#121: Interpreting the post-growth economy

THE GUIDE TO SURPLUS ENERGY ECONOMICS

For some time now, it’s been clear that we need a succinct (though sufficient) guide to Surplus Energy Economics (SEE), something that summarises the thinking and is suitable for sharing with others. Such a guide needs to combine readability with comprehensive coverage of relevant points.

This guide is now complete. It is entitled Interpreting the post-growth economy. You can download it in PDF form at the end of this article.

Readers will already be familiar with Part One of this report, which is based on the previous article. Part Two adds an extensive commentary on many of the issues involved in applying the principles of SEE to our current circumstances and outlook.

It is hoped that readers will find this document useful and informative. As ever, comments will be most welcome.

Surplus Energy Economics – Interpreting the post-growth economy

105 thoughts on “#121: Interpreting the post-growth economy

  1. That is a very useful summary and introduction to Surplus Energy Economics Tim.
    There is an online book here,
    http://www.withouthotair.com/Contents.html

    By the late Prof David MacKay

    He talks about the book here at Harvard,

    The Book is an easy read and the examples are very intuitive as they break back to the idea of how many 40 watt light bulbs different energy solutions break down as in per capita energy resources.

    http://www.withouthotair.com/cL/page_370.shtml

    There are some very good Sites which have well-embedded energy databases particularly in the Construction industry which uses 48% of global energy annually building and running domestic and commercial property.

    http://symposium.arch.tamu.edu/2017/ Project Summary: Buildings consume approximately 48% of global energy each year in their construction and operation alone adding proportionally to global carbon emission.

    The problems in Political Economy as it stands presently and the question of future Political Economy based upon future Energy realities are I think helpfully separated which is something Prof. David MacKay is very successful with, in his presentation of the question.

    The Problems are only weakly related with respect to future solutions and breaking the process into 3 parts is useful rather than lumping them all together. It is clear that the existing Form of Market economy and political economy is not able to solve the problem at stage 3 ( I.E Post 2050 post-Oil Economy)

    Stage 1 requires a reform of the existing paradigm which involves facing up to the broken debt-based money system. Pension provision, the sovereign debt crisis and Public debt crisis are all addressable and will see improvements even within the deteriorating Cost of energy inputs as a share of output. We could call this stage lets fix what we know is not working.

    Stage 2 covers the Post Financialised ( Big Bang Experiment) period to the oil running out in 2050.
    This requires a much more long-term investment horizon and complicating the energy mix by overstating the ”Climate Change question** seems to be counterproductive, again I like the way Prof David Mackay dealt with the question including stating the necessities of **Clean Coal and Nuclear”. In this stage, we will be implementing ideas previously barred due to the denial inherent in clinging to a failing system.

    Stage 3 Post 2050, This part is much easier than Stage 2 and stage 1, in my opinion, the myth-busting and levelling out inherent in solving the political problems at stage 1 and the challenge to vested interests in stage 2 are by far and away the largest obstacles to getting down to Brass tacks in my opinion.

  2. Dear Dr. Tim

    There is no doubt that you also see renewables as highly dependent on fossil fuels.
    However, I see your graph “ECoE by fuel group, 1980-2030F” as a stand-alone proof
    that renewables will compete with fossils in the near time span. Normally you give a full explanation of how you reach your figures. But not this time. Do you base your assumptions on figures from ‘renewables interest groups’? Are subventions ex- or included? Costs in connection with the integration and accumulation of intermittent energy? Unfortunately there are lots of negatives which you do not mention. I very much hope that you will take all minusses into account by your next article about the usefulness of wind, waves and sun.

    • With ECoE by fuel group, you need to remember that the energy used in contructing renewables equipment comes overwhelmingly from fossil fuels. Therefore, even as technology and economies of scale are lowering the ECoEs of renewables, the ECoE of their input costs will be rising. I am very far from convinced that we could – for example – extract or process copper or steel without using fossil fuel energy.

      I look at every information source that I can, trying to avoid anything that looks like lobbying. Taking PV just as an example, there are some arguments that it will never cover its energy costs, and others saying it’ll almost “too cheap to meter”.

      As you may know, I’m convinced that big commercial and official organisations are going to need to build something like SEEDS as conventional models become ever less useful. I’m not going to hand them the information to do that. So that’s why I publish ECoEs by fuel groups, but not by fuel types – it gives readers what they need, but doesn’t enable someone to build something like SEEDS.

  3. Dear Tim

    As always, many thanks for your work. I’m intrigued by your Prosperity Calculations to 2030. The HSBC Report on Global Oil Supply to 2040 infers an annual decline of 5% to 7% in oil production from 2016 onwards (doesn’t seem to have started yet though) :

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9wSgViWVAfzUEgzMlBfR3UxNDg/view

    The latest graphs from Jean Lahererre indicate a similar scenario for future oil production:

    https://aspofrance.org/2018/02/09/some-updated-graphs-of-world-oil-production

    Under these circumstances could Germany, a country so reliant on export volumes and in particular the car industry, really experience nothing worse than stagnation up to 2030 ? How will Spain achieve a growth in prosperity of 3.2% in this time period ? Intuitively, I would expect depression and worse in ALL the world’s economies if these predictions are even remotely accurate. I note that you predict that for most of them, by the way.

    many thanks and regards
    Bernard Hartley

    • In the absence of replacement developments, oil production in non-OPEC countries declines at rates of between 6% and 8% annually. (Shales alone decline much more rapidly, sometimes by as much as 65% in the first year after start-up).

      Countering this requires new field starts. For this, you have to have both capital and viable projects. Availability of capital has slumped since the oil price nose-dived, and discovery rates are at all-time lows.

      I didn’t think the HSBC report told us much that we didn’t aslready know, but such views from such a source are significant – a bit like Tullett publishing “Perfect Storm” when I was head of research there.

  4. Another good piece Dr. Morgan!

    Leaves me with the uncomfortable feeling that nothing can be done as I look for ways to make investments to provision for my own retirement. I am a hard working ‘have’ who would like to remain a ‘have’. SO much of what you write makes me think I should be in cash except for the fact that cash is a store of value that isn’t stable either.

