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Guest Post: Beyond The False Dawn: Global Crisis 2020-2022

Tyler Durden's picture


From Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

Beyond the False Dawn: Global Crisis 2020-2022   

Four long-wave cycles will likely intersect around 2020-2022.

Longtime correspondent Ken R. asked me to elaborate on my recent reference to the "real crisis being pushed forward to 2020" ( A 5-Year Scenario: 2011-2016 February 15, 2011). The long answer would fill entire volumes, so I'll attempt a shorthand version.

Let's start with the chart I prepared for the cover of my 2008 book Weblogs & New Media: Marketing in Crisis. (You can read the first chapter on the Marketing in Crisis webpage.)

It seems clear to me that four Grand Cycles will intersect around 2020-2022:

 1. Peak oil, or the depletion cycle/end-game of the global economy's complete dependence on inexpensive, readily available petroleum/fossil fuels.

2. The cycle of credit expansion and contraction (approximately 60-70 years), which is now beginning the transition from unsustainable credit expansion (bubble) to renunciation of debt (credit collapse) and global depression.

3. The generational cycle (4 generations or approximately 80 years) of American history which leads to nation-changing social, political and economic upheaval. (The American Revolution: 1781 +80 years = Civil War, 1861 +80 years = 1941, World War II + 80 years = 2021)

4. The 100+ year cycle of price inflation and stagnation of wages' purchasing-power which began around 1901 is now reaching the final stage of widespread turmoil, shortages, famine, war, conflict and crisis.

While industrial society, the Central State and global neoliberal capitalism could probably suppress or adjust to any one of these cyclical climaxes, it seems unlikely the Status Quo will be successful in suppressing/adjusting to all four at once.

There is nothing magical about 2020 or about each crisis.

The book The Fourth Turning describes the 4-generation. 80-year cycle of political and social crisis in the U.S., and it makes sense even if you don't believe in cycles: after 80 years have passed, few humans are left who can recall the previous crisis. That loss of experiential capital, if you will, sets up the next crisis, which isn't a repeat performance of the last one but a variation on the general theme that unfolds in a unique historical setting.

That historical setting is defined by massive ecological overshoot as laid out in Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change.

This overshoot--humanity as a species expanding to fill every ecological niche when food and energy supplies are rising--leads to roughly 100-year cycles of rising prices for what I call the FEW essentials (food, energy, water) and resulting political instability--not to mention plagues, war, etc. as the over-abundant humans scramble to secure what's left of dwindling resources. This is ably described in The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History.

The credit/debt/speculative bubble that is slowly reaching its endgame has been addressed by The (Mis)behavior of Markets and Financial Armageddon: Protecting Your Future from Four Impending Catastrophes.

The end of cheap, abundant oil is covered in The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak and The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, to name but three of many books on the subject.

I could have added a fifth crisis, that of demographics, as the financial promises made to the planet's ageing populace will be broken by the sheer number of the elderly: The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know about America's Economic Future.

My own attempted synthesis of the coming intersection is of course Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation.

If you have any doubts remaining about the credit/debt bubble, I invite you to study 10 Economic Charts That Will Blow Your Mind (The Economic Collapse).

I've marked up one chart to show how far we've progressed in the speculative debt cycle:

Here's where we are in a nutshell. Borrowing money creates a virtuous cycle when money is cheap and easy to borrow, as the money flows into consumption and investments which feed that consumption.

Eventually, however, organic demand (that is, people actually needing things and services) is met. But as Marx noted, everyone and his brother/sister ramped up production to meet the seemingly limitless demand, so now there is massive excess capacity/overproduction.

Oops! It turns out the market isn't very good at assessing "steady state" levels of debt, consumption, production or speculation. So everyone overborrowed and over-speculated in both productive capacity and unproductive financial gambling.

Two bad things happen in this financial overshoot. One is that all that debt must be serviced, i.e. the interest and some modest attempt to pay down principal must be paid. In the virtuous upcycle, rising profits and asset prices make borrowing more to pay the seemingly trivial interest easy--no burden at all.

But once the overcapacity, over-leveraged, over-indebted cycle breaks, then assets and profits both plummet, leaving the borrowers unable to leverage more debt to pay the interest on their current debt.

As income streams and assets both decline, the interest suddenly gains the force of gravity: what was once lighter than air is leaden and increasingly burdensome.

The Grand Partnership of the Central State and the Financial Plutocracy (parasitic global cartel Capitalism writ large) have suppressed this natural implosion of speculative debt by printing and distributing trillions of dollars in "free" money. The only way to make servicing a trillion dollars bearable is to lower the interest rate to zero. At zero, even you and I can borrow a trillion dollars, and once again we can easily borrow enough to service our mountain of existing debt.

As a special bonus to the Plutocracy, the "free money" enables them to ramp up their favorite pastime, carefree financial speculations based on fraud, collusion and misrepresentation of risk. As any profits will be theirs to keep (private) while any losses (and all the risk) willbe backstopped by their partner, the Central State and its tax-donkeys, the taxpayers, it's a return to fun days at the races for the Financial Elites.

But a funny fork in the road appears after a massive dose of free money
: the free money flows into speculative bets on actual tangible resources, creating massive inflation and newly reflated asset bubbles.

As a result, the system is now facing the same old problem--asset bubbles held aloft by "free money" and rampant financial fraud--and a new problem: inflation in resources that sustain the real economy.

The Central State/Financial Elites are thus faced with an impossible choice: if they let the speculative free money flow, then their populations starve as prices of tangible goods such as food and energy skyrocket. Recall that the masses aren't provided with a trillion dollars at zero interest; that privilege is reserved for the Financial Elites who fund the Central State politicos.

The capitalist answer to this vast financial overshoot is simple: interest rates will rise once the unlimited free money stops flowing. Once interest rates rise, then the debt--which has now doubled or tripled in the frenzied flow of free money-- quickly becomes burdensome in the extreme.

In other words, the status quo is now addicted to unlimited flows of free money. If the flow continues, then inflation will destabilize it; if it's cut off, then rising interest payments will destabilize it.

That's why it's easy to predict a financial collapse in the next few years. But there are still enough resources around to restabilize things after the impending financial liquidation; societies and economies have a way of finding a new equilibrium, a process described in The Onset of Catabolic Collapse (The Archdruid Report)

It’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds, because each burst of catabolism on the way down does lower maintenance costs significantly, and can also free up resources for other uses. The usual result is the stairstep sequence of decline that’s traced by the history of so many declining civilizations—half a century of crisis and disintegration, say, followed by several decades of relative stability and partial recovery, and then a return to crisis; rinse and repeat, and you’ve got the process that turned the Forum of imperial Rome into an early medieval sheep pasture.

But a financial re-set won't address any of the other looming crises. As I have often proposed, energy will remain too cheap for alternatives to make financial sense until it doesn't, and then it will be too late.

Such thoughts do leak out of the status quo every now and again, but they are generally viewed as some sort of parlor game: ooh, how deliciously awful it will all be! THE GLOBAL ECONOMY WON'T RECOVER, NOW OR EVER.

Here is an excellent summary of energy realities: A physicist models the city:

West illustrates the problem by translating human life into watts. “A human being at rest runs on 90 watts,” he says. “That’s how much power you need just to lie down. And if you’re a hunter-gatherer and you live in the Amazon, you’ll need about 250 watts. That’s how much energy it takes to run about and find food. So how much energy does our lifestyle [in America] require? Well, when you add up all our calories and then you add up the energy needed to run the computer and the air-conditioner, you get an incredibly large number, somewhere around 11,000 watts. Now you can ask yourself: What kind of animal requires 11,000 watts to live? And what you find is that we have created a lifestyle where we need more watts than a blue whale. We require more energy than the biggest animal that has ever existed. That is why our lifestyle is unsustainable. We can’t have seven billion blue whales on this planet. It’s not even clear that we can afford to have 300 million blue whales.”

I highly recommend this excellent analysis of energy consumption and production which was forwarded to me by knowledgeable correspondent Nathan P.

