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Guest Post: Limits to Growth - At Our Doorstep, But Not Recognized

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Submitted by Gail Tverberg via Our Finite World blog,

How long can economic growth continue in a finite world? This is the question the 1972 book The Limits to Growth by Donella Meadows and others sought to answer. The computer models that the team of researchers produced strongly suggested that the world economy would collapse sometime in the first half of the 21st century.

 

I have been researching what the real situation is with respect to resource limits since 2005. The conclusion I am reaching is that the team of 1972 researchers were indeed correct. In fact, the promised collapse is practically right around the corner, beginning in the next year or two. In fact, many aspects of the collapse appear already to be taking place, such as the 2008-2009 Great Recession and the collapse of the economies of smaller countries such as Greece and Spain. How could collapse be so close, with virtually no warning to the population?

To explain the situation, I will first explain why we are reaching Limits to Growth in the near term.  I will then provide a list of nine reasons why the near-term crisis has been overlooked.

Why We are Reaching Limits to Growth in the Near Term

In simplest terms, our problem is that we as a people are no longer getting richer. Instead, we are getting poorer, as evidenced by the difficulty young people are now having getting good-paying jobs. As we get poorer, it becomes harder and harder to pay debt back with interest. It is the collision of the lack of economic growth in the real economy with the need for economic growth from the debt system that can be expected to lead to collapse.

The reason we are getting poorer is because hidden parts of our economy are now absorbing more and more resources, leaving fewer resources to produce the goods and services we are used to buying. These hidden parts of our economy are being affected by depletion. For example, it now takes more resources to extract oil. This is why oil prices have more than tripled since 2002. It also takes more resource for many other hidden processes, such as deeper wells or desalination to produce water, and more energy supplies to produce metals from low-grade ores.

The problem as we reach all of these limits is a shortage of physical investment capital, such as oil, copper, and rare earth minerals. While we can extract more of these, some, like oil, are used in many ways, to fix many depletion problems. We end up with too many demands on oil supply–there is not enough oil to both (1) offset the many depletion issues the world economy is hitting, plus (2) add new factories and extraction capability that is needed for the world economy to grow.

With too many demands on oil supply, “economic growth” is what tends to get shorted. Countries that obtain a large percentage of their energy supply from oil tend to be especially affected because high oil prices tend to make the products these countries produce unaffordable. Countries with a long-term decline in oil consumption, such as the US, European Union, and Japan, find themselves in recession or very slow growth.

Figure 1. Oil consumption based on BP's 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Figure 1. Oil consumption based on BP’s 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Unfortunately, the problem this appears eventually to lead to, is collapse. The problem is the connection with debt. Debt can be paid back with interest to a much greater extent in a growing economy than a contracting economy because we are effectively borrowing from the future–something that is a lot easier when tomorrow is assumed to be better than today, compared to when tomorrow is worse than today.

We could not operate our current economy without debt. Debt is what has allowed us to “pump up” economic growth. Consumers can buy cars, homes, and college educations that they have not saved up for. Businesses can set up factories and do mineral extraction, without having past profits to finance these operations. We can now operate with long supply chains, including many businesses that are dependent on debt financing. The ability to use debt allows vastly more investment than if potential investors could only the use of after-the-fact profits.

If we give up our debt-based economic system, we lose our ability to extract even the oil and other resources that appear to be easily available. We can have a simple, local economy, perhaps dependent on wood as it primary fuel source, without debt. But it seems unlikely that we can have a world economy that will provide food and shelter for 7.2 billion people.

The reason the situation is concerning is because the financial situation now seems to be near a crisis. Debt, other than government debt, has not been growing very rapidly since  2008. The government has tried to solve this problem by keeping interest rates very low using Quantitative Easing (QE). Now the government is cutting back in the amount of QE.  If interest rates should rise very much, we will likely see recession again and many layoffs. If this should happen, debt defaults are likely to be a problem and credit availability will dry up as it did in late 2008. Without credit, prices of all commodities will drop, as they did in late 2008. Without the temporary magic of QE, new investment, even in oil, will drop way off. Government will need to shrink back in size and may even collapse.

In fact, we are already having a problem with oil prices that are too low to encourage oil production. (See my post, What’s Ahead? Lower Oil Prices, Despite Higher Extraction Costs.) Other commodities are also trading at flat to lower price levels. The concern is that these lower prices will lead to deflation. With deflation, debt is strongly discouraged because it raises the “inflation adjusted” cost of borrowing. If a deflationary debt cycle is started, there could be a huge drop in debt over a few years. This would be a different way to reach collapse.

Why couldn’t others see the problem that is now at our door step?

1. The story is a complicated, interdisciplinary story. Even trying to summarize it in a few paragraphs is not easy. Most people, if they have a background in oil issues, do not also have a background in financial issues, and vice versa.