    If a person had say $20k to invest what would he do? Solar seems to be the most likely answer, with the rising cost of energy being a given, so would the output of solar rise as well?

    Call me perplexed.

    • Investment advice is an area I don’t go into. But I reckon we can think through the areas that aren’t going to do well, even if it’s harder to identify those who will do better. In the situation described in my report, success is very much a relative concept.

      It’s interesting to note sectors that are already struggling, including retailing, restaurants, car sales and contractors like Carillion. It’s a strange kind of ‘recovery’ when these businesses are struggling….

      Businesses supplying essentials should fare better than those selling discretionaries, though we need to beware of anything (such as some utilities) which is emphatically in the political arena.

      It’s interesting that smartphone sales have peaked. I anticipate problems in the travel, advertising and car hire sectors.

  5. ”Therefore, even as technology and economies of scale are lowering the ECoEs of renewables, the ECoE of their input costs will be rising. I am very far from convinced that we could – for example – extract or process copper or steel without using fossil fuel energy.”

    Fossil Fuels clearly need to be used wisely certainly whilst the transformation process is attempted.
    Solar Breeders and another energy plant will surely produce the industrial quantities of Electricity required, why would that be impossible?
    to imagine the future, distributed networks and symbiotic systems have to be embraced. Top Down centralised command and control systems simply do not lend themselves to whole system thinking.

    The Old stories no longer work especially the Binary stories of left and right Elites and plebs found in Political economy.

    • Thanks. Quite some time ago we had an article here about why both right and left have become outdated terms. Both are corporatist, either private or state, and both require loyalties (to the corporation, government department, etc) which can conflict with broader loyalties (to other people, to the truth, and so on).

      I’m not at all sure about fast breeders. It seems to be in the category of ‘ideas that have been around for a long time but are still not proven’.

    • 03.09.2017

      MENA solar farms to power Europe underway – Ambitious Tunisian solar project may one day provide electricity to European home

      The Tunisia based company TuNur launched a request to export 4.5 GW of solar energy to Europe. It firstly will link Tunisa and Malta by 2020 and further links to the middle of Italy and southern France are planned. It is a project both sides can profit from – Europe by getting clean energy and Tunisia by getting the economy, jobs and investments, stimulated. Finally there has come a chance to realise the project Desertec tried to launch a decade ago.

      https://newint.org/features/2015/03/01/desertec-long

      https://www.thenational.ae/business/energy/mena-solar-farms-to-power-europe-underway-1.625370

      I Guess Rome was not built in a day , The Technology is way ahead of the FInancial and political infrastructure. The competitive side of Markets and tendency to monopoly of Financialisation really does make for very slow progress.

      My Experience with waterstillar showed that even though a clear workable model to solve one of the great problems of the world Clean Pottable water even struggled in a No Brainer Market. Why? becuase it is up against one of the biggest captured markets in the world Bottled Water.

      Distributed networked energy Grids are not easily monopolised and controlled they are anti-ethical to the COntrol models of late-stage financialised capitalism.

      The Physics is quite straightforward, the political Economy not so simple.

  6. With prosperity in decline in the west, covered up by monetary adventurism, China must feel the impact in due time. Everything is interconnected as we know. By the way, China too is on the highway to hell;

    I cannot see why China’s prosperity could rise further with the west in decline?

  7. Dear Tim,
    Thank you for your reply (regarding current Peak Oil reports). I did indeed read your ‘Perfect Storm’ report back in 2013 .
    Like houtskool in his comment above, I find it difficult to imagine that certain countries will avoid the permanent recessions experienced by the majority of nations. Specifically your projections for Spain (+3.2%) and Germany (+0.1%) are difficult to understand as these countries will be embedded in a recession bound Europe (UK -10%, France -6.9% etc.). Could you explain this briefly ?

    thanks and regards
    Bernard

    • Two helpful annual reports from Lazards on Levelised cost of electricity. Very informative.

      https://www.lazard.com/media/438038/levelized-cost-of-energy-v100.pdf

      https://www.lazard.com/media/2391/lazards-levelized-cost-of-storage-analysis-10.pdf

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

      Also this is a very interesting Wikipedia article on OTEC ( Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_thermal_energy_conversion

      Just by way of explanation by Profession I am a Chartered Surveyor and Valuer. I began my Career at Shell UK Limited where I was involved in the Tax Assesment of the St Fergus Gas Terminal in Peterhead, To Tax large oil industry plant and machinery open market valuations of Property Value based taxes like Property Rates do not exist and to calculate a property value for taxation purposes a Valuation Technique called the contractors principle of Valuation is employed.
      The Contractors Principle of Valuation is a residual method of valuation which adds up all the input costs and then applies a discount rate to generate an annual economic rent ( Net Present Value )
      which can then be used to calculate the rating assessment. At shell I did hundreds of these types of Valuations and the Largest such valuation was for the St Fergus Gas Terminal.
      Concepts such as Embodied energy also feed nicely back into measures of Levelized costs of electricity. Pulling these concepts of energy value as opposed to financial value into the equations should hopefully result in seeing what the problem we are trying to solve is? DO we want to save Society or the financial system as it currently operates?
      Discount rates based upon the cost of Capital are pretty subjective as you will know Tim but it seems to me that EROIE measures Levelised costs of Electricity production and so forth and a residual valuation approach can yield a good method by which to assess the Economic potential for future prosperity based upon access to energy.

      Energy and Capital are very different things.

      The best description of this dichotomy I have encountered is this from Carol Quigley in Tragedy and Hope,

      ”Thus, clearly, money and goods are not the same thing but are, on the contrary,
      exactly opposite things. Most confusion in economic thinking arises from a failure to
      recognize this fact. Goods are wealth which you have, while money is a claim on wealth which you do not have. Thus goods are an asset; money is a debt. If goods are wealth; money is not wealth, or negative wealth, or even anti-wealth. They always behave in opposite ways, just as they usually move in opposite directions. If the value of one goes up, the value of the other goes down, and in the same proportion.”
      Quigley Tragedy and hope.