The author analyzes his own annual energy use and leads us to the conclusion that our 10,000 watts a day lifestyles must be trimmed to around 2,000 watts a day to be sustainable with current technologies.

He then goes on to extrapolate how many windmills, solar arrays and nuclear power plants we as a species will have to install over the next 20 years to replace current consumption of fossil fuels.

As I recall, it will require one new nuclear power plant a week for the next 20 years, plus thousands of new solar and wind arrays.

A significant amount of this planetary project is possible, but not likely, for the reason noted above: energy will remain too cheap for alternatives to make financial sense until it doesn't, and then it will be too late.

I am not a doom and gloomer, however, because history offers us abundant examples of civilizations which prospered on 2,000 watts a day or less, long before civilization became dependent on fossil fuels.

There will be a massive transformation of the status quo, however, and the outcome is in our collective hands.


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Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:24 | 975227 trav7777
trav7777's picture

a watt is a unit of power...try to get the basic shit right or else don't talk in terms of science

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:40 | 975283 abc123
abc123's picture

Hey trav7777

there's a conversion factor for watts to calories/sec

The conversion factor is 0.2386 so his use of "watts" is perfectly appropriate if you just convert the units. 


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:06 | 975345 Zeno of Citium
Zeno of Citium's picture

Nope, you're wrong ... calories/sec won't do you any good as you don't know the time factor. What matters is how much energy you use in a day, not an instantaneous throughput, or power (which might still be important).


People tend to forget to multiply watts by time (usually hours).

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:06 | 975360 trav7777
trav7777's picture

again, the watt is a measure of power, not of energy.  So is the calorie per second.  Conversion of one unit to another does not change what the units are measuring.

The US in 2010 generated 4T kWh.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:09 | 975373 abc123
abc123's picture

and yet, oddly enough, most people I meet exist in the time domain...

ergo work per unit time...


Enough of this!  I'm even boring myself to tears


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:34 | 975441 trav7777
trav7777's picture

yet oddly enough all power generation is measured in essentially joules, because instantaneous power is relatively useless.  Even a 1.21 gigawatt lightning bolt doesn't sustain it for very long.  Only long enough to launch one deLorean

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:51 | 975879 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture

Trav, something as simple as the distinction that you are attempting to describe passes many.  I've seen this on other subjects as well.

Makes me wonder about the financial acumen around here, too.

But notice the underlying rationale, why, the Earth might not be able to 'sustain' even 300 MM humans.  Wonder how we get to that 'sustainable' level.

 - Ned

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:39 | 975829 Diplodicus Rex
Diplodicus Rex's picture

It speaks to credibility. If you're going to post about energy consumption and then get the units wrong its going to send out a signal that you don't know what you're talking about.

In the field of engineering and in particular the lay-world the use of Watts to describe a rate and Watt-Hours to describe a quantity are unbelievably badly understood. The easiest way of thinking about it is to relate it to time, speed and distance, which most people can get their heads around.

Speed (equivalent to Watts) is the distance travelled per time period. i.e. 50mph.

Distance (equivalent to Watt-Hours) is the actual distance travelled i.e. 100miles.

Time (equivalent to Hours) is the time taken to travel the said distance ie Hours.

Therefore the statement in the article "2,000 watts a day" translated into Speed, Distance and Time is like saying " I travelled 50mph per day". You see, it makes no sense. If he had said "I travelled 50miles per day" that would have made perfect sense. Instead he got it wrong.

If I have one concession to make, that is that the electrical engineering fraternity did not help themselves by making the commonly used unit of energy (Watt-Hour or kWh) to be a rate times a time. As a comparison it would be like having the generally accepted unit of distance to be speed times time or " How far is it from A to B? Oh it's about 50mph for two and a half hours" instead of saying "125miles". They should have stuck to the Joule, J, kJ or MJ and saved a lot of trouble.

/pedant off

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:54 | 975896 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture

Rex, good explanation, thanks.  RE: your concession, well, pesky history got there first ;-)

- Ned

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 20:40 | 976196 MrSteve
MrSteve's picture

Guys, Guys, Guys! Slow way down: the Dude abides in horsepower and foot-candles; back down on all this here EURO-metric gibberish with unintelligible letter-codes like kJ, we don't parlez francaise/ espranto/ zydeco! Get the big pix: we're just hix from the stix. we know barrels of oil and tons of coal. Yor Newton-kilograms per sq. meter is pressing us real hard.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 22:54 | 976536 Backspin
Backspin's picture

Way to go.  Seriously, not pedantic at all.  Hit the nail on the head, and it was a good explanation, too.

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 00:17 | 976727 Modern Money Me...
Modern Money Mechanics's picture

Power is measured in Watts (W)
Energy is measured in Joules (J)
1 Watt = 1 Joule / second

A human being at rest runs on 90 watts

Thus a human being at rest runs on 90 Joules/second.

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 00:49 | 976793 Modern Money Me...
Modern Money Mechanics's picture

Why are people confused?
Measured by:
Engineers -         2255  Watts 
Physicists -          2255  Joules/second 
“the French” -       194  MJ/day
Electricity people    54  kW-hr/day 
HVAC People -      184  kilo BTU/day 
Weight Watchers -   46  kilo(kilo)Calories/day
Mechanics -          143  Million foot-lbs per day
DOE -                 184  pico-quadrillion BTU’s/day
Gas station -        1.5 gallons of gas/day
Exxon -               4.3 kg of oil equivalent/day Exxon
Grandfather -         3  Horsepower 
Environmentalists -  5.4 Tonnes of CO2 per year 
World Planners -     0.76 (NEW WORLD) Tonnes of CO2 per year 
Chemists -             2.2 billion carbon atoms per nanosecond

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:49 | 975311 Byte Me
Byte Me's picture

+1 trav

It's tiresome to see otherwise good theses shitted-up with the power/energy terminology snafu.

Sounds very Olduvai Cliff imho.

Not that I disagree...

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 21:07 | 976277 Dyler Turden II Esq
Dyler Turden II Esq's picture

"It's tiresome to see otherwise good theses shitted-up with the power/energy terminology snafu."

What is tiresome is to see a lucid-enough exposition get raked over the coals endlessly over some pedantic technical point regarding a single trivial passage (in the context of the whole essay), when anyone with an above-room-temp I.Q. understands what the guy was talking about, for God(dess)' sake.

Please guys: get a fucking life.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:02 | 975349 covert
covert's picture

this is bigger and simpler than it looks, the dark ages are coming upon us. it happens in cycles. the last time it happened, plato saw the end of the last dark age. it is believed to happen about every 80,000 years or so. for more details, read from Dr. William Coreless.


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:09 | 975539 Azannoth
Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:24 | 975230 alter ego
alter ego's picture


Hey, I think this is overly optimisitic.

Watch the news, the SHTF is already here.

Peak Oil, fiat currency, pyramid scheme

economy collapse, riots, rumors of war, solar

flares, etc, etc, etc.


For everyone, just prepare yourself a cup of tea,

seat and wait.

Lets reality make its work.


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:56 | 975332 midtowng
midtowng's picture

Gallup says 10% unemployment rate right now.

Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, hit 10.0% in mid-February -- up from 9.8% at the end of January.

The percentage of part-time workers who want full-time work worsened considerably in mid-February, increasing to 9.6% of the workforce from 9.1% in January.

Underemployment, in which Gallup combines part-time workers wanting full-time work with the U.S. unemployment rate, surged in mid-February to 19.6% -- mostly as a result of the sharp increase in those working part time but wanting full-time work. Underemployment now stands at basically the same place as it did a year ago (19.8%).

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:04 | 975353 Pegasus Muse
Pegasus Muse's picture

John Williams has true unemployment around 23%.  SGS-Alternate:

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:25 | 975414 Shell Game
Shell Game's picture

employment search exhaustion is a bitch..

