#153. One for the sceptics


We need to be rather careful about the term “opinion is divided”.

When English league champions Manchester City were drawn to play fourth-tier minnows Newport County in the F.A. Cup, the opinions of football-watchers over the expected outcome probably were “divided” – but only in the sense that, whilst 99% expected the giants to win, only 1% hoped (in vain, as it turned out) for a miracle.

The same caution should apply to any claim that informed opinion is “divided” over the threat to the environment. Even if you’re not convinced by the concept of climate change, or of human activity as one of its main causes, you’d struggle to dismiss species extinction, water supply exhaustion, land degradation, desertification, melting glaciers or simple pollution as figments of the imagination.

We don’t, after all, have to assume that absolutely everything ever stated by ‘the establishment’ or the mainstream media is a pack of porky-pies, even if quite a lot of it is.

There’s one point, though, which really does need to be addressed. This is the widespread assumption that environmental and economic objectives are opposed, and that tackling environmental imperatives will have an economic “cost”.

This is a wholly false dichotomy. Far from ensuring ‘business as usual’, continued reliance on fossil fuel energy would have devastating economic consequences. As is explained here, the world economy is already suffering from these effects, and these have prompted the adoption of successively riskier forms of financial manipulation in a failed effort to sustain economic ‘normality’.

If you take just one point from this discussion, it should be that a transition to sustainable forms of energy is every bit as important from an economic as from an environmental imperative.

“What if?” A contrarian hypothesis

To explain this, what follows begins from a hypothetical basis that ‘there’s no truth in the story of man-made climate damage’.

Just for the moment, I’d like you to suspend your disbelief – as, writing this, I’ve had to suspend mine – and adopt the starting position that human activity, and in particular our use of energy, isn’t threatening the planet.

If they were of this persuasion, what conclusions might be reached by decision-makers in government and business?

It’s probable that, stripped of the environmental imperative, the case for transitioning our supplies of energy, away from fossil fuels and towards renewable sources such as solar and wind power, would either be dismissed altogether, or watered down to the point of irrelevance.

Even as things stand, efforts to transition to sustainable sources of energy are faltering.

Once persuaded that we could do so safely, there would be considerable support – reinforced by the human traits of self-interest, conservatism and inertia – for taking a “business as usual” approach, in which oil, gas and coal remained, as they are now, the source of fourth-fifths of the energy that we consume.

From this start-point, a great deal of inconvenience could be prevented. We wouldn’t need to change our practices, or our way of life. We could carry on travelling in gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles. Holidaying abroad would remain an activity with a future. We needn’t expend huge sums in plastering our countryside with wind turbines and solar panels. We’d be likely to abandon vastly-expensive, technically unproven plans to switch over almost entirely to EVs (electric vehicles), confining them instead to marginal urban use. By heading off the need for drastic increases in power supply, this in turn would make it easier for industry to keep on coming up with new products and processes (like drones and robotics) which call for increases in our use of electricity.

In short, in a purely hypothetical situation in which it could be proved that the environmental activists were wrong, there’d be a huge collective sigh of relief, from government, business and the general public alike. Few people, after all, really like change and disruption.

The energy reality of the economy

What has to be emphasized – indeed, it cannot be stressed too strongly – is that, even if it were environmentally safe to carry on relying on fossil fuels, doing so could be expected to cripple the economy within, at most, twenty-five years.

Indeed, the process of economic deterioration is already well under way.

That this is not generally understood results primarily from the mistaken view that the economy is ‘a financial system’.

It has long been traditional for us to think of the economy in this way. This, in part, is a legacy of the founders of economics, men like Adam Smith, David Ricardo and James Mill. They established what are called the “laws” of economics from a financial perspective. They demonstrated the way in which the pricing process determines supply and demand. Specifically, they contended that, if there’s a shortage of something, the solution is to raise its price, thereby encouraging increased supply. All of their work, then, was expressed in the notation of money.

We should be in no doubt that these founding fathers of economic interpretation have bequeathed us invaluable lessons, of which none is more important than the role of free, fair and uncluttered competition in promoting economic progress. The successors to the early pioneers have added new economic interpretations, of course, but almost all of these are money-based theories, which perpetuate the idea that the economy is a financial system.

But the founders of classical economics lived in a world totally different to that of today. Smith died in 1790, Ricardo in 1823, and Mill in 1836, and even Mill’s son, John Stuart passed away in 1873, which was 99 years before the publication of The Limits To Growth. In their era, there was little or no reason for anyone (other than the maverick Thomas Malthus) to think about physical limitations, still less of the environmental issues that have entered our consciousness over the last twenty-five years or so.

They were right to state that higher prices can stimulate the supply of shoes or beer – but no increase in price can conjure forth new, giant and low-cost oil fields where these do not exist.

There can be few, if any, other matters of twenty-first-century importance which are tackled on the basis of eighteenth-century precepts. Neither, logically considered, is there any reason for clinging on to monetary interpretations of the economy.

If, as in fig. 1, we look at the relationship between, on the one hand, global population numbers (and related economic activity), and, on the other, the use of energy, we can see an unanswerable case for linking the two. It’s no coincidence at all that the exponential upturn in the world’s population took off at the same time that, thanks to James Watt’s 1776  invention of the first effective heat-engine, we learned how to harness the vast energy potential contained in fossil fuels.

Not just the size of the world economy, but its prosperity and complexity, too, are products of the Prometheus unleashed by Watt and his fellow inventors.

Fig. 1.

Population and energy

Moreover, observation surely tells us that literally everything that constitutes the ‘real’ economy of goods and services relies entirely on energy. Without energy supplies, the economy would grind to a halt, and the society built on it would disintegrate.

After all, if you were adrift in a lifeboat in mid-Atlantic, and a passing aircraft dropped you a huge pile of banknotes, but no water or food, you’d soon realize that money has no intrinsic worth, but commands value only in terms of the things for which it can be exchanged.

Money, then, acts simply as a claim on the products of an economy which, itself, is an energy system.

The cost component

Anyone who understands the energy basis of the economy knows that the supply of energy is never cost-free, though the relevant measure of cost needs to be stated in energy rather than financial terms. Drilling a well, digging a mine, building a refinery or laying a pipeline requires the use of energy inputs, as, for that matter, does installing a wind-turbine or a solar panel, or constructing an electricity distribution grid.

This divides the aggregate of available energy into two streams – the energy which has to be consumed in providing a continuity of energy supply, and the remaining (“surplus”) energy which powers all other economic activity.

The cost component is known here as the Energy Cost of Energy (ECoE). This is the critical determinant of the ability of surplus energy to drive economic activity. Low ECoEs provide a large surplus on which to build prosperity, but rising ECoEs erode this surplus, making us poorer.

Further investigation reveals that, where fossil fuels are concerned, four factors determine the level of ECoE.

One of these is geographic reach – by extending its operations from its origins in Pennsylvania to places as far afield as the Middle East and Alaska, the oil industry lowered ECoE by finding new, low-cost sources of supply.

A second is economies of scale – a plant handling 300,000 b/d (barrels per day) of oil is a lot more cost-efficient than one handling only 30,000 b/d.

Now, though, the maturity of the oil, gas and coal industries is such that the benefits of scale and reach have arrived at their limits. This is where the third factor steps in to determine ECoE – and that factor is depletion.

What depletion means is that the lowest-cost sources of any energy resource are used first, leaving costlier alternatives for later.

The crux of our current predicament is that ‘later’ has now arrived. There are no new huge, low-cost sources of oil, gas or coal waiting to be developed.

From here on, ECoEs rise.

To be sure, advances in technology can mitigate the rise in ECoEs, but technology is limited by the physical properties of the resource. Advances in techniques have reduced the cost of shale liquids extraction to levels well below the past cost of extracting those same resources, but have not turned America’s tight sands into the economic equivalent of Saudi Arabia’s al Ghawar, or other giant discoveries of the past.

Physics does tend to have the last word.

Unravelling economic trends

Once we understand the processes involved, we can see recent economic history in a wholly new way. The narrative since the late 1990s can be summarised, very briefly, as follows.

According to SEEDS – the Surplus Energy Economics Data System – world trend ECoE rose from 2.9% in 1990 to 4.1% in 2000. This increase was more than enough to stop Western prosperity growth in its tracks.

Unfortunately, a policy establishment accustomed to seeing all economic developments in purely financial terms was at a loss to explain this phenomenon, though it did give it a name – “secular stagnation”.

Predictably, in the absence of an understanding of the energy basis of the economy, recourse was made to financial policies in order to ‘fix’ this slowdown in growth.

The first such initiative was credit adventurism. It involved making debt easier to obtain than ever before. This approach was congenial to a contemporary mind-set which saw ‘deregulation’ as a cure for all ills.

The results, of course, were predictable enough. Expressed in PPP-converted dollars at constant 2018 values, the world economy grew by 36% between 2000 and 2008, adding $26.8 trillion to recorded GDP. Unfortunately, though, debt escalated by $61.5tn over the same period, meaning that $2.30 had been borrowed for each $1 of “growth”. At the same time, risk proliferated, and became progressively more opaque. Excessive debt and diffuse risk led directly to the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC).

With depressing inevitability, the authorities once again responded financially, this time adding monetary adventurism to the credit variety that had created the GFC. In defiance of a minority who favoured letting market forces work through to their natural conclusions (and who probably were right), the authorities opted for ZIRP (zero interest rate policy). They implemented it by slashing policy rates to all-but-zero, simultaneously driving market rates down by using newly-created money to buy up the prices of bonds.

This policy bailed out reckless borrowers and rescued imprudent lenders, but did so at a horrendous price. Since 2008, we’ve been adding debt at the rate of $3.10 for each $1 of “growth”. The proper functioning of the market economy has been crippled by the distortions of monetary manipulation. The essential regenerative process of ‘creative destruction’ has been stopped in its tracks by policies which have allowed ‘zombie’ companies to stay afloat. Asset prices have soared to stratospheric levels, supported by a tide of debt which can never be repaid, and can be serviced only on the assumption of perpetual injections of negatively-priced credit. The collapse in returns on invested capital has blown a gigantic hole in pension provision. As the Federal Reserve is in the process of discovering, no route exists for a restoration of monetary normality. We are, in short, stuck with monetary adventurism until it reaches its point of termination.

The relentless rise of ECoE   

Back in the real economy, meanwhile, ECoEs keep rising. SEEDS calculates that global trend ECoE has risen from 4.1% in 2000, and 5.6% in 2008 (the year of the GFC), to 8.1% now. Critically, the upwards trajectory of ECoE has become exponential, with each incremental increase bigger than the one before.

As this trend has progressed, prosperity has turned downwards, initially in the advanced economies of the West.

To understand this process, we need first to look behind GDP figures which have been inflated by the simple spending of borrowed money. In the decade since 2008, an increase of $34tn in world GDP has been accompanied by a $106tn surge in debt. What this means is that most of the reported “growth” in GDP has been bogus. Rates of apparent “growth” would slump to, at best, 1.5% if we stopped pouring in new credit, and would go into reverse if we ever tried to deleverage the world’s balance sheet.

Once we’ve established the underlying rate of growth – as a “clean” measure of GDP which excludes the effects of credit injection – we can apply ECoE to see what’s really been happening to prosperity.

In the West, people have been getting poorer over an extended period. Prosperity per capita has fallen by 7.2% in the United States since 2005, and by 11.3% in Britain since 2003. Deterioration in most Euro Area economies has been happening for even longer. Not even resource-rich countries like Canada or Australia have been exempt. As an aside, this process of impoverishment, often exacerbated by taxation, can be linked directly to the rise of insurgent political movements sometimes labelled “populist”.

The process which links rising ECoE to falling prosperity is illustrated in figs. 2 and 3. In America, prosperity per person turned down when ECoE hit 5.5%, whereas the weaker British economy started to deteriorate at an ECoE of just 3.4%.

Fig. 2 & 3.

EcoE & prosp US UK

World average prosperity per capita has declined only marginally since 2007, essentially because deterioration in the West has been offset by continued progress in the emerging market (EM) economies. This, though, is nearing its point of inflexion, with clear evidence now showing that the Chinese economy, in particular, is in very big trouble.

As you’d expect, these trends in underlying prosperity have started showing up in ‘real world’ indicators, with trade in goods, and sales of everything from cars and smartphones to computer chips and industrial components, now turning down. As the economy of “stuff” weakens, a logical consequence is likely to be a deterioration in demand for the energy and other commodities used in the supply of “stuff”.

Simply stated, the economy has now started to shrink, and there are limits to how long we can hide this from ourselves by spending ever larger amounts of borrowed money.

Safe to continue?

Let’s revert now to our hypothetical situation in which, unconcerned about the environment, we remain resolutely committed to an economy powered by fossil fuels.

The critical question becomes that of what then happens to the economy moving forwards.

Unfortunately, the ECoEs of fossil fuels will keep rising. SEEDS puts the combined ECoE of fossil fuels today at 10.7%, a far cry from the level in 2008 (6.5%), let alone 1998 (4.2%). Projections show fossil fuel ECoEs hitting 12.5% by 2024, and 14.5% by 2030.

