harp on polar fleece. (Besides, synthetic fabrics are yucky. As is plastic generally.)

    re: Abiotic oil,

    If the oil were abiotic, it would show the same isotope ratios as other abiotic carbon sources. It does not. Were it biotic in nature, it would show the same carbon isotope ratios as biotic materials. It does. So much for abiotic oil.

    Note though that there is a certain amount of abiotic methane– and again, we know this because of the carbon isotope ratios it contains. Unfortunately I know of no natural gas plays that contains more abiotic methane to be anything but a curiosity. Even a pure abiotic play wouldn’t exactly be “renewable” if you consider human time scales. No more than the ogallala aquifer is.

  210. On recycling: My class visited the local Coca Cola bottling plant, and watched the glass bottles being recycled. The trucks arrive with the empties in crates, they are offloaded and the bottles stacked on a conveyor, they go through a caustic soda wash oven followed by a rinse oven, then an inspection station, before being filled and capped again. The guy who showed us round said the oldest bottle they’d seen was 22 years old, but most didn’t last that long — they get broken, thrown away, used for other things, etc.

    Interestingly, he said that the energy required to heat the water and wash and rinse the bottles was more that that required to manufacture single-use plastic bottles, but by law they had to recycle. (That was long ago, before plastic waste had become an issue.) Add the extra weight of glass bottles, the need to store and transport empties, etc, then recycling has a number of extra costs compared to single-use. It all depends what your objectives are, I suppose, as to what system you use.

  211. Hello again JMG

    Regarding nuclear and renewables, I think that the ‘energy trilemma’ quite neatly sums up the predicament we face regarding energy supplies: for any source of supply we can have any two of low cost, security of supply and low environmental impact of supply. So coal and other fossil fuels are low cost and secure (at least for the moment) but high environmental impact. Renewables are low(ish) cost and low(ish) environmental impact but intermittent and thus not secure. Nuclear is secure and (arguably) low environmental impact, but high cost. I am rather agnostic on nuclear, but note that those countries prioritising security of supply seem more willing to include it in the mix (as was the case in the 70s and 70s also).


  212. When the Permian oil shale begins it’s decline (next year) it is expected to be somewhat slow but who knows. The next known sources are the large Wolfcamp Shale deposits that are supposedly economical at $70/barrel. The very large Russian artic deposits which are economical at $80/barrel, and the large Iraqi and expecially Irannian deposits that are economical at $15/barrel. That doesn’t even address the Venezualian tar sands which are the largest deposits in the world by far.

    There is a reason that the price of oil did not go up very much nor for very long with the recent Houthis destruction of SA’s facitities. The world is awash with oil and will be for some time. Other than geopolitics I don’t see Mr. Greer’s expected spike in oil coming. Yes it will go up, but the world is many decades from oil truly beginning to run short. Even with the continuing increase in renewable energy, the world is going to be using fossil fuels for a long time. The plan is to transistion first the electricity sector to renewables and then the transportation system. Both of those events will decrease demand for oil but allow for it’s continued use for a very long time. Same for natural gas, of which there is even more of.

    Yes, a long descent will most likely occur but not until well into the next century.

  213. I would love to see modern society collapse tomorrow, as there are so many crap things about it. I take reasurance in that it is is happening slowly But steadily. All the more time to set some deep roots and prepare. Building up resilience trough community strengthening, gaining apropriate skills and developing the farm to support basic needs. And of course Nature awareness and connection.

    Grazing animals is truly a solid stone in the foundation of staying grounded and secure in these crazy times. Love the sheep I got here. Hoping to build the trust and skills to milk them in the coming years. Butchered a sheep some days ago and drank some milk that came out of the udder as it got skinned. My my my, thats some nourishment right there. Mixed with some blood from the same animal and you got yourself a power drink.

  214. A note on old clothes and recycling: You can use old clothes, retired socks, worn out sheets, and so forth in the same way you would use polyester fiberfill. Clean and dry them first and then stuff them into a floor pillow, ottoman, or throw pillow. Of course you can cut the old things into shreds first if that is your preference. I have a pouf ottoman footrest thing bought from eBay for under $10 as an empty cloth form that is stuffed with old clothing. It has taken years to fill it because neither my husband nor I buy/own a great deal of clothing. I also made a cat bed from my old blue jeans stuffed with clothing remnants. If you’re good at sewing, this sort of “empty pillow” project should be a piece of cake.

  215. Re algae oil: I am basically agreed that it isn’t going to replace petroleum or save industrial civilization as presently constituted. There’s no way you can do that with a fuel price of $800/bbl. My question about whether you can make algae work in a post-fossil-fuel society by sticking five or ten peasants on that one-hectare, one bbl/day pond is mostly academic – as in, I don’t think it will be built in my lifetime, but it’s gotten my interest because I’m considering using it as a plot element in the story I’m working on for the next volume of After Oil. 😉 The ultimate result would still be a society with <10% of the liquid fuel consumption of modern America.

    Re nuclear waste: The reason I mentioned boreholes is because I think they're the best option that currently exists. At 3 miles deep in bedrock, you'll be far below all usable aquifers. There's an old maxim that "a good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future." It seems to me that on nuclear waste, our politicians have spent the last half-century holding out for that perfect plan, and if they keep doing so, things could get very ugly.

    Re abiotic oil: I obviously don't believe in the crank theories that there is a huge amount of oil in the Earth's mantle and that it will keep replenishing our wells for ever. Still, it's perplexing that the people who do peddle that belief think it's somehow a good thing. If we had unlimited oil, we'd just keep burning it and making more CO2 until we either chocked to death, or caused a runaway greenhouse effect and turned our planet into Venus. The fact that we're limited to burning only the carbon that was laid down by the biosphere over the last few hundred million years is, to me, a very good thing.

  216. Isaac, that seems like a pretty valid summary. As for Quebec, no argument there. Several parts of the North American continent are well positioned to deal with the future we’re heading toward, and yes, Quebec is one of them.