      Energy and Money are different.

  8. https://www.energy.siemens.com/mx/pool/hq/energy-topics/publications/living-energy/pdf/issue-09/Wind-Trade-London-Array-offshore-Living-Energy-9.pdf This really is a huge achievement why it is not trumpeted more or jumped on by Politicians I really do not know. I was heavily involved with the early days of Canary Wharf and with the London Docklands Development Corporation there were no shortage of Political johnny come lately’s who claimed the credit after the event , I guess in due course this Huge achievement will see all the wrong people claiming credit for something they really had not realised was a great achievement at the time.
    This project is visionary and for people like me who oppose capitalism quite frankly, it is a strong argument against our case that Capitalism does not deliver, in this case, it has.

  9. ”For Bombay to get all of its energy needs from solar in my hypothetical future it would need to harness almost 100% of the solar radiation that strikes it, a remote prospect. This extremely high population density is routinely ignored by western environmentalists calling for distributed energy to be the solution to India’s energy problems. It quite clearly is not.”

    http://www.theenergycollective.com/robertwilson190/257481/why-power-density-matters

    This article challenges one of my own Cherished stories regarding distributed networks, I accept they are not a panacea and take on board this argument that clearly defeats any sensible defence I can make against its logic.

  10. Hi guys, what do you make of this comment by a Nick G. at Peak Oil Barrel regarding Tim’s PDF?

    “The info about renewables and EVs is unrealistic. One example: it argues that the grid can’t supply enough electricity for EVs, starting from the premise that power demand is growing at 2.5% per year – that’s no longer true. US power demand has been flat for a decade. And, EVs would only require an expansion of roughly 20% over 20 years – obviously not a big deal, especially when EVs are synergistic with renewables. EVs can charge when renewable output is high and other demand is low. That minimizes CO2 and cost for the driver, and raises prices for renewable power sellers. It’s a win-win.”

  11. Demand management using electric vehicles
    To recap our requirements: we’d like to be able to store or do without
    about 1200 GWh, which is 20 kWh per person; and to cope with swings
    in supply of up to 33 GW – that’s 0.5 kW per person. These numbers are
    delightfully similar in size to the energy and power requirements of electric
    cars. The electric cars we saw in Chapter 20 had energy stores of between
    9 kWh and 53 kWh. A national fleet of 30 million electric cars would store
    an energy similar to 20 kWh per person! Typical battery chargers draw a
    power of 2 or 3 kW. So simultaneously switching on 30 million battery
    chargers would create a change in demand of about 60 GW! The average
    power required to power all the nation’s transport, if it were all electric, is
    roughly 40 or 50 GW. There’s therefore a close match between the adoption
    of electric cars proposed in Chapter 20 and the creation of roughly 33 GW

    http://www.withouthotair.com/c26/page_194.shtml

    • Roger

      Can I ask, politely, why you post so many links here? Speaking personally, I don’t have the time to follow them up, though of course others may. I’m pretty busy and have to plan prettycarefully.

      For instance, right now I’m looking into what SEEDS might tell us about shock exposure risk. We have good data on financial exposure, such as debt and financial assets. What SEEDS can do is compare these exposures with prosperity, instead of reported GDP. We can look at energy supply patterns, dependency on incremental borrowing, and other metrics. If we back-test this far enough we can strengthen the ability to use it predictively.

      My view now is that some kind of shock is becoming more likely. You’ll have seen in the report that an increasing proportion of “growth” is either cosmetic, and/or is the result of spending borrowed money. Mainstream news sources will show you how many sectors are already in trouble, and the next ones to struggle are fairly predictable.

    • I’m quite optimistic, because of what SEEDS brings to the table.

      For example, if debt increases, but a lot of it is pushed through consumption, GDP looks better as well, moderating any apparent rise in debt/GDP ratios. Set prosperity against that debt increase and things begin to show up. We’ll see if it works out like that – pretty big project…..

    • Tim, before I left the national security research/policy area there were a number of “resilience” research programmes considering non-linear abrupt events referred to as “systemic shocks”, looking at how and why they occur, why they aren’t anticipated, and how a system deals with them. Dstl’s Policy and Capability Studies, and Human Systems Departments were heavily involved programmes. Maybe some FOI requests with these terms might yield something useful? I can’t think of any sensitivity issues that would restrict access.

  12. Tim, outstanding as always. As some of your readers mentioned, the forecast of continued economic growth for China and India while Western economies experience a decline appears cognitively dissonant. The Seeds model may be underestimating some covariances likely due to the linearisation of feedback loops. In nonlinear dynamical terms models fail to predict phase changes that are common in complex systems. I realize that we may be asking the impossible of the SEEDS model yet something to ponder.

    • You are right, of course. For instance, can China keep on growing if its markets in the US and Europe are in decline? I mention this in the report, albeit obliquely, as “collateral damage”.

      I try to take this issue into account, which is why my projections for China and India (in particular) are pretty conservative. BTW, of the two, I’m more optimistic about India.

      This said, SEEDS is way off the consensus in arguing that global prosperity has flattened out, that emerging economies are going to slow, and that prosperity is declining in most western countries. For instance, SEEDS puts the UK -10% poorer in 2030 than now, and estimates the peak of prosperity there was 2003. If it turns out that the drop is -15% rather than -10%, SEEDS will still be a lot more correct than the consensus, which believes in continued growth!

      Incidentally, we’re seeing increasing signs that prosperity IS deteriorating. When you tot up the negatives – not just failures, cut-backs and earnings declines, but the sheer extent of cash-burn as well – it’s mystifying that the consensus still buys the ‘growth’ story. The next sectors to slump are becoming more apparent as things unfold.

      The next piece here is likely to be shock risk. It’s a big project. Like this one, I might make it a PDF.

    • Current seeds numbers should tell us enough about where we are heading.

      We have numbers and we have words. Mixing up those doesn’t add anything to the conclusion.

      Its like putting a ‘price’ on gold. In my opinion, dear doc, you can skip efforts putting numbers on words and let the blog figure it out.