For context, SEEDS studies indicate that, in the advanced economies of the West, prosperity turns down once ECoEs reach a range between 3.5% and 5.5%. Because of their lesser complexity, EM countries enjoy greater ability to cope with rising ECoEs, but even they have their limits. SEEDS analysis identifies an ECoE band of between 8% and 10% within which EM prosperity turns down. Sure enough, China’s current travails coincide with an ECoE which hit 8.7% last year, and is projected to rise from 9.0% in 2019 to 10.0% by 2025. A similar climacteric looms for South Korea  (see figs. 4 & 5).

Figs. 4 & 5

EcoE & prosp CH KOR

In short, then, continued reliance on fossil fuels would condemn the world economy to levels of ECoE which would destroy prosperity.

Hidden behind increasingly desperate (and dangerous) financial manipulation, the world as a whole has been getting poorer since ECoE hit 5.5% in 2007. As more of the EM economies hit the “downturn zone” (ECoEs of 8-10%), the so-far-gradual impoverishment of the average person worldwide can be expected to accelerate.

After that, various adverse consequences start to impact the system. The financial structure cannot be expected to cope with much more of the strain induced by denial-driven manipulation. The political and geopolitical consequences of worsening prosperity, exacerbated perhaps by competition for resources, can be left to the imagination. Economic systems dependent on high rates of capacity utilization can be expected to fail.

This, then, is the grim outlook for a world continuing to rely on fossil fuels. Even if this continued reliance on oil, gas and coal won’t destroy the environment, it can be expected, with very high levels of probability, to wreck the economy.

Even as things stand today, the energy industries seem almost to have stopped trying to keep up. Capital investment in energy, stated at constant 2018 values, was 20% lower last year (at $1.59tn) than it was back in 2014 ($2tn), and is not remotely sufficient to provide continuity of supply. Even shale investment only keeps going courtesy of investors and lenders who are prepared to support “cash-burning” companies.

Critically, what this means is that the supposed conflict between environmental imperatives, on the one hand, and economic (“cost”) considerations, on the other, is a wholly false dichotomy.

For the economy, no less than for the environment, there is a compelling case for transition. But the implications of the future trend in ECoEs go a lot further than that.

As the ECoEs of fossil fuels have risen inexorably, those of renewable alternatives have fallen steadily. It is projected by SEEDS that these will intersect within the next two to three years, after which renewables will be “cheaper” (in ECoE terms) than their fossil alternatives.

At this point, it would be comforting to assume that, as the ECoEs of renewables keep falling, and the extent of their use increases, we can make a relatively painless transition.

Unfortunately, there are at least three factors which make any such assumption dangerously complacent.

First, we need to guard against the extrapolatory fallacy which says that, because the ECoE of renewables has declined by x% over y number of years, it will fall by a further x% over the next y. The problem with this is that it ignores the limits imposed by the laws of physics.

Second, renewable sources of energy remain substantially derivative of fossil fuels inputs. At present, we can only construct wind turbines, solar panels and their associated infrastructure by using energy sourced from fossil fuels.  Until and unless this can be overcome, sources termed ‘renewable’ might better be described as ‘secondary applications of primary energy from fossil fuels’.

Third, and perhaps most disturbing of all, there can be no assurance that the ECoE of a renewables-based energy system can ever be low enough to sustain prosperity. Back in the ‘golden age’ of prosperity growth (in the decades immediately following 1945), global ECoE was between 1% and 2%. With renewables, the best that we can hope for might be an ECoE stable at perhaps 8%, far above the levels at which prosperity deteriorates in the West, and ceases growing in the emerging economies.

Policy, reality and the false dichotomy

These cautions do not, it must be stressed, undermine the case for transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables. After all, once we understand the energy processes which drive the economy, we know where continued dependency on ever-costlier fossil fuels would lead.

There can, of course, be no guarantees around a successful transition to renewable forms of energy. The slogan “sustainable development” has been adopted by the policy establishment because it seems to promise the public that we can tackle environmental risk without inflicting economic hardship, or even significant inconvenience.

It is, therefore, far more a matter of assumption than of verifiable practicality.

Even within the limited scope of declared plans for “sustainable development”, efforts at transition are faltering. Here are some examples of this disturbing insufficiency of effort:

–   According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), additions of new renewable generating capacity have stalled, with 177 GW added last year, unchanged from 2017. Moreover, the IEA has stated that additions last year needed to be at least 300 GW to stay on track with objectives set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

–   The IEA has also said that capital investment in renewables, expressed at constant values, was lower last year (at $304bn) than it was back in 2011 ($314bn). Even allowing for reductions in unit cost, this reinforces the observation that renewables capacity simply isn’t growing rapidly enough.

–   In 2018, output of electricity generated from renewable sources increased by 314 TWH (terawatt hours), but total energy consumption grew by 938 TWH, with 457 TWH of that increase – a bigger increment than delivered by renewables – sourced from fossil fuels.

The latter observation is perhaps the most worrying of all. Far from replacing the use of fossil fuels in electricity supply, additional output from renewables is failing even to keep pace with growth in demand. Where power generation is concerned, this has worrying implications for our ability to transition road transport to EVs without having to burn a lot more oil, gas and coal in order to do so.

The deceleration in the rate at which renewables capacity and output are being added seems to be linked to decreases in subsidies. These, though affordable enough at very low rates of take-up, have been scaled back as the magnitude of the challenge has increased.

This calls for a thoroughgoing review of energy policy, and it seems bizarre that a system which can provide financial support for the banking system cannot do the same for the far more important matter of energy. Even within the fossil fuels arena, the continued growth of American shale production has relied on cheap capital, channelled into loss-making shale producers by optimistic investors and seemingly-complacent lenders.

We need to understand that, when an individual pays for electricity, or puts fuel in a car’s tank, this represents only a small fraction of what he or she spends on energy. The vast majority of energy expenditure isn’t undertaken as direct purchasing by the consumer, but is embedded in literally all of his or her outlays on goods and services. The scope for direct purchasing is determined by the scale of embedded use.

As prosperity deteriorates, then, the ability of the consumer to purchase energy is reduced. There is every likelihood that energy suppliers could find themselves trapped between the Scylla of rising costs and the Charybdis of impoverished customers.

We should, accordingly, be prepared for the failure of a system which relies almost entirely on commercial enterprise for the supply of energy. Far from prices soaring in response to tightening supplies, it’s likely that the impoverishment of consumers keeps prices below costs, resulting in a shrinkage of energy supply as part of a broader deterioration in economic activity.

As the situation develops, we may need to think outside the “comfort zone” of current policy parameters. For instance, the promise that the public can exchange their current vehicles for EVs may prove not to be capable of fulfilment, forcing us to evaluate alternatives, including electric trams and rail.

For now, though, one imperative predominates. It is that we must stop believing in the false dichotomy in which the environmental need for a transition to renewables is “moderated” by wholly false considerations of “cost”.

Simply put, we’re likely to pay a quite extraordinarily high price for a continuation of the assumption that the economy, demonstrably an energy system, is characterised by, and can be managed using, purely financial interpretation.

= = = = =

SEEDS environment report July 2019



579 thoughts on “#153. One for the sceptics

  1. History repeats itself when people refuse to learn from their mistakes. So for a hint of what is likely to happen next, look at a documentary by the BBC currently on it’s website in the UK, called Mad Cow Disease: The Great British Beef Scandal. It doesn’t mince (sorry) words either, these are it’s own summarising words: ‘ How greed, corruption and political misjudgement saw Britain’s biggest ever food scandal.’

    Basically it examines how in the 80’s already, big business let off the leash by Thatcher’s newly introduced neoliberal ideology, ran riot, unrestrained by the need to protect the human rights of people. To squeeze every last penny of profit out of carcasses, the remnants were not even diverted to petfood let alone discarded, they were ‘rendered’ (pulped) into a bonemeal mash that was then fed back to the animal species who constituted the ingredients. In this way, risk spiralled out of control, it already perpetuated diseases to feed the same species back to itself when they’re omnivores like pigs and chickens, but including cows and sheep was a crazy escalation. That turned herbivores not just into omnivores, but cannibals too, in biological terms that is begging for new diseases and radical changes in epidemiology.

    As the documentary outlines. the craven protection the government of the day offered the corporations at the expense of their people every time was unbelievable yet didn’t hurt them at all. If they got away with that with impunity over 3 decades ago while supposedly restrained by trade standards, it doesn’t inspire confidence as to what the new, incoming overlords will do next. As the wise man said in epitaph at the end of the film The Big Short, (about those who predicted the 2008 global crash) nothing will change, the cycles will just repeat, they refuse to learn and its the vulnerable who’ll suffer, blame the poor and immigrants. My money’s on cancer rates taking off from the chemical combination of ingrained pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides in factory-farmed food by the behemoths that make up the Big Agricultural industrial complex. Junglenomics indeed.

    • Also don’t forget the antibiotic crisis with there being no profit in developing new ones.

      This is a Worldwide emergency which needs Government not private funding yet prople like Trump waste billions on new weapons

    • “Also don’t forget the antibiotic crisis with there being no profit in developing new ones.”

      There is a lot of profit in developing new antibiotics. However there is more profit in using antibiotics in animal husbandry, which may increase the EROEI of their meat but certainly increases antibiotic resistance.

    • Cheaper meat at the cost of millions of lives. Hmmm.

      Yes antibiotics are profitable but it’s the decades of research before any money comes in that seems to be the problem

  2. One shouldn’t fret too much, as it will change nothing: we’ve all been brought up on the myth -in the West – of inevitable progress, government competence (if not wisdom) and basic human benevolence and good sense.

    But the reality is as it was for Marcus Aurelius nearly 2,000 years ago:

    ‘I remind myself every morning that today I shall meet liars, flatterers, fools, the corrupt, the stupid, and the greedy I often think that it would be good to stay in bed and pull the sheets over my head.’

    Echoed in the Aussie WW2 song:

    ‘Best bloody place is bloody bed, with blanket over bloody head; and then they think you’re bloody dead! Bloody, bloody, bloody!’

    When I came across that song at the age of 11, I sensed that there was some deep philosophy in it……

  3. My “News” comment of the day is in the Guardian;

    “Retail sales in the UK were unexpectedly strong in June, boosted by sales of secondhand goods at charity shops” Prosperity indeed!

    As for UK politics, the people shouting loudest about how bad a “no deal” would be are the same people who were shouting loudest about how bad having the deal would be.

    Strange how much noise and the political ploy’s the politicians, in particular on the left have been about this in comparison to how much quieter they were about public sector cuts or “tory austerity” or the Climate emergency.

    • And if it was books being sold in the booming charity shops (so funny), we should recall that their unfair competition drove real small booksellers out of business by getting hold of their potential stock for nothing…..

    • @ladydog70

      Re the politics let’s face it a lot of the sturm und drang by the politicians is all about trying to cancel Brexit in a way that nobody notices that the electorate have been betrayed.

    • As I’m sure you know, I take no side on “Brexit” itself but, like it or not, the voters opted for it.

      Both major parties made manifesto commitments to enact it, and these commitments were binding on more than 80% of MPs elected in 2017. So it should have been done by now.

      A small number had the integrity to resign the whip to oppose “Brexit”. But far too many others have remained within their party whilst trying to sabotage its manifesto commitment. Mrs May got a deal – not a very good one, but you never get everything you ask for – so MPs opposed to “no deal Brexit” did have the chance to get a “with-deal Brexit”, but turned it down.

  4. Pingback: Why do you hate renewables? | Consciousness of Sheep

  5. The Guardian has reported that due to phasing out of Government subsidies the drive to make UK homes more energy efficient (Loft insulation- draught reduction- more efficient boilers) has plummeted by 85%.

    Pure madness.

    • Question: If these things are really worth doing, why do they need perpetual subsidies? Surely, if loft insulation is a good idea, then we shouldn’t need paying to do it?

    • Quite agree, very short sighted. Too few policies addressing any aspect of energy demand reduction let alone sensible measures like this that (to my mind) should be bare minimum.

    • I think Don has answered your question well.

      Taking cars out of the equation it would make sense bringing the UKs housing stock up to a high standard of insulation now (while we still have the resources to do so) to save energy in the future.

  6. @Tony and Jackie
    One reason that simple economics doesn’t solve the problem of insulation and other energy saving methods is that a large percentage of the population is either renters or living paycheck to paycheck or both. If you really want to reduce fuel use in homes, then you probably have to mandate it one way or the other. The rich don’t perceive the need to highly insulate their 7,000 square feet, and the poor can’t afford to insulate their drafty 700 square feet. I’m not necessarily arguing that it is good public policy to do it…just pointing out the reasons why governments might choose to do so.

    These decisions are seldom cut and dried. For example, getting rid of the old low-mileage clunkers might sound like a good idea, but when one does the math about keeping the old clunker going versus investing the energy to build a shiny new, slightly higher mileage car, then sometimes the old clunker is the way to save energy. (Usually whatever benefits the companies that make political contributions is the winner.)