    Mark, thank you. It’s actually very easy to maintain a thoughtful and courteous commentariat — all you have to do is delete any attempted post that violates the rules of courtesy, even when they’re on your side, and ban anyone who repeatedly tries to abuse the forum.

    Jim, hah! Excellent. Another mynde corruptyde…

    Temporaryreality, okay, gotcha. One of the consistent drawbacks of having Aspergers syndrome is that other people’s humor routinely goes zooming right over my head.

    Stuartjeffrey, that’ll feature at some length in the upcoming post on the subject. For the moment, I’ll simply point out that the catastrophic climate change narrative is being pushed very hard by corporate mass media, and by elite groups that show zero interest in changing either their own lifestyles or the behavior of the corporations and institutions they control to deal with the supposed emergency they talk about so loudly…

    Booklover, back in the day, I gave rather too much credence to people who seemed to know much more about the economic issues than I did. It took me a while to realize that their predictions of imminent economic collapse turned out to be false — not just once, but over and over again. That’s what sent me to the history books again, and to a take on economics that’s rather less prone to hysteria than the one that seems popular these days.

    Mcmahonbristol, that is to say, the installers are taking advantage of the fact that most of the people who want solar have, as we say in the States, have more dollars than sense, and can be charged wildly inflated prices for installation. For the time being, it’s by no means certain that those options make sense for you. On the other hand, do-it-yourself insulation and weatherization might be worth looking into, since those provide profiteers fewer opportunities to treat you as a cash cow ready for milking.

    MichaelV, exactly. Filter out the widespread longing for apocalypse and you get a much more plausible model.

    Jim W, as I noted to Booklover above, I mistakenly accepted the ideas of people who seemed to know more about economics than I did, then realized that their predictions failed consistently. I’ve accordingly changed models. Still, you’re quite correct that we’ll see.

  217. Hi John

    I concur that should the blackouts start, you will see some of the resistance fall in terms of unconventional drilling. Even so, the local resistance would still be huge in the UK – NIMBY – not in my back yard is a powerful force in the UK.

    The Brexit saga continues with the media reporting that Boris apparently intends to somehow get us out on 31st October. Is there a brillant plan or is it an elaborate bluff by a team who are out of their depth? I have no idea but we will find out soon!

    Regarding the House of Windsor, the paths of the once close princes continue to diverge. Megan and Harry have just declared war on the tabloid media (against the advice of their courtiers and to the horror of the Palace) whilst William and Kate seem to be courting the populist masses.

    Check this article out:

    This was not a coincidence but a deliberate attempt to show the future King and his family as a “man of the people” versus his increasingly unpopular brother. A smart move by the House of Windsor.

  218. Really enjoyed this post, a real flashback to the best of The Archdruid Report.
    I’d love to hear your views on the REAL climate change that’s hard to ignore — namely the Eddy Grand Solar Minimum and it’s effects on the JIT trans global delivery of food…Rice, Soy Beans, Corn, wheat, Chinese Pork,top fruit, salad crops, tinned peas etc, etc.

  219. JMG, Migrant Worker – re: nitrogen in (fracked) natural gas in Poland

    Nitrogen has been removed from natural gas for decades via cryogenic systems,
    and a few decades ago, pressure swing adsorption (PSA) came into use because it can be run economically at fairly small scales.

    In fact, to (re-)start and maintain flow in wells, nitrogen gas is sometimes used.

    One would use nitrogen (instead of natural gas) if one was (a) in an overbalanced field (downhole pressure not sufficient to push the formation water out of the hole), and (b) one was testing natural gas flow and wanted to be certain which gas from coming from the formation and what was artificially introduced.

    This EIA report talks of nitrogen lift used on a well in Poland (pg VIII-18).
    n.b. the 2013 estimates are much lower than the 2011 estimates.

    The gas in one of the basins does have 20% nitrogen, but that can be dealt with. (pg. VIII-30).

    As best I can tell, the issue is just low flow rates.
    My “to-do” list is now overpowering my curiousity, but it looks to me the Polish shales are too heterogeneous, so productive zones that fracture nicely are few and far between.

    n.b. this paper is from 2018, talks about Poland and (mostly) China.
    Shale Gas exploitation: Status, problems and prospect
    (open access)
    China seems to have some decent prospects, though nothing like the US.

  220. Ever-informative Archdruid, I’m a bit late to the comment stream this week, but wondered if you’d been following what some articles claim is the highest rate ever of airline bankruptcies:

    The British Government is wrapping up a 100-million Pound Sterling repatriation effort involving nearly 150,000 British citizens necessitated by the collapse of another airline & travel firm, Thomas Cook:

    Speculations are that the strong US dollar, plus increasing oil prices, are major contributors to these airline collapses. Hah, I would personally add that many of said airlines have Plum Stupid business plans too!

    All the best!

  221. Hi JMG

    Thinking about peak-oil movement, about “The Oil Drum” and many others webs and (respected) people talking about the Peak-Oil, and the sudden collapse of all of this narrative, it reminds me some kind of Cassandra Syndrome that may be is an attribute of all declining civilizations.

    This process, and a possible explanation about why cause it, remind me also the work of Fred Hirsch and his famous theory of the Social Limits to Growth (SLG), that say decline and collapse of civilizations take off way before hard resources and ecological limits happens. Because we are not bacteria in a Petri dish, as a lot of people in the peak-oil world (wrongly) said, among many other things because bacteria do not have guns….
    People withstand to be poor quite well if they were born poor, but what people, as a groups, cannot stand is a big decrease in the standard of life; you will have soon some “color revolutions”, “arab springs”, “indignados”, etc…or something worse.

    In fact I suspect that most people in this declining civilization cannot, and will not, perceive peak-oil, or any resource constraint, as root-cause of the decline, but instead due to some wrong socio-economic management (moral decay & corruption of the elite/society, as Gibbons), so I do not bet for a revival of the peak-oil narrative anytime in the future.


