266 Responses to Open Thread- Non-Petroleum, Oct 21, 2016

  1. Fred Magyar says:

    What the heck, why not start a discussion about what prosperity without economic growth might look like.



    Author – Prosperity Without Growth

    Tim Jackson is a Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey and Director for the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP). Tim has been at the forefront of international debates about sustainable development for over two decades and has worked closely with the UK Government, the United Nations, and numerous private companies and NGO’s. His research interests focus on the economic and social aspects of the relationships between people’s lifestyles and the environment, which culminated in the publication of his best–seller Prosperity without Growth – economics for a finite planet.

    • Lydia says:

      Contemplating “prosperity without growth” is simultaneously preposterous and dangerous. The point being, growth is simply an inherent human desire. Think about it. We expect children to grow. We expect plants and trees to grow. We desire to have our knowledge base grow. We desire our bank accounts to grow. We desire our number of Facebook friends to grow. If you own a business, you desire to grow your market share, among other things. On a societal level, grow a country’s GDP and you cause the overall economy to grow. On the other hand declines in population, prosperity or business are far too depressing things to think about as they are indicators of a dying civilization. Therefore ask society at large and at least 99% of the people will say growth is the most desirable thing for everybody and everything—children, knowledge, salary, economy, humanity and business.

      • Bob Nickson says:

        Not to mention cancer.

      • superkaos says:

        Therefore we will be victims of our own success. This is exactly what happens to any species that has no limiting factor.

        • Survivalist says:

          Humans have a limiting factor. I think it’ll start kicking us in the face really hard in about 10 years. And by kicking us in the face really hard I mean famine in enough parts of the world to stimulate mass migration and state failure/political decentralization throughout most of the world.

    • GoneFishing says:

      The banking and economic system as we know it has to go, it depends on growth, it prompts and causes inflation. Inflation steals away money, making past work and success far less valuable than current work and success.

      Besides the obvious move to renewables, we need to globally get population under control and reduce it. Otherwise we are working against a population that is both growing in numbers and growing in lifestyle. No amount of efficiency or shift in energy use will compensate for that.

      So economic changes, energy changes, population changes and most importantly cultural changes. The word frugal needs to become a badge of honor. Fiscal responsibility should give one status, not buying a new Mercedes and proving how much money one can spend on something that might not exist in 10 to 15 years while it eats another hole in the wallet.

      In other words, get ourselves under control, our money and our things. Education needs to teach people how to grow up not just how to run a computer and kick balls around a field.

      • HuntingtonBeach says:

        “The banking and economic system as we know it has to go, it depends on growth, it prompts and causes inflation”

        There is nothing wrong with the American system that guidance from regulation can’t fix.

        “Fiscal responsibility should give one status”

        I believe it still does. One only needs to look further behind the curtain to realize the shallowness of a status symbol vehicle. Look at Nick G for example. His Toyota says lumpy mattress.

        “get ourselves under control”

        If you raise a generation by handing them everything. Did you really expect them to have a concept of work ?

        • Nick G says:

          Look at Nick G for example. His Toyota says lumpy mattress.


          • HuntingtonBeach says:

            Just testing to see if you still read my comments. All in admiration.

        • Fred Magyar says:

          If you raise a generation by handing them everything. Did you really expect them to have a concept of work ?

          Work is for people who don’t know how to fish! 🙂

          There is nothing wrong with the American system that guidance from regulation can’t fix.

          I’m not sure I can quite buy that idea… I think there are plenty of things wrong with it, some of them, IMHO, are way beyond repair. The current political system for starters. Certainly not in the way Trump claims but the system is rigged in favor of wealthy!

          But to stay on the topic of work, we are fast entering a period when jobs in the traditional sense and the entire concept of work for that matter, may quite literally become obsolete. A radical notion for most to even contemplate, but if that is the case, then as a society we will have to find very different ways of organizing ourselves and distributing resources and wealth.

          And a TESLA in every garage ain’t gonna solve it… dunno how it will all play out, cuz my crystal ball is at the shop!

          • GoneFishing says:

            “And a TESLA in every garage ain’t gonna solve it… dunno how it will all play out, cuz my crystal ball is at the shop!”

            Try using the Magic Eight Ball. Works better.

          • HuntingtonBeach says:

            “rigged in favor of wealthy!”

            Agreed, but the same was true before FDR. If the American people don’t educate themselves and vote, they only have themselves to blame. Deplorable.

      • me says:

        > The word frugal needs to become a badge of honor.

        I strongly agree. Happily, in a lot of Europe and Asia, it is already the case.

        • Ralph says:

          It was in my parent’s generation. They lived through WWII and 10 years of rationing.

          Even in the UK it became unfashionable in the 1960s and for the last 20 years has been a term of abuse.

          The new Millennial generation is rediscovering it as they are far poorer than their parents.

        • Bob Nickson says:

          In a market economy, is frugality virtuous?

          Isn’t the resultant effect to slow the velocity of money flows, decrease the volume of money flow, and ultimately lead to less economic activity for everyone?

          Yes, as a species we need to become ecologically sustainable, but if we imagine a hypothetical circular economy that is renewably energized, why would it be better for that economy to be operating at a provisional level rather than a luxurious one?

          Is the difference between a luxury auto and an economy model a difference of quantity, or of quality? Luxury seems to be more about quality. The quality of the ingredients and the skillful preparation of a gourmet meal distinguish it, not the kg delivered to the plate. The quality of the fabric, and the skillful attention of the tailor define the bespoke suit, not the gross yardage.

          If I buy economy goods when I have the capacity to buy luxury goods, or don’t buy any goods at all, isn’t that simply depriving others of potential livelihood?

          Doesn’t that all just come back around?

          • Caelan MacIntyre says:

            Maybe luxury is an important part of frugality, because when beaver’s happy in its marsh, then everybody’s happy. What is nature-luxury but healthy nature?

            When Vincent’s happy in his new tailored suit that he got for free in a gift economy (as opposed to a dubious ‘circular’ one) that will last and last and that looks and feels sensational, everybody’s happy.
            And when everybody’s happy like Vincent with their own luxuries that they all actually want and that look and/or feel good and/or make sense to their communities, etc., then there is less cultural sociopsychopathology and therefore less possibility of catching it, the costs of which can compound rapidly.