2. Economists have missed key points. Economists have missed the key role of debt in extracting fossil fuels and in keeping the economy operating in general. They have also missed the fact that in a finite world, this debt cannot keep rising indefinitely, or it will grow to greatly exceed the physical resources that might be used to pay back the debt.

Economists have missed the fact that resource depletion acts in a way that is equivalent to a huge downward drag on productivity. Minerals need to be separated from more and more waste products, and energy sources need to be extracted in ever-more-difficult locations. High energy prices, whether for oil or for electricity, are a sign of economic inefficiency. If energy prices are high, they act as a drag on the economy.

Economists have missed the key role oil plays–a role that is not easily substituted away. Our transportation, farming and construction industries are all heavily dependent on oil. Many products are made with oil, from medicines to fabrics to asphalt.

Economists have assumed that wages can grow without energy inputs, but recent experience shows the economies with shrinking oil use are ones with shrinking job opportunities. Economists have built models claiming that prices will rise to handle shortages, either through substitution or demand destruction, but they have not stopped to consider how destructive this demand destruction can be for an economy that depends on oil use to manufacture and transport goods.

Economists have missed the point that globalization speeds up depletion of resources and increases CO2 emissions, because it adds a huge number of new consumers to the world market.

Economists have also missed the fact that wages are hugely important for keeping economies operating. If wages are cut, either because of competition with low-wage workers in warm countries (who don’t need as high a wages to maintain a standard of living, because they do not need sturdy homes or fuel to heat the homes) or because of automation, economic growth is likely to slow or fall. Corporate profits are not a substitute for wages.

3. Peak Oil advocates have missed key points. Peak oil advocates are a diverse group, so I cannot really claim all of them have the same views.

One common view is that just because oil, or coal, or natural gas seems to be available with current technology, it will in fact be extracted. This is closely related to the view that “Hubbert’s Peak” gives a reasonable model for future oil extraction. In this model, it is assumed that about 50% of extraction occurs after the peak in oil consumption takes place. Even Hubbert did not claim this–his charts always showed another fuel, such as nuclear, rising in great quantity before fossil fuels dropped in supply.

In the absence of a perfect substitute, the drop-off can be expected to be very steep. This happens because population rises as fossil fuel use grows. As fossil fuel use declines, citizens suddenly become much poorer. Government services must be cut way back, and government may even collapse. There is likely to be huge job loss, making it difficult to afford goods. There may be fighting over what limited supplies are available.What Hubbert’s curve shows is something like an upper limit for production, if the economy continues to function as it currently does, despite the disruption that loss of energy supplies would likely bring.

A closely related issue is the belief that high oil prices will allow some oil to be produced indefinitely. Salvation can therefore be guaranteed by using less oil. First of all, the belief that oil prices can rise high enough is being tested right now. The fact that oil prices aren’t high enough is causing oil companies to cut back on new projects, instead returning money to shareholders as dividends. If the economy starts shrinking because of lower oil extraction, a collapse in credit is likely to lead to even lower prices, and a major cutback in production.

4. Excessive faith in substitution. A common theme by everyone from economists to peak oilers to politicians is that substitution will save us.

There are several key points that advocates miss. One is that if a financial crash is immediately ahead, our ability to substitute disappears, practically overnight (or at least, within a few years).

Another key point is that today’s real shortage is of investment capitalin the form of oil and other natural resources needed to manufacture the new natural gas powered cars and the fueling stations they need. A similar shortage of investment capital plagues plans to change to electric cars. Wage-earners of modest means cannot afford high-priced plug in vehicles, especially if the change-over is so fast that the value of their current vehicle drops to $0.

Another key point is that the alternatives we looking at are limited in supply as well. We use far more oil than natural gas; trying to substitute natural gas for oil will lead to a shortfall in natural gas supplies quickly. Ramping up electric cars, solar, and wind will lead to a shortage of the rare earth minerals and other minerals needed in their production. While more of these minerals can be accessed by using lower quality ore, doing so leads to precisely the investment capital shortfall that is our problem to begin with.

Another key point is that electricity does not substitute for oil, because of the huge need for investment capital (which is what is in short supply) to facilitate the change. There is also a timing issue.

Another key point is that intermittent electricity does not substitute for electricity whose supply can be easily regulated. What intermittent electricity substitutes for is the fossil fuel used to make electricity whose supply is more easily regulated. This substitution (in theory) extends the life of our fossil fuel supplies. This theory is only true if we believe that  coal and natural gas extraction is only limited by the amount those materials in the ground, and the level of our technology. (This is the assumption underlying IEA and EIA  estimates of future fossil use.)

If the limit on coal and natural gas extraction is really a limit on investment capital (including oil), and this investment capital limit may manifest itself as a debt limit, then the situation is different. In such a case, high investment in intermittent renewables can expected to drive economies that build them toward collapse more quickly, because of their high front-end investment capital requirements and low short-term returns.