  222. @ Lathechuck – can do without toothpaste altogether?!?!? That is marvelous news! I have a Sonicare, and have to peel back my lip and look in a magnifying mirror to see where the plaque is, and said mirror has been spattered enough that I have a special rag to clean it with (and so the bathroom smells of vinegar, to which I don’t object at all.) So of late I’ve been putting on an infinitesimal amount of the paste and dong the top teeth first – mirror now sparkling clean.

    And thanks also to whoever noted that the sodium laurel sulfate (sp?) was basically a sudser! Last thing I need! Will be hitting a supermarket next door to the local equivalent of Whole Paycheck tomorrow. One of the two should have organic toothpaste. The supermarket already came up with mouthwash without blue dye. Am adding to my Living Green notes daily.

  223. It occurs to me that the heavy publicity around the most extreme climate change scenarios has potential to benefit the powers that be. When 2030 or whenever rolls around, and things are a little worse than they are now, but not at Mad Max levels, the establishment can attack any future activists with “it didn’t happen–calm down” Follow up with a news segment on “Whatever happened to Greta?”. This has already played out repeatedly. _The Population Bomb_ in 1968 had millions starving by the 70s and 80s, and a soaring world death rate; which as we know, did not happen. So the more extreme the predictions about climate change the greater weapon the failure of these predictions will be for those who profit from business as usual. OTH if it looks like the worst really is happening they can about face and press for extreme solutions which one somehow suspects will leave the rich comfortable in their penthouse infinity pools and the rest of us herded into some kind of extreme rationing and surveillance.

  224. John,

    I wonder about the possibility of other countries following us in the fracking game, even after prices raise after we exhaust our shale resources. Using shale oil as the example, since things are more straightforward with it, even if oil prices raises so will production costs. And since oil fracking consumes diesel fuel at profligate rate while producing little to none of it and diesel fuel is what actually drives our economy, it is very possible only countries with empires that include oil-producing client states would be able to get away with what we have done. Again, we shall see.

  225. HI Kimberly,

    If you ever shop at Kroger’s, save old pillowcases, as Kroger’s plans to eliminate plastic bags.

    Young folks, never bring a paper grocery sack into your house. Roaches like to lay their eggs in the seams as the glue is edible and nutritious. That’s why they went out of style in the first place. The paper bags, not the roaches. Roaches were never in style. 🙂. You could also re-use plastic bags from a store that buys sturdier ones; you’re lucky if a Kroger bag survives one trip home.

  226. Hi JMG

    Did you have higher expectations for the current version of the environmental movement vs earlier versions? Or did you expect similar outcomes?

    Thank you

  227. Hi JMG

    Sorry for another question but it struck me a moment too late. Please correct me if I’m not seeing clearly on any of this…

    Chris Martenson makes a big deal about how the financial system needs to exponentially expand or it will collapse. You also note that it is common for financial systems to end but you don’t seem to see the collapse as apocalyptic as Chris.

    Am I at least seeing the difference correctly? I guess I don’t have much of a question but I’m trying to wrestle with the nuances of a couple of writers I respect.

    Thank you.

  228. @Wesley,
    Re Algae: like any other living organism, growing algae requires not only labor input but more importantly nutrient input. You don’t eat, you starve to death. So in your 1 hectare ponds, which produce a barrel of oil a day, what are the algae eating and where does that come from? Maybe I’m missing something, but If you don’t renew the nutrients in the ponds, they will become dead and so will the algae. “No free lunch“…

  229. @mcmahonbristol,
    Re solar PV and solar thermal systems: Your quoted installation costs are a rip-off. But I’ve heard anecdotally that UK tradesmen are among the world’s worst for ripping off customers.
    Re solar PV: I live in Nelson, one of the 3 sunniest spots in New Zealand. I face North (proper orientation for southern hemisphere solar installations) and get the sun unobstructed for most of the day. I have a friend who offered me 4 years ago “mate‘s rates” on the components for a grid-tied PV installation, and I would help him put them up as I am quite handy and have a full workshop at home. Even with all that, the pay off at current and projected electricity prices (like UK, very low payments from the utility for excess electricity generated) was 15-20 years. I’m 75 so it is a total no-go (unless I was into virtue signalling “Hey, look how cool and Green I am”).
    On the other hand, the same mate offered me mate’s rates 14 years ago on a solar hot water system with 60 Chinese-made tubes and a 350Lt hot water tank. We did the whole install for around NZ$6,000. Its been going strong with virtually no maintenance and paid for itself in about 5 years. During the summer I basically turn off the electric element unless its stormy for more than 2 days. Definitely the way to go if you can work around those rip-off tradies. You can buy the components yourself and find some semi-retired person to do the install. it is NOT rocket science. Don’t let the bastards grind you down….

  230. Just out of interest, I am noticing a lot more Aussie/Kiwi slang on here nowadays. How many folks come from down under? I am down in Victoria and am looking to start organizing face to face/group meetings to discuss the ideas of Ecosophy.

    @Thur, I agree there is a lot of terrible things about modern society but in a strange way I kind of love them. Modern high energy society is really out there! Gaudy, ugly and down right stupid and I love that people give into these silly short term desires that produce some of the most pointless things that could ever exist. As much as I try not to contribute to this, I mourn for our civilization, I mourn for peoples expectations, but I am entirely aware that it could never go on like this.

  231. Mr. Greer, I just read your four-part essay on Kek and chaos magic. It was astonishing. I’m an agnostic, and the synchronicities you described are why I’m not a full-on atheist.

    However, I noticed you write relatively little about Abrahamic religion. That may be a huge mistake. The majority of people living in oil-producing countries/provinces (such as Saudi Arabia and Texas) are devout worshippers of the God of Abraham. (Places like Canada and Norway with less devout majorities are still heavily influenced by that theology in some form or fashion.) They are all wired to believe that it is their divine right to use the resources of Earth as they see fit and are also wired to see right through the hysterical apocalypse rants of the liberal “secular” pseudo-religion. It’s a cheap knockoff of their religion, after all.