            I’ve never once– not once– had a company or politician call me up or email me to ask me what I want and how I want it. They all seem to know what I want, or don’t care.
            This has butterfly-effect repercussions and reverberations across the karmatic spectrum– literally like maybe 100-year hurricanes every 10 years, or plastic garbage all over our oceans and so forth.

            Luxury is also about time, about not working 40+ hours a week when we don’t have to.
            I’ve read, depending, that it can take roughly a year out of every five of wage slavery to own a car. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like some kind of prison, don’t you think?

            Luxury is not feeling like you have to buy lithium stocks because you think it’s likely going to go up fast, and so maybe you can make lots-o’-money– even more than your next-door neighbor who just lost their wage-slave position/house/shirt.

            Luxury is a system that doesn’t create the circumstances for such economic disparities, ratchet-jobs, musical chairs, rackets and assorted related behaviors and concerns, nor a brainwashed mindset that rationalizes and/or buys into things like that.

            Just remember: When beaver’s happy, everybody’s happy.

            Right beaver?

            beaver: “Right, Cae… Hey why don’t you come on over some time? Have a swim in my pond.”

            I’d love to, just say when. I can even bring over some nice chaga fungus.

          • me says:

            In capitalism frugality is virtuous, because it means saving money, which is collecting capital.

    • Nick G says:

      I don’t think he’s talking about an end to economic growth.

      It mostly sounds like recycling on steroids.

    • Jef says:

      All money is loaned into existence. A loan is 100% dependent on growth. No growth – no loans – no money = deflationary death spiral.

      Money and how it works, how money MUST make more money, is what guarantees the worst outcome for humanity.

      Those who have the most money, those who believe in and have prospered the most from this destructive system, are also those with the most power and will decide our future. Unless…

      • GoneFishing says:

        All money is taxed 100 percent as it moves from person to person, from business to business, eventually the governments get it all. It’s just a matter of time, a matter of rate.
        So control the government and you control the flow of money.

      • Nick G says:

        A loan is 100% dependent on growth.

        Not really. Nothing says the loan has to pay interest. Or, if it does, how much it has to pay – it may just be 3 basis points, enough to cover the cost of administration.

      • HuntingtonBeach says:

        “All money is loaned into existence. A loan is 100% dependent on growth. No growth – no loans – no money = deflationary death spiral.”

        Hi Jef, did you copy and paste this non sense from Tverberg’s website ?

        What makes an economy run is the input resources and turning them into higher value objects. Money is a means of exchange furnished by the host government to facilitate the process. You should have written.

        No resources + No labor = No economy

        • Nick G says:

          And, of course, the input mineral resources can be recycled, and the input energy resources can come from outside the “earth system”.

          • HuntingtonBeach says:

            Of course, inputs don’t have to be raw material. An auto manufacturer can sub out parts and increase value by assembling them together.

            • Jef says:

              All of you from gone fishing down act as if you don’t understand how the FIRE economy, which is the dominant economy right now and is just about the only thing keeping the global economy alive, works nor how important it is.

              Sure we don’t really need it and could function without it but that would be an entirely different world and there is no getting there from here, at least not without major …ah….problems.

              • GoneFishing says:

                That is like saying that the axles and gears in a car are the dominant factor in moving the car. The engine of the economy still depends upon energy, food, water, and direct commerce of goods and services. The FIRE economy just transmits the means of moving actual value across the economy.
                We can live without banks, but we can’t live without food, water and energy and the things needed to get them.

              • HuntingtonBeach says:

                The American “FIRE economy” is the natural evolution we enjoy after WWII and becoming a superpower. If you want to keep pesos in your wallet, have a Greece life insurance policy or own property in Syria be my guest. I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

                A modern economy needs a safe currency, means of transferring risk and property rights. The US enjoys the fruits of being the parent in the world. I’d rather be a commodity trader or insurance broker than a rice patty farmer or I phone assembler any day.

    • Doug Leighton says:

      Well Fred, Norway currently has a GDP Growth Rate of about 0.9%. A BIG problem is that public health care in Norway is free, after a small annual charge (of around $230) for those over 16, and the wage difference between the lowest paid worker and CEOs of most companies is much less than in comparable western economies which, combined, must be terrible (almost worse than Communism) from the perspective of many Americans — even though Norway may be the world’s most well-functioning and stable country. Another really BIG problem, which I discovered the hard way, is while the country contains a nice selection of fairly intelligent and notably attractive (often blonde) females they tend to be independent minded with an utterly bazaar belief they ought be allowed to think for themselves: preposterous, I know, but true.

      • Fred Magyar says:

        Doug, what do those beautiful independent minded Norwegian women really think about an economy that has up until now has been prosperous due to Thor granting them access to a large fossil fuel inheritance. How will their society and economic model fare in a changing post peak oil world?


        Siv Jensen (Finance Minister) stated that the Norwegian economy is “Rock Solid.” Instead, it is more like ice (in reverse): solid only under specific (temperature and pressure) conditions and wobbly otherwise, unable to support a meaningful load. Above the $70/barrel threshold, the Norwegian economy is invincible, able to support generous social programs while making deposits to sovereign wealth fund (referred to as The Fund). Below $70, “the ice melts;” the rate of which depends on the ambient temperature above freezing. If the oil is only slightly below $70, The Fund could cover budget gaps indefinitely, replenishing the drawdown with capital gains, interest and dividend payments. Perhaps they could levy some new taxes as well. However, when substantially below the key threshold, the melting accelerates, drawing down the fund quicker than it can be restored.

        To be clear I think Norwegians will be probably do better than most and their valkyrie will have a part to play in choosing which men live and which will be slammed by the BIG hammer in the sky! 🙂

        • Doug Leighton says:

          Fred, as usual, you’re confusing things with all sorts of disconcerting details. Stick with the basics: Thor provides, it’s all carved on stones or obelisks or menhirs or something — somewhere.

  2. robert wilson says:

    If growth contracted due to decreasing population, there might be more economic goods per capita.

    • Fred Magyar says:

      Any ideas on how to humanely reduce population growth?
      I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the world a bit and given what it looks like today with 7 plus billion inhabitants, I’m not looking forward to seeing what it might be like with 9 or 10 billion people on it.