5. Excessive faith in Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI) or Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) analyses. Low EROI returns and poor LCA returns are part of our problem, but they are not the whole problem.  They do not consider timing–something that is critical, if our problem is with inadequate investment capital availably, and the need for high returns quickly.

EROI analyses also make assumptions about substitutability–something that is generally not possible for oil, for reasons described above. While EROI and LCA studies can provide worthwhile insights, it is easy to assume that they have more predictive value than they really do. They are not designed to tell when Limits to Growth will hit, for example.

6. Governments funding leads to excessive research in the wrong directions and lack of research in the right direction. Governments are in denial that Limits to Growth, or even oil supply, might be a problem. Governments rely on economists who seem to be clueless regarding what is happening.

Researchers base their analyses on what prior researchers have done. They tend to “follow the research grant money,” working on whatever fad is likely to provide funding. None of this leads to research in areas where our real problems lie.

7. Individual citizens are easily misled by news stories claiming an abundance of oil. Citizens don’t realize that the reason oil is abundant is because oil prices are high, debt is widely available, and interest rates are low. Furthermore, part of the reason oil appears abundant is because low-wage citizens still cannot afford products made with oil, even at its current price level. Low employment and wages feed back in the form of  low oil demand, which looks like excessive oil supply. What the economy really needs is low-priced oil, something that is not available.

Citizens also don’t realize that recent push to export crude oil doesn’t mean there is a surplus of crude oil. It means that refinery space for the type of oil in question is more available overseas.

The stories consumers read about growing oil supplies are made even more believable by forecasts showing that oil and other energy supply will rise for many years in the future. These forecasts are made possible by assuming the limit on the amount of oil extracted is the amount of oil in the ground. In fact, the limit is likely to be a financial (debt) limit that comes much sooner. See my post, Why EIA, IEA, and Randers’ 2052 Energy Forecasts are Wrong.

8. Unwillingness to believe the original Limits to Growth models. Recent studies, such as those by Hall and Day and by Turner, indicate that the world economy is, in fact, following a trajectory quite similar to that foretold by the base model of Limits to Growth. In my view, the main deficiencies of the 1972 Limits to Growth models are

(a) The researchers did not include the financial system to any extent. In particular, the models left out the role of debt. This omission tends to move the actual date of collapse sooner, and make it more severe.

(b) The original model did not look at individual resources, such as oil, separately. Thus, the models gave indications for average or total resource limits, even though oil limits, by themselves, could bring down the economy more quickly.

I have noticed comments in the literature indicating that the Limits to Growth study has been superseded by more recent analyses. For example, the article Entropy and Economics by Avery, when talking about the Limits to Growth study says, “ Today, the more accurate Hubbert Peak model is used instead to predict rate of use of a scarce resource as a function of time.” There is no reason to believe that the Hubbert Peak model is more accurate! The original study used actual resource flows to predict when we might expect a problem with investment capital. Hubbert Peak models overlook financial limits, such as lack of debt availability, so overstate likely future oil flows. Because of this, they are not appropriate for forecasts after the world peak is hit.

Another place I have seen similar wrong thinking is in the current World3 model, which has been used in recent Limits to Growth analyses, including possibly Jorgen Randers’ 2052. This model assumes a Hubbert Peak model for oil, gas, and coal. The World3 model also assumes maximum substitution among fuel types, something that seems impossible if we are facing a debt crisis in the near term.

9. Nearly everyone would like a happy story to tell. Every organization from Association for the Study of Peak Oil groups to sustainability groups to political groups would like to have a solution to go with the problem they are aware of. Business who might possibly have a chance of selling a “green” product would like to say, “Buy our product and your problems will be solved.” News media seem to tell only the stories that their advertisers would like to hear. This combination of folks who are trying to put the best possible “spin” on the story leads to little interest in researching and telling the true story.

Conclusion

Wrong thinking and wishful thinking seems to abound, when it comes to overlooking near term limits to growth. Part of this may be intentional, but part of this lies with the inherent difficulty of understanding such a complex problem.

There is a tendency to believe that newer analyses must be better. That is not necessarily the case. When it comes to determining when Limits to Growth will be reached, analyses need to be focused on the details that seemed to cause collapse in the 1972 study–slow economic growth caused by the many conflicting needs for investment capital. The question is: when do we reach the point that oil supply is growing too slowly to produce the level of economic growth needed to keep our current debt system from crashing?

It seems to me that we are already near such a point of collapse. Most people have not realized how vulnerable our economic system is to crashing in a time of low oil supply growth.

 

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Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:26 | 4409622 The Gooch
The Gooch's picture

"How long can economic growth continue in a finite world?"

 Perpetually, apparently.

Oh wait...

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-02-06/farce-complete-blythe-masters-j...

The curtain is gone.