    • The analysis regarding EROEI and its effect on prosperity potential is one thing, Continuing Economic models are failing for other reasons in addition to available cheaply priced Energy. ( Crony Capitalism is the buzz term I believe)
      Placing all of ones’ analytical ammo into the seeds weapon would be a strategic mistake.
      Another mistake is accepting the starting assumptions and definitions moulded in the Growth Paradigm and applying them to a post-growth paradigm.

      Finally, Seeds is not looking at the embodied energy question which gets very interesting when one considers re-cycling and circular economy, this question gets into use models over ownership models, this speaks to efficiency of energy use and not to some ideological measure of fairness or equality, or indeed some subjective voodoo related to the time value of money.

      Google Procrustes.

    • 6. Economical Aspects
      Since the ”investor’s view” has been used whenever possible there should be a simple relation to the
      economy. In fact, the EMROI Rem as defined in sec. 2.5, is supposed to describe the the economic relation
      better, even though it depends not only on the kind of the power plant but also on the surrounding market.
      Rem is used by many authors as ”EROI”, but in fact it is somwhere in the middle of the physical EROI
      and the actual cost ratio as it still ignores human labour costs. Energetically, human labour is negligible
      but financially, it dominates and represents the welfare of the society or of the sub-society working in this
      energy sector. For the returned energy ER, the money to energy ratio is simply given by the usual market
      price. For the invested energy EI
      , however, the ratio is much larger since it contains all the surplus of the
      value-added chain. Therefore, an EROI threshold can be roughly estimated by the ratio of the GDP to the
      unweighted final energy consumption while an EMROI threshold can be estimated by the weighted final
      energy consumption (which is not the primary energy consumption). For the U.S., for instance, the GDP
      was $15 trillion in 2011 while the unweighted end energy consumption was about 20 trillion kWh, resulting in
      an ”energy value” of some 70 cent/kWh (Germany ∼135 cent/kWh). The average electricity price, however,
      is 10 cent/kWh [10], (Germany ∼18 cent/kWh) so there is a factor of 7 higher money to energy ratio on
      the input side. The same calculation for the weighted final energy consumption (the electricity demand was
      multiplied by a factor of about 3) results in a ratio of about 16 for both countries, assuming average primary
      energy costs of 5 cent/kWh and 3.5 cent/kWh for Germany and the USA, respectively. A similar ratio can
      10
      be seen for other countries which leads to the conclusion that the thresholds are 7 and 16 for the EROI and
      the EMROI, respectively, assuming OECD-like energy consuming technology. For lower-developed countries
      thresholds might be smaller, thus making also ”simple” energies like biomass economic.
      Of course, the cost structure for different power plants is quite different. For construction and maintenance
      of a nuclear power plant there are a lot of non-energetic costs, dominated by prolonged licensing
      procedures and highly-qualified personnel costs that can not be ”outsourced”, contrary to solar cell production
      which profits from cheap manpower for manufacturing, e.g. in China. Besides ethical complications the
      monetary ratio can fluctuate anyway due to changing safety policies, international trading agreements and
      politically motivated subsidies. In summary, one has to consider both the EROI and the technical grade of
      energy-consuming infrastructure (non-technical issues are ignored for simplicity here) to assess the society’s
      prosperity.

      https://festkoerper-kernphysik.de/Weissbach_EROI_preprint.pdf

      This comparison for Germany and USA is very useful for making a comparison of what seeds throws up Tim.

  13. This white paper is a fascinating piece of work explaining how abundance and low prices can mask scarcity.

    http://www.oilcrisis.com/reynolds/MineralEconomy.htm

    Basically what Reynolds shows is the real cost of mineral resources is exploration not extraction. So that once the exploration is exhausted the commodity price can fall and simultaneously supply increase because capital has moved to extraction. The danger is it sends false market signals making believe there is abundance when there is actually scarcity. This leads to a catastrophic crash.

  14. I note Mr Hammond on the Peston programme was placing much emphasis on the Uk’s debt ‘falling as a % of GDP’…despite debt still growing in absolute terms.
    This to me is insanity since government spending and borrowing adds to GDP. Surely Hammond’s is the logic of ‘pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps’. ?

  15. Much to digest there an excellent analysis. Although I do bristle slightly at the term ‘We know ‘….that burning fossil fuel isn’t a good idea in climate terms’ .
    For me the Jury is out it’s impossible to say ‘the science is settled’ on ‘ man made climate change’. ‘We know’ that gravity exists..that electrons cluster around the nucleus of an atom..but to conflate this level of certainty with a self perpetuating theory that is as yet unproven is quite wrong in my view.
    There are still too many questions around the validity of the climate models, the politically correct politics surrounding global warming and relatively recent changes in climate that can’t be attributed to man’s activities.

    • Thanks Ken. As I see it, the human contribution to climate change is, of course, a matter for debate. But expert opinion does seem to agree, by a very large majority, that (a) global warming is happening, and (b) human use of energy is a very big contributor.

      A little while ago, I published an article here about the relevance of ECoE to emissions.

  16. Hi this is a little off grid but it made me realise how one sided my thought processes had been about the recent nerve agent attack on the UK – effectively I had been going along with the reports in the media which I believed 100%. I then came across this site and began to think differently.

    The relevance to this site is simply how we should always explore alternative views. Tim gave me a new perspective on economics (and indeed on the below link there is an excellent article on tax avoidance by private water companies).

    The trouble is finding out what is real and what is fake – or a mixture of both in an increasingly complex World. Is Truerepublica.org.uk a 100% honest site? I have no idea but it has made me reconsider the information I have been given about the nerve agent.

    http://truepublica.org.uk/united-kingdom/novichok-theresa-mays-45-minute-moment/

    Apologies Tim if you feel that this is too offgrid – but we always need fresh ways at looking at things.

    • OK to comment, in fact I’ve been researching Russia, though not writing about it.

      It’s interesting that the UK hasn’t frozen Russian assets, and England haven’t pulled out of the World Cup in Russia this summer.

      Russia has justifiable grievances against the West. Specifically, “expert” advice from Western economists in the 1990s helped wreck the economy. This said, I cannot condone these actions, in this case, let alone Litvinenko.