      • Hickory says:

        1. Escalate education of females globally, including on birth control, financial affairs and job training. Even in Islamic countries. Move over men.
        2. Higher tax burden for more children. Make it a bigger burden.
        3. Free birth control (tax funded), sorry the pope.
        4. Make it OK to die when you get old, or for any reason at any time in life. I know depression is temporary and such, but we’ve got so many people lets not sweat the issue too much. Give people a legal, and painless method to deploy at their will. the ultimate freedom, the ultimate human right.

        I know these things might sound abrupt, but hey- it beats other methods like war (napalm, machete, etc), starvation, or severe lethal illness.

        I assume the carrying capacity is less than 2 B, but no need to sweat the number. At 3 B it becomes an interesting discussion.

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi Fred

          Free birth control and better access to free or low cost education.

      • me says:

        Africa is pretty empty, and most of the population growth in the 21st century is expected in Africa.

        That said, the UN consistently misses the trend to very low birth rates in its projections. Much of the developed world has already plateaued, especially if you discount immigration.

        Of course, falling death rates are now a major driver of population growth, not high birth rates. But birth rates usually fall soon after death rates fall. The question is how fast and far birth rates fall.

        If someone figures out how to keep people healthy for 200 years, we’re screwed.

        • Doug Leighton says:

          Falling death rates (however defined) don’t make any difference. We all die at some point and ninety year olds don’t have many kids.

          The world’s POPULATION WILL GROW TO 9 BILLION OVER THE NEXT 50 YEARS and only by raising the living standards of the poorest can we check population growth. Watch the paradoxical answer of Hans Rosling which demonstrates the inevitability of this sad fact.


          • GoneFishing says:

            Hans is a great guy, smart too.

            Still, peaking at 11 billion people would mean only 11 acres per person. Since much of that acreage is not usable or too hostile, it would probably be somewhere between 2 and 4 acres per person. That is for all services, water, industry, agriculture, transport, waste disposal, environment, housing.
            Can we operate at that density? We are not really managing now, just running the eco-money out of the bank. With 11 billion people and another 2 or 3 billion with higher life styles, straw and camel come to mind.


            • Doug Leighton says:

              “Can we operate at that density?”

              Sure, no sweat. First we just eliminate all competing species then become fish farmers (no pun intended). It’s simply a case of making an 11 billion unit hexagonal grid covering all the world’s oceans (one each) and learning to eat, I dunno, cod, mullet, whatever. Your hex, your choice. You’ll just hafta go fishing!

            • Dennis Coyne says:

              There are different population projections than the UN estimate.


              From the page linked above:

              In the medium (most likely) scenario from today’s perspective that combines medium fertility and mortality assumptions with a continuation of the recent Global Education Trends (GET)—the aggregate population for the world will reach 8.3 billion in 2030, 9.2 billion in 2050, peak at 9.4 billion around 2070 and start a slow decline to 9.0 billion by the end of the century.

              Beyond this population could decline rapidly as TFR falls to 1.5.
              By 2300 we might see global population at 1.5 billion.

              See http://www.demographic-research.org/volumes/vol28/39/28-39.pdf

              Chart below assumes average life expectancy reaches 90, but no higher by 2300, it is from page 1153 of the publication linked above.

              • GoneFishing says:

                So right now we are on the 2.5 trajectory?

                • Doug Leighton says:

                  Yup, levels out at 11 billion.

                  • Duncan Idaho says:

                    I say lets go for 400,000.
                    That would overpopulation for most of our existence as a species.

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    It is assumed that TFR will decrease to under 2 by 2100 in the medium fertility variant.

                    I think it is likely to be faster than that, and may reach 1.75 by 2100 or possibly lower.

                • Dennis Coyne says:

                  In 2005 total fertility ratio (TFR) was 2.5, it is expected to decrease over time. From 1965 to 2005 TFR decreased from 5 to 2.5, if that rate of decrease continued from 2005 to 2045, we would be at 1.25 by 2045. The Demographers at IIASA expect a peak of 9.4 billion in 2070. I expect TFR will fall to 1.75 by 2070 and to 1.5 by 2100. If World population has fallen to 9 billion by 2100 and my estimate of TFR is correct, then World population falls to about 1.3 billion by 2300.

                  The 1.5 curve falls from 7 billion to 1 billion from 2100 to 2300 so if we start at 9 billion in 2100, a TFR=1.5 curve would fall to 1.3 billion by 2300.

                  Lower TFR is key, better access to modern birth control and education (especially for women) will help make this a reality. Universal suffrage and equal rights for women would also be a step in the right direction.

          • Oldfarmermac says:

            Hi Doug,

            Maybe you should have said “Falling death rates (however defined) don’t make MUCH difference”.

            But you may be right, because falling death rates are strongly associated with falling birth rates.

            The question then becomes one of allowing for any time lag.

            Except in richer countries, old folks probably more than pay their own way, since they consume little and do a lot, such as looking after kids.

            • Doug Leighton says:

              Well Mac, “increasing birth rates” makes sense to me but falling death rates not so much. Obviously women can double their birth rate by having six rather than three kids: children per woman. So what is the death rate? Three per woman and six per woman? You’re going to say birth rate (and mortality rate) equals the number of births or deaths scaled to the size of that population per unit of time: for example, the number of live births per thousand of population per year. But regardless of how we define birth rates, one hundred percent of us die. As you know, mathematically, a rate is a special ratio in which the two terms are in different units: three kids per woman or six kids per woman for example. How do YOU define death rates?

              I’m not sure but following a beer or two I’d probably say death rate = birth rate. 🙂

              • GoneFishing says:

                Just turn off the electricity for six months and see what happens.

              • Nick G says:

                Age adjusted mortality rate per year of life.

                Primarily, death rate before age of child bearing. If mothers believe their children will reliably live to be adults, they can have fewer “backup” children.

              • Ralph says:

                Global fertility is 18.6 /1000 (2016 estimate).

                That is an extra 135 Million babies a year.
                Global population rise about 80 million /year

                therefore 55 million poeple die each year.
                There are 2.45 births for every death.

                To reach peak population the number of births has to come down, or the number of deaths has to go up. Can you imagine society where 2.5 times as many people die each year? You won’t have to wait for long.