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:54 | 975500 AcidRastaHead
AcidRastaHead's picture

Trying to figure out all these unemployment figures is more difficult than finding a job.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 22:57 | 976540 Backspin
Backspin's picture

I appreciate JW and his work.  Still, I try to compare all the things I read to what I actually see around me.  23% sounds too high.  That's nearly 1 in 4.  And out of all the people I know, there are certainly many out of work or underemployed, but it's not 1 in 4.

Not that it's a great job market out there or anything - just trying to reconcile what I read with what I see.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:07 | 975366 Gully Foyle
Gully Foyle's picture

alter ego

This never gets mentioned. Even though it is arguably more important than all others trends combined.

It's true that the world's population overall will increase by roughly one-third over the next 40 years, from 6.9 to 9.1 billion, according to the U.N. Population Division. But this will be a very different kind of population growth than ever before -- driven not by birth rates, which have plummeted around the world, but primarily by an increase in the number of elderly people. Indeed, the global population of children under 5 is expected to fall by 49 million as of midcentury, while the number of people over 60 will grow by 1.2 billion.


Eventually, the last echoes of the global baby boomers will fade away. Then, because of the continuing fall in birth rates, humans will face the very real prospect that our numbers will fall as fast -- if not faster -- than the rate at which they once grew. Russia's population is already 7 million below what it was in 1991. As for Japan, one expert has calculated that the very last Japanese baby will be born in the year 2959, assuming the country's low fertility rate of 1.25 children per woman continues unchanged. Young Austrian women now tell pollsters their ideal family size is less than two children, enough to replace themselves but not their partners. Worldwide, there is a 50 percent chance that the population will be falling by 2070, according to a recent study published in Nature. By 2150, according to one U.N. projection, the global population could be half what it is today.


Today, however, we see that birth rates are dipping below replacement levels even in countries hardly known for luxury. Emerging first in Scandinavia in the 1970s, what the experts call "subreplacement fertility" quickly spread to the rest of Europe, Russia, most of Asia, much of South America, the Caribbean, Southern India, and even Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon, Morocco, and Iran. Of the 59 countries now producing fewer children than needed to sustain their populations, 18 are characterized by the United Nations as "developing," i.e., not rich.

Indeed, most developing countries are experiencing population aging at unprecedented rates. Consider Iran. As recently as the late 1970s, the average Iranian woman had nearly seven children. Today, for reasons not well understood, she has just 1.74, far below the average 2.1 children needed to sustain a population over time. Accordingly, between 2010 and 2050, the share of Iran's population 60 and older is expected to increase from 7.1 to 28.1 percent. This is well above the share of 60-plus people found in Western Europe today and about the same percentage that is expected for most Northern European countries in 2050. But unlike Western Europe, Iran and many other developing regions experiencing the same hyper-aging -- from Cuba to Croatia, Lebanon to the Wallis and Futuna Islands -- will not necessarily have a chance to get rich before they get old.

One contributing factor is urbanization; more than half the world's population now lives in cities, where children are an expensive economic liability, not another pair of hands to till fields or care for livestock. Two other oft-cited reasons are expanded work opportunities for women and the increasing prevalence of pensions and other old-age financial support that doesn't depend on having large numbers of children to finance retirement.

Surprisingly, this graying of the world is not by any means the exclusive result of programs deliberately aimed at population control. For though there are countries such as India, which embraced population control even to the point of forced sterilization programs during the 1970s and saw dramatic reduction in birth rates, there are also counterexamples such as Brazil, where the government never promoted family planning and yet its birth rate went down even more. Why? In both countries and elsewhere, changing cultural norms appear to be the primary force driving down birth rates -- think TV, not government decrees. In Brazil, television was introduced sequentially province by province, and in each new region the boob tube reached, birth rates plummeted soon after. (Discuss among yourselves whether this was because of what's on Brazilian television -- mostly soap operas depicting rich people living the high life -- or simply because a television was now on at night in many more bedrooms.)


China, for now, continues to enjoy the economic benefits associated with the early phase of birth-rate decline, when a society has fewer children to support and more available female labor for the workforce. But with its stringent one-child policy and exceptionally low birth rate, China is rapidly evolving into what demographers call a "4-2-1" society, in which one child becomes responsible for supporting two parents and four grandparents.

Asia will also be plagued by a chronic shortage of women in the coming decades, which could leave the most populous region on Earth with the same skewed sex ratios as the early American West. Due to selective abortion, China has about 16 percent more boys than girls, which many predict will lead to instability as tens of millions of "unmarriageable" men find other outlets for their excess libido. India has nearly the same sex-ratio imbalance and also a substantial difference in birth rates between its southern (mostly Hindu) states and its northern (more heavily Muslim) states, which could contribute to ethnic tension.

No society has ever experienced the speed of population aging -- or the gender imbalance -- now seen throughout Asia. So we can't simply look to history to predict Asia's future. But we can say with confidence that no region on Earth is more demographically challenged.


For now. On its current course, the U.S. population of 310 million will continue to grow relative to that of the rest of the developed world, primarily because its birth rate, while barely at replacement level, is still higher than that of almost any other industrialized country. In purely geopolitical terms, this suggests American influence over Europe, Japan, South Korea, and other allies could grow. Yet the United States has no reason to be smug about its comparatively favorable demographics. As its allies age and even shrink in population, the United States could be forced to assume even more of the burden of policing the world's trouble spots. Like a person in middle age, the United States now has to worry not only about its own aging, but also about how to provide for other family members who are becoming too old to fend for themselves.

And age America will. The main reason for its comparative youthfulness so far has been immigration, both legal and illegal. But according to a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of illegal immigrants thought to be entering the United States has plunged to just 300,000 people annually -- down from 850,000 in the early 2000s. More than a million immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America have returned home in the last two years. These falling numbers are largely driven by the soaring U.S. unemployment rate, which has at least temporarily reduced the economic rewards of moving to El Norte, but they could herald a permanent shift.

Demographics explain why. Birth rates are falling dramatically across Latin America, especially in Mexico, suggesting a tidal shift in migration patterns. Consider what happened with Puerto Rico, where birth rates have also plunged: Immigration to the mainland United States has all but stopped despite an open border and the lure of a considerably higher standard of living on the continent. In the not-so-distant future, the United States may well find itself competing for immigrants rather than building walls to keep them out.


According to a recent Rand Corp. study published in Health Affairs, more than 40 percent of Americans ages 50 to 64 already have difficulties performing ordinary activities of daily life, such as walking a quarter mile or climbing 10 steps without resting -- a substantial rise from just 10 years ago. Because of this declining physical fitness among the middle-aged, we can expect the next generation of senior citizens to be much more impaired than the current one.

It isn't just Americans. Obesity and sedentary lifestyles are spreading globally. Between 1995 and 2000, the number of obese adults increased worldwide from 200 million to 300 million -- with 115 million of these living in developing countries. From Chile to China, McDonald's and KFC are opening franchises every day, even as people everywhere spend more and more of their time in automobiles and in front of flat-screen TVs and computer monitors. More than a billion people worldwide are now estimated to be overweight, creating a global pandemic of chronic conditions from heart disease to diabetes.





Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:17 | 975397 10kby2k
10kby2k's picture


Oh shit I shouldn't say this, but it appears the world will have to place a cap on age. Here in the US it would relieve the ss, medicare, pension problems.....there will be no retirement except by wealth. 

Whats a good number?    60? 65?

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:13 | 975741 zot23
zot23's picture

Carousel demands 35, 40 as an upper limit.  You can always run if you prefer.


Or we could bring back Roman style games and televise them.  You have to fight a deathmatch every 5 years, fighting more than one in that timeframe earns you tax breaks and sexual slaves (people who defer their fighting can spend a cycle as a slave.)  I volunteer to take on Rush Limbaugh in my first match.  We should be able to get down to 3 billion or so people in say 25 years?

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:31 | 975795 paleofartus
paleofartus's picture

Put out on the ice, old folks wouls feed large populations of polar bears would benefit, if there's any ice to put us out on. Danm conundrums.