    Don Stewart

    • Very nicely put Don.

      Where I live, 2/3 of the people are renting, and they are the one pay the heating fuel. This means that the owners have not a lot of interest in investing money into insulation. Subsidies can help to nudge them, especially when refurbishement work must be done. For private owners, insulating can be this kind of thing where it will save money down the line, but the initial investment barrier is too high. Here subsidies are working great here.

      As far as reducing emissions and energy consumption goes, insulation, replacing fuel heating by heat pumps and solar water heating are the most cost effective solutions.

      I think that a carbon based VAT would be a really good way to deliver the goods as far as emission reductions go. It would also help with relocalizing some parts of the economic activities which would help in terms of making the society more resiliant to future rising ECoE (adapt ahead of the change, rather than scrambling during the change).

  7. On matters such as subsidies for insulation, I think it helps to be clear about the role of energy. The individual is a direct purchaser of energy (fuel in vehicles, electricity charges and so on), but the majority of the energy that people use is indirect or ’embedded’.

    That means, for instance, the energy used to grow a tomato, or pump water to the home. But it also includes the energy used by, say, an oil company building a refinery, or a solar company making panels. These involve aggregate (rather than individual) endeavours.

    Collectively, we need to exercise wise choices over the energy outlook. Insulation seems to me a no-brainer. In the case of the UK, as an example, deciding that money can be spent on HS2, or the folly of “help to buy”, but cannot be found for a worthwhile social investment like insulation, seems to me moronic.

    Bigger issues loom. Until quite recently, the development of renewables was promoted by Feed-In Tariffs (FiTs). These have been scaled back or dropped, mainly because they’d reached a scale where they would start to show up in electricity bills.

    This is part of a popular illusion that we can “decarbonize” the economy without anyone actually having to pay for it. It has something in common with the UK nuclear programme (to be funded by French, Chinese or other overseas investors), and PFI (let’s have new hospitals without the taxpayer financing them). ‘Something for nothing’, in energy transition as in anything else, is a fairy tale, and I prefer to think of the public as adults, able to face facts put to them honestly.

    • Hi Tim facing facts isn’t very palatable for many who’ve enjoyed good standards of living for decades.

      You know from my previous posts that when I’ve tried to point things out in the Telegraph I’ve often got aggressive replies.

      I remember when the Government put a leaflet through our letterbox on 1975 informing us of the problem of the runaway inflation we had and what it intended to do about it.

      I’m not sure how modern day people would react if they got a leaflet through the post outlining the real energy crisis and how we’re all going to get poorer

    • Perhaps the price that we pay for democratic or quasi-democratic government is that we can’t react to things until they actually happen – and there’s an obvious parallel here with rearmament in the 1930s.

    • In Energy Transition do a distributed energy portfolio” every Big Helps ” to quote The Late Great Professor Sir David Mc Kay.

      Many resource decisions vis, Hydro Carbon Based or “Renewables” based energy sourcing and production are not mutually exclusive as they use different Inputs regarding the energy feedstocks, Oil and Gas and COal for hydrocarbons, Wind energy, Solar Energy, Geothermal energy and Heat sink based energy where where Ocean and “large body of water, or local heat pumps, energy held in the subterranean soil and bedrock etc.where heat exchangers can be employed .
      Recycling and “Supercharging” generation plant that is fully employing all outputs and not extinguishing energy as exhaust waste products are again all very important and not captured by economic pricing based upon profit and loss in financial terms.
      Thinking Energy and resource budgets and not FInancial Budgets is a paradigm shift in Economic cost planning, the resources are energy, resources and material inputs and not 2Financial Capital inputs” COnflating the two types of thinking causes a lot of confusion.

      Is Wind Turbine, Tidal Lagoon and Solar PV/Concentrate Solar Lens technology mutually exclusive? What About, Hinkley, Heathrow and Swansea?

  8. @Dr. Morgan
    Free Lunch
    In order to avoid the Jevons Paradox, taxes or otherwise mandated expenses have to be used to pay for the energy saving measures. If new government debt is issued in order to fund the insulation, then what happens is that money saved on heating bills gets spent on some other activity which requires energy. IF the private economy were generating organic, low energy growth, then there might really be a free lunch. But that is not the world we live.

    As an alternative to taxes, one can also enforce building codes…the homeowner can be required to achieve certain levels of energy efficiency, which sucks money out of the broader economy in order to achieve energy efficiency. But such notions are anathema to politicians and economists who lust after ‘aggregate demand’.

    Don Stewart
    PS The recent study

    Click to access Decoupling-Debunked-FULL-for-ONLINE.pdf

    shows that there isn’t any ‘decoupling’. So the only way to ‘save energy’ is to reduce the size of the economy. Good luck with that message.

    • Don regarding housing you will have seen the shoddy standards of one of our larger builders – Persimmon homes.

      They couldn’t even be bothered to put in fire barriers.

    • Exactly Donald, government policy doesn’t even mandate getting energy saving measures into new housing stock let alone withdrawing subsidy to help existing housing stock. Lobbying (or ignorance of the issues?) has prevented integration of so many sensible and reasonable measures to minimise energy use in homes that will likely need to withstand extremes of heat and cold in future. Possibly meaning higher subsidies later – lucky taxpayer paying for lack of foresight yet again.
      And Don – it isn’t just a wealthy/poor issue here, it’s also a mindset for many people do not think about the consequences of unbridled consumption and ‘limitless’ energy. (Peak oil is a joke, there’s loads of it left! The stock market is really high! All is well!). Some people really do not see any problem and consider energy only as a material cost – therefore if energy saving measures mean lower household bills and the outlay isn’t too high (or the ‘payback’ time isn’t too long if they borrow the money to fund it) they will have it done. The subsidies also helped this subset who could be moved to adopt energy savingmeasures if presented in monetary rather than available (fossil fuel powered) energy terms. It’s not great that we have to subsidise doing the right thing, in an ideal world energy resource, supply, and consumption would have been considered and designed in from the start across all disciplines (not just very low hanging fruit of domestic housing), but our politicians don’t get elected on the basis of sensible policies for our shared future or longevity of species.

    • I think many chose to reject all the warnings because they can’t see any end to BAU – at least not in their or their Children’s lifetimes.

      If you’re having a good time why let someone spoil it by presenting the absolute – we live within the laws of physics – truth?

    • Thanks for this, Don. It’s a useful and interesting document. On a personal note, it several times references the 2016 reissue of my 2013 book, but not my more recent work.

      The concept of decoupling, in its simplest sense, involves the idea that we can grow the economy whilst using less energy. If you look simply at recent GDP, you might make a case for this – but all this really tells you is that we’re faking “growth” by spending borrowed money, so it’s a case of mistaken measurement, not evidence of decoupling.

      My point here is that we can use energy more efficiently – but (big BUT) the rate at which efficiency can be improved is less than the rate at which ECoE rises. Because FF ECoEs are exponential, this differential worsens over time.

      ECoE inserts a critical ‘divergence wedge’ here, as follows:

      – Emissions are a function of gross energy use; but

      – Prosperity is linked to surplus energy availability.

      So, as ECoE increases exponentially, but efficiency only improves linearly, we need to try to run ever faster in an effort to keep up.

  9. Good Energy Saving Strategy
    My wife recently coined the phrase ‘FEH Day’. (This will be risqué, so you have been warned. Not suitable for impressionable Justice Warriors). It’s that for lack of anything more exciting to do, one is reduced to ‘f..king elderly husband’.

    This is actually not a loss. it is a Win, Win, Win. The husband has to chase his wife (which is good for cardiovascular health and avoids trips for Bypass Surgery), she has to run (which gives the proper level of stress on the bones and prevents osteoporosis), he has to search his memory to try to remember what a young man does when he finally catches the object of his affections (which forestall’s Alzheimers) and she has to try to figure out how to restore him to the vigor he displayed when he was courting her at the age of 17 (which is better than crossword puzzles at preventing dementia).

    Since both are well past child-bearing years, and have likely been monogamous for longer than they care to think about, there are no little bundles to be fed and no threat of sexually transmitted disease.

    Bad for the economy. Good for energy conservation. Great for biodiversity. Creates a local hot spot which rapidly cools to outer space thus saving the planet. Increases the probability of a really good afternoon nap, thus reducing the likelihood of a global nuclear war or even voting for politicians who are in favor of such wars because they would increase GDP during the reconstruction phase.

    Don Stewart

    • Glad to see that even Americans have a sense of humour! 🙂

  10. Pingback: What are we actually dealing with here? - Radix

  11. The same caution should apply to any claim that informed opinion is “divided” over the threat to the environment. Even if you’re not convinced by the concept of climate change, or of human activity as one of its main causes, you’d struggle to dismiss species extinction, water supply exhaustion, land degradation, desertification, melting glaciers or simple pollution as figments of the imagination.

    Of course, humans are a threat to the environment, or in other words we’re an agent of change. Would it have been better if our ancestors had made different choices, such as not leaving the oceans, not coming down from the trees, not using fire, not taking up agriculture, not taking up sanitation, not inventing the steam engine? I don’t see that we ever had any choice in the matter and I don’t think we have a choice now. We are powerless. We are riding a runaway freight train. And on top of that our society is dominated by an elite that is always going to act in their own interests.

    Changing the subject, how can we tell informed opinion from uninformed, poorly informed, misinformed and/or deliberately misleading opinion? I am sure we are all smart people here. Richard Dawkins might call most of us “brights”. But I doubt if any of us are experts in all the fields that we hold opinions on. Are there any rules we can follow to identify genuine authorities as opposed to accepting as genuine anyone the authorities authorize as an authority by affording them the oxygen of publicity and the official seal of approval.

    Who gets to decide what is informed opinion and what is not? In the UK, years ago, faceless somebodies at the BBC decided on our collective behalf that George Monbiot and David Attenborough constituted “informed opinion” but David Bellamy did not. And even the Prince of Wales, who is considered by “informed opinion” to be misinformed about architecture, homeopathy, talking to plants and being mates with Jimmy Savile, is promoted to “informed opinion” when he warns that we have only got 18 months to save the planet. Last year, the controllers at the BBC went even further in its efforts to protect us from “false balance” by telling its staff they no longer need to invite” climate-change skeptics” on to its programs.

    The public sphere dominated by the mass media forces all of us who elect to interact with the world and keep up with current events to live in a highly polluted atmosphere of ideas, opinions and beliefs, and many of us breathe it freely (metaphorically speaking), taking its toxins deep inside and poisoning our perceptions of society, history, the sciences, you name it.

    The controllers at the BBC and elsewhere are conditioning us to accept that thinking is verboten. According to these folks, we the plebs need to shut up, believe what “informed opinion” is telling us, and get with the program. This is cognitive infiltration. This is Cass Sunstein 101. Indeed, it goes back to Marshall McLuhan, who warned: “World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.”

    Perhaps they are doing this in a good cause. No doubt, people won’t stop doing what they’re doing unless they are forced to stop, either by God, economics or nature taking their revenge, or else by the controllers easing us along a path to what they see as a sustainable future for some of us, using truth or deception as appropriate. Whether there is a sustainable future for us is another question entirely. People who have been living on the equivalent of $2 a day since time immemorial in the tropics seem to have no problem having more children. That’s been a sustainable strategy up to now.

    I can’t see the West emulating India or Indonesia or Brazil as a successful Third World utopia, but I can see it collapsing or being demolished into neo-feudalism. As for a transition to sustainable forms of energy, I don’t see how we can get there from here with anything like the present population. Sorry if my ramblings read a little incoherently.

    • So, this is the question I keep asking myself: am I better off staying in a small secure flat in currently-totally incompetent govt South Africa, in which the citizens are gaining more leeway to fix things but has a serious violence problem, or relocating to my parents’ UK 200yo farmhouse with 4 acres, barns & a well, BUT a govt which is still semi-competent and the people still have to obey??

    • A phrase including the words ‘frying-pan’ and ‘fire’ comes to mind. The economic outlook for South Africa worries me, whilst the UK wouldn’t be on my list of ‘places I might move to’.

  12. A fascinating article featured in Kris DeDecker’s No Tech Magazine on the topic of direct-drive solar PV.


    To summarise, this New England farm has converted to low-voltage DC from solar panels. The only application for which electricity is stored is lighting, which is generally low power.

    High power applications are driven directly from the panels without storage, making the whole system very cheap to build. As sunlight levels drop, so does voltage. However, at reduced voltage DC motors run more slowly, but will continue to work within limits. High energy applications are timed to coincide with daylight hours.

    • I have no idea what the effective lifetime of the solar panels is. The figure ’20 years’ gets banded around a lot. It would be interesting to look at panels installed in the early 2000s and 1990s and see what proportion are still operating and at what power level. One could then estimate average lifetimes and decline rates and work out a realistic EROI.