Commissioner?   (h/t Truth In Sunshine)

http://blogs.platts.com/2011/07/22/garbage_man_bar/

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:31 | 4409683 remain calm
remain calm's picture

As long as we continue to believe the lies and given the average intelligence of the average American, I believe a long long time.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:42 | 4409727 Occident Mortal
Occident Mortal's picture

Martingale X Ponzi = Fiat

A Martingale System is where a player continually doubles down every time a bet fails. It only works if a player has infinite money.

A Ponzi System is where incumbents are paid out with the money of newcomers.

Our economy is a boom bust cycle of Ponzi credit, with our central banks providing the Martingale function.

It can continue forever, so long as people continue to accept it.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 21:42 | 4410176 0b1knob
0b1knob's picture

A possible stable outcome:

1.) Concentrate the wealth in the hands of 1% of the population.  These would be the politically connected designated survivors.

2.) Move the designated survivors to a safe area.   Like tunnels under Denver airport.

3.) Contolled genocide of the redundant "useless eaters" who make of most of the world's population.

4.) New World Order!  

They should give it a catchy name.   Something like Agenda 21.  Google it...

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 04:45 | 4410910 Occident Mortal
Occident Mortal's picture

Actually if you read a little about the World3 model discussed here, you can see that the only sustainable outcome is if the global economy moves to a slower growth rate, which is strangely what seems to have happened i.e. the new normal.

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 05:04 | 4410918 Global Observer
Global Observer's picture

There are no practical solutions that don't involve a collapse of the civilization. I don't think an active controlled genocide is a likely outcome. However, there will be no active efforts to maintain any kind of order or health in the areas outside those chosen for continuing the civilization. Other parts may descend into chaos and populations may die out simply because there isn't enough water, food and medicine.

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 07:16 | 4410992 doctor10
doctor10's picture

Come on. 700 trillion dollars worth of derivative products generated by 25 investment banks have only one objective. Enslavement. Its only that complicated. We can't have the slaves getting hold of cheap energy. Tends to make them uppity.

They are about there. Thats all this is about.

With NSA to bind all their slaves to their masters.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:21 | 4409643 NOTaREALmerican
NOTaREALmerican's picture

Growth is measured in "sales".   

"Sales" is a verb meaning:   sociopaths manipulating dumbasses with bullshit.

Bullshit is infinite.   Therefore growth is infinite. 

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:21 | 4409644 IPA
IPA's picture

At out doorstep? 

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:29 | 4409674 1stepcloser
1stepcloser's picture

Just like the Germans bombing pearl harbor, they are on a roll!  Let it go

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:24 | 4409656 ShrNfr
ShrNfr's picture

"Greenhouse gas levels" are a joke. The climate responds to other things like that shiney thing in the sky during daytime.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:26 | 4409670 Spastica Rex
Spastica Rex's picture

What happens at night?

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:29 | 4409685 nowhereman
nowhereman's picture

The climate goes to bed.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:33 | 4409694 The Gooch
The Gooch's picture

executive appointments and orders.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:26 | 4409667 Gumbum
Gumbum's picture

And like a cancer that eventually kills its host, we do the same thing without recognising what we truely are.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:40 | 4409717 Uber Vandal
Uber Vandal's picture

Agent Smith in the Matrix spelled that out quite clearly to Morpheus:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Na9-jV_OJI

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:27 | 4409676 nowhereman
nowhereman's picture

Yup, we can say it's complex, and fret and fuss over what to do, so called experts will continue to make a living obfuscating and pontificating.

I ask a simpe question; How much does the CIA, FBI, NSA and the military cost?  Does anyone Know?  Can it be found out through audits and budgets?  

The answer is NO.  This information isn't anywhere, it's a national security issue.

YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH! 

It's not complex folks, Stop funding the above, the budget is balanced, taxes can be lowered, and America can get back to work again.

But, that's too complex.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:38 | 4409711 NOTaREALmerican
NOTaREALmerican's picture

And, uh,  how exactly would the slow-motion eagles and flags retain their manliness?

And more important,  how exactly would the sociopaths - i mean patriots - leaching off of Big-MIC and Big-PoliceState get their government welfare, huh?

Answer THAT smarty-pants!

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 22:28 | 4410357 Errol
Errol's picture

nowhereman, the folks who actually run things are aware of everything Gail has written, and more.  The first public statements I'm aware of concerning the potential stategic effects of peak oil were made by a US general officer, in 1957.

The US views the investment in the CIA (in the business of overthrowing uncooperative strongmen and substituting useful stooges) and an overwhelming military (when CIA subterfuge just isn't enough) as a means to ensure that the collapse comes to the US last.  We will continue to direct the world's resources to the US (on VERY favorable terms, of course) as long as we are able to do so, by any means necessary.

Expect continuing flows of flight capital into the US as the collapse comes to the rest of the world first.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:36 | 4409707 starman
starman's picture

what work? bartender?

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:47 | 4409733 Randoom Thought
Randoom Thought's picture

Yes, but how does it look when assuming greater decentralization instead of greater centralization. I am thinking that stabilization comes a lot quicker and the entire world is a more robust organism.