      We don’t know for sure if Russia is behind this, but I think we can conclude it has to be the work of some government’s intelligence service.

      It’s interesting that this is happening at the same time as trade wars and the rise of protectionism.

    • Having read the link, the implication seems to be that Mrs May, now, is cooking up reasons to fight Russia, equivalent to Blair’s “45 minutes” claim before the Iraq War.

      If that is what’s being alleged, I don’t buy it. The UK, or for that matter the US and NATO, can’t be daft enough to confront Russia militarily. Mrs May hasn’t even frozen Russian assets in Britain – pure “handbags”, then.

    • Hi Tim they appear to be looking for an excuse to up the war in Syria (not directly against Russia) although this in itself would be dangerous given the proximity of Russian troops.

      On the same website the tax avoidance by water companies does appear to be very unfair on us taxpayers. Why does the Government allow it?

    • Donald

      The Guardian piece is interesting, though I wonder if it overcomplicates issues somewhat.

      As I see it, Putin is a patriot, deeply offended by the humiliation and collapse of the USSR, an event in which he discerned the meddling out outsiders. His complaints about the West seem to have a measure of validity.

      Patriotism easily becomes nationalism and xenophobia. Russia has almost always had authoritarian regimes. Modern Russia seems to have replaced Soviet institutionalism with kleptocracy. Peter the Great aside – and, even in his case, to a pretty limited extent – Russia has seldom been outward-looking, and has so often been paranoid about ‘foreigners’. If you blend paranoia, nationalism, kleptocracy, insularity and a good dose of nostalgia for the world status of the USSR, you might come to something not unlike what we’re seeing now.

      On the other side, I find it interesting that the UK hasn’t frozen Russian assets, England (and everyone else) are still going to the World Cup, and Russia hasn’t – yet, anyway – threatened to cut off gas supplies. To this extent, it looks like a pantomime.

    • Yes it is like a pantomime. I do know that Brian Moore the ex rugby International who now commentates calls any fracas between players ‘Handbags at dawn’ The same with this situation.

      The article from Republica does seem a bit paranoid as I can’t believe the British Government would poison its own people so the question remains who did do it?

    • Interesting, though not my view either.

      I start from two perspectives here. The first is the end of growth in prosperity. In any situation, human or animal, co-existence turns from (relatively) peaceful to (dangerously) competitive as soon as resources, however defined, become scarce.

      The second is a dislike of concentrated power. I wouldn’t want our world to be ruled by the Americans, the Russians or, for that matter, the Chinese. Big corporates are over-mighty citizens as much as were the barons in the 12th century. The same goes for over-mighty organs of the state – whichever state that happens to be.

    • This is worth watching as was Question Time Last Night

      Putin Could have Ordered this, How likely is he to have done something so daft though?

      Time will tell

      The OPCW’s press statement confirmed that:

      “The remainder of Russia’s chemical weapons arsenal has been destroyed at the Kizner Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility in the Udmurt Republic. Kizner was the last operating facility of seven chemical weapons destruction facilities in Russia. The six other facilities (Kambarka, Gorny, Maradykovsky, Leonidovka, Pochep and Shchuchye) completed work and were closed between 2005 and 2015.”

      The OPCW’s reports on Russia confirm that the agency found no evidence of the existence of an active Novichok programme. It should be noted that Dr. Robin M. Black, formerly of Porton Down’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of the OPCW. And a scientific review by Dr. Black also raised doubts about Novichok, noting that its properties and structures had not been independently confirmed.

      https://orientalreview.org/2018/03/15/the-uk-government-is-manufacturing-its-nerve-agent-case-for-action-on-russia/

    • Hmm the plot thickens. If was ever proved that the UK was behind this it would be the end of any credibility we have.

      The Government is going to have to hand over the substance for testing – or perhaps the delay is that they haven’t been able to manufacture it yet.

    • Donald

      Personally, I think any idea that the UK authorities are behind this verges on the barking mad.

      I simply cannot believe it, and think any such suggestion is the reddest of red herrings.

      It’s rather more likely that Russia is behind it, the motive being either revenge, or sending out a general warning.

    • Well Tim I’ve read so many different views on the crisis – and tried to be impartial to all of them – that my head is spinning.

      I agree it just cannot be the UK and the likelihood is that Russia is involved. However shouldn’t we turn some of the substance over for independent testing?

    • https://off-guardian.org/2018/03/16/mays-novichok-claim-exposed-as-lies-what-is-the-current-reality-of-the-skripal-case/

      (Humor!) “Giftanschlag von Salisbury: Britische Polizei findet Putins Ausweis am Tatort”
      (“SALISBURY POISON ATTACK: BRITISH POLICE FINDS PUTIN’S ID CARD AT THE SCENE”)
      http://www.der-postillon.com/2018/03/putin-salisbury.html

      Harry Stotle
      March 16, 2018
      Craig Murray plaintively asks ‘I don’t suppose there is any sign of the BBC doing any actual journalism on this?’

      Well, I wouldn’t call it journalism, exactly, but the BEEB has certainly been doing its bit to tarr anybody who might be feeling slightly apprehensive about unleashing WWIII.

      They have depicted Corbyn in front of a Kremlinesque building looking redolent of Trotsky (from 12:10)
      https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09w3nps/newsnight-15032018#

      Not exactly what you’d call subtle, is it?

      As Off-G says the million dollar question is why – I would add one more item to the list of hypotheticals.
      Maybe its a US operation on UK soil (after all we are no more than a client state) in order to leverage more military action against Russia (or their proxies)?

      Its a toss up who has made them selves the greater idiot in all of this Boris Johnson or Theresa May , I think Boris shades it, apparently he was hysterical in berating the Russian Ambassador ( Likely Drunk, Boris not the Ambassador)

  17. from 2005

    This is a long Article but Salisbury as a Geo-Political event has its roots in the end of the Soviet Union and the ensuing collapse and western plundering enabling the Oligarchs, this was Yeltsin’s Gift to Russia not Putin’s.

    https://www.ukcolumn.org/article/skripal-russian-web-or-rusi-web

    Geo-Politics operates here at two levels, Brexit, But Also wider to Ukraine & Syria and the GAs Pipeline Intrigues.