                • GoneFishing says:

                  Yes, it is very easy to imagine a world with a higher death rate. Most of history had a higher death rate and a higher fertility rate.

                  Wars, famines, disease, accident, have not stopped the growth of population. So it will come down to having less children per woman. A society that will be filled with self-absorbed, egocentrics all thinking they have entitlement.

                  We don’t have two centuries time for that, so while the women are reducing the population, we better be quickly reducing energy use, water use, food wastage and materials use or the bottlenecks will squeeze us down quickly, painfully and violently.

                • Dennis Coyne says:

                  Hi Ralph,

                  I can easily imagine birth rates decreasing. My wife and I are each from large families (6 and 5 children).
                  Those 11 children have had only 6 children. So in one generation in this exceedingly small sample, the TFR has gone from 5.5 to 0.92.

                  Death rates might also increase if proper policy is not implemented and birth rates remain high.

              • Oldfarmermac says:

                Hi Doug,

                I should have been more specific, lol.

                Lots of kids die in poor societies where birth rates are high, whereas a far smaller percentage of kids die in richer societies with lower birth rates.

                Furthermore, Mom and Dad themselves generally live longer in prosperous societies.

                So- Talking SPECIFICALLY about kids, in real time, a higher percentage of those born into societies with low birth rates survive.

                Hence lower birth rates are associated with lower death rates in this particular respect.

                So – there is a time lag that comes into play. We have societies with birth rates below replacement level with populations that are still growing due to the old folks not being nice enough to die sooner, lol.

          • me says:

            Falling death rates (or low death rates) are the chief cause of growth in countries like Turkey, Egypt, Bangladesh, Iran and Indonesia, to name a few.

            It also explains why China kept growing for decades after the draconian measures to reduce births were introduced.

            The change in the number of people in a country for one period (say a year) to the next is births minus deaths (plus net immigration). So both figures have to be considered.

            The question you need to keep in mind to understand this is which age groups are experiencing population increases.

            Simplified form: If the number of under 5s of a country are increasing rapidly, the birth rate is the culprit. If the number of over 60s is increasing rapidly, then longevity is the culprit.

            My remark referred to changes in birthrate and longevity, which complicates things a bit, but the basic idea should be clear. China’s population kept growing after the birth rate crashed because the older age echelons kept growing.

            • GoneFishing says:

              Where are we headed?
              Living longer, reversing the biological aging process or at least stalling it is in the works for the future. Moving the average lifespan to 120 or even much longer would dramatically change society. Sure would put a bubble in that population curve. On the positive side, maybe people would start to plan ahead longer and improve the future instead of raiding it.


              • me says:

                I think longevity treatments are what could kill us all. My guess is that the UN is overestimating birth rates. I think the trauma of the 20th century population explosion is hard to forget.

                Poverty rates are falling quickly, and wealth and sex equality bring low birth rates. If there really are no poor countries left in 2035, as Bill Gates contends, I think population growth with be driven exclusively by low death rates.

                That failing, 2050 will still be an odd place. Chinese will be fading, a language spoken by old people. French will probably be more widely spoken, as West Africa booms and East Asia crashes.

              • Dennis Coyne says:

                Hi Gone fishing,

                I doubt we will see average life expectancy of 120 in the next 100 years, currently the highest life expectancy (both sexes) is in Japan at 83.7. For women the highest is Japan at 86.8 and for men it is Switzerland at 83.4. The World average for both sexes is 7o. The country with the lowest life expectancy is 50 for both sexes. Data from Wikipedia.

                My guess is that the World average won’t get to 90 within 100 years.

                • GoneFishing says:

                  “I doubt we will see average life expectancy of 120 in the next 100 years,”
                  Sounds like raw opinion. Any real biological parameters you know that will put a limit on it?
                  Meanwhile scientists are working hard to extend life, while military scientists and engineers work hard to end it. So far lifespan is increasing without genetic manipulation.
                  Just changing diet can extend life 10 to 20 years. Life expectancy has risen 15% since 1960.
                  Genetic and biochemical manipulation has no known boundary for lifespan at this time.

                  How about 1000 years, sound long enough?

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi Gone fishing,

                    Just based on what the statistics show in the nations with the best health care. So in 45 years we have had a 15% increase, I expect we will see diminishing returns, but let’s say we continue to get 15% improvement every 45 years, that would be 80.5 in 45 years and 92.6 in 90 years and 106.5 in 135 years.

                    What percentage of people currently live to be 120?

                  • GoneFishing says:

                    Dennis you are linking two independent variables. The new science of genetics opens up whole new possibilities that are unrelated to previous gains. So extrapolating from previous data is not applicable.

                  • Hickory says:

                    If you want to just speculate on the life span Gone Fishing, then I will too and (educated) guess that global average will less than 90 for the next 100 years.

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi Gonefishing,

                    I am not sure we will do better than nature, in fact I am fairly sure we will do worse.

                    Pretty sure a 1000 year average lifespan is not likely. In 200 years perhaps we will get to 120 for average life expectancy. Maybe in 1 million years we might get to 1000, but I am skeptical.

                    In 2015 about 0.0062% of the World’s population was 100 or older.

                    Assuming that you are not kidding, we will just have to disagree.

                  • GoneFishing says:

                    There are serious advantages to short life expectancy.

  3. GoneFishing says:

    Arctic snow cover decline.

    “A recent study found an overall decrease in Arctic snow-cover extent (snow that covers the Arctic at the end of the spring) from 1967 through 2012, and an acceleration of snow loss after the year 2003. The rate of snow-cover loss in June between 1979 and 2012 was 17.6 percent per decade (relative to the 1979-2000 mean), which is greater than the rate of September sea-ice decline during that same period, the researchers say.
    In fact, sea-ice extent — the area of ocean with at least 15 percent ice cover — reached a new record low in September, dwindling to 1.32 million square miles (3.41 million square kilometers), according to the U.S. National Snow & Ice Data Center, which tracks sea ice with satellite data.”


  4. Fred Magyar says:

    Lydia, let me guess, you are not an ecologist or a biologist are you? Ecosystems are examples of stable complex dynamic systems that provide ecological niches where individual organisms can prosper and the system as a whole does not continue to grow forever. These systems have been in existence on this planet for billions of years. Would you care to explain to us why such a system might be construed as preposterous and dangerous? Why do you think we couldn’t model our economies on stable regenerative system more akin to an ecosystem?