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:16 | 975747 The Profit Prophet
The Profit Prophet's picture

In "Logan's Run", I believe the age was 30.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:50 | 975870 Lord Koos
Lord Koos's picture

What kind of faulty logic is that -- birth rate is responsible for population growth -- the boomers were already counted in.  Expectations are that we will hit around 6-7 billion and then it will fall.  Of course we've already used up most of the world's resources, so even with less people it's still not going to be pretty.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:05 | 975527 Azannoth
Azannoth's picture

I would like to have a hardened atomic fallout shelter ready till 2019

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:25 | 975232 equity_momo
equity_momo's picture

Ive got news for this guy. He needs to adjust his cycle forward at least 5 years. If we make it through next year without a black and white swan taking a giant shit on everyone and everything i'll be impressed .

Kondratieff wave cycles suggests we are due to be shat all over anytime now. 

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:33 | 975257 KickIce
KickIce's picture

Agree, inflation line will be exponential and we will continue to be crippled by high unemployment.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:33 | 975258 Johnny Lawrence
Johnny Lawrence's picture

Two swans, one cup.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:38 | 975273 Dr. Richard Head
Dr. Richard Head's picture

+an ounce

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:48 | 975306 aheady
aheady's picture


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:39 | 975281 Ragnarok
Ragnarok's picture

We've got the 2012 election coming up, I put TSHTF in spring 2013.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:31 | 975245 falak pema
falak pema's picture

how many watts to make love?

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:43 | 975291 Sophist Economicus
Sophist Economicus's picture

...let's not forget the economy version, masturbation

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:07 | 975729 Mark Medinnus
Mark Medinnus's picture

Shadowstats has a proprietary heuristic for computing over-50 watt/erections.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 20:49 | 976223 MrSteve
MrSteve's picture

All hospital gowns have this problem!

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:12 | 975553 Windemup
Windemup's picture

Depends on the manufacture of the model of vibrator.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:32 | 975255 topcallingtroll
topcallingtroll's picture

Apparently few here believe bennie can walk a tight rope, or drive
a p.o.s. car through an obstacle course.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:33 | 975259 10kby2k
10kby2k's picture

TV and survivor will

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:35 | 975260 Huck T
Huck T's picture

Spooky.  You work that Mayan deal in there somewhere and you could probably get on Coast-to-Coast. 

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:36 | 975268 Thorny Xi
Thorny Xi's picture

Hey, cut Charles some slack.  Damn few people understand the difference between power and energy.  The 10,000 Watts should read Watt hours, for a daily total of 240 kW hours.  If you commute using 4 gallon of gas a day, that's more than half of that, right there.  20kW hours are requured to deliver your 2,000 calorie par day food supply.  33.3kW hours per average home in electricity alone, per day. We produce 100 Watts per hour while consuming 10,000 Watts per hour.  Enjoy that while it lasts...

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:58 | 975910 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture

How's that work out in FRNs? ;-) - Ned

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 01:20 | 976867 dumpster
dumpster's picture

how many politicians to screw in a 75 watt bulb.

all of um.  they get the union to screw in the bulb ,  while they be screwing around in theback room


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:39 | 975282 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

I think with the rate at which time is contracting, we'll be in 2020 sometime right around 2012, if you get my drift.

Notice how everything is literally, figuratively, speeding up? Or down?


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:43 | 975289 anony
anony's picture

Jeesus, and I though I was contracting Alzheimers.

So time is accelerating.   Thank gawd.


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:54 | 975323 Byte Me
Byte Me's picture

And I thought you were anti "pharmaceuticals" where time was involved. Must be a glitch..

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:54 | 975324 johnQpublic
johnQpublic's picture

figure in the error to the calendar instigated by pope whats his name and back that out and dec21 2012 becomes oct 20th(i think) 2011

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:10 | 975380 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

october 28th perhaps?

But yes, it's all sped up. Cannot believe we are in end feb 2011.


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:40 | 975286 anony
anony's picture

What's all this bullshit about "free money"?

I haven't seen one sou of it.

Anyone else?  (Not you, Llloyd).

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 20:55 | 976239 MrSteve
MrSteve's picture

One sou? Y'all date yourself with such coinage references. Ya mean Continentals or Hudson Bay beavers, don't cha?

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:43 | 975290 SheepDog-One
SheepDog-One's picture

2020? Dream on, and good luck to most americans surviving the next 24 months, theyll need it!

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:59 | 975337 gaoptimize
gaoptimize's picture

Too bad we can't get all the regulars on record for the month TSHTF with a poll here.  Perhaps we could agree to define TSHTF when the price of an ounce of gold equals the DJI.  I have it at Jan 2013, but am planning like October 2012.  I simply can not see a way to get to 2020 with the lack of political will and urgency demonstrated lately.

"I'm going to get the hell out of town and go sleep on the streets" - Alan Simpson

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 12:43 | 977412 Council of Econ...
Council of Economic Terrorists's picture

I'm thinking 2015. I once saw a graph linked from zerohedge that showed the delta of gdp divided by the delta of debt and the graph was extrapolated out. It hit the time axis at 2015.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:45 | 975299 Sean7k
Sean7k's picture

About the only part of that essay that made sense was energy use per person and it's unsustainability. All the rest was conjecture and nonsense. 

When I look at the preparations I have made, it is energy that concerns me the most. I have food, water, clothing can be made, biodiesel can replace diesel, but access to natual gas and electricity is the hard part- because in a major dislocation, these sources will become very difficult to acquire. So much of what we use depends on having these sources.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:11 | 975376 trav7777
trav7777's picture

I have good news and bad.

The good is that we have extensive power production capacity built atop NG and NG is in relative abundance at present.

The bad news is that our transportation runs on oil and that may become increasingly scarce. 

Even in collapse, Baghdad, Argentina, etc., the lights do tend to stay on and the heat and water still flow.  There is no madmax outcome.  Driving around frivolously will become the endangered activity.

Go visit some 3rd world cities...they have electricity and cable and even internet but nobody is driving across the street for groceries like we do

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:27 | 975609 Sean7k
Sean7k's picture

I agree there shouldn't be a complete break down, but supply issues could be a pain. Farmrs may become a protected class though to guarantee production...aren't disaster scenarios fun?

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 19:21 | 975972 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

 Respectfully. What are your thoughts on the mini nuke power stations. You seem to have a good grasp on transmission. Thank you.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 21:05 | 976267 MrSteve
MrSteve's picture

The problem with mini-nukes is maxi-water for cooling. USN Boomers are very compact power plants but they pump the ocean's water (cooled to mask the heat scar) around their reactor's heat exhaust. Same problem for oil tar sands: lotsa heavy crude and needs even more water to get at it. Water is the limiting resource and no one wants to drink or water their crops with nuke-processed effluent.

The issue of non-proliferation impacts the waste disposal of nukes: dirty bombs are deadly too and we don't need any of that in the biosphere. France has been most successful with nuclear power, they are the model to start with.

Fusion would be clean, but where is it?

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 20:15 | 976129 Rusty Shorts
Rusty Shorts's picture

I love Third World countries Trav.


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:18 | 975401 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

The earth's land makes up about 149 million square km.  That is 149,000,000,000,000 square meters.

Average solar power hitting the earth's surface is 1000 watts per square meter.  So we get 149,000,000,000,000,000 watts from the sun, for free.

If 1 percent of it is useable, and if one percent of the land is used for gathering it, we get 1/10,000 of that or 14,900,000,000,000 watts from the sun.  That is 2500 watts per person for 6 Billion people.  If we can use 10 percent, and still only gather it on 1 percent of the land, that is 25,000 watts per person.

That doesn't include energy from any other sources.  Unsustainable?

Someone check my math.

The average power hitting the surface of the earth varies with location and climate, but is about 1000 watts per meter squared.
Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:47 | 975462 trav7777
trav7777's picture

awsumz...we'll just plug in our crops and hope the sun stays up 24/7

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:11 | 975545 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

I am 100% certain you have missed my point, or seek to actively minimize it without refuting it.  My point: peak oilers, consistently, imagine oil, then nothing.  They also think they understand what "big" is, but they truly don't. 