Pretty much every assumption shown shows a tremendous lack of vision and flexible thinking ... but wait, isn't that the point? Our kids are being taught in schools that humans are a disease on the planet. It makes sense that those promoting the dialectic would only present a view that serves their interests.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:52 | 4409763 NOTaREALmerican
NOTaREALmerican's picture

I don't think decentralization is possible when dealing with the smart-n-savvy people.

The smart-n-savvy people win by centralizing functions which allows them to keep a bigger share of the combined loot.   DC, Brussels, corporations are nothing but organizations centralized for the benefit of the smart-n-savvy looting them.  It's easier to loot one big thing than many smaller things.

The smart-n-savvy have no reason to decentralize,  they just lose looting potential.

 

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 20:05 | 4409823 El Vaquero
El Vaquero's picture

Resource scarcity will likely make centralization very, very expensive for those would like to run the show.  On could argue that it already is making central planning very expensive, hence the state of government finances.  It doesn't just take money to run a police state, it takes physical resources. 

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 20:18 | 4409880 NOTaREALmerican
NOTaREALmerican's picture

Re:  It doesn't just take money to run a police state, it takes physical resources. 

I'm not saying decentralization won't be force on society.  

I'm just saying the smart-n-savvy people, the top 10% who are winning the current game - the winners of our survival-of-the-fittest society, are not going to voluntarily give up their centralized looting.

Management exists to loot organizations.   The only reason management doesn't take everything is the stockholders won't let them.   But the limit of what they will take is only the screaming of the stockholders.    Governments have no stockholders so the looting potential is limited only by taxpayers screams.    Now, factor in debt - which is confusing to stockholders and taxpayers - and the looting potential is (nearly) unlimited.   It's glorious!

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 20:29 | 4409935 El Vaquero
El Vaquero's picture

In a way, that makes the smart and savvy less smart and savvy.  In the event of forced decentralization, they'll get their dicks knocked into the ground pretty damned hard for not accepting reality. 

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 21:56 | 4410251 Advoc8tr
Advoc8tr's picture

I respectfully disagree that having the least amount of compassion, the most greed and an insatiable appetite for controlling others qualifies a person as the "fittest" or a "winner" ... on their own they are dog food and can ONLY survive and prosper at the expense of the stupidest and most ignorant ... which unfortunately constitutes a majority these days.

I often wonder if "wishing away" the bottom 50 % would give more lasting results than topping the top 1% (who would be quickly replaced by the aspiring 2%) ?

Ultimately the large "we"  are responsible. The majority could easily overcome the small group of usurpers if they simply had the intelligence and will to do so.

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 05:37 | 4410934 Global Observer
Global Observer's picture

I doubt anyone in the top 1% is wishing the bottom 50% away. Unimportant people and areas will be allowed to take care of themselves in whatever way they please, while the government will allocate all its resources to protecting and controlling the people and areas important to them, not unlike in Iraq. The transition will be extremely quick. So instead of a tyaranny, most people will be completely free, except that they will not have access to most modern resources.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:50 | 4409759 Jason T
Jason T's picture

energy flux density.. ugh.  

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:51 | 4409761 viator
viator's picture

Ehrlichians are the new zombies.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:56 | 4409782 Goldilocks
Goldilocks's picture

Salt n Pepa - Push it
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7ra7EzHoqM (3:34)

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:56 | 4409783 OC Sure
OC Sure's picture

The cause of limited growth is counterfeiting. End central banking and economies will boom out of this world.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:58 | 4409790 onearmedlove
onearmedlove's picture

Across large timespans humans percieve the exponential as linear.  

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 20:01 | 4409794 Ludwig Van
Ludwig Van's picture

.

"If we give up our debt-based economic system, we lose our ability...."

Under a gold standard, incorporating Real Bills (endorsable bills of exchange, *not credit*) that mature over the life of the endeavor (a portion of which constitutes the "wage fund") -- as was practiced in Western economies up until the early 20th Century -- if we returned to the system marked by the greatest advancement *in the lives of everyday people,* in other words, then we don't need no stinking crooked debt-based economic system!

.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 20:09 | 4409836 NOTaREALmerican
NOTaREALmerican's picture

How does that help the smart-n-savvy people who are winning using the current system.

All the utopian ideas people have for Gold or ending the Fed or whatever exist is some sort of fantasy where the top 10% - those who ARE winning with the current system, and OWN all the decision making entities in the current system - would, for some reason, decide to give up their power.

The top 10% is 30 MILLION people?  Why in the hell would they give up any power?

It's a survival of the fittest, predator society in the US.  Many people wanted one and we've had it for 50+ years now.   Well, the predators won.   Now what?

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 22:29 | 4410355 OC Sure
OC Sure's picture

Life is perpetual; they have not "won." Gold standard is the solution no matter what one's feelings. Tell a friend to tell two friends.