    I posted this graphic of mine on another thread recently I think it illustrates the fact that continued growth is what is truly preposterous and dangerous! Cancers are examples of what happens when the regulatory mechanisms that control cellular growth in our bodies break down.
    Nothing in nature can grow forever.

    • Lydia says:

      Again, growth is an inherent human desire. How are you going to refute that? You can’t change simple human nature the world over, nor should you want to, as trying to do so is (again) preposterous and dangerous.

      • robert wilson says:

        Excluding immigrants, population growth has slowed profoundly in the US and many other countries. But as Garrett Hardin pointed out in The Tragedy of the Commons, this is insufficient.

      • GoneFishing says:

        Nature does not allow infinite growth or even long term growth. Once limits of resources such as food are reached catastrophic population decline occurs.
        Nature mostly operates on a replacement mechanism with checks and balances. Excess population is eaten by predators or succumbs to natural forces before breeding.
        The whole idea behind no growth is to possibly avoid catastrophic decline.

        What you label as human desire is just cultural training. Humans mostly desire food, sex and group membership. Business has trained people to believe that their group membership is dependent upon owning things, smelling properly, dressing a certain way and spending lots of money. It’s just long term propaganda using shiny objects to separate people from their wealth. Not a real desire.

      • Hickory says:

        Lydia, alot of things are dangerous. Life itself. The vacuum of space. The extreme cruelty of human kind, for example.
        Seven billion people is extremely dangerous.

      • Oldfarmermac says:

        Hi Lydia,

        Sometimes I suspect you are the creation of somebody smart enough to manufacture you and your arguments, so as to knock them down. Other times I think you are real, and merely lacking in any understanding of the physical and life sciences, although your comments indicate considerable insight into the behavior of the human monkey in crowds.

        Sometimes it is possible to change basic behaviors. Presumably you are a woman, and thus most likely acquainted with the business of having kids. You may even have some of your own.

        The normal straight up, right out of the bottle, hundred proof desire for growth, which you seem to think is uncontrollable, leads me as a male, to want to keep your tummy bulging ALL THE TIME, until you die young from having too many kids. That same impulse virtually guarantees that a high percentage of such hypothetical kids will live short brutal lives, and eventually the ones that grow up will live short brutal lives as adults, with war,pestilience, and famine thinning them out until there is food enough to go around for the survivors.

        But you can and very possibly have said NO to having eight or ten babies, and whole countries have recently seen a change in attitude where by most of the women in those countries say one or two is enough.

        Change is possible.

        And yes, monkeying around with things we do not fully understand is dangerous. Most of what we do is dangerous. Over population, and various crisis situations brought about by shortages of food, water, fuel, living space, etc, are extremely dangerous. Such crisis situations GROW into wars, and wars tend to grow too, ya know. 😉

        In saying that growth is essential to prosperity, you are displaying a profound ignorance of the basic sciences, but at least you do seem to recognize one of the cornerstones of biological evolution. Lots of reproduction means it is possible to sort out winners and losers.

        But the sorting process is not at all pretty, and contemplation of it is not for the squeamish, when it comes to humanity.

      • Fred Magyar says:

        Again, growth is an inherent human desire. How are you going to refute that?

        Sorry Lydia, no, it isn’t.

        How are you going to refute that?

        There are plenty of papers out there on the history of economic development that clearly show it to be a rather recent idea. Not to mention papers from the social sciences, anthropology, psychology, human evolution, cognitive neuroscience, etc, etc, that do indeed refute it.

        You can try Google Scholar, and do your own research on these topics.
        It is not my job to give you a well rounded general basic education or teach you critical thinking skills. That, supposedly, is what universities are for. I’m sure if you so desire you can sign up for some courses at your local community college or even for free online.

      • Dennis Coyne says:

        Hi Lydia

        Consider children per woman most women are choosing fewer children with total fertility ratios falling from 5 to 2.5 from 1965 to 2005 worldwide.

        For half the world population TFR is under 2 births per woman.

      • Dennis Coyne says:

        Hi Lydia
        The natural desire you allude to developed when human population was small.

        There are physical limits to growth. Eventually human population will need to decline and potentially total output might reach a steady state or may decline.

        It will be a matter of survival of our species.

        Actually it is your view that is dangerous for our survival.

        • Nick G says:


          If you define growth as resource consumption, then the US economy has been zero-growth for 40 years. But….US GDP has grown by 2.5x in that period. Why?

          Because economic growth isn’t resource consumption: it’s value added. That includes growth in quality and performance of hard goods, and growth in services.

          I can produce a lot of value with a 30W computer. It’s 1% the size and weight of my first computer, and about 10,000x as fast.

          • Dennis Coyne says:

            Hi Nick,

            First, the US imports a lot of goods, and those resources come from other parts of the World.

            If we assume for the moment wee do not import significant resources from other star systems over the next million years, we would be best to consider the planet and energy resources imported from the Sun.

            Certainly recycling will help, but are you arguing that the World is not consuming more resources than 40 years ago? Or perhaps that World growth can continue at 5% per year forever?

            How much value can you produce without the computer?

            Are there any resources in that computer, or was it produced with pixie dust? 🙂

            Do you believe there are no limits to growth?

            I did not say growth of resources was needed. The resource availability will decline and it may be difficult to maintain growth as this occurs.

            Do the following thought experiment, resource availability gradually declines to zero as more and more resources get used to the point that they can no longer be recycled profitably. Do you expect that an economy can grow with the use of no resources? I don’t.

            • Nick G says:

              First, the US imports a lot of goods, and those resources come from other parts of the World.

              Well, let’s talk about energy: US consumption hasn’t change that much, despite manufacturing growing by 50% in the last 40 years.

              US virgin steel consumption is very low: it’s almost all recycled. Again, that’s despite manufacturing growing by 50% in the last 40 years.

              Now, perhaps you’re arguing that US consumers use *significantly* more energy in the form of embedded energy in imports. Maybe. But net US manufacturing imports aren’t as large as many people think (just as *net* Chinese manufacturing exports aren’t as large as many people think). Have you seen this argument *quantified*? I’ve looked, and haven’t been able to find such evidence. Think about the embedded energy in farm exports, or refined oil products.

              are you arguing that…that World growth can continue at 5% per year forever?