Are we ignoring the need to find power sources?  Yes.  Will that lack of attention bite us in the ass real hard?  Yes, and probably soon.  Does it portend the end of civilization, like the peak oil crowd thinks?  NOPE.

Edit: BTW, crops are grown on about 5% of earth's land.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:54 | 975693 creviceCaress
creviceCaress's picture



not so fast there home skillet, end of civilization is relative to....?  as for PO=end.civ.......maybe not....PO+ecocide+climate+population+ponzi=CODE BROWN


the peak oilers i read know this and write accordingly.....and there's no lack of awareness in developing new "power sources',  ya need oil to make those other "sources" and while the earth will never, ever, EVER run out of oil.....we will/are in any practical sense.

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 00:31 | 976755 trav7777
trav7777's picture

no, man, I just laughed at it.

crops don't grow on electricity; we eat oil these days.  There are a couple bajillion TOD threads on solar PV and solar thermal.  Don't assume you have revolutionary epiphanies for everyone here with your "the sun shines" stuff, ok?

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 20:10 | 978320 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Peak oil people make me sick.; is it the stupidity, or the arrogance?  I can't decide.  Who said anything about "revolutionary" or "epiphany?" 

Hey trav: what happens to demand for oil when the credit crunch really hits?  What happens when the deleveraging gets into full swing?  Have you ever heard of "price signals" or "substitution"?  Didn't think so.

Never mind: now be a good boy, clean your rifle and go watch "Road Warrior."

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:28 | 975614 Sean7k
Sean7k's picture

Which is why pasture fed livestock and fowl along with biodynamic farming is the future. You make use of all that free sun.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:06 | 975728 creviceCaress
creviceCaress's picture



pasture fed livestock - chk

fowl - chk

biodynamic farming - ?

       Rudy was a fantastic storyteller and knew about a lot of things, but his garden "experiments" are taken a little far these days. and while the waldorf system is better than pub ed, he had verylittle/none study in child development.


try natural farming(fukuoka) +permaculture + organic + whatever else that works and you'll have killer long as you can hide it

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:25 | 975768 Diplodicus Rex
Diplodicus Rex's picture

Here's a few thoughts for starters:

Does the 1000W/m2 average include the fact that half the earth is in permanent shadow? We still consume energy during the hours of darkness. Therefore, we need systems to store energy during the daylight hours and release during the nighttime hours. What energy storage systems are available. Batteries are the worng answer.

The 1000W/m2 average will be a peak on the equator of some much larger value falling off as the cosine of the latitude in both hemispheres. The incidence will be highest in the regions with the lower population density and medium to low in the areas of lower population density. Therefore, you must find a way to transport the gathered energy from one latitude and deliver it to another, globally. Hint, electricity is very inefficient to transmit large distances.

"If 1 percent of it is useable, and if one percent of the land is used for gathering it" There's a problem righ there. Where do you get those figures from? What on earth makes you think that you can capture 1% of the radiant energy incident on the earth's surface? That is a huge number. The practically achievable number is many orders of magnitude less.

The intensity of the incidence of the energy on the earths surface is diurnal centered around midday. This pattern does not match our energy consumption  pattern. Therefore the peak energy incidence must be stored and then released to match the usage pattern. What storage mechanisms do we currently have today. Batteries are again the wrong answer.

I'll think of some more as this glass of wine goes down


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 20:36 | 976182 Hulk
Hulk's picture

But where will all the hot chicks tan? We have no practical energy storage devices.  Our most effective energy storage is in superconducting magnetic fields, but again, not practical...

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 00:33 | 976757 trav7777
trav7777's picture

you missed your chance to use the word "insolation".  Never miss an opportunity to use a high-dollar word and make the people reading you feel stupid

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:54 | 975889 Diplodicus Rex
Diplodicus Rex's picture

The other point that most miss is the sheer quantity of energy delivered to mankind through the use of oil.

We use approx 85mbpd. Each barrel contains 1.7MWh of energy. In total, oil gives us 1.445e14Wh/day. Your estimate above equates to 3.58e14Wh per day. On the surface, the incident energy looks to be about 2.5 times what we get from oil. Howver, as I said above the 1% and 1% estimates above are grossly exaggerated. thats a big hole to fill.


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 20:38 | 976185 Hulk
Hulk's picture

We haven't missed the energy density of oil, been talking about it since zh came online. No way  at present to replace oil...

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 21:42 | 976350 SF beatnik
SF beatnik's picture

SWR: The EROEIs on these "other sources" are sobering.

Photovoltaics, for example: they consume almost as much energy as they produce over projected plant lifespans - hopeless!

Couple thoughts....

First, the flab factor. We in the US use energy extravagantly and could make do with much a lower rate of consumption.

Second, large scale war might reduce the, er, human footprint. Think China. The only way we lazy slobs in the US will be able to compete with the Chinese (unless we transform ourselves) is in war.

Think nukes...and that only within a certain window of opportunity. Our geopolitcal strategists surely understand this.

Get your bugout kits ready!

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 22:44 | 976515 pvzh
pvzh's picture

Solar panels need rare earths and lots of them (little per panel, but since you want to cover percents of land surface, it will require monumental amounts). Problems with rare earths that their ore deposits are rare (elements themselves are relatively abundant), and extraction and processing these ores are quite dirty processes. Up to now there were relatively little demand for them (we have not tried to cover percents of land surface with solar panels yet), and Chinese were kind enough to mine them for us (China supplied over 90% of them). If we do attempt the monumental feat that you suggest, it will be completely different economy of solar energy all together, and not so attractive in my view.

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 00:36 | 976764 trav7777
trav7777's picture

the people who discuss transition to renewables or other energy sources once they stipulate to peak oil seem to forget that the constituents of these new technologies also have peak supply issues.

Uranium and thorium will eventually peak.  Rare earths needed for PVs will eventually peak.

There is no way around the growth problem.  We must FIRST address that before even trying to figure out the sustainability question for post-growth.

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 13:24 | 977468 Nootropic
Nootropic's picture

Integral fast reactors and water sifting for uranium/thorium should last humanity a good few thousand years. 

Not all solar requires rare earth elements, either which happens to be a misnomer.

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 14:50 | 977618 Matt
Matt's picture

I think you do not understand. the problem is demand-side, not supply-side. As long as growth is dependant on increased consumption, no amount of energy will ever be 'enough', and no source of energy will last long enough. No matter how much energy you create, someone will think of new ways to consume more - private jets, cruise ships, flying cars, and on and on it goes.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:49 | 975307 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

 Well maybe the singularity will be reached around that time, and the cyborgs can take over.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:02 | 975347 gaoptimize
gaoptimize's picture

The efficiency coming out of an economic reset will likely accelerate the Kurzweil Singularity. I'm hoping to before 2035.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:49 | 975309 Population Bubble
Population Bubble's picture

Chris talks doom and gloom, then says he is not a doom and gloomer and mutters some platitude about how "we will be okay."

Well, some of us will be okay.  Most of us will be dead.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:52 | 975315 SheepDog-One
SheepDog-One's picture

Exactly. How people can project past whats going on just today and conclude we'll all be OK in 2022 just boggles the mind. As I wrote above, good luck for most of us living another year or 2.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:08 | 975370 gaoptimize
gaoptimize's picture

SheepDog:  I'm disapointed by your pesimistic attitude about surviving.  You sound like a prepper to me, and your odds should be better than most.  If you can invision what will kill you, take measures to protect yourself.  I would not put up with your kind of talk among the people with me.  Morale will be essential.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:38 | 975642 Alienated Serf
Alienated Serf's picture

the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 19:09 | 975944 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture

u been there 2?

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:51 | 975312 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

Charles Hugh Smith

Your credit/debt mountain is very spot on though I disagree with your cycles, more like the 42 year recession/depression cycle is the operative one and you don't include the 42!

Where I disagree is your 'Peak Oil' hysteria. The number of countries that are finding their own reserves of oil increase by the year. The number of wells increase by the year. We have never had so much oil, even the Saudis are only pumping at 50% capacity. We have oil, gas and coal coming out of our ears, we are drowning in vast quantities of hydrocarbon energy resources. That is a fact.