      Whilst I can see the merit behind the idea of direct use of renewable energy without storage, it does appear to be logistically awkward. When you aren’t using the energy it is going to waste. To do this efficiently, we would need a system of dump loads, like storage heaters, that absorb excess power and store it in a very cheap medium (i.e. rock or water). In a self-employed situation, in which a small number of people multi-task and timing is relaxed, it is not so challenging to vary workload and activities to match the power available.

      This would be much more challenging in a situation where hundreds of workers are employed in a factory, each with specific roles. Without adequate power, the factory just racks up labour costs without any productivity. Switching to direct drive renewables would imply big changes to the way in which our economy works. Say good bye to just-in-time manufacturing. Expect a more multi-task role as well; the way you work will need to be flexible enough to deal with changes in power availability. I also suspect that living with intermittent energy will require changes to things like working hours. You will be expected to be on call and work when energy is available and take time off when it is not. During windy periods, that may mean 18 hour shifts. When energy is absent, it may mean unpaid time off. Being able to respond quickly and get into work rapidly without the benefit of fossil fuel powered transport; implies living very close to where you work. These aren’t the sorts of changes that people will find it easy to adapt to.

    • Regarding getting to work you could have 1000s of electric bikes which could do So up excess electricity production (The batteries would need 4 times their current energy density but as many car batteries have been proven up to 100,000 miles do far they might not need replacing for a considerable amount of time)

      With a range of say 60 miles plus pedal power and a top speed of 30mph you could live 15 miles away from work comfortably.

      Generally storing energy has always been a problem so I would almost propose giant water towers along the coastline that are of course wind turbines too.

      These towers could go hand in hand with massive tidal power generators which could pump water up to the top of a selected peak in the Scottish Highlands.

      Conservationists might hate the idea but the huge reservoir could be inside the mountain.

      Perhaps the above are all flights of fancy but we have to do something

  13. A Serious Discussion

    Jim Kunstler and Doug Hill talking about technology and collapse. Hill thinks that the best solution we have is to ‘just do less’. Both Hill and Kunstler think that Americans (in particular) will not change direction at all until forced to do so by circumstances.

    It is a long conversation, but unusually thoughtful for the times.

    Don Stewart

    • Indeed the US seems to be fixated on keeping BAU for as long as possible, reality be damned. Just look at USDA burying their own reports.

      Playing chicken with physics is… ill advised.

      IMO, returning to 1930’s level of energy use would not be the end of the world, nor impossible. A hard sell ? Sure is.

    • I feel as though many will just want to keep on partying until there’s nothing left.

      There was a scene from the 1959 film On the Beach where people who knew they were going to die from radiation poisoning took part in a madcap sports car race not caring if they lived or died.

  14. It seems to have been forgotten, generally, that there was a discussion about living with less, in 2008-9: the Age of Austerity was on everyone’s ;lips, extravagence and conspicuous display belonged to the past, Hollywood stars would dress soberly and cheaply at the Oscars,, etc. Buried rather quickly, wasn’t it?

    Not quite a runaway train, as there was that brief pause, but it was only for refuelling and taking on an even crazier driver and stoker.. And we all stayed aboard…..

    • Could have been an office junior with a fat finger but looks frightening.

      Laying all these incredibly complex financial instruments on top of what really matters – energy and resources has caused nothing but trouble.

      In the future I hope we stick to a simple money construct backed by a tangible asset.

  15. Long time lurker here – I thought it was time to join the discussions.
    Further to the musings of Guy about Big Agriculture Biz – although not about the Great British Beef Scandal per se (although if you haven’t seen it yet, do so!)
    Over at Naked Capitalism there was a recent post about the merits of Agroecology:

    The usual cheerleaders for the Green Revolution including the Bill Gates Foundation are continually trying to belittle such practices. However, when scientifically scrutinised, as they have been in a UN report, it turns out that Agroecology is more than just viable and the “utopia” promised by the snake oil salesmen of Big Agriculture is a nasty mirage.

    In a resource constrained World – along with increasingly chaotic climatic conditions – industrial farming is increasingly becoming unviable. Agroecology, along with Aquaculture and Permaculture should be being scientifically evaluated to see what the pros and cons are.
    However, with the current situation here, with CAP, land ownership disproportionately held by the Aristocratic class, I cannot see such ideas gaining a critical mass in this country anytime soon. That is in spite of the efforts of the likes of the Ecological Land Coop

  16. Pingback: No, I don’t hate “renewables” | Damn the Matrix

  17. Extract from BBC news

    ‘Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has accused his own country’s national space institute of lying about the scale of deforestation in the Amazon’

    Effectively the institute says their figures are 95% accurate and that 400 square miles of the forest were cleared in the first 15 days.

    The forest is being cleared for cattle grazing which ad we all know is madness.

    To go with this terrible news record temperatures are being recorded on previously known cold areas of the Earth.

    Swathes of the Artic tundra are on fire and the US is expecting a massive heatwave.

    Perhaps EROEI is going to be the last of our worries

    • Quite so: the environmental catastrophe may overwhelm us, with perhaps major producing regions suffering repeated crop failures – sooner perhaps than we suppose – and make all debates regarding economic models simply irrelevant.

      There is a feeling in the air of acceleration in all of this, somehow.

      On a positive note, there are so many bees here that I have had to watch my step when walking, which is unprecedented. A small thing to lift one’s spirits!

    • Actually the really important bees are still coming into my garden but there has been a distinct lack of flies this year.

      No I don’t like flies but the lack of them does seem a bit odd.


    #1…Greta Thunberg tweet:
    It’s 2019. Can we all now stop saying Climate Change and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological emergency, and ecological breakdown?

    And from Kristin Lin this week:
    #2…The language we use has a real power to influence how we understand our world — and act in it. It’s an idea that Jonathan Rowson, an applied philosopher and chess grandmaster, takes up in this week’s On Being. “Finding the right form and the right reverberation of language really makes a difference in terms of how people feel it,” he says.

    Rowson is the founder of Perspectiva, a research organization developing a framework for thinking about how social change happens. As its tagline, “systems, souls, society,” suggests, Perspectiva is interested in drawing out the relationship and dynamics between individual and collective consciousness — which, Rowson explains, is particularly helpful for thinking about climate change.

    “The crisis of climate change is a crisis of disconnection between the facts and the feelings,” he says. “We know something is true; we don’t feel that it’s true. We don’t live as if it’s true.”

    This disconnection is where language can act as a bridge. And Rowson believes that the right language can change the world. “It changes conversations, which changes cultures, which changes practices.”

    and #3….

    Brian: The disease care model really doesn’t get to the root cause does it, Jason?

    Jason: No. It’s patchwork at best. And fundamentally, actually I think that the biggest disservice we do is that, if the disease care model works at resolving our symptoms, we’re actually bypassing the real work that we need to do, right? So, it’s almost it’s more detrimental if we actually get solutions with the disease care model, because we’re not getting the real solutions. We’re sort of masking over it.

    I think the real opportunity is to understand what the symptoms are so that we can get to the root cause resolution, which always has to do with how we’re living out of alignment. And there’s a lack of congruence with the way we think, the way we feel, and the way that we act in the world, and then in our lifestyle. So, that’s really the opportunity. So, I think we have to sort of change our mindset to go from “Let me get rid of this thing that I’m experiencing” to, “Let me understand this and learn how to really move through it so that it cannot exist.”

    Brian: That’s pretty profound that it’s detrimental, in all likelihood, that we if we get what seems like solutions from the conventional disease care model, folks beware. Because it may seem that’s the case and in fact it is likely not. And that is a great way to segue into my little imagine scenario here which is this, I know in this pretend thing that we call free time that you are a fan of golfing. So—

    Jason: Yeah. I love golf—

    Brian: Okay, good. So, then let’s say that you and I have gone through, I don’t know, nine holes already. You’re beating my butt because I am an absolutely terrible golfer, though I enjoy it. And I figure now is the prime opportunity, Jason, to ask you a big question that I’ve been meaning to ask. So, I say, “Hey Jason, from your area of expertise, what are the three most essential things people must do to look their best, feel their best, and live a long life doing it?” What would your first most essential be?

    Jason: I think, especially in our Western world and the life that we’ve created for ourselves, primarily in U.S. and Canada and UK and this type of thing, I think we have to get moving again. We’ve really created a poor relationship with movement. Most of us sit around all day on a computer working. I mean this is what I do. It’s part of my life as well. This is the modern world we’ve created. So we’ve got to find ways to get moving again and incorporate movement into our life on a more regular basis.

    Worst case scenario, yes, going and doing a 20 to 30-minute workout is great, or going to a yoga class and a cycling class, or whatever it might be. Then that’s all good stuff. But I think we need to change the relationship with movement and figure out a way we can move more. It’s funny. You go into like an airport, you know, you’re flying out somewhere, and you see people riding the escalator, right? And they just have a backpack on or a small bag.

    What’s the reason that they’re riding an escalator? It’s not like you have these big pieces of luggage necessarily. Or even if you have luggage, a lot of times you can actually carry them upstairs, right? A really good way to get exercise. Or you see people taking those people movers that are literally these belts on the on flat ground, and they just stand there while the belt moves them down the terminal. I mean I kind of jokingly point this out because we’ve really just we’re not even aware of some of the things that we’re doing. We’re just sort of getting lazy with our movement.

    So, you know, movement is so profoundly beneficial for the mind and the body that we must incorporate it. And I think the best way to do so is to find the things that you really enjoy and do that do more of that. You know, whether that’s playing with your kids or playing with your pets, going for a walk, it doesn’t really matter. I mean if you love marathons, whatever it is, make sure you enjoy it. A lot of us I see that we’re trying to force movement into our lives, and we don’t really enjoy it. We actually dread it.

    And I think psychologically that’s tough, because you’re creating a situation where a portion of your day you don’t even like. And you’re doing it because—most of the time we’re doing it because we don’t like something about ourselves, whether it’s we don’t have enough muscle, or we have too much fat and we’re trying to get rid of that. Or we’re trying to lower our blood pressure or something we’re trying to do that’s—so we’re trying to counteract something, right?

    And I think if we just include some movement styles that we really enjoy, include more play and more fun in our life, that is profoundly effective. And for those who have physical jobs, a high demand for physical labor in their jobs, that can be a really good thing just because you’re moving a lot. And it’s really funny. As a practitioner when I would run, you know, blood work and hormone panels and microbiome labs and all kinds of different lab work, I found that the people that really moved a lot and did a lot of exercise and enjoyed, it was amazing how many other poor decisions they could make, and exercise surprisingly made up for it.

    and #4…

    Nitric oxide is made by the blood vessels’ lining, or endothelium. The endothelium is exquisitely sensitive to the physical and chemical conditions inside our blood vessels. When the endothelium senses heart-healthy conditions, such as physical activity and low cholesterol, it releases more nitric oxide. And that’s a very good thing. Nitric oxide expands the blood vessels, increasing blood flow and decreasing plaque growth and blood clotting.

    Conversely, when the endothelium senses high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, or emotional distress, it releases less nitric oxide, and atherosclerosis (heart disease) accelerates.

    Penile erection depends on the release of nitric oxide. Viagra and other drugs like it that reduce erectile dysfunction work on the next step of the nitric oxide pathway. Are impotence and atherosclerosis closely related? Absolutely. Any lifestyle no-no that decreases nitric oxide, such as smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels, causes both problems.

    Nitroglycerin, which my grandfather took to relieve his chest pain, works by being converted into nitric oxide. In a sense, nitric oxide is the body’s own nitroglycerin. If you had first discovered how nitroglycerin and nitric oxide work, as three Americans (Robert Furchgott, Lewis Ignarro, and Ferid Murad) did, in 1998 you would have won the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Nitric oxide is that important.


    I believe that the notion put forward by Greta Thunberg and Kristin Lin and Jason Prall and the Pritikin Center, that language is important is one essential ingredient in adjusting to the notion that we have passed Peak Prosperity, and then actually living with Peak Prosperity in the rear-view mirror. For example, if we speak of a trip to a conventional doctor as ‘getting my symptoms masked with drugs’, and if we describe a trip to the gym as ‘masking my symptoms with self-flagellation’…then everything changes. If, on the other hand, we go for a brisk walk or use a push mower to mow the lawn and feel the tingle in our fingertips, we can describe to ourself or our companion the evidence of nitric oxide and luxuriate in the knowledge that the body is telling us ‘All is Well’.

    Peak Prosperity means, among other things: peak symptom hiding; peak dysfunctional behavior; and peak mental and physical stressors. This is not to downplay the real stressors that arise out of change…but maybe changing our language changes our thought processes which changes our real-world reactions and eases transitions.

    Don Stewart

    • The ideas behind Climate Communication are deeply Stalinist.
      There are any number of examples of COmmunication and PR experts, not scientists imploring their charges to not mention numbers, people do not understand that stuff.

      Its a short step from avoiding the numbers to defining the boundaries of Wrong Think and setting out the Thought Criminal Gulag.