              No. No one is. It’s a Straw Man argument.


              NO ONE is saying that world growth will continue forever. Why would it? At some point everyone will have all the goods and services they might want. The US (and much of the OECD) is already there for goods: sales of homes, cars and major appliances has been essentially flat for 40 years. Growth might continue as new ideas for new services emerge, but there’d be little pressure for growth.

              Do you expect that an economy can grow with the use of no resources? I don’t.

              Not with NO resources. But with essentially no VIRGIN resources? Absolutely. Essentially everything (except maybe helium released to the atmosphere) can be recycled.

              So, my computer can be recycled forever. That’s sustainable.

              s more and more resources get used to the point that they can no longer be recycled profitably.

              I think the burden of proof is on the argument that recycling has an endpoint. I don’t think there’s good evidence for that.

              • Dennis Coyne says:

                Hi Nick,

                Then you don’t know much about recycling.

                When the amounts are tiny, for some resources, the cost to recycle is too high and those will not be recycled. So your claim is that everything can be recycled 100%? I believe the burden of proof is on you for such a claim.

                Yes durable goods consumption as a share of income has been flat, but that means total amount consumed has increased, non-durable goods consumption has decreased as a share of income and services have increased, but services in many cases requires resources (a lot of service spending is restaurants, car rentals, etc and the resource inputs are counted at final sale, intermediate sales are not counted.)

                • Nick G says:

                  Well, that’s a disappointing answer.

                  Ad hominem? Really?

                  And then, an answer which isn’t well thought out? I expected more.

                  You changed the context, in your answer, from civilization collapsing due to the long term failure of recycling, to the contemporary failure of recycling due to the lack of importance of resources used in tiny amounts.


                  No, I didn’t say durable goods consumption as a share of income was flat. I said US durable consumption was flat. Period. The number of cars sold flattened in the 1970s, So did home sales, appliances, and steel. Their value has grown…which is kind’ve my point. Growth without an increase in resource consumption.

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi Nick,

                    Sorry, I disagree with the recycling comment and was thinking in terms of the the Real value of the goods, instead of the number of goods, so I misunderstood. The inflation adjusted spending on durable goods has increased. There is no estimate of the amount of resources used to produce the cars or homes, one might assume the amount is the same, but this is not clear. Steel is imported so saying we use the same amount of steel might not be true.

                    Homes are larger, so claiming the same number of houses have been built does not mean the same resources have been used, one would need to consider the number of square feet built and know what the inputs are when the home or building is constructed.

                    Using inflation adjusted numbers is the usual way of accounting for this.

                    You seemed to be suggesting 100% recycling is possible, when you say,

                    But with essentially no VIRGIN resources? Absolutely.

                    That is not correct, there are always losses in the recycling process, and not everything can be recycled.

                    I do think I see what you are saying now, it is the idea that in theory everything might be recycled close to 100% (this might be true for some metals at very high prices), but there are many resources that are chemically changed in the production process and recovery of those inputs may not be possible or will be very expensive.

                    So in some future World with either declining population or a steady population with income levels similar to OECD levels (population would need to decline to 1 to 2 billion or less for this to be possible, I think)
                    we might have close to zero resource use (for metals maybe) and low resource use of many inputs (those where recycling may be very expensive or impossible), concrete comes to mind, fertilizer, and a number of chemicals. Some resources are very abundant and may not pose scarcity problems (sand for example).

                    So I think you envision gradually improving quality of products with little or no increase in resources needed. Maybe we might get there in 200-300 years or perhaps much longer, but whether resources are adequate to get us to a low population high income World economy is unclear. A lot will depend on how fast recycling reaches high levels, the speed of transition to low fossil fuel energy use, and the speed with which total fertility levels for the World fall to 1.5 or less.

                    Unfortunately since 2000 the rate of decrease of total fertility ratios has slowed at the world level, if that continues progress on getting World population to peak and decline may stall.

                    Potentially more rapid progress on recycling, energy transition and population will occur as scarcity raises prices, but the scarcity may make the transition difficult so policy action would be a better approach.

                    Cradle to grave manufacturing regulations, carbon taxes, and access to free birth control would be some obvious policies.

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Typically, when one says consumption it is understood as in dollar amounts usually constant dollars adjusted for inflation.

                    I didn’t mean to change context, I find it hard to imagine recycling at 100% (or essentially 100%, whatever that means).

                    No virgin resources implies 100% recycling or declining numbers of goods produced (or maybe smaller and smaller goods). 🙂

                  • Nick G says:

                    There is no estimate of the amount of resources used to produce the cars or homes, one might assume the amount is the same, but this is not clear.

                    True. Still, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, there’s no reason to assume that manufacturing is less efficient – i.e., that the ratio of steel inputs to steel inside the car has changed.

                    In any case, 99% of steel in scrapped cars is recycled.

                    Steel is imported so saying we use the same amount of steel might not be true.

                    Those statistics aren’t hard to find. US steel production is very roughly at the same level it was 40 years ago, and IIRC imports aren’t as large as one might assume.

                    Homes are larger

                    No question. Still, I think that if you looked at the overall housing stock, I think you’d find that the square ft per person has stabilized. It would be an interesting analysis.

                    Using inflation adjusted numbers is the usual way of accounting for this.

                    But that would assume the premise. Or, it would assume the negative of the premise. In other words, the value of things rises, but i’m arguing that value isn’t based on raw resource content: the weight of steel, aluminium, glass, and plastic in the item, whether it’s a house, vehicle or whatever. Of course, people aren’t normally worrying about such questions, so the data isn’t gathered in that way.

                    But…the inflation adjusted price of cars has roughly doubled in the last 40-50 years, despite their gross weight being pretty stable. It’s mighty clear that the average MY2017 car is a *lot* better than the average MY1966 car…but they weigh the same. And they almost certainly take less energy to manufacture.

                    I find it hard to imagine recycling at 100% (or essentially 100%, whatever that means).

                    Well, again, in the US we’re at that point with the steel in cars. It’s recycled at a rate of about 99% for scrapped cars. 99% is what I mean by essentially 100%: you’d only need to add very small amounts to cope with consumer or manufacturing loss.