As for your alternative energy, all are in the region of 400% more expensive per KW. Forget it when we have plentiful energy for 100's of years nicely stored in the ground to ship out and deliver just-in-time. Come to Spain which is partially bankrupt because of their loonatic leftie fringe alternative energy strategy, it's beyond a joke mate  

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:03 | 975356 Thorny Xi
Thorny Xi's picture

Peak Oil Hysteria?  Please present your evidence that the Saudis' are pumping at 50% capacity, or any other audited data verifying Saudi reserves and production capabilty.  There isn't any outside of the Saudi Aramco office, and it's former head says the publicly released data is overstated by a lot.  He's said it for years.  But do post your data, since you're so confident. 

As for alternatve energy, there's no substitute for crude oil's power density and cost.  Glad you enjoyed it.  I'll enjoy my solar and hydro energy for the next 30 years, after you're long dead from exposure and starvation, mate.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:06 | 975359 That Peak Oil Guy
That Peak Oil Guy's picture

You are right that alternative energy is an inadequate substitute for fossil fuels; the energy density is nowhere near as good, never mind the expense.

You are wrong about Peak Oil.  What matters is flow rates.  Because we are getting oil from more and smaller fields and extreme environments but the crude is lower quality the flow rates can't be sustained.

Look at it like you have a million dollars in the bank but you are only allowed to withdraw $500 a month.  You may be a millionaire but you won't live like one.

Also, you have to worry about the fact that oil exporting nations are using more oil for themselves and their growing populations and economies.  This leaves fewer exports for us.


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:11 | 975382 trav7777
trav7777's picture

you're freakin delusional dude

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:06 | 975533 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture


i'm junking you. You are delusional. You are hysterical in both senses of the word. Oil is pouring out of the Earths crust by the Abiotic process. We have more oil, coal and gas than we could ever want (ie. it is infinite for mans purposes). We will never run out in our lifetimes or our childrens or for 1,000 years. 

Every 40 years when there's a major recession on and oil prices peak loons like you come out of the woodwork. You're not new or original. You're a genetic broken record (check newspapers in the 70's oil emergency for your distant cousins). 

Now go and do your research, properly this time, and STFU

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:54 | 975888 Rusty Shorts
Rusty Shorts's picture

Could you please post the evidence for this "Abiotic Oil"? cause I really would like to see that.


The last time I looked, all the oil that has been pumped out of the ground since ~1859 has been biotic in origin.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 19:10 | 975946 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture

Ya, and I'd like the ticker symbol as well. - Ned

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 20:53 | 976236 Hulk
Hulk's picture

Time for you to go to school:

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 00:42 | 976773 trav7777
trav7777's picture


Dipshit, are you or are you not aware that US oil production DID actually peak 40 years ago?

Does it stand to you to reason that as landmasses such as the US sequentially peak in turn around the earth that we may run out of surface area at some point?  Are you clueless enough not to know that over 54 of the top 65 oil producing nations have already hit peak production and are in decline?  Mexico in 2004.  USSR in 1989.  UK in 2000.  Indonesia in 2000...the list goes ON and ON.

Oil peaked in the US.  It has peaked in other countries.  Sooner or later, it will peak in ALL countries.  Then what?

As far as "running out" of oil, if you are too stupid to understand the difference between a peak in supply and a reserves number of 0, then don't fucking deign to SPEAK on this topic, ok?

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 14:07 | 977540 Matt
Matt's picture

ok I am totally willing to accept the idea that oil is formed abiotically, makes sense. I think it is even possible that the oil is regenerating. We take hydrocarbons out of the earth. first question: How does hydrogen and carbon get sucked back down several miles underground, without any oxygen coming along for the ride?

Second, let's say the oil can regenerate at the speed we are currently extracting it. That still means we are at a peak speed at which we can withdraw the oil from the earth, or even if you dispute that, you must agree that at some point, there is a maximum rate at which the Earth can create new oil, and as a result, a maximum rate at which we can withdraw the oil. Or do you believe that oil will always be created equal to the rate it is consumed, allowing for infinite oil production and consumption?


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 15:55 | 975316 Caviar Emptor
Caviar Emptor's picture

Here's a simple perspective that's been unappreciated: the older generations in the developed countries are locked in to the pre-crisis price structure: their homes, businesses, and other assets (stocks) were purchased during the boom and priced accordingly. Once the tipping point is reached, and the pricing structure of what was booming before collapses, who are the older generation going to sell their homes and assets to? 

That's what happened in Japan beginning in 1990 (the first domino and harbinger for the rest of the developed world): real estate, stocks and other assets were priced high during the boom (during their 'new paradigm'). Once the boom was over there were not enough qualified buyers in the new generation who could afford the old pricing structure. That's why they've been deflating for 2 decades and still are as the population ages and other problems happen as well. 

In the US we're facing a similar pre/post boom and old/new generation situation. Look for the trend to continue. Selling pressure for real estate will intensify as time goes on, and the supply of new qualified buyers, with declining real incomes and part-time or no-time employment, will be constrained. Surging commodities and life necessities will amplify the trend


Sat, 02/19/2011 - 14:13 | 977554 Matt
Matt's picture

Haircuts for mortgage holders seems a reasonable solution to me. just slash the values of the mortgages 50% and lower the debtors' payments accordingly.

Otherwise, it is a self-reinforcing spiral that could last decades. Short term pain for long term gain.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:02 | 975342 gwar5
gwar5's picture

We are still the Saudi Arabia of coal and gas, and we can do nuclear. And we still have oil. We need to use them all to pay for the transition to the next generation technology.

Let's get out of the fetal position and stop thinking about living in huts already. We can always do steam generators until we hit peak firewood.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:09 | 975372 That Peak Oil Guy
That Peak Oil Guy's picture

Keep your hands off my forests, motherfucker.


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:10 | 975378 Caviar Emptor
Caviar Emptor's picture

Our oil production covers less than 40% of our consumption. We don't have the needed infrastructure to extract, process, store, distribute or even burn coal and nat gas to meet the needs of the economy. It takes years of investment and trial and error to get that ramped up to where it could replace the setup for oil. Nuclear takes years too and uranium is in short supply. 

Bottom line: the economy can't grow without more oil. Any change would involve cutting demand and use of energy significantly for an undetermined period of time and would cost big money to set up. Nobody is willing to go through that. 

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:30 | 975422 Shell Game
Shell Game's picture

..and why exactly does the economy have to grow?

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:35 | 975444 abc123
abc123's picture


...but you know the answer is human nature

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:57 | 975489 Caviar Emptor
Caviar Emptor's picture

Don't be naive. The minute there's negative growth we have a depression and massive unemployment, capital flight, cash hoarding and CRAshing markets just to name a few. All bets are off where and in what condition the country would end up. But politics would go extreme overnight and business would plummet. In 08 with only moderate contraction of growth capital markets were totally frozen, businesses couldn't get money to roll debt and the stock market crashed by half. And there wasn't a permanent energy crisis. Past oil shocks were spooky events but you may not ahve been there

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:37 | 975637 Sean7k
Sean7k's picture

I think you may be the one that is naive here. Negative growth and depression/deflation could BE our future and we would survive just fine- at a lower standard of living in "today's terms". It could end up being a better standard of living.

The best opportunities for energy are in reduction in use. Efficiencies in transportation. Elimination of suburban living where people commute to jobs. Mass transit. Less consumption and quality over quantity. 

I lived through the oil shocks- we had to wait in lines, killer. There is no valid argument for continuous growth at any cost. We have choices to make. Should we keep printing more money and creating more credit, because more is better? 

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 00:12 | 976715 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

De-growth. The other, white growth?