When the dollar loses its world reserve status and the trade deficit becomes a surplus, then blood in the streets will be up to your ankles. We will see who survives then.

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 09:35 | 4411187 Accounting101
Accounting101's picture

Um, no. The greatest advancement in the lives of everyday people was the period post WWII to around 1970.

And no, facts don't necessarily mean I'm advocating for a debt-based economic system. If we are going to address the economic disaster we find ourselves in, we can't be making shit up. These are very complex issues and sheepishly yelling "gold standard" and talking about the good old days of 1886 are just talk radio bullshit.

The author is exactly correct. If we give up our debt-based economic system, the global economy will be in a world of hurt. If you have an ounce of economic literacy, you know this.

Again, facts don't relate to advocacy.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 20:04 | 4409811 muleskinner
muleskinner's picture

The price of oil is about right if you divide it into the price of an ounce of gold.

1256/98= ~12.8 barrels of oil per ounce of gold.

88 000 000 / 7 000 000 000

88 barrels of oil for every 7000 people on the planet.

3696 gallons of oil for every 7000 people or more than a half a gallon each for every man, woman and child on the planet, every day, for everyone.

Oil is an inexpensive resource.

12 percent of all of the world's coal exists in the US and Canada, maybe even more.

Hydro, nuclear, solar, not wind, it's worthless, to balance the energy picture and there is a plethora of energy and resources to produce more energy.

Innovation in the oil business results in more oil. Fracking oil wells is going to produce more oil, you'll be able to extract even more.

Distribution systems, the capacity to deliver energy to improve the lives of people is always going to be better.

Coal, Gas, oil, electricity, are all a bargain. If they would cease to exist, there would be many unhappy campers in the world.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 20:22 | 4409904 El Vaquero
El Vaquero's picture

Instead of thinking about the price of oil in terms of gold or fiat, or bananas, think about it in terms of the percentage of economic inputs that extracting the stuff uses.  How much labor, raw material and energy does it take?  I don't have the numbers, but I will say that floating a giant drilling rig in the ocean or horizontal drilling and fraking is a far cry from drilling a well and having it come gushing out of the ground.  The real costs of oil are rising. 

 

One thing to think about when pricing oil in terms of gold or some other commodity is that if the production and transport of gold or said commodity rely on oil, their prices will rise along with the price of oil. 

 

And if coal, gas and oil were to cease to exist suddenly, there would be a bunch of dead campers in the world.  Probably somewhere between 5 and 6.5 BILLION of us would have to go. 

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 01:12 | 4410736 Apply Force
Apply Force's picture

muleskinner, your post was the most retarded fucking thing I've read all day.  If you are representative in ANY way of what people actually think we are so much more fucked than I EVER thought.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 20:16 | 4409867 The Final Straw
The Final Straw's picture

Judging by the charts, I'll be dead before it's really bad. Carry on.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 20:42 | 4409974 waterwitch
waterwitch's picture

To paraphrase Nikita Kruschev: "Life is short. Live it up!"

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 02:06 | 4410800 dow jones 20000
dow jones 20000's picture

I'll be your age when you die. It's going to be a wild fucking ride.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 21:56 | 4410247 tongue.stan
tongue.stan's picture

Here's the thing: after the inflection point, the curve keeps rising for longer than you think it can before it flattens, and then it can stay flat for longer than you think it should before it jumps off the cliff. 

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 22:54 | 4410415 Yenbot
Yenbot's picture

Limits to Growth is the biggest con-job in History. It is bringing on an unneccesary Dark Ages for the West. There is PLENTY of stuff for everybody on a tremendously EMPTY planet. Roman idiocy brought down Rome, LtG is killing the West. Manufacturing (which can be clean) is Power. Wake up before we're all homeless in a wild animal park!!

~Yenbot via Our Infinite Universe Blog...

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 03:17 | 4410856 SilverFish
SilverFish's picture

Really though, how many more battery powered dildos, iGadgets and automobiles do we really need? What we have to figure out is how to bring things back to reality where people can survive without having to work a 40 hour week just to stay afloat.

 

I'm not talking about communism either, or some other bullshit variant of it.  I'm talking about getting rid of things that are not needed, like huge government black holes of debt that eat up most of our real productivity.

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 22:56 | 4410425 Dapper Dan
Dapper Dan's picture

It's all here in this 40 min. video

 

www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFyTSiCXWEE

Published on Aug 8, 2013

Former career mining professional Simon Michaux gives a public lecture describing the onset of 'peak mining' and its various implications for natural resource management. This talk was presented in Adelaide by the environmental group, Sustainable Population Australia. The presentation looks at the looming energy crisis, and plots peak gas, coal, uranium and other energy sources as we head towards a time of resource scarcity and radical societal change.