    The constant postponement of Peak Oil has also led them to believe that it doesn’t actually exist. After all, every time it looks like everything is going to be tapped out some new technology is invented to give us access to even more oil! Why should they believe the false prophets of another religion?

    The ones they belong to are the ones that imprisoned many of your beliefs behind the “Do Not Enter” signs mentioned in your recent horoscope reading. They are by no means the only belief systems that encourage humanity dominating the world instead of integrating with it but the partial or near total erasure and replacement of multiple cultures by Christianity and Islam has permanently altered the course of human history. If the version of magic you believe in is real, then a clash like what you described about Native American and European influences in North America must have happened in Europe when Christianity arrived. However, Christianity explicitly forbids magic (at least magic in the traditional sense) so what happened there would be probably very different than what happened here. I’m really curious to see what you have to say about that– HOWEVER, if you think that would be too thorny of a subject to wade into or simply have no interest in writing about it I definitely understand!

    This blog is a really interesting perspective on what’s happening in the world and as a younger reader I’ve enjoyed your history lessons on environmentalism and occultism. You’ve got something cool going here, keep it up!

  232. Antoinetta III re: EV no longer competitive at $30-$40 per barrel oil.

    some quick numbers.
    if “$100 per barrel oil translates roughly into $5.00 a gallon gas”, (I agree, that’s close enough),
    then $30/barrel oil means 30/100 * 5 = $1.50 gas.

    My Tesla Model 3 gets a bit better than the EPA rating of 29 kWh/100 miles, or 3.45 miles/kWh, but I’ll use that rating.
    I pay $0.09235/kWh, so $0.09235/kWh / 3.45 miles/kWh = $0.0268 / mile for “fuel”.

    $1.50 of electricity gets me $1.50 / $0.0268/mile = 56 miles.

    Are there any gas or diesel cars (gas-only or regular hybrid) rated 56 mpg or higher in the U.S.? says two.

    Hyundai Ioniq Blue is best hybrid car at 58 mpg.
    Toyota Prius Eco 2nd best hybrid at 56 mpg.

    So even at $1.50 gasoline, my EV is as economical as a gas car for fuel.
    And no oil changes, engine air filter, tuneups/sparkplugs, smog checks, less brake wear due to regenerative braking, standing at the gas station breathing gas fumes, etc. etc. etc. for an EV.

  233. Dusk Shine, two excellent points.

    Martin, of course. Recycling isn’t a panacea; it’s simply one potentially useful element in a whole system.

    McMahonbristol, I want to see how nuclear stacks up once the cost of decommissioning and dealing with high level waste gets factored in — but here again, we’ll see.

    MikeL, true enough!

    Douglas, fair enough; you’ve made your prediction. You’ll notice that I discussed at some length which predictions of mine were wrong, and why. If yours turns out to be wrong, will you come here and admit it in print?

    Thur, all things considered, I’ll pass. Still, a case can be made that you’re riding the wave — or at least one of the waves — of the future.

    Wesley, maybe, but all things considered, it’ll probably work better to have those peasants growing oilseed crops, from which the oil can be extracted by something not too far from an old-fashioned olive press, cut with raw ethanol distilled from your feedstock of choice (as noted here), and away you go.

  234. Forecastingintelligence, William always struck me as the smart one. As for Brexit, it’s definitely going to be worth some popcorn!

    Alfal4, ah, the wholly theoretical and endlessly postponed Grand Solar Minimum! It would make a great Hollywood disaster spectacular, sure, but I don’t recommend holding your breath waiting for it.

    Sunnnv, interesting. I wonder how thoroughly the globe has been surveyed for fracturable tight oil deposits.

    Bryan, thanks for this. Excellent news! The more airlines go out of business, the better.

    Phil K, somebody’s smoking their shorts.

    DFC, fair enough; you’ve made your prediction. Now we’ll see!

    Rita, interesting. My guess is a little different, but we’ll discuss that in due time.

    John, I suspect that what’s going to happen is that shale oil and tar sands will be exploited more or less in parallel, precisely for that reason.

    Matt, I had lower expectations — considerably lower. The current round of environmentalism was all too clearly a matter of virtue signaling on the part of the privileged, and it systematically avoided any strategy that would actually change things. As for the financial system, what Chris doesn’t seem to realize is that financial systems aren’t that hard to rebuild or replace. If you look back over history, you’ll notice that it’s actually quite common for currencies to lose all their value, nations to default on their debts, markets to freeze up completely, and so on. When something like that happens, some temporary gimmick gets put into place to allow people to keep buying necessities, and then a new economic system gets cobbled together in a hurry. This happens all the time in history, and I think there’s a very real chance that we’ll see it again in the US in my lifetime — just as we saw it here in 1933.

    Spark, I don’t write much about Abrahamic religions because there are hundreds of thousands of other bloggers writing about them, and since I don’t follow an Abrahamic religion, I figured I’d leave that to people who do. As for magic and the arrival of Christianity in Europe, you might consider reading Valerie Flint’s excellent book The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe, which shows among other things that the modern Christian prohibition against magic is very recent and that Christian magic has a long and rather distinguished lineage. (If that interests you in a more practical sense, Gareth Knight’s book Experience of the Inner Worlds is the handbook of Christian magic I recommend to beginners.)

  235. Dennis Sawyers re: complexity of automobile options

    Thank you ever so much.
    I’ve been wondering when Tesla is going to “grow up” and offer more options like “real” auto companies, and now I see that’s not really a good strategy. (Unless you’re Porsche and charging $60K+ more for the Taycan than Tesla’s model S Performance so Porsche can afford to offer the zillions of options they do).

    Funding all the superchargers and giving away destination chargers now seems like an even better idea that I thought.

    I wonder if Ford’s electric F150 and the Mustang inspired CUV will be low number of option vehicles?