Well said all around sean7K


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:14 | 975389 tarsubil
tarsubil's picture

Isn't there an unlimited supply of energy in space? Too bad NASA is working on boosting self esteem of sand people.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:14 | 975392 Thorny Xi
Thorny Xi's picture

Total propaganda.  Peak coal energy density passed in the 90's.  Shale gas well production is - based on Colorado's results - coming in at about 10% of what was sold to investors.  No credit left to convert the vehicle base to 2400psi gas, nor is there money to build the infrastructure needed at the scale required for today's lifestyle. Nuclear?  Yeah, get right on that.  For what?  Electric cars?

This country's energy policy for 30 years has been "troops."  Troops everywhere ther's an oil field.  The troops burn almost 1MM imported barrels a day alone, watching the oil wells worldwide.  Good luck with that in the future.

@Gwar?  Steam generators burning wood?  Ever seen a western coal train?  Over a mile long, dense packed coal - and a 1000MMW plant burns through one train per WEEK.  20 railcars of coal a day per average plant.  Got trees?

Huts will be all people who deny reality deserve, and more than most get.




Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:16 | 975393 trav7777
trav7777's picture

u stoned?  Peak forests was achieved long ago.  We are capable now of cutting them down far faster than they grow back.

As for nuclear, we need thousands of plants.  Nuclear is already 20% of generation capacity.  Coal is most of the rest.  A bit is NG and a smaller fraction is hydro.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:13 | 975548 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture


Nuclear is up to 400% more expensive per KW than a gas or coal fired power station to produce. It cannot compete, like lunatic fringe green energy. Nuclear needs to be propped up by Govt subsidies to compete with hydrocarbons which we cannot afford. If we went nuclear we would also go bankrupt. Your proposition is economically unviable, unprofitable, unsustainable and unwelcome, thanks for asking

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:16 | 975748 THE DORK OF CORK
THE DORK OF CORK's picture

I just don't get this argument - yes its capital intensive but in this world of speculation that is a good thing - less money racing around looking for a "Yield".

Modern nuke stations will run for 60 years or more - thats real wealth baby.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 19:24 | 975985 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture


"Nuclear is up to 400% more expensive per KW than a gas or coal fired power station to produce."

nyet, tovarich.  Old-dirty coal and nuclear are at like $0.035/kw-h cost.  Solar up around $0.12, wind north of there.  Let alone capacity factor.  New, clean coal might add a cent per to the cost.

But I'll trade sources with you if you have any real sources.  Mine are like Florida's regulated cost numbers for FPL and Progress Energy.

Nuclear gov't subsidies?  If you are talking about loan guarantees for four leading units, yep.  But the utilities pay the freight for licensing at all levels.  Please explicate with actual references here as well.

"If we went nuclear we would also go bankrupt."

Ya, the examples of France and Japan come directly to mind.  I'll grant you that "Madame Non" is doing her best in France to BK the country, but Sarkozy (and I'm sure Carla) have her number.

with eager anticipation;

- Ned

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 21:07 | 976222 THE DORK OF CORK
THE DORK OF CORK's picture

The US has the global reserve currency so at least until recently you could afford to spend whatever you wanted on mindless consumption.

The rest of the planet had to deal with the reality of buying raw materials such as coal using inferior currencies - also both France and Japan had / have poor quality or no coal.

Also the $IMF dollar even now seriously undervalues resourses so I do not pay much attention to those prices - indeed if France cancelled its programme in the 1980s it would be a far poorer place even though the short term price structure of the time suggested that such technological investment was a waste - apparently 1980s cultural icons was capable of more wealth generation.

Both France and Japan made strategic decisions that were independent of the cost structure of nuclear build in the 70s and 80s - this was frowned on  by a UK swimming in oil.

Sinking money into capital structures  such these is true saving - many of these reactors will perhaps be operating for another 4 decades.

Try to divorce yourself from the $ matrix ,cleanse your mindset and imagine that you are a man capable of buying entire countries - I would suggest that a France without its 58 reactors would be a lot cheaper to buy even with its good agricultural land.

The UK however with its blight of suburbs built from North sea wealth is just a waste of agricultural land - it ain't productive baby


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 20:47 | 976216 Hulk
Hulk's picture


Sat, 02/19/2011 - 00:45 | 976779 trav7777
trav7777's picture

so you are really so stupid you can't read eh?

I was not advocating nuclear power as a mitigation.  Nuclear will come anyway, but uranium and thorium will also peak.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:18 | 975573 Calmyourself
Calmyourself's picture

Generic cookie cutter plants thorium salts or similar.  Reprocess fuel screw jimmah cahter.  Solve it?  No, but it will really help if elec power drops in price rapidly within 5 years.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:46 | 975661 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

once this peak in commodity prices blows over, and it will shortly and with a speed few will be ready for, energy input costs will come down significantly. Step 1 complete.

Step 2 is to open the energy market to real free market competition. That involves removing Washington from the criminal protection racket they are running to protect the big (monopolistic) energy companies (we have the exact same 'Club Parasite' collusion and corruption in Europe). 

That means binning all energy regulations to allow any company to enter the energy sector. It means binning all building laws that restrict the siting of new energy plants by these new competitors. And finally binning the regulations and entire Dept of Marxist manglers at the EPA.

Then we have a free competitive market with the protected big fat corrupt diseased dinosaurs open to competition and being slowly ripped to shreds by these new entrants. Then you will have the double-wammy benefit of both cheap energy and competition to chase you for your business and serve you the consumer and not serve them the fat cats. Monopolists dirty game broken, free market floods in, job done  

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 00:48 | 976789 trav7777
trav7777's picture

damn you are just...dumb.

Where will the oil come from, Mars?  the vast majority of oil-producers are in decline, moron.

Idiots like you simply can't grasp real world issues, can you?  You think hunger causes a sandwich

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 14:57 | 977632 Matt
Matt's picture

Obviously the oil will come from Titan. Fusion-powered spaceships using helium-3 from the moon will tanker the oil from Titan to Earth.

But slightly more seriously, you must realize you are replying to the poster who earlier in this thread stated that he/she believes that the Earth has, for practical intents and purposes, infinite oil. I think Zero Govt may be one of the most successful trolls around. 

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 14:38 | 977595 Matt
Matt's picture

sweet, I, with no qualifications in the field whatsoever, would love the opportunity to start up my own energy company, with no regulations restricting me regarding safety, the environment, etc.

"I am Andrew Ryan, and I am here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?

'No,' says the man in Washington, 'it belongs to the poor.'
'No,' says the man in the Vatican, 'it belongs to God.'
'No,' says the man in Moscow, 'it belongs to everyone.'

I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose...


A city where the artist would not fear the censor,
where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality,
where the great would not be constrained by the small.

And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city, as well.

?Andrew Ryan


Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:03 | 975354 zaknick
zaknick's picture

2020?? This shit is going down now.... WTF, this guy always seems to be spot on but he's missing the boat on the starting gun to financial meltdown, FRN death rattle and WWIII..... WTF ????

Just look at ZH's Twitter feed for today.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:16 | 975394 thetruth
thetruth's picture

Using "cycles" as a method of prediction in economics just doesn't make sense.  We have what, 150 years of manipulated (mostly) data?


what a joke

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:19 | 975403 Sathington Willougby
Sathington Willougby's picture

Bring me the process that stopped which means peak oil.  That is, what is the rate of oil being produced by geological processes?  If you can't answer that then peak oil makes no sense.  We can hardly quantify how much we are using given the manipulation etc.

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 15:01 | 977642 Matt
Matt's picture

Question the First: How does the Hydrogen and Carbon get back down into the Earth to be made back into oil, without any Oxygen being mixed in?

Question the Second: Do you understand the concept of exponential growth?

Question the Third: What is your favourite colour?

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:24 | 975413 Hugh_Jorgan
Hugh_Jorgan's picture

"Well, when you add up all our calories and then you add up the energy needed to run the computer and the air-conditioner, you get an incredibly large number, somewhere around 11,000 watts. Now you can ask yourself: What kind of animal requires 11,000 watts to live? And what you find is that we have created a lifestyle where we need more watts than a blue whale. We require more energy than the biggest animal that has ever existed. That is why our lifestyle is unsustainable."