    Espionage and statecraft is a dirty old business, Theresa May was Home Secretary long enough to Know the dark arts up to as far as Plausible deniability will allow. It is equally absurd for May to take this Risk as it would be For Putin, Elements in MI6 but also in Russia are quite capable of acting without official sanction.

    May is just a Mouth Piece and the UK Parliament is actually just a talking shop their Job is to spin a narrative to bind the populace to with loyalty.

    May is demonstrably out of her Depth , Putin is Not he is by far the better political operator May is a compromise Candidate, Better than Johnson, I personally Favoured David Davis and Still do and I also Like Rees Mogg . I like Rees Moggs Attitude to Corbyn, He thinks Corbyn is wrong with his views but accepts that he holds them genuinely. Mays style is precisely that of someone who studied Colouring in at Oxford ( Jeremy Paxmans Joke)
    https://www.ft.com/content/b1882fb2-46b9-11e7-8d27-59b4dd6296b8?mhq5j=e6

    The EU has a part in the Ukrainian Mess it’s not all Vlads Fault and Crimea is badly understood by those who rely on Western Corporate Media including the BBC.

    I made this video about Bojos first appearance at Unga Have you read the Seymour Hersh work on Sarin Gas?

    http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2016/09/syria-cui-bono-incitatus-boris-johnson.html

    ANd this is a Video compilation of some interesting history of Continuity of Government Shenanigans

    Sir Walter Walker is my Favourite Character, I spent a lot of time as a Kid tagging along with my Father in The Then West Germany during school holidays in the early 70’s Stationed in Hanover and met many cold warriors many of General Sir Walters Stamp.

  18. Dmitry Orlov presents some facts, such that the treaty REQUIRES that the suspicious substance be turned over for testing. Also that the formula is in the public domain, and anyone can manufacture it. He also quotes the inspectors who verified that the Russian part of the USSR was cooperative in destroying the stores of the substance.

    Of course, since anybody can manufacture it, that doesn’t mean that Russia didn’t make some more. However, the record of Russian compliance with treaties is better than the compliance record of many other countries.

    I don’t have any independent opinion on Dmitry’s assessment of the nature of what would have happened if the substance had really been what Mrs. May claimed it was. But it isn’t like Dmitry to lie about something which is easily verifiable.

    On the point that Russia has no reason to use the substance to kill a former spy who was traded for other spies, such an observation is usually a very good indication to look for a false flag operation.

    Don Stewart
    http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2018/03/false-flags-for-newbies.html

    • Don – an article said that it’s likely that Russia did do or sanction it because Putin wanted to be verbally attacked by the West so he could stand up as a messiah like figure to oppose them – hence making him look strong for the (rigged) election.

      We’ll probably never know the complete truth.

  19. For my money, I do not believe a word of this.

    Mr. Skripal and his daughter, for all I know, could both still be in perfect health and are enjoying 5-Star hotel accommodation in some hospital, until they magically emerge as “cured” !

    In situations like this, I always ask the question “Cui Bono ? ” Who benefits from this ?
    To botch an assassination like this is not Kremlin style.
    If they wanted Mr. Skripal dead, he would be.
    To use a highly sophisticated military grade nerve agent is like leaving a deliberate paper trail.
    It would be handing out a calling card.
    Why would Russia do that ?
    If there was a nerve agent in play, who is not to say that Mr.Skripal was given a vial of toxin by Porton Down, ( conveniently just 5 miles up the road ) that he was then supposed to poison Vladimir Putin with, and that his daughter opened it thinking it was a new perfume ?
    After all, the man is a spy and a double agent, subterfuge and lies is his game.
    Then there is the totally amateurish way in which the UK government has gone about this.- it’s like a tabloid newspaper claim. Totally unprofessional, and when we hear their defence minister Gavin Williamson speak, we really are back in the Kindergarten. He must think that all of the UK is populated solely by “Sun” & “Daily Mail” readers, and that nobody here has an IQ in double figures ! How embarrassing it was to listen to the statement of that young ( ie. inexperienced ) man.

    Similarly, the zeal with which France and Germany have joined the foray, despite no actual evidence being presented as yet, tells me that there is an agenda afoot.

    By the way, How are the Brexit negotiations getting on ? – or is that no longer a topic of discussion ?

    • ‘To use a highly sophisticated military grade nerve agent is like leaving a deliberate paper trail. It would be handing out a calling card Why would Russia do that ?

      Johan – they used an even clearer ‘paper trail’ when they used polonium to poison Alexander Litvinenko . So clear was it that they could detect it on the actual British Airways flight the suspects used to flee back to Russia.

      Basically as Tim said – they could have done it as a general warning. .

    • Thank you, Donald.
      yes, I read Dr.Tim’s comment but it still does not add up.
      Firstly, if Mr. Skripal were to die under any kind of suspicious circumstances at all, that in itself would be warning enough to those who pay heed to these things.
      However, using such a sophisticated method in an attempt to kill someone has a totally different dimension to it.
      Such an action would be directed at the British government.
      Yes, Mr.Skripal and his daughter would be the delivery mechanism, but they would not be the target.
      The big question is , Why would Russia want to do that, and why would they chose this particular point in time to do so ?
      This incident suits the British government more than it suits the Russian government.
      Now , I know that many contributors here are very pro-British Establishment in their views, and that anything other than ” Fair Play, Old Sport” is inconceivable to them. It should be noted that the British Establishment can play just as dirty as the rest. Ask any Irishman.
      But that aside, who is to say that it was not the Americans who are behind this ?
      The amount of anti-Russian vitriol which flows from the USA is manic. If this incident was not orchestrated by the British Intelligence, then my next finger would point at the CIA.
      As I mentioned before, there is an Agenda here, and I do not see Russia as being its progenitor.