                    So, IIRC iron is 8% of the earth’s crust. We really don’t have to worry about running out: it’s not that hard to purify iron from an 8% concentration. The same is true for many elements.

                    Some, of course, are scarcer. But they’re still in the environment. If they wash down the drain, they’re heading to municipal waste management. If they wash into the river, they’re heading to the river delta, or the sea bottom. Heck, there are a number of elements that can be found in seawater, and if they were needed, more would be become economic, such as uranium (I know that sounds silly, but it’s true – https://web.stanford.edu/group/Urchin/mineral.html).

                    Again…the earth is a closed system for elemental resources, with the likely exception of helium which diffuses out of the upper atmosphere. The rest sticks around in some form, somewhere, and the 2nd law of thermodynamics suggests that concentrating it is always possible with the appropriate energy input.

                    Now, might there be some minor element that exist at very low concentrations? Sure. Rare earths aren’t really rare, but such things exist. Indium is worrying people at the moment – it’s very convenient for certain things. But…if it seems too expensive to do the necessary concentration, we’d move to some other element. There are very, very few things have to have specific elements, such as indium. For instance, silver is convenient for PV…but not necessary.

                  • HuntingtonBeach says:

                    Hi Nick,

                    “But…the inflation adjusted price of cars has roughly doubled in the last 40-50 years, despite their gross weight being pretty stable”

                    I think one could argue that cars are cheaper today than 50 years ago. In 1966 a base model VW bug retail price was $1585 and today a new Nissan Versa base model is $11,990 (which includes- AC, AM/FM/CD, ABS, Bluetooth, airbag, better mileage, seat belts, twice the HP and more that the VW didn’t).



                  • GoneFishing says:

                    Cost of average car in 1965 was $2650, average income was $6450. Average new house was $13,600. Loaf of bread $0.21 and gallon of gas was $0.31.

                    Cars appear to be somewhat more expensive than in the past, but have higher performance, better mpg, more safety features and luxuries. Though they are generally smaller. So it’s a wash.
                    Not as glamorous now then in the past.

                  • GoneFishing says:

                    Nick said ” The rest sticks around in some form, somewhere, and the 2nd law of thermodynamics suggests that concentrating it is always possible with the appropriate energy input.”

                    The early American iron mining industry obtained a lot of iron ore from surface mines, peeling back farmland soil, removing the iron ore and putting the soil back. Or in South Jersey they also just took it directly.
                    The bog iron ore had been concentrated from iron rich waters and deposited by bacterial action. I wonder if bacteria could be used to concentrate or precipitate various materials from dumps and waste material.

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi Nick,

                    Some things can be recycled, but recycling rates can be a little deceiving. Often the 99% recycling rates don’t include all the steel in the denominator, the denominator is steel that is feasible to recycle and we recycle 99% of the “good” stuff.


                    In the US in 2013, the steel recycling rate was 81% according to the steel industry.

                    For autos it was 85%.

                    Yes of course there is conservation of mass, if energy was infinite we could recycle at 100%, but it isn’t, so we cannot.

                    Recycling is a great idea, but you are overstating what is possible and throwing out 99% numbers for recycling which are unlikely to be achieved. Aluminum is recycled at about 65%.

                    The World steel association estimates the Worldwide recovery rate is 83% with a goal of 90% by 2050.

                  • HuntingtonBeach says:


                    I picked two bare bones, cheapest models in there days for comparison. To best compare apples to apples. When you write the average cost, I believe you increase the variables of the comparison because of the advancement in the industry and end up comparing two different standards.

                  • Nick G says:


                    I commented at the bottom, where there’s more space!

  5. GoneFishing says:

    Arctic melt, happening mostly during the so called “pause” in global warming.
    From NASA Earth Observatory:
    “On average, the Northern Hemisphere now absorbs about 100 PetaWatts more solar energy because of changes in snow and ice cover,” says Flanner. “To put it in perspective, 100 PetaWatts is seven-fold greater than all the energy humans use in a year.” Changes in the extent and timing of snow cover account for about half of the change, while melting sea ice accounts for the other half.


    • Fred Magyar says:

      “To put it in perspective, 100 PetaWatts is seven-fold greater than all the energy humans use in a year.”

      Now is that the kind of growth that is an example of inherent human desire?

      • GoneFishing says:

        Apparently so. Excellent deduction Watson old boy.

        It also could be a plot by the Russians, an attack on polar bears and Inuit. Most likely it is just wish fulfillment, all those people wishing for so long that it would be warmer there. Getting their wish now, aren’t they?

        It’s truly a chill wind that doesn’t blow some warmth up your skirts.

  6. robert wilson says:

    Inferno, a movie with a population theme will be opening next week. Dan Brown’s book was excellent as have been the previous movies made from his books. Tom Hanks stars.

  7. Oldfarmermac says:


    The authors for sure do get one thing right. Building batteries using rare earth elements that are in short supply simply cannot scale sufficiently to run modern civilization on wind and solar power.

    But there does seem to be some hope of building batteries capable of getting the job done using materials that are “dirt cheap”.

    But as usual, the discussion seems to be about maintaining the current energy hog status quo way of doing things, rather than finding ways to live just as well on far less energy, and making good use of plentiful renewable energy when it IS available.

    • notanoilman says:

      Make sure to follow the first link in the article.

      Once these cells reach the size of oil tanks, before being connected together into batteries, then we may be onto something.


  8. Oldfarmermac says:

    I am always on the look out for any links that discuss using intermittent renewable energy to run essential manufacturing and service industries.

    Any links posted about this subject will be greatly appreciated.

    By way of example, I would love to know if it is possible and practical to design a water desalinization plant so as to run it only during the day when the sun is shining and or at night when the wind is blowing. The capital cost per cubic meter of desalinated water would be a lot higher,due to limited production, but it might still be possible to produce desalted water at an affordable price, if not now, then a few more years down the road.

    My guess is that a considerable number of industrial processes that are run on a more or less continuous basis right now for reasons of economy and efficiency can be adapted to intermittent operation without a prohibitive increase in the cost of the finished product.

    It’s easy to find tons of stuff about adapting at the personal level. I have plenty of that data.