WTF? More pearls of wisdom from the brain-dead Secular Humanist left.

Any time we start to compare ourselves to animals, we start down the same road that the Nazis and the Progressive Eugenics program took Europe. We are in for massive human atrocities if we don't stop listening to the atheist Liberal elitists mouthpieces.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:49 | 975480 trav7777
trav7777's picture

wtf is wrong with eugenics?  Why should we condemn the cretins to a future of starvation?  Likewise, humanity as an institution, cannot afford to have itself breeded back into the stone ages by cretins.

genocide of inferior populations is in fact an evolutionary MANDATE

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:48 | 975556 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

You're digging a hole for yourself, my advise is stop digging

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 00:50 | 976795 trav7777
trav7777's picture

STFU it not "advice" where you come from?

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:26 | 975607 abc123
abc123's picture

got your terms mixed up there, Darwin...

I think you mean "predation", not "genocide". 

Jeez, get a girlfriend!

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 00:56 | 976806 trav7777
trav7777's picture


Superior species like cro magnon displaced neandarthal.  There are many evolutionary dead ends where inferior species were completely displaced over time by superior ones.

Are there any dinosaurs left?  Inferior species must give way to superior ones; it's as simple as that.  We should not cry when populations with IQs averaging 70 are displaced by those averaging 100...this is simply the natural order of things.

Now, of course, you people here know that I am fucking with your brains because you cannot dispute anything I say on logical grounds, yet what I am saying still seems just so very wrong to you.  That is an artifact of psychological conditioning.  IOW, you've been brainwashed.

Much of what people cling to as self-evident truth is in fact complete bullshit.  Mother nature is brutally cold and doesn't give a shit if every injun and african dies anymore than she cared when the entire dinosaur population was wiped out or the precambrian extinction eliminated 90% of species.  The natural order of things will not be abeyed indefinitely.

Oh, and I have several girlfriends

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 21:32 | 976327 Dyler Turden II Esq
Dyler Turden II Esq's picture

Yah, Herr Trav! Vee must eliminate the untermensch -- the cretins UNFIT TO LIVE!

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 01:06 | 976826 trav7777
trav7777's picture

they're going to die anyway.

Look around this board, there are people building bunkers and salivating for madmax.

If there is a material decline in oil supply, this means starvation.  Who is having food riots?  The 3rd world.  Who is starving?  The 3rd world.  Christ, wake up.

Cretins should not be executed; they should merely not reproduce.  There is no point in condemning more billions to starvation and disease.  I am actually significantly MORE compassionate and humane in making this recommendation.

A new Manhattan Project will not be led by cretins nor helped by diversity.

Let me put this out as a thought experiment...would you bleeding hearts actually be in FAVOR of people with inadequate ability to feed themselves having additional offspring which will also starve?  What is the ethical thing to do?  As soon as you suggest sterilization, they call you a what is YOUR solution?  Let the little bastards get eaten by flies, huh?  Or that famous pulitzer pic where the dying baby was getting eyeballed by a nearby vulture?

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 05:41 | 977068 Dyler Turden II Esq
Dyler Turden II Esq's picture

"so what is YOUR solution?"

Well, for starters, I don't need a solution to the population problem. That problem is solving itself, as you should know. Fertility is dropping off a cliff, everywhere except Africa. World population should stabilize at about mid-century.

As for cretinism, (if you're speaking literally), that is a problem caused by nutritional deficiency, principally iodine and selenium. The world is well on its way to solving those problems.

Regarding "a material decline in oil supply...means starvation".  This is wrong, as you surely know. Oil is wasted in vast quantities, plenty to power agricultural uses for centuries. (Assuming that it is necessary to have large oil supplies for agriculture, which it is not. Oil-powered industrial agriculture is, as you know, only ONE way to go, and not a good one.) Starvation is in no way inevitable. On the other hand, it is certainly LIKELY. The important thing is to understand why. It is not because oil is running low. It is because of the greed and intransigence of the rich. (That's us.)

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 15:12 | 977660 Matt
Matt's picture

You could incentivize people to get sterilized, by offering them money to do so. Plenty of teenage boys would think its a great idea to get paid a few thousand dollars and eliminate the risk of becoming a teen parent. Sure, a decade or two later they might regret it, but oh well. People will be more ready to accept a choice, then be forced into being sterilized.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 19:35 | 976015 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture

Hugh (and an impressive piece of meat it is!):

"...we start down the same road that the Nazis and the Progressive Eugenics program took Europe."

And, one might add Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood, e.g.:

I know this is really insensitive and mean spirited, but, well, she is quoted as saying:

'On blacks, immigrants and indigents:
"...human weeds,' 'reckless breeders,' 'spawning... human beings who never should have been born."  Margaret Sanger,
Pivot of Civilization, referring to immigrants and poor people'

Kinda' why I was wondering, in the article, how he expects to get world population to 300MM.

- Ned

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:27 | 975418 THE DORK OF CORK
THE DORK OF CORK's picture

Just replace the credit money with base money and watch the world re localise ... or collapse.............. - transcontinental trade is now absurd.


Sat, 02/19/2011 - 15:17 | 977667 Matt
Matt's picture

Do you think Ireland would be able to produce its own semi-conductors, fibre-optics, medicine, etc using locally sourced materials, or would you prefer to revert to a medieval existence?

The problem, I feel, is that globalization is needed to produce much of the high-tech stuff we use today, but it is also used unneccessarily to ship clothes, toys and food items all over the place, out of convenience rather than need.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:29 | 975423 the grateful un...
the grateful unemployed's picture

the people who see this as the end of the american empire are missing it all. in the event of a global collapse we have everything, including the best political system, educational system, and (most creative) financial institutions. The point is we have spread ourselves too thin, waiting for the american model to take hold. The poor bastards in China are never going to get anything, until we go in there and open their markets, like we did in Japan. in financial collapse we can outlast everyone, including europe, which mistakenly took on several million muslim refugees. christ we don't even want the mexicans, and they have better family values, and a better work ethic than we do. but at least we don't have their problem, jihadists born in your country.

the crisis is simple enough, america decides to take care of america and let the rest of the world figure out their own problems. call it isolationist policy, part II, but you can see it coming, the haters are everywhere, they hate muslims, liberals, unionists, they would hate themselves if they saw their image in a mirror. the door shuts, and the victim in all this the liberal progressive group which believes in world peace, tree hugging buddhist hippies. america is going to be tough, closed, fortress america. (this is not an advocate position, just a prediction) the roman empire went through hundreds of lesser iterations, and we are better at it than they were, and not nearly as corrupt or secular.

the next age of american empire is at the ready.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 16:33 | 975438 primefool
primefool's picture

Brilliant post - totally agree. The "empire will collapse imminently" types - have never travelled or lived abroad. This country's strengths are not that obvious to folks who have always lived in a 10 mile radius of where they were born.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 19:05 | 975931 the grateful un...
the grateful unemployed's picture

there are a number of rich and successful expats, who made their money here, and who deride the system. being any American expat is likely to be challenging situation if we pull in our borders.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 21:34 | 976334 Dyler Turden II Esq
Dyler Turden II Esq's picture

Yes, brillilant post -- if you ignore resources.


Sat, 02/19/2011 - 15:20 | 977673 Matt
Matt's picture

What resources is America lacking?

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 17:04 | 975522 Impetuous
Impetuous's picture

I believe, as is the general theme of this site, that there are and will be consequences for this country's sloppy and short-sighted economic and political actions. These consequences concern me. But, like you state, I am less concerned about the consequences of these consequences, or in other words, these consequences will more likely wake people up to what is happening around them. At that point this whole situation can turn on a dime.

Fri, 02/18/2011 - 18:52 | 975883 the grateful un...
the grateful unemployed's picture

yes and i would say that this awareness will be the catalyst of great action, the correction of injustice, and a cleansing of the excesses, and our generosity is a first symptom of our excess. America has lived on debt, its only reasonable that savings (miserliness) counterbalances that.

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