 

Chuck Karish via Google+

1 month ago (edited)   Here's a view of the limits to a sustained industrial economy that starts from the point of view of mining: the material that's fed into the economy. The speaker observes that mineral resources are not renewable, that as they are mined the grade of the ore declines, and that as the grade declines the energy needed to extract the metal increases disproportionately. He goes on to look at industrial economy as a system that will fail when the first system component on which it depends becomes unavailable, and to observe that one such component - petroleum - has been in crisis since its price/demand became inelastic in 2005.

 

Sat, 02/08/2014 - 00:34 | 4410510 Radical Marijuana
Radical Marijuana's picture

I took the "Limits to Growth" quite seriously back in 1972, when I first read that.

I find Gail Tverberg's overview to be mostly correct, although I find it to be too optimistic because it does not address the deeper reasons WHY our financial system is based on runaway debts, whose exponential growth is the leading edge of all the other collective social insanities, which are mostly being deliberately ignored. I also find that there is not enough thorough appreciation of the ways that those deeper problems demand necessarily related deeper resolutions. Since money is measurement backed by murder, and the debt controls depend upon the death controls, all of these problems are interconnected with the bigger picture that governments are the biggest form of organized crime, controlled by the best organized gangs of criminals. The actual resolutions of the problems of running into the limits to the growth of an economic system which depends upon strip-mining the planet is that system was built upon the basis of the triumphs of lies, backed by violence, and so, those are ways that that system is really going to resolve those problems.

Furthermore, in abstract theory, there can be no other possible way to cope with limits to growth than through death controls, by definition. The path we are on now is for those limits to growth to be responded to by more genocidal wars, along with democidal martial law. The only real alternative solutions must be some better death controls. When the real limits to growth are manifesting, such as that the exponential growth of debt slavery generates numbers which are such overwhelming levels of debt insanities that that symbolic system implodes, the return to realities will be some return to death controls, where the manifestations of more genocides and democides shall perhaps catalyze more thinking about how we might have better death control systems, inside that runaway context of the manifestation of extremely bad death control systems.

Any possible future would have to be based upon the evolutionary ecologies of human ecology, industrial ecology, and natural ecologies. All of those necessarily have their death control functions as central to everything else. Indeed, the real history of civilization was that was driven by warfare, where success in warfare came from backing up deceits with destruction. The War Kings that survived through that selection process created the power of sovereign states. Then the Fraud Kings, the international banksters, continued to apply the methods of organized crime to take control over national governments, in order to create the current systems of globalized electronic fiat money frauds, backed up by weapons of mass destruction, where those fiat money frauds have become utterly insane an irrational levels of debt insanities, due to basic nature of the whole thing depending upon a fundamentally fraudulent financial accounting system, since it was actually built on the historical processes of the Fraud Kings (banksters) covertly taking over control of the sovereign powers to rob (tax) and to kill (to enforce the rule of law.)

The limits to growth are all tangled up in that real history of political economy, inside of human ecology, where the debt controls were based upon the maximum frauds, while the death controls were based on the maximum deceits. We have EXTREME PROBLEMS with developing better dynamic equilibria, and thus, possibly better human, industrial, and natural ecologies, which come to terms with surviving over a longer term within real limits, because everything that our social pyramid system style of civilization actually does is based upon the history of the triumph of backing up systems of lies with systems of violence.

All of the governments in the world operate through legalized lies, backed by legalized violence, regarding almost everything they do, with the best professional liars and immaculate hypocrites dominating those systems through all of the various facets and aspects of social and political institutions. The core concern was always the death controls, and must necessarily continue to be. However, the paradoxes that successful murder systems were based on the maximum possible deceits about themselves drove the development of a financial system based on the maximum possible frauds about itself. Therefore, as we approach more real, objective limits to the ability to continue to strip-mine the planet at an exponential rate, the leading problem is the symbolic systems of human frauds, which are the financial systems, which were made and maintained by the history of the murder systems based upon death controls done best by being as deceitful about those as possible.

The real human ecology, which is being forced to come to terms with limits to growth, is as dishonest about itself as it can possibly be. Therefore, while I agreed with the overall presentation of the nature of the problems presented in this article above, I think it was still grossly underestimating how serious those problems are, due to the ways that the human responses to those problems will be forced to work through social pyramid systems which are as deceitful and fraudulent as they can possibly be. The only good theoretical solutions are better death controls, which would be integrated through combining human, industrial and natural ecologies. Those ARE going to necessarily evolve. However, they will surely continue to actually evolve by human beings maintaining the maximum possible dishonesty, and related depravities, about what they are doing with respect to that.

In theory, we should go through a series of intellectual scientific revolutions, so that we could comprehend the emergence of interconnected evolutionary ecologies better. However, in practice, the actual catalysis to that process will be the psychotic breakdowns of the established systems. Therefore, the "better death controls" are probably on the other side of all of the worst death controls, done through the maximum possible deceits, manifesting first and foremost. The irony of appreciating human civilization as a general energy system is that then one also comprehends how and why that civilization is actually controlled by the most dishonest and violent groups of people. The deeper paradoxes which one can plumb within that context are that paradigm shifts in militarism, so that we could operate better murder systems, or systematically understood death controls, continue to be the ONLY actual realistic ways to cope with the objective situation that there are limits to growth, which we rushed towards at an exponentially accelerating rate.