      Non-Platforming was debated at the Oxford Union Last week
      This is Katie Hopkins against the proposition

      The whole thing is worth watching.

      If one has a Position to set out on any issue political or Scientific or even about the Soccer, The Baseball or Starting prices for the 3.30 at Doncaster, Then set out that position Frankly Don,

      “The crisis of climate change is a crisis of disconnection between the facts and the feelings,” he says. This opening statement is a telling clue to the purpose of this sort of ANti Free speech for the little people Stance. Make your own arguments and stop projecting your own prejudices onto the arguments of others.

      Authentic Discourses on Decisions to Act.
      A golden Rule in folklores Canon
      holds what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the Gander
      do unto others that which to you would be done
      thus applied in discussion, we should always avoid slander.
      Leave at the first introduction
      the habits of Authority and induction
      When those listening seem deaf to what you tell
      refrain if you please from poisoning the well
      if your working hypothesis requires certitude
      refrain from tailoring cloth that renders the emperor nude
      If to your point, you wish others to allude
      refrain from a hypocritical sneering attitude.
      When your correspondent appeals to evidence
      consider their sources, were they well meant?
      In all matters, skepticism will serve you with equivalence
      and always remember to mistrust the Government.
      “man müsse das Volk stets in Armuth erhalten, damit es gehorsam bleibe.”(2)
      Belloc characterised the reformation as

      ´´a rising of the rich against the poor´´,(1)

      ´and indeed Calvin had written the unfortunate statement:

      ´´The people must always be kept in poverty in order that they remain obedient´´.(2)

      p.198 Lost Science of Money.(1)

  19. @roger lewis
    ‘ clue to the purpose of this sort of ANti Free speech for the little people Stance’

    I looked at the Perspectiva website and saw nothing that looked like censorship. I suspect that when he describes people as knowing but not feeling, he is describing Climate Scientists as well as ordinary people. If Climate Scientists actually felt what is about to happen, would they carry on with Business as Usual?

    As for what is about to happen, a very recent paper from a single MIT professor explored the chemical makeup of the oceans and the previous mass extinctions. The result is a simple model which explains why the mass extinctions occurred when they did. It’a about tipping points, beyond which the collapse becomes basically irreversible (like a canoe approaching the tipping point). The author calculates that we are currently very close to that tipping point.

    Now the Establishment doesn’t want to hear anything about tipping points….the Earth will get a little warmer and probably the Arctic ocean melts and that will expand GDP opportunities in the Arctic and the governments of the US, Canada, and Russia are eagerly looking forward to it. Climate scientists mostly don’t want to hear about tipping points either…James Hansen has described everything as just linearly increasing the odds of warmer weather. The MIT paper says that ‘no, it is not linear, it is abrupt and irreversible’.

    Anybody can rebut the MIT paper and show that the chemical equations are wrong, that the geological record has been misrepresented, and that we actually have nothing to worry about….But don’t hold your breath.

    The point remains…if we actually now ‘know’ that Extinction is where we are headed, can we feel that sufficiently to change our behavior? Because we know behavior results from feelings.

    Don Stewart

    • Don, Catastrophic End Times prophesy is nothing new. It sells newspapers and allows Politicians easy sound bites.
      Regarding Self Evident Truths I like this from the anonymous response to the Publication of the US declaration of Independence penned by Jeremy Bentham,

      “They are about “to assume,” as they tell us, “among the powers of the earth, that equal and separate ( 120 ) station to which” — they have lately discovered — “the laws of Nature, and of Nature’s God entitle them.” What difference these acute legislators suppose between the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, is more than I can take upon me to determine, or even to guess. If to what they now demand they were entitled by any law of God, they had only to produce that law, and all controversy was at an end. Instead of this, what do they produce? What they call sell-evident truths. “All men,” they tell us, “are created equal.” This rarity is a new discovery; now, for the first time, we learn, that a child, at the moment of his birth, has the same quantity of natural power as the parent, the same quantity of political power as the magistrate”.

      “We know behaviour results from feelings”, do we Don, its a bit more involved than that isn’t it the Ancients gave us The Ring of Gyges, and the 1960’s the invisible man. The Question of Belief and Knowledge and Truth are the intractable and eternal problem of Philosophy.

      Psychologizing the failure of others to agree with our point of view is a terrible turn in modern discourse.

      Greta Thornberry is a modern-day Joan of Arc and no better than any other charlatan. That there is terrible environmental damage being done I do not disagree with, that CO2 is a pollutant or any danger whatsoever is falsified beyond any reasonable doubt, hence the move to legislate the Quackery as state decreed truth.
      We have nothing to fear but the fear and especially the Manufactured fear from the vested interests of State Monopoly Capitalism.

      I am not a fully paid-up member of the Das Feel squad Don, never will be. Produce your evidence and subject your methodology to Falsification by others.
      Feelings, Bar Hum Bug.

  20. @Roger
    You claim, as I understand you:
    *CO2 is not a poison in any sense of that term, and so the MIT study with its geological evidence and chemical equations must be wrong. Probably you would add an addendum claiming that the peer review the paper survived is a sham.
    *How humans make decisions is a matter for Philosophy. I suppose you think that neuroscience has not shed any light on the subject.

    Life is too short to argue with you….Don Stewart

    • Don,
      CO2 is known as the king of the Elements it is an organic compound and is in no sense either a pollutant or a poison, it is the Gas of life.

      Your appeal to Authority to one MIT paper with its “Chemical equations” is. bot an argument. Consistent I suppose with life being too short to argue with me.
      Your argument is not with me Don the questions are scientific and at the present time, the scientific academy is proving itself as corrupted and patronised as the political establishment.

      On Equations here is a video i Made critiquing Admiral Tiltleys appeal to Greek squiggles. and the Authority of Michael Mann.

      I would recommend Dr Glassmans Ricket Scientists Journal

    • Sorry for the typos in my previous post.
      Just to wrap up here as I do not wish to just argue with myself.
      I had a discussion back in April With the Author and another of his Followers of a 3 part blog post on Watts Up with That. The title of the Posts was as Follows.

      Peak Oil, Abiotic Oil & EROEI: Real(ish) Things That Don’t Matter, Part One: Peak Oil
      David Middleton / April 22, 2019

      “EROEI is the preferred energy metric for Malthusians, environmental activists, Warmunists and proponents of uneconomic energy sources. Invention of this concept is generally credited to an ecology professor…”

      Will give you a flavour, this wing of the Climate debate is I think as useful to the Political project of CO2 Carbon Trading as the Catastrophist Wing, both are fueled by, Polemic, Rhetoric and Emotional bed wetting and dummy spitting Its a Manichean thing and this Roger Pelke Junior Talk at the GWPF is worth watching on that point regarding the Polarised debate and Religous fervour pursued on both sides, parading their Hurt Feelings and needing to repair to their various Churches or Cult HQ,s A bracket into which I would place the Perspectiva, project of Rowson.

      I took David Middleton to Task on his Appeals to the Rhetoric and Ad Hominem rather than tackling the substantive issues of Energy-based metrics for Energy investment and Consumption Decisions.

      “The unit of account in a Fiat money system is an arbitrary unit basing a unit of account upon an SI Unit of energy makes a great deal of sense if you do not wish to be robbed of your skin in the game by the money laundering Banksters- Sadly the Author of this piece has gone off at half-cock failing to define terms and set boundary conditions. Watch Glassmans talk and slide show and try again-


      “Clowns to the left of me Jokers to the Right. Useful idiots for usury everywhere. Watts up With That #LimitstoNouse https://longhairedmusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/25/clowns-to-the-left-of-me-jokers-to-the-right-useful-idiots-for-usury-everywhere-watts-up-with-that-limitstonouse/ The Author lets us all down that insist that empirical evidence must be respected in The Debate about climate. Economics and Political Economy are imprecise pseudo-scientific priesthoods every bit as manufactured and absurd as Micheal Mann and his desperado band of cultist cool-aid hawkers. Steelers Wheel sums it up really. Quite one of the worse articles I have read here. ”


      The Exchanges in the discussion are pated into the comments of my own blog pointing at the David Middleton series of articles, the 3 articles and all the comments are worth reading David is a very Knowledgable Oil Industry Engineer,
      The point regarding the Role of Debt-based money in the Late Stage Financialised State monopoly Capitalism under which most people are net losers and a vanishingly small percentage are net Gainers, is hard to see There is a very real sense of Peak Ignorance around the current Hiatus we face as the Paradigm shift takes place.
      The Shift To what is the question? ultimately ending on a Philosophical note the argument boils down to Determinism or Free Will and Herecletus or Parmenides.

      As a Pelagian and a religious man myself, I do not need Rowson’s ethical code to point me in the direction of the Cult of #WrongKindofGreen I stand with Liberty, Free will and bow to no man,


  21. Since this has become an issue…


    Briefly, the two equation model accounts for some of the ‘Gaian’ behavior, such as the photosynthesis cycle. The ‘leakage’, which prevents the ocean from taking carbon out of the surface water and depositing it on the ocean floor, is because the increased acidification (which we are observing today) prevents shell fish from accumulating carbon and sinking to the bottom when they die. As a consequence, carbon stays at the surface, where wind and waves mix atmospheric carbon with shallow water carbon over relatively short periods of time. That is why over 90 percent of the carbon emitted into the air is now in the shallow waters of the ocean.

    Please note that if humans tried to take the carbon out of the atmosphere only, the ocean would give carbon up from the shallow waters into the atmosphere. So our burden is much heavier than simply removing carbon from the atmosphere.

    When the professor ran the numbers, he found that the remaining carbon budget is about 300 gigatons, which is the lowest projection in the IPCC report. If humans restrict net additional carbon burning to the lowest amount in the IPCC projections, then by 2100 we may still be on a trajectory to the Sixth Mass Extinction, since there is so little wiggle room.

    In terms of Surplus Energy Economics, it seems clear to me that the economic system which is currently burning carbon at a furious rate probably won’t survive until 2100. So my base assumption is that we would see a series of ‘downward bumps’ as financial systems founder and production processes move toward the medieval. But a fatalistic attitude would say that, so long as carbon remains to be burned, clever humans will figure out a way to do it…probably using dirtier and dirtier technologies.

    I would also speculate that as carbon energy becomes scarcer, then the diversion of some of that energy into energy sinks such as ethanol and private ICE automobiles and our hugely wasteful agriculture will collapse. But we will still burn all the carbon fuels we can get our hands on.

    I’m not well enough informed about the question of plastic and chemical pollution and their effect on the shellfish. I don’t think the plastic and chemicals would do them any good…so another threat that probably needs to be dealt with.

    Can anything be done about it? The most promising avenue seems to me to be Eco-Ag…putting long lived carbon molecules back into the soils and to a lesser extent into forest biomass. If we intend to do that, we need to get started post-haste. The sorts of industrial forests used to produce electricity in Europe are not good in terms of long term sequestration of carbon. And turning industrial agriculture and food preparation and storage and distribution from a 10 units in to 1 unit out, into a 10 units in to 15 units out will require a complete revamping of society.

    It is also possible that the building of wind and solar operating on, most likely, an intermittent basis may give us a ‘better medieval’ system than the windmills and solar which actually operated in the medieval period…surely we are better engineers now?

    Is 2100 so far away as to be irrelevant, using a 6 percent per year discount factor? Economists and cornucopians may think so, but I look at it in terms of what my presently existing grandchildren need to be doing during their prime working years…and that is a tall order. Combining the realities of Surplus Energy Economics with the realities of being on a track to the Sixth Mass Extinction is a real reality check.

    Don Stewart

    • https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/9/e1700906
      Here is the link to the full Paper.
      “This observation may help explain the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum’s modest biotic impact. The Frasnian-Famennian extinction provides another exception. Supposing that it is indeed a mass extinction, its presence well below the critical line illustrates an important point: Mass extinctions need not be caused by disruptions of the carbon cycle (2).

      Modern investigations of mass extinctions often emphasize a plurality of causes. Erwin’s “complex web of causality” (8, 37) addresses how a combination of volcanism, climate change, marine anoxia, methane release, and other environmental stressors may have contributed to the end-Permian extinction. Recent studies of the end-Cretaceous extinction consider massive volcanism (38) in addition to a bolide impact (39). Flood basalt eruptions are also clearly associated with the end-Triassic (40) and end-Permian (15) extinctions, but their contribution to CO2 levels is ostensibly modest (41). Evidently, the carbon cycle both indicates and excites Earth system change. These dual roles merge, however, if external perturbations cause the cycle to respond by magnifying the initial disturbance. System-wide instability may then follow. Because the critical rate rc bounds qualitatively different dynamical regimes, perturbations that exceed rc (at time scales much greater than τx) suggest such unstable evolution. The carbon cycle thus becomes one of many environmental stressors, and an array of causes is naturally implicated.”

      The Discussion part of the Paper is interesting in that it concedes, “Mass extinctions need not be caused by disruptions of the carbon cycle” (2).

      I would add to that last quote “If at all”

      And point those interested in the Ocean Chemistry of Carbon Sequestration to Prof. Glassmans Acquittal of CO2 particularly Ocean Solubility of CO2 and Henry’s Law.


      Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the product of oceanic respiration due to the well‑known but under‑appreciated solubility pump. Carbon dioxide rises out of warm ocean waters where it is added to the atmosphere. There it is mixed with residual and accidental CO2, and circulated, to be absorbed into the sink of the cold ocean waters. Next the thermohaline circulation carries the CO2‑rich sea water deep into the ocean. A millennium later it appears at the surface in warm waters, saturated by lower pressure and higher temperature, to be exhausted back into the atmosphere.

      Throughout the past 420 millennia, comprising four interglacial periods, the Vostok record of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is imprinted with, and fully characterized by, the physics of the solubility of CO2 in water, along with the lag in the deep ocean circulation. Notwithstanding that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, atmospheric carbon dioxide has neither caused nor amplified global temperature increases. Increased carbon dioxide has been an effect of global warming, not a cause. Technically, carbon dioxide is a lagging proxy for ocean temperatures. When global temperature, and along with it, ocean temperature rises, the physics of solubility causes atmospheric CO2 to increase. If increases in carbon dioxide, or any other greenhouse gas, could have in turn raised global temperatures, the positive feedback would have been catastrophic. While the conditions for such a catastrophe were present in the Vostok record from natural causes, the runaway event did not occur. Carbon dioxide does not accumulate in the atmosphere.

  22. Addendum
    I should perhaps have mentioned that humans are already on track for sea level rise of 20 or 30 meters. My presently existing grandchildren will be coping with rising seas for the remainder of their lives. Absent some truly serious carbon sequestration.

    Don Stewart

    • Hi Don,

      you’re quite adept at thinking outside the box and your concern about achieving serious carbon sequestration reminds me of a recent (for me) discovery,

      Bamboo! grows to maturity in 10 years, fantastic building material, isn’t harvested by clearcut but by selective cropping ‘as required’ followed by rapid regrowth,


      a very informative Dutch website, I think I read nearly everything on it!

      I tip my hat to the Netherlands, there’s a lot of good stuff coming from our Dutch cousins,
      I’m also glad to see that Pieter Hoff’s ‘Tree Solution’ is starting to get some traction…


      some ideas are just too good to be ignored!

    • Bamboo is indeed quite amazing in many respect. It is however a nasty invasive specie (for europe) that can easily get out of hand, and is rather hard to contain.

      Forest management and grazing techniques are both low lying tools to create carbon sinks on the cheap. OTOH, european forest are seeing quite a large tree dieoff from the current +1°C, so… I wonder we’ll not have to fight a lot not to lose a sink here. And the Amazon is getting turned into savana as fast as possible, so again, limited optimism.

      For sea level rise, the 2100 horizon is the wrong one. 2500 is a more suitable one. Most likely we’ll lose at least greenland and a good deal of West Antarctica. But it’s going to be a rather “slow” process even in the worst case (not that it’ll help Bangladesh and Florida, those are screwed by 2100).

  23. Energiewende
    Search on
    Germany’s renewable energy program, Energiewende, is a big, expensive failure
    at Energy Skeptic for the bad news about Germany and wind and solar. This is one of the reasons why, in my note above, I expect a ‘medieval’ approach to wind and solar as fossil fuels powering our current production system fail. I think we will see something like DC rather than the ‘advanced AC system’. (I’m not a grid engineer, so you can value my guess as you see fit). DC machines do have a value, and can operate when the sun shines without the meticulous balancing which is achieved by the current fossil/ nuclear/ hydro/ small wind and solar AC system.

    If we see Surplus Energy Economics driving us toward less total energy and also less complex systems, then my guess is a desperate scramble for wind and solar with much simpler DC systems highly localized. The remaining fossil fuels we can utilize will likely be invested in building the old/ new ‘medieval’ machinery along with other infrastructure suitable for a very localized economy.

    Don Stewart

    • Early water and wind-mills were built using locally-sourced stone, wood, etc, and very little iron indeed (iron intruded very little in the rural economy until late in the 19th century); the level of engineering appropriate in the future would therefore be determined by the materials available, not by our own superior engineering science which works principally with materials which will almost certainly not be available in abundance -or at all – in the future.

      By the 1920’s in England there were still some mills standing which had functioning main parts dating from the 16th century -although of course most parts had been replaced along the way.

      What we can perhaps expect to see is a massive mal-investment in the pseudo-‘renewables’ currently fashionable, and attracting predatory capitalists, naive politicians and suburban environmental activist groups: and I see that a drone-based ‘smart’ agriculture, with un-manned tractors and harvesters, etc, is also being heavily promoted: in short, we will probably run down the wrong path yet again for as long as it can be financed and subsidised.

      Water and wind-mills were of course a factor in enabling over-population, and also a key element in the exploitation of the peasantry by feudal lords – that’s why they banned the use of domestic hand-mills. In one great abbey in England the monks even made a floor from the hand-mills they had confiscated from their tenants and serfs: ‘No home production for you!’

      Of course, radical feminists will be appalled at the thought of such home labour, unless they can turn the tables and get the men to do it – at which point they may concede that men are good for something after all……..

  24. Pingback: #153. One for the sceptics. Free Will or Determinism , The Climate Religion Rowsons #Perspectiva – RogersLongHairBlog

  25. @Matt
    A few decades ago I saw a photograph of a tall building being built in SE Asia. The American speaker was talking about how ‘backward’ the Asians were…they were using bamboo scaffolding.

    The time may be ripe for the rediscovery of lots of ‘backward’ technologies.

    Don Stewart

    • They will learn that ‘backward’ technologies are in fact very sophisticated, above all working with wood. A piece of wood is not just a piece of wood, as a concrete block is a concrete block…… As I have have found in bookbinding, even a skin of leather has its own character and can be hard or easy to work and bend to one’s will…

  26. Forgiveness Requested
    I am worried that I have said too much over the last few pages of this blog. But interesting and relevant stuff is happening. See Ugo Bardi’s blog today, with his reference to Albert Bates comments on his performance. Search on:
    Can you imagine being a whale? A tale of empathy and communication

    I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole of empathy and communication with whales…I’ll wait and see what Ugo has to say on that topic Instead, I want to reflect a little on the gourd that brought down some of the largest creatures on the planet. Whales are finely balanced in terms of energy in and energy out. The gigantic creatures eat huge volumes of very small creatures. If they experience a slight shift in the energy balance, they get in trouble really rapidly. Extinction is just a few percentage points away. The gourd that the clever human whalers attached to the whale required the whale to expend more energy trying to swim deeper into the ocean to escape the whalers. In short, it upset their energy balance. Shooting the barrels into the Great White Shark in Jaws uses the same principle. If you remember the movie The Misfits, some cowboys are capturing wild horses to sell them as dog food. Their method is to tie ropes to old tires, drive close to the horse in a pickup truck, and throw a noose over the horse…thus requiring the horse to run while dragging the tire. The horse quickly tires out and falls exhausted, easy prey for the cowboys.

    Western society is currently both taking on extravagant energy requirements (e.g., wearing gourds which prevent us from doing what we need to do or needlessly dragging old tires across the ground) and is at great risk of experiencing a reduction in energy available. As an example of the ‘extravagant’, consider our efforts to live in contravention of the circadian rhythms which govern everything from the sleep cycle to detoxing to burning belly fat. We are designed to begin to get ready for sleep when the sun goes down. It’s campfire time. Human relationships are repaired, songs are sung, stories are told, deep sleep comes and rebuilding happens. Later in the night, REM sleep shakes us out of our ruts and makes us more creative and flexible. Almost everything in the civilization we have created militates against the circadian rhythm. We need more GDP so we can fund all the doctors and quacks and medical pills and supplements that we vainly marshall to deal with the malfunction.

    The best example of the loss of energy is Dr. Morgan’s theory of Surplus Energy Economics. I don’t need to elaborate on that.

    In short, try to apply the lesson of the whales and the wild horses to the current predicament of industrial civilization. It doesn’t take a big swing in the percentages to bring everything down. Humans lived for millennia without electricity. If we are going to experience Surplus Energy Economics, then doing renewables right, as Dr. Morgan advocates, may well be critical to our survival.

    Don Stewart

  27. Pingback: #153. One for the sceptics, Further Discussion.The Climate Religion Rowsons #Perspectiva Mathematics of Climate Change and Climate Change Alarmism, Climatology as opposed to Climate Politics, – RogersLongHairBlog

  28. Pingback: #153.Sceptics, Further Discussion. Climate Religion #Perspectiva Mathematics of Climate Change and Climate Change Alarmism @JoanneNova #GrubStreetJournalPolitics,#GrubStreetScience #GrubStreetEnergy #GrubStreetGreenFascism #GrubStreetWrongKindOfGreen #Das

  29. Tim or anyone – this is a readers post from the Telegraph.

    Can it be translated into English – thanks

    ‘Government borrowing is reduced consumption caused by private sector saving defrayed. You have the cart before the horse.

    It is the saving that causes the borrowing – automatically. If everybody spends everything they earn then government spending of any amount is instantly and immediately balanced by taxation for any positive tax rate.

    There’s an argument going on about the PM elect (Boris?) borrowing to cut taxes

  30. By way of apology to anyone trying to contact me, I’ve been very busy of late, with ongoing work including a sequel to this article (provisionally titled “One for the realists”), and the addition of DENMARK to the SEEDS system.

    • Delighted to hear that you will be looking at a Scandinavian economy; I for one would find Norway interesting, too, although I suppose they are all rather marginal places from the global perspective.

    • SEEDS coverage:

      United States

      United Kingdom

      Iran (incomplete)
      Saudi Arabia
      South Africa

      New Zealand
      South Korea

      World economy

  31. So the big announcement has been made.

    Where I live balloons have been released into the air – rockets are soaring skyward while people are hugging and kissing each other.

    Well that’s the end of the Spurs transfer news

    • I assume Tottenham have signed Boris somebody, to play on the right wing?

      Seriously, I’m not a supporter of Boris (or anyone else), but he’d be hard pressed to do worse than some of his predecessors. My candidates for ‘worst post-war PM’ would be Blair (Iraq), Eden (Suez) and Brown (deregulation), with Cameron and Major also in the running.

  32. Well Tim perhaps Boris would have helped us win through optimism alone.

    I can’t see the EU budging and he’s simply going to be struggling with exactly the same issues May did with Parliament not accepting a no deal.

    However it’s a usual diversion from the serious issues that have been brought to everyone’s attention on this site.

    Note he’s promising to borrow more money to fund tax cuts. Foolhardy to say the least.

    Yet more interesting times ahead.

    • Britain is one of the world’s most at-risk economies, and that’s the bigger story than anything in the ‘Westminster village’.

    • Well after the euphoria and rhetoric has died down regarding Boris’s election I’m sure cold reality will rear its head

    • I can barely believe the tone of some of Mr Johnson’s critics. So:

      Whatever happened to reasoned debate?

      Was there any point in spending precious weeks and months putting somebody new in the exact same position as Mrs May, but with precious little time to negotiate?

      Why does the UK seem to be run by simpletons?

    • His election makes no sense and of course he is in exactly the same boat as May was.

      But everyone hopes he has the X factor which will probably mean a gun full of blanks

  33. @Dr. Morgan
    Your work on Denmark should shed some light on the generally favorable press I see in terms of wind energy. Is it real? As good as the press seems to think? Or less than meets the eye?
    Don Stewart

    • Don:

      So far I’ve mainly been completing the addition of Denmark, but the conclusions do look interesting. I might write them up if time permits – otherwise they’ll be incorporated into the sequel to this article.

      Denmark gets 28% of its energy (and much more than half of its electricity) from renewables – its nearest rivals get only 15% of energy from them. So, way out in front in that respect.

      Since the ECoEs of renewables are still higher than those of FFs, Denmark has paid a price, with prosperity per capita down over ten years by about the same % as the UK, and worse than most other comparable economies. This should start to swing in Denmark’s favour by the late 2020s, but everyone’s ECoE will be still higher by then than now, so Denmark’s experience isn’t going to be a ‘get out of gaol free’ example.

      This said, Danish companies include world leaders in RE, and the Danes have become ‘the good guys’ of the environment without massive cost. Their RE programme looks far better value than a German model which, many believe, has failed.

      Throughout the years since 2000, Denmark has avoided racking up massive debts, perhaps a benefit of not ditching the krone. They don’t have financial asset exposure big enough for the FSB to report. So I’d say Denmark is in pretty good shape.

      Finally, today’s report from the Richmond Fed looks ultra-glooomy about “the economy of stuff” in the US – worth a look.

    • Tim the US conversion amount if 67trn equals $418,000 for each if the working population.

      I take it this cost is over 30 years or so including maintenance and replacement costs

    • Agreed.

      What I’m working on for the sequel is the need to face reality – we can’t just fade out FFs almost overnight, and conversion to REs is going to have to be paid for (even though the purely economic “cost” of sticking with FFs would be even greater).