  236. Ah, I see. And thank you for the recommendations sir! I have been in multiple arguments with Protestants about whether magic is satanic or not; it will be interesting to see how everything changed over time.

  237. MichaelV-

    A New Zealander here! A guy called Marcu (who has commented on here reccently) did a couple of Green Wizard meetings in Auckland (and some in Melbourne). There’s quite a few antipodeans on this blog… (Chris Trotter, a well known Left wing Kiwi Blogger has links to this site and the old ADR!)

  238. John – re survey of world frackable shale

    the EIA report on Poland is just a part of a set of individual country studies at:

    last updated Sept. 2015, 46 Countries total (includes US).

    The full (730 pages) report that mashes all this together in one easy to read document (joke) is from 2013

    “Technically Recoverable Shale Oil and Shale Gas Resources: An Assessment of 137 Shale Formations in 41 Countries Outside the United States”

    I’m exhausted just reading the title, never mind the whole 730 pages plus updates…
    The introduction (20 pages) and summary (26 pages) seem worth reading/skimming.

    My take is: fairly thoroughly for the existence of potentially frackable shales, but that the frackturability in actual practice isn’t often well known.
    It is often that case that the shale is too soft or already too fractured (e.g. the Monterrey Shale in California) to actually be (very) productive.
    But there’s a fair amount of technically recoverable resources, particularly gas:
    7,299 Tcf of gas, 345 Bbo per the report (pg 2).
    +47% and +11% of conventional gas and oil, respectively. (pg 3).

  239. You left out another major problem with tight oil. It is very light: Meaning that the end products is mostly gasoline and very little diesel and kerosene. The latter two is used to run transport ships and war machines while the former is used to run lawnmowers and mopeds. Also, the distilleries in the US is designed to distill medium crude, so the tight oil needs to be mixed with heavy crude if it is to be distilled in the US. Which is why the keystone pipeline had to be built (bitumen is heavy crude) and also why the current administration in Venezuela is called a regime and not a government (hint: Orinoco Belt)

  240. @JMG and forecastingintelligence

    I can’t say that I’ve been following the Windsors’ current problems at all, having no particular interest. Based on the comments here, though, I might suggest that there’s a power play in progress.

    JMG may say “William always struck me as the smart one” but honestly, I don’t know why. My own gut feeling, and this tends to be supported by friends and colleagues on the rare occasions when the subject comes up, is that Will and Kate are dull, dull, dull. Good-looking, but seriously lacking in personality. William’s career piloting a rescue helicopter is worthy… but… well. Meh.

    Harry, on the other hand, as always lived to to his Shakespearean prototype, wild Prince Hal, and has always been seen as a bit more of a man of the people. Top that with active service piloting combat helicopters in Afghanistan, and a marriage to a mixed-race celebrity (so much more in tune with modern Britain than Kate’s background)… and you’ve got a ‘spare’ who’s potentially more popular than the actual heir.

    At a time when the current sovereign probably doesn’t have much more time, and the next in line is not exactly popular (though personally I have a lot of time for him), and when it’s increasingly likely that the transition will occur at a time of national crisis and social unrest… it’s not exactly surprising to students of history that the Establishment might act to undermine a popular younger brother. Harry might do well to be wary of courtiers bearing silk cords…

  241. What Christianity forbids and doesn’t forbid over the centuries makes interesting reading. My favorite example is that when King Alfred the Great translated parts of the Scriptures into Old English in the 9th Century, the Church was delighted. 500 years later, doing so got a few people burned as heretics. Of course, the “Bible-in-English” movement of the 14th & 15th centuries was all tied in with what some people call a “proto-Protestant” movement which was also tied in with political radicalism.

    What a difference half a millennium can make in any institution!

  242. Re: Predictions that never panned out: I wonder how many of said predictions just took the current trend line and drew a tangent to it that extended into infinity and called that “The Future.” Classic error that has left science fiction writers throughout the last century with egg on their faces, and stories long forgotten. A look at real trends, OTH, makes one of Newton’s Laws a better bet: “For every action (in one quarter-century) there is an equal and opposite reaction (in the next.)” Ask any grandparent and they’ll tell you the same thing.

    Not that people who make their living with wild predictions would listen to granny-wisdom.

  243. @ Lady Cutekitten: Canvas bags. From thrift shops, or as convention giveaways sometimes. Or from tourist trap souvenir shops.*Throw in laundry when they get dirty. Your local organic foods market, if there is one in your town, will also sell several kinds of smaller cloth bags for produce etc.

    *Or make-it-yourself from worn-out jeans legs.

  244. Re: whoever it was that sneered at the person in the polar fleece jacket and carried a supermarket “made of recycled bags” grocery bag, a little scenario.

    You need something to keep you warm – now – never mind why. You can – why, silly wabbit! Run down to the Nob Hill Organic Boutique and get something in all-natural fabrics! Easy!. No? Well, then go to the L.L. Bean Catalog and mail-order something all-cotton or wool. No? Picky, picky, picky! Get some all-cotton or all-wool yarn (the latter available at the Nob Hill Yarn Shoppe) and knit or crochet yourself one! By which time the North (or South in the other hemisphere) wind doth blow and we shall have snow. And you need that battered parka you bought four years ago from the source I am about to name. Never mind what it’s made of either.

    What? The nearest charity thrift shop?!?! You may luck out. It happens occasionally. This time, no. Choose between sweatshirts (look at the label and feel the insides and see if you can bear to wear a logo from someone’s football team) and a used but still good polar fleece jacket in your size. Not your color, but that picky, you can’t be. And the next day you are not freezing. [BTW, the sweatshirt, with the design from a too-ratty-to-be-seen in T-shirt appliqued to the front, proved also useful.]

    A rider on the grocery bags though. But if it’s what’s on hand….