    • Our system fails as we speak. We can see that in finance; scams as far as the eye can see. We can see that in the media; scams as far as the eye can see. Our system is quite large, we all depend on it, that’s why the scams continue and become stranger as time goes by. Read several blogs and try to distillate your own opinion. Never bet on one horse. Only then you will be able to understand what is happening. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

  20. It’s not surprising that we’re discussing the Russia issue a great deal.

    Where do things stand?

    The strongest likelihood (though far from certain) has to be a Russian operation, aimed at revenge or deterrence. Russia is paranoid, and actually has good reasons for resenting and fearing the West. Nationalism always plays well with the voters. Russia has form for interventions outside its borders, most obviously in Georgia and Ukraine. Russia has never really had a government that wasn’t authoritarian. This government seems to be a mixture of authoritarianism, nationalism, kleptocracy and nostalgia for the world status of the USSR.

    The idea that the UK government carried this out is laughable. That some intelligence assets might have gone ‘rogue’ seems almost equally unlikely.

    What is interesting is how tame the response has been. The UK hasn’t frozen Russian assets, though this would be the one move that would hurt Putin’s circle the most. The oligarchs’ assets in Britain seem such an obvious target, and one which would have no effect on ordinary Russians. It wouldn’t hurt the UK economy, either. So this is surprising, until we remember that there wasn’t an asset freeze after the Litvinenko case.

    From an economics perspective – what this site is really about – rising tensions, in which I include trade wars, seem yet another significant marker consistent with deteriorating prosperity.

    • Yes Tim all these nasty events (many other murders have been linked to Russia) could well be linked to declining prosperity. They’re sideshows if you like to deflect the electorate’s interests away from the real issues.

      I can’t see Putin sharing a drink with Blair again but hopefully all the current hysterical posturing (we belong to a powerful NATO alliance etc etc) will eventually die down and we’ll get on with dealing with the important problems.

    • http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2011/12/cointelpro-chomsky-and-marr-orwells.html

      Heres the Marr Chomsky interview.Well worth watching
      Very interesting on the watergate scandal and the little known but actually much more sinister and anti-constitutional cointelpro. Filter system of self regulating propaganda and Orwells essay on literary censorship in the United Kingdom ( foreword to Animal Farm that didn’t ever appear).´´screening for obedience and subordination´´

      This starts at 5.27 where Chomsky explains his view that a filtering system causes self censorship.

      Operation Gladio is the real eye opener heres Daniel Ganser.

    • Respectfully Dr.Tim, I disagree.
      Your indication that this ” has to be a Russian operation ” cannot be substantiated. In an international incident like this, “likelyhood” just doesn’t cut it.
      We need firm irrefutable evidence. I cannot substantiate my claims that this was an MI-6 operation, but I still see that as being the “most likely” situation.
      I know you are laughing, but I really do believe that the British government is perfectly willing and able to carry out dastardly operations of this nature.
      Similarly your claim the “Russia is paranoid”. Russia does not “think” that “everybody is out to get them”.
      Russia ”knows” that everybody is out to get them ! ! !

      Despite assurances given by Bush-1, NATO has encircled Russia. Nato has caused insurrection on Russia’s borders and the USA is waging economic warfare against Russia ( gas supplies to Europe ).
      For Russians this is not paranoia; – this is real.

      But you do mention that your blog here is essentially focused on economics, and really that is what this is all about.
      This whole Western anti-Russia vitriol is all being stirred up to destroy present day Russia. The Western Neo-cons want Russia subjugated under US/eu rule so that its resources can be plundered. Of course, that is not to say that the Russian Oligarchs were not doing too shabby a job about that themselves up until now.
      An independent, resources rich Russia does not sit well with the Neo-cons.
      A Sino-Russian economic axis controlling a large part of the world economy will be a dagger in the heart for the US Dollar, and with it US world hegemony.
      Mr. Skripal is just a small pawn on a very much bigger chessboard.

  21. Russian Oil and Gas and (very little) Debt
    It is natural that the UK, France, and Germany want to create trouble for Russia.
    *The Russians have very little debt…Europe has a lot
    *They have lots of oil and gas…Europe has none
    *Europe has joined the US to ring Russia with nuclear weapons and broke the ABM treaty to build a defense against ballistic missiles. Endless wars in the middle east. Now Russia has announced the deployment of missiles which are not ballistic, and some of which are not operated by humans (e.g., robotic submarines)
    *Europe does everything it can to prevent Russia from marketing products such as nuclear power stations in eastern Europe. But Brussels doesn’t seem to want to put up the cash to offer an alternative. So at least one Russian nuke is now in the pipeline and another is pending. This must infuriate the Brussels crowd.
    *How to get out of Brexit without losing face? Gin up a Russian Bear threat and point to the need for a European military and solidarity.

    For someone looking from across the Atlantic, it surely does seem like a logical program.

    Don Stewart

    • I’ve been saying for a long time now that we’ve been pursuing policies which destroy even the possibility of pension provision for all but a wealthy minority.

      The real reason for the problem is monetary policy. Historically, taking the US as an example and using WEF numbers, investors earned 8.6% (real) on equities, and 3.6% on bonds. Now, they earn only 3.45% on equities, and just 0.15% on bonds.

      Where someone saved $10 or £10 before, I calculate that he or she has to save $27 or £27 now. If saving 10% of income was sufficient before, you’d need 27% now, which isn’t practical. The Guardian’s 18% number looks on the low side. Even so, if half of your income goes on essentials – and many now spend more than half on rent alone – 18% of total income becomes 36% of the money in the person’s pocket after essentials.

      So the same monetary policies which enable the economy to co-exist with huge debts are destroying pension provision. This is a choice that has been made – a choice which destroys pensions in the process of supporting current consumption, and also supporting hugely inflated asset values.

      According to the WEF, US pension under-provision is worsening by $3 trillion annually. That’s appalling, within GDP of $19 trillion. It’s also 5x what America spends on defence.

      My view, expressed here several times, is that, politically, this is “the dog that hasn’t barked” – yet. Public awareness of this, when it happens, will be a game-changer.

    • Well it’s certain that something’s going to give – I know there’s been speculation on this site as to when – as yet no odds offered by William Hill.