Back when I first thought about the limits to exponential growth, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, I had hoped that we might transition then to some more stabilized future outcomes. However, it became clearer and clearer since then that the real world was actually controlled by the most dishonest and violent people. Throughout the 1970s, and on and on, decade after decade, it became more painfully obvious that the more I learned, the worst it got, because the best professional liars and immaculate hypocrites continued to win elections, and drive the whole spiral of social insanities through another faster turn. Of course, today, that is still happening now, worse than ever. Therefore, as Tverberg suggests, there are no longer any plausible scenarios which can avoid the coming collapse into chaos, along with its phenomena of more genocidal wars, and democidal martial law. Therefore, I have regrouped my responses to that, after having been forced to retreat in the face of those kinds of facts, that everything important actually continued to get worse, faster. Hence, my kind of discourse now is about how to PERHAPS still pull some better death control systems out of the coming collapse into severely crazy death controls.

I still believe that there are plenty of creative alternatives, which could be integrated into alternative systems. However, none of those could be done without their necessary keystone being alternative death controls systems. Furthermore, no actually existing alternative debt control systems could be made and maintained without the corresponding alternative death controls to back them up. Anyway, while I tend to mostly agree with Tverberg's presentation, I do not see nearly enough addressing of militarism there, regarding how to operate death controls after the development of weapons of mass destruction continues to be the main real problem that we are facing.

We are STUCK with everything human civilization does being based upon the history of our murder systems, operated through the maximum possible deceits, as the cause of the fundamental nature of the financial problems, as the symbolic ways that limits to growth are showing up through increasingly psychotic ways. There is NOTHING outside of different systems of death controls to actually cope with the debt control systems now existing driving debt insanities towards death insanities. Of course, it is ironically consistent with the nature of that problem that it is practically impossible to have any rational public debates about that at the present time ...

To recognize the limits to growth requires recognizing that there must be death controls to respond to that. However, since our actual death controls are done through the maximum possible deceits, it is practically impossible for anyone within those established systems to directly address that issue. Instead, everything continues to work through the biggest bullies' bullshit social stories, as our politicians and mass media continue to pump out more patently absurd propaganda, while the ruling class covertly prepare to mass murder the majority of the human population, which majority of the population are mainstream morons who have been too successfully brainwashed and conditioned to be become unable to understand that, because they do not want to understand that.

While it is theoretically possible we could develop better overall human, industrial and natural ecologies, everything that the currently established systems are based upon are obstacles to doing that, such as our fundamentally fraudulent financial accounting systems, and our deeply deceitful military systems. IN FACT,  OUR PROBLEMS ARE TRILLIONS OF TIMES WORSE THAN TVERBERG PRESENTS, AND HEADED TOWARDS BECOMING QUADRILLIONS OF TIMES WORSE, BECAUSE OUR SOCIETY IS ALMOST TOTALLY CONTROLLED BY INSANE LIES ABOUT ITSELF, WHICH THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN BRAINWASHED TO WANT TO BELIEVE IN.

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 01:43 | 4410775 Joseff Stalin
Joseff Stalin's picture

"... How could collapse be so close, with virtually no warning to the population?..."

Majority of population was bred for shit for brains.

 

They did not do jack shit. They were given food.  It was a case of feed and breed.

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 01:47 | 4410776 Joseff Stalin
Joseff Stalin's picture

"...The computer models that the team of researchers produced strongly suggested that the world economy would collapse sometime in the first half of the 21st century...."

 

hell yes...the shit for brains economy.

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 01:46 | 4410778 Joseff Stalin
Joseff Stalin's picture

"....The problem is the connection with debt. ..."

 

The problem is shit for brains.

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 07:53 | 4411009 Global Observer
Global Observer's picture

I wish the author didn't bring in money and debt into the equation. Those are human constructs and have no bearing on the limits to growth. The amount of money orcredit that one has access to determines the resources available for sale in that currency that one can marshall towards the activities of one's interest. If a true solution to the problem exists, it is not difficult to create a monetary paradigm to do that provided it doesn't require a significant percentage of available resources. However the problem is not the limits to growth itself, but the endless growth paradigm that has been sold. Whereas a few centuries ago most people accepted it as given that their well being and that of their children will not see any significant change for the better, most people today not only expect their well-being to get better until they retire and that their children will be even better off, they even believe it to be some kind of a right and anything to the contrary is something that is a deliberate action by others denying them their rights.

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 16:11 | 4412930 Matt
Matt's picture

Credit and money printing allowed the resources to be consumed faster, allowed the rate of growth to be higher, and will (is?) cause the collapse to be harder than it would otherwise be.

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