  245. Re intermittency and the electric grid

    In my neck of the Eastern Interconnection, the regional grid operator, MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator), is proposing that all solar facilities (utility-scale, that is, under the jurisdiction of its federal tariff) going forward be Dispatchable Intermittent Resources (DIRs), capable of being “dispatched down” by the operator. This is already a requirement for wind projects (since about 2014 or so), so I’m not surprised to see it applied to solar as deployment of that technology continues to proliferate. This requirement is a condition of interconnection and so becomes “hard-coded” into the system.

    Not directly related, but certainly correlated, is the growth in system complexity. As those others among the community involved in the power industry are undoubtedly aware, the 2003 Northeast Blackout brought about key regulatory changes in the industry, including mandatory reliability standards manged by NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation) under new authority granted to FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) by amendments to the Federal Power Act. Cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection are very high-priority issues. For any other policy geeks out there, here’s a link to FERC Staff’s most recent report on lessons-learned from CIP (Critical Infrastructure Protection) standard audits:

    I recall Tainter’s argument about increased complexity reaching the point of zero- and the negative returns and I wonder where we are headed here.

  246. Lady Cutekitten:
    We’ve given up on grocery and shopping bags entirely. The plastic ones were convenient, but annoying as they rolled around in the car on the way home (I think the same might happen with pillowcases too) so we looked around until we found a couple of corrugated boxes, the biggest have the holes for your hands to hold onto, and glued the slightly smaller ones inside to make them heavier duty. The two we’ve made (always in the car, at the ready) fit perfectly into standard shopping carts, I can fill them up completely because they’re strong, and because they hold so much it makes for fewer trips from car to house. What’s not to like? Well, except that without those annoying plastic shopping bags we have to go scrounging around to find something to use for dirty cat litter.

    Patricia Matthews:
    Read the toothpaste labels carefully, even the health food store brands. I’ve seen the sodium lauryl sulfate stuff in at least one ‘organic’ brand.

  247. Dear Douglas R Houck, You referred to “The plan is” to transition etc. etc. May I ask, who’s plan is that? If you don’t or can’t name names, to what segment of (global? national?) governing class do you refer? Am I correct in suspecting that part of “the plan” is simply to write off segments of the poorer classes. We can see diminishment of public transportation all around us in the USA, at a time when one would think that ridership would increase. I gather that “the plan” includes limiting first the electrical grid and then mass transit to smaller and smaller groups of users, would that be correct?

  248. Hello John Dunn,

    The best term for those huge trucks I’ve ever heard was “F Three Million”

    Everyone gets it right away. Too many years in too many small Canadian towns will make you so jaded about them I couldn’t buy one even if I ‘needed’ it to tow 26 thousand pounds of god knows what …

  249. Thanks for the comments and feedback JMG and @Sandy Fontwit

    Another data point, on electric vehicles. I have a small European electric car (a Renault Zoe) that I purchased second-hand at 2 years old at a price about 20% less than a similar gasoline car from the same manufacturer (they depreciated fast – new they are about 20% more). It does about 4 mile/kWh, a little more in summer, less in winter. I rent the battery and estimate that the rental plus electricity charges are only slightly more than the fuel costs plus annual car tax (zero for an EV) for a similar size gasoline car, for our mileage of 4500 mile/year. Insurance costs are similar, servicing costs lower, so overall it is about neutral day-to-day. But of course we pay about £400/year less tax than our gasoline-using compatriots. Regarding emissions, we try to charge when the wind is blowing and/or sun is shining, and so doing we can get down to about 40gCO2/mile or better with current UK electricity supplies. A dark, still day in mid-winter it might be up to 120gCO2/mile. I enjoy driving the car and it serves many of our requirements well, but EVs are still a long way from a route to a decarbonised future, and there are all the questions regarding availability of materials to roll them out at scale that Phil H pointed out on these blog pages recently.

  250. @ Bogatyr and Prince William being dull.

    Dull does not automatically mean incompetent or stupid. William and Kate both seem capable. They certainly aren’t making unforced errors like Harry and Megan do.

    Dull people may not be sparkling conversationalists, but unlike living with drama kings and queens, the house isn’t always on fire either.

    Dull is not exciting but it isn’t bad.

    Teresa from Hershey

  251. I’m working on reducing my use of single use plastics, but am fairly early in the process, still going after low-hanging fruit.
    -I use a backpack to carry everything home, and don’t bother with plastic bags for carrying stuff. They’re semi-banned here anyway.
    -I buy large sizes of non-perishable things, or stuff where I stick half in the freezer for later. This means fewer small containers, and less plastic. It’s also usually cheaper.
    -I reuse washed plastic bread, bulk, and produce plastic bags to keep veggies from my garden in in the refrigerator.
    -This summer, I started bringing produce bags and bread bags back, washed, to use to take more produce and some bulk goods home in. My supermarket does not appear to notice, let alone care. I did have one accident involving bulk flour and a bag that turned out to have a hole in it. Next time, I will double bag the flour and other powdery items.
    -I have assorted reused food and thrift store bought containers to store my bulk goods in once I get them home. Metal and glass containers are ideal, but a fair number of my long term storage containers are plastic. I like the glass and metal ones because rodents can’t gnaw through them. Haven’t had rodent problem in my space outside the walls in years, but being proactive is good.
    -I am currently planning to buy more items in bulk, using reused bags. I think this will make a significant dent in the number of stored and washed bags I have at home. I have all these bags already, so why not use them until they break?

  252. Hi John

    Agree entirely. William is a smarter cooker then his brother.

    Don’t know if you are following this story in France but the recent terror attack in the Paris police HQ is showing up serious weaknesses in France’s security system.

    There is a tendency among some of the posters of your threads, when discussing the Islamification of Europe, to downgrade or deny that this is happening.