      Now there’s another potential problem which will put all our current economic problems in the shade. I’ve woken up to snow falling as the Beast from the east part 2 has arrived. Will I be able to get to Twickenham to see the climax of the Six nations or will the 3mm of snow that has already settled wipe out our transportation system?

    • Donald

      Yes, something has to crack. I’ve been doing the numbers – and there are a lot of them – on crash risk, and coming up with a lot more than I can see how to put into an article. But everything points to the same conclusion. It’s interesting to note how, whenever firms get into trouble (which is happening increasingly), debts turn out to be a lot more than anyone thought, plus, of course, big pension deficits emerge.

      Also, if I may: travelling to Twickers relies on the transport system. In British English, transportation means shipping convicts to Australia.

    • ‘In British English, transportation means shipping convicts to Australia’ Which is where our rugby team should be sent after a performance like that.

  22. Why no one should trust US intelligence or what they read in the New York Times:

    James Risen explains why he quit working as an investigative reporter for the NYT when he learned how complicit they were in working with the federal government’s propaganda and war machine, and why the NYT signed up for this devil’s bargain to access and release information that would otherwise never see the light of day.

    https://theintercept.com/2018/01/03/my-life-as-a-new-york-times-reporter-in-the-shadow-of-the-war-on-terror/?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits

    Don Stewart

    • It’s difficult to trust anyone’s intelligence service. These are corporate organisations, which promote loyalty to the organisation over loyalty to broader interests (such as the public, or the truth). That’s a feature of most corporate bodies, but especially true of intelligence services.

  23. Many people believe that the full facts behind Presidents Kennedy’s assassination have yet to be fully revealed, and that was committed in full view of the public.

    The full facts behind this recent atrocity may never be revealed.

  24. Hi Tim you may recall that I sent a link to your post about the folly of EV’s to my MP so he could forward it to the DOT.

    I’ve got a reply back which reiterated the Government’s ambition to have almost all cars and vans zero emissions by 2050 – that the Government seeks to maintain ambitious targets and intervening firmly if not enough progress is being made.

    They state that this ambition is technology neutral and the DOT welcomes any innovative thinking that will help them achieve it

    They ended the letter by saying that your article has been sent on to Department officials in the office for low emission vehicles for their consideration.

    So not much of an answer really and they finished by passing the buck onto another department. It was probably far too technical for them.

    • Thank you.

      It’s interesting that goverenment intends to ‘intervene firmly’ to progress the transition to EV. Lobby groups being what they are, this is bound to raise the possibility that subsidies may be offered as well.

      Recent figures have shown a striking decline in the rate at which British customers buy new cars – there were even, ludicrously, calls for a subsidy after the latest downturn. Car buying seems to have gone through a cycle. Traditionally, people actually bought cars, using their own money. Next, they turned to financing deals, which have been a worrying increment to household debt. Now, and logically, they are reducing how many they buy.

      The industry, no doubt, would love a surge in sales brought about by EV. If EVs were subsidised, and/or people were forced to get rid of their IC vehicles, the industry would benefit enormously. I would add that I can see additional problems looming for the vehicle industry. On top of that, of course, we can expect to see oil supplies tighten pretty soon, given the low levels of discoveries and of development spending.

      I would certainly be interested to know what else they tell you. If they are open to innovative ideas about EVs, perhaps that includes the innovative suggestion that they resist all calls for subsidy?

    • Tim – if I get a further response from the Office for low emissions I’ll certainly let you know.

  25. Economy wise I see Chris Grayling has given the go-ahead for the new Heathrow runway. Start date is 2020. I’m just wondering if oil will have become so expensive by the time it actually opens that many airlines will have gone bust.

    Those that do still operate may have to cram so many people in onboard to remain economical that it would put many people off flying anyway.

    £15bn seems like a lot of money which would probably be better spent on more light railways – trams and bus services.

  26. So to this response ‘A spokeswoman for the National Grid said the safe and reliable supply of energy “is our most important job and we have robust systems in place which enable us to monitor, detect and protect our network to keep energy flowing’

    Sounds too much like famous last words. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of their PC’s still run on Vista.

  27. Well Tim as a follow up to your post about the folly of EV’s – the National grid say they’ve got it sorted. However I’m just wondering of their calculations are based on current battery energy and not the 3 – 6 times greater capacity the future promises.

    The point is that if higher capacity batteries do become available then people will drive further – take extra trips – just like they do when petrol becomes cheaper. They won’t want to be told that they’re only allowed a certain amount of miles per week which may well go up during the holidays seasons as would the need for daytime charging for long trips (or a longer night time charge with a high capacity battery)- instead of off peak which the grid is counting on.

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/mar/27/national-grid-backs-plan-for-earlier-petrol-and-diesel-ban

    • Thanks. The argument seems to be that there is so much spare (off peak) capacity now that there’s little or no need for additional power stations. I’m not convinced, but will look into it.

      EVs will, of course, reduce emissions, but ONLY if we don’t need to burn more fossil fuels to generate additional electricity. I need to look, too, at assumptions being made around battery life, especially in the context of supercharging. I’m hearing that this process has very adverse effects, which could be mitigated by NOT using superchargers, but charging in off-peak periods instead. The other issue for UK users is cost – we already know that each kwh from Hinkley is going to cost about twice the current price. Gas costs are a big variable too – maybe we could ask for help from Russia?…..

      Globally, though, I simply cannot see where we’re going to get all that extra power from……

    • Perhaps in our future economy drives for pleasure – say at weekends – will no longer exist. Where I live they’ve just improved the bus service by slightly rerouting some journeys so they now go past my stop.

      Effectively – unless I have some exceptionally heavy shopping – I have no excuse to take the bus into town as the frequency is up to 14 buses an hour.

      Currently an EV with a guaranteed range of 130 miles would do me for most of the year – although most of my journeys are no more than a 16 mile round trip. It’s possible that my long distance drives down to Switzerland are now a thing of the past.

      My current car – a Golf – is 5 years old. If I can get another 4 – 5 years out of it I’ll be ready for the switch over – with the hope that battery technology / cost has improved as well.

      I’ll be interested in your off peak calculations.

Comments are closed.