      Last year, the world consumed 11,774 mmtoe of FFs.

      So replacing that over ten years averages a need to add RE output of 1,177 mmtoe per year.

      For comparison, in 2018, we added just 62 mmtoe of new RE supply. Capex has fallen and capacity additions have stalled. Governments are scaling-back/scrapping Feed-in-Tariffs (FiTs). The UK has even hiked the rate of VAT on solar panels!

    • The Government’s policy on RE is puzzling.

      I am considering solar panels- not ot to make or save any money – but to help keep me going if there’s problems with the National grid and/or gas supplies.

      As well as they theme park there’s a lot if new property going up in the same area.

      They look like cheap and nasty(to build) timberframe jobs with tiny amounts of space allocated to them.

      Although I wouldn’t describe my home as having been particularly well built it is end if terrace and has a nice feature. Although the front garden is small thete is the a pavement followe by two parking spaces followed by the cul-de-sac road.

      The houses on the opposite are a mirror image so that there’s a huge space between us.

      My back garden is long and so are those that back onto the separating alleyway. This means I have loads if space. Strangely none of the other cul-de-sacs on the estate have this layout and are all crammed in tightly.

      In fact in my area I’ve not come across another such layout.

      I’ve often wondered why my road was singled out for much better space.

    • @Dr. Morgan,
      This would probably be hard to model, but I can imagine that the Danish-Norwegian cooperation on electricity has greatly eased the transition into a high-intermittency source like wind, for example:
      Which in turn might indicate that the bottleneck for going into RE’s, especially wind (I’ve become more and more skeptical on solar), is storage. Denmark was successfully able to address this by utilizing Norwegian hydro. The Netherlands (my native country) for instance is probably too large an economy and energy consumer to have a similar agreement with Norway; even in Norway there are only so many mountain valleys people are willing and able to dam up. I’ve seen proposals by Dutch engineers to build giant salt-freshwater batteries in the estuaries of the Netherlands. As far as I’m aware no one has done a energy cost study on this, but it’s again a fairly localized approach to the problem.
      This somewhat rambling post leads to a single question: do you think that eventually the long-term viability of countries will come down to accidents of geography?

      I have a number of other, larger questions based on reading your blog and other sources and would be extremely grateful if you would answer them.

    • Welcome to the site, Michiel. I always endeavour to answer questions, though my workload at the moment is particularly heavy.

      Your point about Norway and Denmark is well made, and it would be possible (though not easy) to investigate this, but only if we had numbers on the two-way energy trade between these two countries.

      One way to utilize hydro (though anathema to many) is to use off-peak nuclear power to pump water to a header reservoir, then release it to power hydro turbines when demand is highest. Wind power might be used for pumping at off-peak times, helping to smooth supply of power, but I question if this would be sufficient.

      On accidents of geography, it could make a very big difference, and particularly so with hydro. It’s a marvellous energy source, in my opinion, clean, reliable, and adjustable to peaks and troughs in demand – just so long as climate change doesn’t reduce water-flow.

    • @Dr. Morgan
      Thanks for your reply!
      One further question. In general you seem very sure that energy is at the root of the economic decline of the past decade. Generally I find the evidence quite compelling, but I also feel under-equipped to formulate analytical rather than empirical reasons for this cause (I’m trained in cultural history and philosophy, but with extremely wide interests. My introduction into economics was mostly Paul Krugman, who I still think is good at explaining general macro-economic concepts, even if I disagree with some of his points now.)
      On this basis I’m often questioned by friends of mine with training in economics about this connection. Their main arguments are:
      -Why wouldn’t the increased debt-burden not be a function of financial deregulation? You often posit debt as an outcome of a shrinking real economy, but what if it’s the other way around? Through successful lobbying or otherwise, politicians saw fit to demolish the financial regulations put into place during the ‘golden age of social capitalism’. This led to a proliferation of financial products which have a depressing effect on the economy through financial parasitism, but happen to be beneficial to those who control the financial levers of society. In short, neoliberal (a fraught term, I know) rent-seeking behavior is at the root of our economic ills because it siphons prosperity away from productive industries and a consuming middle-class and puts it in the hands of a tiny elite only interested in more rent-seeking.
      -As a response to this depressing effect, even more depressing measures were taken: automation, wage-depression, etc. Again, this community generally frames this as an outcome of energy systems, but what if it’s by design of a powerful elite?

      I suppose this all boils down to a single question: how much influence do other factors have, and have had, in comparison to the EcoE? How do you untangle these? Interesting side-question: would the Thirty Years Postwar Boom have happened without the great compromise between businesses and unions that led to a successful consumer economy, or was the exponential addition of energy enough by its own?

      I realize these are actually huge questions and would just as much appreciate a reference to your other work or other authors that could explain this.


    • Thanks Michiel. Apologies that I can only answer briefly, but I’m busy with the next article, which is proving to be hard work.

      I’d start by stating that we know the economy is an energy system for very many reasons. No product or service can be supplied without it. Energy inputs alone enable us to feed over 7bn people whereas the pre-FF era fed only 700m. Withdraw supply of energy from an economy even for a few days and everything stops working. There are very many other examples pointing to the same conclusion….

      As for the GFC, the triggering of what I call ‘credit adventurism’ happened for three main reasons. The first was ideological extremism. The second was globalization, where cheap and easy credit was designed to sustain and grow consumption in the West in spite of the offshoring of millions of high-skilled, highly-paid jobs.

      But the big one was “secular stagnation”, with recorded “growth” slowing from the late 1990s. Keynes advocated stimulus (and its opposite) as tools to manage cyclicality,but he did not envisage “continuous and perpetual stimulus”, which was what was adopted from the late 1990s.

      Many people warned where this would lead, but, before the 2008 GFC, their advice was ignored. The same situation exists today, but this time we have “monetary” as well as credit “adventurism”, meaning that GFC II will be different from, as well as bigger than, GFC I.

  34. Factoid
    From the Max and Stacey show today: The ECB is apparently calling pension funds who are simply holding cash rather than buying government bonds with negative yields. ‘The rules require you not to hold cash because that is risky’. So the ECB forces the pension fund managers to take peoples dollar today and only return a fraction of that when the person retires???

    Stacey keeps track of the negative yield government bonds. She reports that the total increased by 2 trillion dollars while they were on vacation.

    At this rate, Batman, Gotham City is doomed!

    Don Stewart

    • Well it’s a way of controlling future demand on a shrunk economy.

      You might get gangs of pensioners in their 80s robbing banks and hijacking cars.

      I hope you’re well behaved Don 🙂

    • Don,

      There are some serious issues associated with the legal standards applicable to investment managers and trustees who are obligated under various legal regimes to operate in accordance with different versions of a “prudent investment” standard. In the U.S., for example, see the Uniform Prudent Investor Act, versions of which have been enacted in most states. Whatever money managers think makes investment sense privately, if they fail to adhere to customary practices and assumptions (much like a doctor must follow “best practices”), they can be sued for failing to act as a prudent manager. Hence, very herd-like behavior, and a very powerful obstacle to change.

      I have no idea what the rules are in the various European countries, or what specific authority the ECB has to be telling, e.g., French pension plans, how to invest (my guess would be none, it is brow-beating), but this is a big problem for adapting to a new, non-growth world because the U.S. standards are very much a captive of, and reflect, the Modern Portfolio Theory promulgated by Harry Markowitz in 1952. MPT is responsible for the classic recommendation of 60/40 allocation of stocks and bonds. While MPT does not prohibit investments besides stocks and bonds, and in fact requires “diversification,” as a practical matter the money managers stick to stocks and bonds. Additional “diversification” tends to mean you buy some foreign stocks and bonds, you invest in real estate, sometimes commodities, but almost never gold.

      Although MPT underlies legal standards, at least here in the U.S., there are really serious issues with it as a model for investment decisions. Among other things, it completely fails during a serious crisis, like 2008, when all asset classes crash and assets cease to move in different directions in response to different risks. In fact, if you go back to the 2008 crisis, it was not uncommon to see articles about whether MPT was “dead.” Also, I know little about its mathematics, but it seems to focus on annual returns, without really adequately factoring in the effect of a complete loss from a known “risky” asset. In fact, there is also a good question now, that the Central Banks have taken control over markets, whether this idea that increased reward/returns are associated with greater risk even makes sense or is reality, as it may have back in 1952 when there were still actual markets. Regardless, it is effectively incorporated as a legal standard so it’s going to be hell to change, and it will keep corralling investments into stocks and bonds.

      The ECB and eventually, the Fed, has a problem with the increasing amount of negative yielding bonds, which I just read somewhere now totals about 25% of all bonds, because the logical, go-to safe-haven if enough bonds are negative is going to be gold. Increasing gold investment will drive up the price, further weakening trust in fiat money.

  35. NB Brussels have already rejected Boris’s new Brexit plans.

    Looks like same old same old over the next few months.

    The general consensus on the last ever edition of Newsweek was that May’s deal will probably go through in the end.

  36. ‘Comes the hour, comes the man’.

    So Boris Johnson is quite appropriate for the failing British economy and state, but not at all in a hopeful sense: patent incompetence, a careless slapdash approach, considreable evidence of a lack of integrity, and a general air of buffoonery combined with a wholly unjustified self-esteem make the new PM very much the man of the moment.

    These qualities seem to permeate almost every British institution, as one scans the headlines: defence, finance, the NHS, education, etc.

    Time for some gardening, I think!

    Which prompts another reflection: take the average career politician: would you trust them with your vegetable plot? Do they have the good sense, discipline and steadiness necessary? Would Lord Emsworth go in awe of them?

    • I’ve no strong views on Boris Johnson, or on whether “Brexit” was a right or wrong decision. But “Brexit” has been a huge distraction, replacing Mrs May seems a waste of precious time, and the level of debate has been depressing.

      If I was asked for advice (which would never happen), I would have priorities quite different from “Brexit”, let alone the choice of PM.

      First, SEEDS says that UK prosperity is falling. That’s just my analysis, of course – but you could ask the millions “just about managing”, the huge numbers on housing waiting lists, those relying on food banks, and the young in general, how they see it.

      Second, we’re living in very surreal times where the world financial system is concerned. Yet the UK has debt of £5.5tn, and financial asset exposure of c£27tn, carried by a £2tn economy.

    • Of course, those who are aware of the growing – and undeniable – poverty in the UK (although there are some curious definitions of ‘poverty’ knocking about on the Left) believe that this is principally due to austerity policies; in other words, a matter of political choice which can therefore be easily reversed.

      They are going to be rudely awakened by reality.

      And they still wish to further erode the viability of British society and institutions (inadequate housing, over-stretched education, health ) by a policy of open arms to mass-migration from Asian and Africa, which offers labour of little utility to the economy as a whole, but which does keep up demand.

  37. GFCII and US Oil?
    From Art Berman, probably from EIA statistics:
    54% of U.S. crude + condensate production is from tight oil plays. 14% is from deep water and 32% is from conventional plays.

    The tight oil requires constant drilling, or else the production might decline by a third in a single year (don’t quote me on that…but the effect is severe). Now suppose that GFC2 happens in, say, this September. Does that imply that tight oil drilling will collapse and oil production will collapse? What would be the impact of a simultaneous collapse both of financial values and also transportation fuels? Is the only thing keeping the system going the constant infusion of more juice by the central banks?

    We have lost the flywheel effect afforded by conventional oil wells which could be kept producing without large amounts of money being spent.

    Don Stewart

    • A very interesting topic. Per-well rates of output can fall by as much as 65% in the first year after start-up.

      There’s a particularly good chart here, which bands US shale output by year of first production – it tells its own story. In December 2018, 3.85 mmb/d (within a total of 6.82 mmb/d) came from wells which had started producing during 2018 itself. That’s a remarkable stat.

      This puts operators on a “drilling treadmill”. If I’m interpreting from that linked chart correctly, output in December 2018, from wells already in production at the end of 2017 was 2.97 mmb/d – but those same wells supported 5.29 mmb/d in December 2017.

      Keeping the “drilling treadmill” turning has required big money from optimistic investors and lenders. Lenders in general may buy into the theory that, in a crash, everyone gets bailed out. Why the investors back shale seems to me to defy rational explanation, as they surely cannot still be buying the “Saudi America” story.

      To be clear, though, the US (and the world oil market) needs this production, though I cannot see how private capital can continue to finance it. In an earlier article here I suggested that some form of subsidy might become imperative. Maybe the Fed can stand behind shale debt? After all, it’s assumed to backstop many other (and bigger) debt pools.

      On your broader point, one might suggest that a shale crash might push prices higher, but I suggest instead that – given consumer circumstances – purchasing of oil might decrease sharply, adding further momentum to the slump in what I call “the economy of stuff”.

      So, to look at this another way, what about GFC II and a deteriorating economy of goods?

    • On GFC II itself, the only thing that seems to be holding it off is the belief that “everyone gets bailed out in the end”. If that theory holds water, it won’t be banks that get hit this time, but fiats.