    “Psychologically, the most damaging aspect of the atrocity is that it raises the spectre of other ‘Harpons’ in the police. Éric Diard, a Républicains MP, co-authored a report earlier this year on the radicalisation of the police, and he warned at the weekend that thirty people within the service have been flagged as possible extremists. The report was triggered in part by the publication last year of a book, written by two journalists from Le Monde, which claimed that in certain Parisian suburbs there are a growing number of police personnel who struggle to square their religious beliefs with their duty to the Republic”

    If the jihadi’s are infiltrating or converting individuals within the police forces, this is a serious moment as they are on the frontline of the campaign against the extremists.


  253. @sunnnv:

    9 cents per kWh is disingenuous. Here in SoCal the only way you are going to charge an EV for 9 cents per kWh is to sign on to a time of use plan that charges you 50 cents per kWh during peak. So your average cost for electricity is more like 20-25 cents per hour. 9 cents per kWh makes a good talking point but the actual economics are different.
    Buy a gasoline vehicle and get on a standard non-time-of-use plan and I think overall you’d save money.

  254. Your memory is wrong, when you write, “Having another seven million more barrels of oil per day is important enough to the US economy that gimmicking the money system to cover it is a small price to pay, and so an unspoken bipartisan consensus supports the necessary gimmicks. That was the point that we missed back in the day, and I missed it as much as anyone.” You didn’t miss it at all, I clearly remember learning that lesson as you commented at length as to why the ‘fast collapse’ scenario was incorrect: because such scenarios rested on the assumption that governments would not react. I’ve been repeating what you (and others) said at the time. I said it publicly in 2007, as a candidate for the Legislature (obviously, I lost). When the 2008 crash came, governments reacted to prop up the status quo, just as you said they would, rather than standing by and allow the entire edifice to come crashing down, as the collapseniks were so fond of fantasizing.
    The only place you and the others might be considered ‘wrong’ is simply the degree to which the shale oil extraction would be supported. But you were very clear, way back when, that governments always do their utmost to keep the status quo going until they can’t. As per your original paper on catabolic collapse, the pattern of decline follows a series of crises which cause the socioeconomic structures to simplify, then stabilize as they try to recover what was lost (which is gone forever, really), rinse and repeat, until one day, the garrison sends out a mission to find out why their pay has not arrived for several months and they discover there is no one occupying the paymaster’s offices any longer.
    So this fanatical support of shale oil and tar-sands extraction even if it is economically not viable, is, exactly as you said it would be: politically necessary. Therefore governments will make all the necessary expenditures and the politicians get to demonstrate their talent for verbal tap-dancing to explain why they can support fossil-fuel extraction and use, yet are still going to get around to mitigating climate change anyway, someday, real soon now. (BTW, the infamous pipeline is supposed to carry raw bitumen for export and processing abroad, not oil. It’s supposed to run right beside an existing oil pipeline.)
    n.b. I have not yet read any comments, so forgive me if I’m rehashing someone else’s points.


  255. “I wonder what would be the best way to frame that insight into easily quantifiable terms.”

    I wonder that too. The simplest option is to compute an energy rate of return on energy invested (or its reciprocal, energy payback time). EROROEI (ugh, sorry) has initial investment in the denominator, so small systems can have high values even if capturing small amounts of energy, and large systems capturing large amounts of energy can have low values if their capital energy costs are high (solar power satellites, anyone?). Energy operating costs can easily be figured in as well. But it’s harder to figure in labor/maintenance costs, which appear to become significant in scarcity/Long Descent/low energy/appropriate tech/home-scale scenarios. There have been some attempts to define an “energy cost of labor” in agriculture, which depends upon lifestyle, but this is an open question, and seems tricky.

  256. Hi, regarding the Windsors.

    It’s true Prince Harry used to be popular but I would contend that since his marriage to Megan his popularity has been in freefall.

    That’s primarily due to the fact that they quite openly embrace the woke values, moralistic lecturing and hypocritical lifestyle of our A list global celebrity elite.

    William and Kate might be dull but they deliberately cultivate a normal middle class life (going to the football, travelling by commercial class etc) which is in better keeping with our populist times then Harry and Megan model.

    I see no conspiracy here. Just Harry and Megan living in a privileged bubble of their own.

  257. “…climate activists. (Hmm — for some reason that came out “cactivists” the first time. A Freudian slip, maybe — is it a reference to how prickly they are, or something rather more scatological?)”

    Probably the latter, but I think you’ve just coined a good one.

  258. Paula7, it’s true that the energy payback period for newer pv panels is only a couple of years.
    Lifetime is maybe more important in that application. Panels are typically guaranteed for 25 years and there’s no reason I’m aware of why they couldn’t go much longer than that as long as the glass isn’t broken.
    Batteries are a different matter. For lead acid batteries you will be lucky to get a couple of years guaranteed, and should count yourself lucky indeed if they last for 10. Newer lithium cells now have a longer guarantee (10 years for Tesla I believe) but the capital outlay and replacement cost is large. The much older nickel iron batteries design is not very efficient in terms of energy in / out each charge, but are extremely robust. They’re claimed to work fine for 100 years.

  259. I would like to add something about my comment about the next crisis. The model of catabolic collapse predicts serious crises, which indeed happen, as the example of past civilizations show. In the case of western civilization, the next crisis may already have begun with the multiple conflicts in the Near East and the concomitant winding down of the American Empire, with populists and the part of the population which backs them increasingly pitted againt the status quo, and with the cultural conflicts going on, all this while we waited in vain for a second Black Friday.

    On a somewhat tangentially related note, here is a good example how the religion of progress colors the way one photographer sees the world (especially from the last question downwards):

  260. @TemporaryReality et. al re: tooth powder

    I’ve been using straight baking powder for months. Tastes terrible (but you get used to it), works great. In addition, once in a while (certainly not every day!) I brush with powdered charcoal. You shouldn’t breathe the stuff, and it makes a crazy mess of the sink (maybe I should brush on the porch and spit in the grass!), but it is an amazing deep clean. Totally eliminates waking up with that nasty fuzzy-feeling AM mouth grossness.

  261. Sunnnv, thank you for digging this up. Needless to say, Polish media never discussed it in anything approaching this depth… 😉

    Migrant Worker

  262. Hi @JBucks, Just saw your note – if you shoot me an email at chrisjayhenningsen at gmail (no spaces) we can take it from there.


  263. @Teresa from Hershey re: dull. Sorry if I hit a nerve there.

    @Forecasting Intelligence Hmmmm. You assert that “a normal middle class life” = “better keeping with our populist times”. I am not convinced that this is true.

    Neither of you addressed the key point: that the transition of the throne from a monarch crowned in 1952 to a new King will almost certainly happen in a time of unprecedented social and political turmoil. I simply don’t think that “normal middle class” Wills and Kate will be right for the time, despite the efforts of the Establishment to make them so. Your mileage may vary of course, but you need to present more convincing arguments.

  264. When it comes to dental care, it all comes back to just greatly reducing (if you can’t
    bring yourself to eliminate it) sugar. Chocolate is my downfall and I’m sure everybody
    has their own personal poison they can’t bring themselves to part from.

    @ Patricia Mathews re what Christianity forbids:

    The backpedaling of the Church is no surprise. In King Alfred’s time there were
    still a number of people hanging tough with their traditional beliefs so the
    Church happily supported anything which promoted the new faith. Fast forward
    500 years and now you have the printing press churning out copy after copy of the
    Bible coupled with more and more people reading and starting to put their own
    spin on scripture. After the Cathar heresy, the sorry mess of the Crusades and
    the black eye of persistent corruption, the Church could see the cracks showing
    in the foundation. Now it was a matter of keeping the boat from rocking.

  265. Sorry, JMG, a couple of off-topic comments. Up to you whether or not to approve them.

    1. There have been comments recently about Dmitry Orlov and whether or not he’s lost the plot. He’s just published and “Open Letter” to Greta Thurnberg… which is behind a paywall. Oops. (

    2. Apparently, Garrett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons”, which I was taught was a major environmental concern by middle-of-the-road academics in the early 1990s was actually ecofascism (

  266. Just stumbled across an interesting site regarding oil.


    Antoinetta III

  267. pygmycory – I agree that we might as well use our current supply of plastic containers for as long as we can. I don’t see virtue in throwing them out to replace them with glass. I’ve accumulate a large number of plastic jars that originally held about 2 lbs. of peanut butter, and they’re ideal for re-filling from the bulk-food bins at my local organic market. Some things are dispensed from a chute, and the wide jar just matches the chute; other things are scooped out, and the nose of the scoop goes into the jar… either way, very little spillage. The store will mark the empty weight of containers, so I only pay for the contents. The store also has “DIY” peanut butter and sunflower-seed butter grinding, which discharges into any container, so it’s about time I started refilling my old peanut-butter jars with new peanut butter. Or, maybe sunflower-seed butter, which is a little more than half the price of peanut.

    Everything has a cost: cotton demands water (usually irrigated) and usually fertilizer and pesticides, glass demands heat to melt the sand into useful shapes. I focus on re-using stuff as long as I can, whatever it took to create it.

  268. I find it fascinating that the EROEI principal, a cornerstone of energy analysis, isn’t used to analysis everything outside of direct fossil fuel extraction. What’s the EROEI of ordinary stuff, not just oil, the master resource.

    An example from a friend in the flyover Mid-west of myriad abandoned once prosperous family farms.

    Many, many once prosperous family farms left lots of abandoned farming machinery, old steel tractors, haying cutters and drying rigs etc…. in the fields surrounding the old ghost farmsteads.

    My friend said there was a whole industry starting back when the collapse of the family farm took off, of people stealing these old farm tools, usually at night, to sell as scrap steel. The entire mid-west has been ‘mined’ for for the last several decades of any metal objects not nailed down and sent to China.

    Old railroad track pulled up and cut up, corrugated steel roofs, metal fence, you name it, it’s all gone.

    Now pause a moment and consider the EROEI of strip mining the entire mid west of pretty much all metal. The steel that was once in that entire region represents an enormous historic energy investment, from mining the iron ore in the Upper Minnesota iron range, transporting it in iron boats across the Great Lake to steel smelters, to steel fabricators (I-beams, railroad rail etc…) to transporting the finished steel to manufacturers to then selling it to the now long gone farmers.

    Think of the tremendous embedded energy in those old stolen steel tractors, that took virtually no energy to steal from a field and toss onto a flat bed truck and send to China. It only earned the thief pennies for the hundred weight. Yet to replace it someday in the future with an equivalent amount of steel (i.e. energy), let’s say to make railway lines for energy efficient transportation, will be impossible energy budget wise.

    So Mid-West, in the future, no metal for you!

    You gonna smelt iron ore with Buffalo chips!

    The EROEI of ‘mining scrap’ vs smelting new steel is lethal.

    It’s almost like the reverse of the old Soviet era farms waiting for steel tractors to be delivered.

    The metal is never coming back in quantity folks, because the energy won’t ever be there again.

    This will have staggering implications for farm country and people who like, you know, food.

  269. Speaking of panic…

    I know this comment is a week late, but it reminds me of what you’ve been saying for many years– that decline comes in fits and spurts, localized, and includes basic services and infrastructure break down as governments become overwhelmed.

    From sunny California, a big problem with their electric lines being so old and under-serviced that they’ve sparked some of the largest forest and wildfires California has ever seen. Rather than service the lines, they’re just cutting off electric service during the windy period.

    I mean– you’d think of all places to have more updated infrastructure… but NO.

  270. Regarding scrap metal ERRoi
    The energy is forgotten and sunk costs. The people then and now are as cheese enzymes. If nutrient available do your thing else hibernate or die.
    Abandoning a farm from an energy standpoint requires leaving capital behind. The machinery is useless except for those tasks. And the energy to move it was unprofitable in a situation of dispair.
    It is like the soul leaving the body behind. It is purpose built for a task. Energy is infinite but locally configured so to say. You can play a bit but must return the toys afterwards.

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