    • So to make short: half the us oil prod is from shales, and if credit stops being available, half of said right oil production is gone within 12 months ?

      Are we really looking at possibly losing a quarter of the US oil production in a 12 month period?

      That seems… crazy.

      That would mean a one two punch with something like GFCII and an oil shock 12 months later.


  38. Associated Gas
    We should also remember that a very high percentage of US natural gas is a by-product of shale oil wells. If drilling for oil stops, then much of the gas supply disappears. And we have been shifting large amounts of coal fired electricity generation to natural gas. So we may be stuck in our cold, dark, houses with no way to go anywhere, no way to heat the house, no way to turn on the oven, no way to check in on Surplus Energy, no way to make any money, and money with no value if we do have some. Which, of course, is locked up in a safe deposit box at the bank which can’t open the safe because there is no electricity.

    Don Stewart

    • The only consolation is that amount of money required to keep shale going, if the private sector ever stops doing it, is pretty modest, so much so that the US would have to be crazy not to provide it.

    • In 2006 there was a drama documentary cby the BBC called If…the oil runs out. It was a combination of interviews with scientists and experts and a storyl8ne with actors.

      It was set on the year 2016 when the price of oil had reached $160 a barrel.

      Now it looks like they didn’t take I to account that the price falls when economies go into recession but this is maybe that it had forecast far less oil to be around as it wouldn’t have taken into account the highly dubious frack8ng revolution.

      The drama part featured people wearing coats inside their homes and a vast reduction in decently paid jobs.

    • Indeed. Bailing out the energy sector is probably a much better proposition than saving banks.

      And a drop in the bucket if both are bailed out.

      May you live in interesring times indeed.

      TBH I’m starting to get a bad vibe from the size of of SNB balance sheet with respect to the size of our GDP.

  39. @Dr. Morgan
    The really interesting thing to me is ‘where to find the surplus energy required to haul all that sand and water?’

    As I have argued before, money allocates resources but doesn’t create them (I won’t split hairs about bringing them forward in time). So if the US is running out of surplus energy, it has to look somewhere else for surplus. The likely suspects are the Middle East and Venezuela and Canada (because of the unique relationship between heavy oil and LTO).

    Which probably explains the US eagerness to go to hot war and frequent use of the US bottleneck control of finance. We certainly don’t want to be in a bidding war with China for surplus energy.

    Don Stewart

    • I’m planning the follow-up to this article, and scale is one of the key questions. At today’s prices, putting a man on the Moon cost US$153bn, or $0.153 trillion. By contrast, replacing FFs in US power supply has been cost at $4.5tn.

      I’m not sure I can foresee a bidding war with China, but then that’s because I think the Chinese economy is heading for very big trouble. I also suspect that my view on the Chinese economy might be shared by the administration.

      To the best of my knowledge, hasn’t Mr Trump been almost a peace-nik compared with the many wars fought by the man I always call GWI (‘George W. Idiot’)?

  40. Rationing?
    What I have been mentally exploring is a combination of GFCII and its impact on US oil and gas production. I hypothesize that if the US wants to subsidize tight oil and gas during a GFC, then it needs to find some surplus energy somewhere. Just printing more money in the midst of a currency crisis probably won’t work.

    So I have suggested that looking to manipulate countries which have the oil and gas resources we think we need is an attractive option. But what about rationing? That is what we did in WWII. Would it work in a GFC? I think it would make the GFC worse by taking fossil fuels away from the rest of the economy. If there is some way to increase GDP without using more fossil fuels, we haven’t discovered it. The mirror image is that if we take fossil fuels away from the economy, the economy is going to shrink. If we already have a GFC in progress, more shrinkage will make matters worse.

    The rationing could be implemented with vouchers or, more likely, taxes. But raising taxes in the midst of a GFC would likely get condemnation from all quarters.

    Can shale oil become energy self-sustaining? I don’t see how. While it may have a positive EROi, that EROI is probably not sufficient to maintain the society which uses the LTO products…mainly gasoline. Driving a gasoline powered automobile uses 99 percent of the energy in the oil. There is no surplus to be returned for producing more oil. (In a study of European automobile usage by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation a few years ago.)

    Don Stewart

    • The near-universal assumption in the financial sector seems to be that the authorities will “print as much as it takes” in the event of GFC II. The authorities are looking at ways and means around NIRP, and creating inflation. Nobody seems to think that money creation is inflationary, as the textbooks (and Wiemar) state that it is.

      I believe that shales’ EROEI is generally positive, but what the economy needs from energy isn’t just a positive ratio, but one that also gives us a sizeable surplus to power economic activity other than the supply of energy itself. Shale can;’t do much of this.

  41. It can all be summarised as:


    Hard Places.

    Whatever transpires, it’s going to be rather uncomfortable, to say the least.

    Which is also why the issue of whether it is wise to be reconciled to the permanent loss of all but the shell of national parliamentary sovereignty – the EU Project – or more sensible and pragmatic to reassert the old sovereignty, is now crucial and not a mere political irrelevance, as institutions which are closer to the electorate are surely better able to respond to, and hopefully weather, the coming storm.

    Of course, there is a possibility that the electorate might be happy with the Potemkin parliament on the Continent – clearly that is the case with the pro-EU lobby today – and resigned to whatever it decides to do to them, but let’s not despair completely.

    Now, many of our institutions are products of the Age of Abundance, post-1945, and must now be radically reformed, reduced and re-fitted, perhaps even abolished in whole or part.

    But parliaments, both national as in the UK, and regional as in pre-Revolutionary France and Spain today, existed and functioned quite happily in low-energy times: a robust and adaptable institution that even our Germanic tribal ancestors would partly recognise, not to forget the hillmen of Afghanistan. …..

  42. Europe?
    See Automatic Earth today for new information revealing truly bad behavior in connection with the shooting down of MH17 over eastern Ukraine several years ago:
    A new documentary from Max van der Werff, the leading independent investigator of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 disaster, has revealed breakthrough evidence of tampering and forging of prosecution materials; suppression of Ukrainian Air Force radar tapes; and lying by the Dutch, Ukrainian, US and Australian governments. An attempt by agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to take possession of the black boxes of the downed aircraft is also revealed by a Malaysian National Security Council official for the first time.

    Now I routinely expect countries to lie and manufacture ‘evidence’ when it suits their purpose. But I am completely mystified as to why Europe continues to want to poke Russia in the eye. Russia is ready and able to supply natural gas to Europe using pipelines from stable producing fields. Using LNG from the US is a highly unstable strategy, as I hope I have made clear above.

    If I were Europe I would also want pipelines from the Middle East, and particularly Iran which has a huge amount of natural gas. Yet Europe always goes along with the latest US plan for total destruction.

    When Mrs. Merkel gave her final speech, it was to demonize Putin for expressing exactly the same sentiments that Xabier stated above. Donald Tusk opined that acceptance of Putin’s position means ‘we lose our freedoms’. I’m across the ocean, and don’t understand British accents, but it seems to me that what traction Brexit has had has come from ‘regaining our freedom’.

    In short, Europe baffles me.

    Don Stewart

    • Mistake
      the ‘last speech’ was by Mrs. May, not Mrs. Merkel
      Don Stewart

    • I believe Goebbels said that lies have to be plausible, or propaganda loses its effect.

      This seems to have been forgotten in the lands of ‘ our freedoms’ over the last few years. I expect governments to lie, perhaps sometimes with good intentions, but the crudity of the propaganda expresses complete contempt for the masses and a certain lack of art in those who frame it.

      I found the recent anniversary celebrations of the ‘prosperity’ brought by the Euro rather nauseating considering the dim or non-existent employment prospects of so many young Europeans: like the Sun King expecting his starving people to admire his dancing in one of those lavish court ballets. Shameless.

      The brutal fact is that, as general prosperity collapses, the handful (comparatively, of course it’s thousands) of people at the top in Brussels can still cream off enough to live very well indeed – just like the old aristocracies or the top Party people in the USSR.

      And if historic national parliaments have been neutered, or rendered utterly ridiculous as in the UK, what can the people ever do about it?

      The shadow of totalitarianism is creeping over everything.

  43. Pingback: The art of painting lipstick on a pig | Consciousness of Sheep

  44. Just Seen Boris’s first speech as PM. Very laudable but not sure where he’s going to get the money from unless he borrows yet more.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re still in the EU come Christmas

  45. Considering remorseless US pressure on Iran, they will be quite aware of the fact that Iran will lose an estimated 40% of her agricultural production over the next few years, which has to be replaced by imports. Could food riots, after years of economic attrition, bring down the government? Very poor people will bow down to almost any regime, but not when actually starving.

    • Hi are Iran’s food problems caused by the sanctions – lack of water or poor agricultural management (which could improve under a different regime)

  46. I believe in Iran they have just over-exploited their water supply, soil erosion, etc. The usual story. Fossil fuels enabled over-pumping of water, as throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

    There was a bizarre incident recently in which they sensibly recruited a foreign agricultural expert to advise them on their problems, but he fell victim to internal politics: the Revolutionary Guard are big on building dams (for which they get contractor kick-backs) and his alternative solutions were not welcome at all.

    Iran is a fantastically corrupt, badly-managed country (at the top, and the everyday petty corruption that tourists do not see); many of its problems are certainly self-generated, and then with sanctions on top……

    The crunch will come when the working class supporters of the regime, who have been carefully cultivated by the revolutionary’ clerics as a broad-base of support, cannot be paid and fed adequately. But they will still fear the revenge of the populace at large for all their crimes and the general repression, and maybe hang on to the bitter end. fearing a blood bath.

    The tragedy of Britain is that we had a fine and adaptable system, built over centuries, of parliamentary democracy which we have recently trashed over Brexit and the lies of the Blair years; but in Iran they only have oriental despotism to look back on. Teheran was actually occupied by nomad tribes in the early years of this century, and then came the decades of foreign intervention. ! It’s what they used to say about Spain: a fine people, wasted.

    • I pity those in Iran who are actually decent people and would like a decent regime in charge.

      I’m surprised the foreign expert wasn’t arrested for spying on their vegetable patches.

      The next decade is going to be particularly nasty- perhaps not wars but starvation due to lack of water.

      A news item on the BBC website about climate change was interesting this morning.

    • One can only sympathize with the Iranian public – a Western-sponsored, repressive regime for two and and half decades, followed by the fanaticism of the revolution.

  47. Boris says we will develop battery powered aeroplanes in the UK and will also deliver crops to feed the world in the new ‘golden’ future that he promises.

    • Goodness me he’s beginning to sound like the second coming.

      An article I read said that even if we improved battery density by 4p times this would still only power an A320 for half it’s current range and only half laden.

      The best feasible increase in density I’ve read about recently is an improvement of 6 times.

      However short hops around Europe might be possible

    • The energy contained in the tanks of a single 747 has been calculated as the equivalent of 1.5 hours of total output from the Sizewell nuclear power station. When you think of how many flights take off each day, I think you have an answer to this, even before we bring in the technicalities involved.

      Without making a specific reference to the new PM, the UK, seen from abroad, looks an increasingly silly place.

    • Well Boris will run up against the laws of physics before too long.

      I remember the scientist Brian Cox describing oil as remarkable stuff. He was right.

      As a footnote it’s incredible that not only did intelligent life evolve but Nature left us a bonanza under the ground.

      Obviously many may dispute my use of the adjective intelligent.

    • My take on battery powered planes : It’ll be expensive, short hop and not very efficient. Aka : think expensive private jets and not much else.

      About britain, I had the opportunity to talk to a friend member of the torries in London last year and I was shocked by the naiveté displayed with respect to the ease of getting trade deals on Britains terms. I tried to explain how complex/difficult the situation is for a country like Switzerland, but apparently Britain is a much bigger player, so the two are not the same.

      What I see is London being a large merger of Zurich and Geneva surrounded by not much manufacturing capabilities but a thick selective nostalgia fog.

      And yeah : liquid hydrocarbons energy density and their ease of handling is truely mindboggling. To get the energy of 1l of gasoline, you would have to lift 2.8 cubic water to 1000m. Filling a gas tank at the petrol station is an energy flow of 4.5MW.

    • Here are some numbers I’d like to run by you. I’m sure my calculations are correct, but the results are pretty staggering. They concern electricity supplies required in 2040, compared with 2018.

      Here’s the sequence:

      Supply in 2018: 26,615 TWH
      Growth in baseload (excludes EV) out to 2040, at 2.9% rate of increase annually: +23,304 TWH
      Replacement of 75% of road fuel used in 2018 with EVs: +6,900 TWH
      Assume 1.5% annual increase in vehicle use out to 2040: + 2,533 TWH
      Total: 26,615 + 32,736 = 59,351 TWH.

      For context, total renewables power generation in 2018 was 2,480 TWH, but only 1,855 TWH came from wing plus solar, the rest from biofuels etc..

    • In fairness, the EU had no difficulty with doing a free trade deal with Japan not long ago – so it might be a reasonable British claim that, if you can do this for Japan, why not for us?

Comments are closed.