    • Fred Magyar says:

      By way of example, I would love to know if it is possible and practical to design a water desalinization plant so as to run it only during the day when the sun is shining and or at night when the wind is blowing.

      Hey OFM, not quite what you are looking for but interesting nonetheless.


      By Alice Klein

      Sunshine and seawater. That’s all a new, futuristic-looking greenhouse needs to produce 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes per year in the South Australian desert.

      It’s the first agricultural system of its kind in the world and uses no soil, pesticides, fossil fuels or groundwater. As the demand for fresh water and energy continues to rise, this might be the face of farming in the future.

      An international team of scientists have spent the last six years fine-tuning the design – first with a pilot greenhouse built in 2010; then with a commercial-scale facility that began construction in 2014 and was officially launched today.

      How it works
      Seawater is piped 5.5 kilometres from the Spencer Gulf to Sundrop Farm – the 20-hectare site in the arid Port Augusta region. A solar-powered desalination plant removes the salt, creating enough fresh water to irrigate 180,000 tomato plants inside the greenhouse.

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        Seawater is piped 5.5 kilometres from the Spencer Gulf to Sundrop Farm

        Where does the energy come from to do that?

        • Fred Magyar says:

          Where does the energy come from to do that?

          Hey Duncan, I’m not 100% sure but it could easily be a solar powered pumping system, certainly not unheard of. Solar and wind powered water pumps and irrigation systems have been available off the shelf for quite some time now.

          Here’s another similar concept in Abu Dhabi taken to the next level. it also claims zero use of fossil fuel inputs.


          The current pilot farm is entirely closed-loop, with the seawater drawn originally from the ocean passing through the various stages and finally fed to mangrove plantations. The water is filtered through the mangroves, extracting the final nutrients, and the water can either be fed back to the ocean or recycled to the fish farms. All energy used (such as for pumping the water) is generated with a solar array – so there is no fossil fuel input at all.

          • Duncan Idaho says:

            Especially the mangrove part.
            I have fought against desal in Marin, and won.
            Desal does have applications– deep water sailing for one.
            Very rarely does it work long term without huge maintenance and power issues.

            SA seems to have the most experience.

    • HVACman says:

      No, but it is possible to design the inverse – a salt de-hydration plant that uses the sun and works only during the day.

      Where I grew up in Fremont, California, the two big industrial employment opportunities were the GM assembly plant (my step-dad worked there. Now it’s the Tesla assembly plant) and Leslie Salt. The salt-ponds and refining facilities are still in-use with a new owner.


      • Synapsid says:


        In about 1973 I visited the Fremont salt plant. There was a white hill of salt with Leslie’s plant on one side of it and Morton’s on the other. The eye opener was going through the plant and seeing the packaging line for Hain Sea Salt: it diverged from the line for Leslie before the step where the iodide compound was added but was the same otherwise. Hain sold for about four times what Leslie did.

        I became a cynic on the spot.

  9. Oldfarmermac says:

    Going back to the topic of growth, and money, it seems to be true that most money IS loaned into existence, at least in modern societies with banks of the usual sort.

    But here is an idea that so far as I can tell would actually work, which involves creating money without loaning it.

    Suppose that instead of collecting taxes, the government were to pay a certain percentage of all its obligations by simply printing some greenbacks.

    Obviously this would create serious inflation troubles, if it were done to excess, or if a great deal of money was also being loaned into existence. But if it were to be done at the proper rate, as the population grows, or the economy grows, or both, then it would probably just result in there being about the right amounts of money available for the economy to function normally.

    In actual fact, after you strip away all the bookkeeping details, and all the smoke and mirrors associated with banking, this seems to be pretty close to what is happening a good bit of the time anyway.

    • Dennis Coyne says:

      Hi Old Farmer Mac,

      You may imagine that is what happening, but you would be wrong.

      All of the government transfers are paid for by taxes and government debt. The government borrows from private citizens and corporations, as well as foreign governments that buy US government bonds.

      That is the way it works in a nut shell.

      • Nick G says:

        There is a small amount of “seigniorage”, which is what Mac is talking about.

        • Oldfarmermac says:

          Hi Nick,

          Yes, seigniorage is the correct term, at least it was back in the day when a king could pull in the coinage and recast it using less gold and silver, and keep the difference.

          I am not sure if this word is still used in respect to the simple printing of money by sovereign governments.

          I don’t think it is practiced to a LARGE extent, relative to the size of the economy in any economically stable and successful country, but I do think it is a reality in some countries.

          This topic is way outside my serious studies, but one thing that draws us all together here is that we generally recognize that the expert authorities in any given field are often just plain old WRONG.

          Something tells me that there is a hell of a lot wrong with the thinking that the banking and financial industries are based on, and that we aren’t likely to hear much about the shortcomings of this thinking from inside experts in the field, who unfortunately have powerful incentives to play along in order to get along.

          Dennis often points out that the Great Depression was deepened and prolonged by politicians and economists convinced that balanced budgets were the right policy.

          Now here is a topic for thought. Maybe government debt levels DON’T really matter a whole lot, so long as they are kept within reasonable limits in relation to the overall economy.

          But I wonder just how high these debts can go, before something triggers a crisis of confidence, with the possible result being a very nasty economic depression, or maybe even worse.

          And here’s what really worries me about government debt.
          Most of it is not acknowledged to even EXIST by the professional worms inside the banking and finance industries.

          It’s for goddamned sure real, but it’s off the books.

          Social Security was a gold mine for my grandparents, and ok for my parents, since Mom lived to be old and my Dad is likely to crack the century mark. It’s a very so so proposition for me, but I won’t come out too badly burnt, assuming I live to be REALLY old myself.

          Today’s up and coming politically and economically savvy kids are about as likely to believe in Santa Claus as they are in collecting a meaningful SS check. Given that they expect to have less than two kids, the odds that they are right to be so pessimistic are pretty high, in my opinion.

          Of course the technocopians MIGHT be right, and those kids MAY be so prosperous that they can afford the tax rates necessary to support old fart grandparents and parents who will still be around.

          • Nick G says:

            I am not sure if this word is still used in respect to the simple printing of money by sovereign governments.

            Yeah, it’s the word for the profit derived from printing a $5 bill for 5 cents and selling it for…$5.

            It’s not a large percentage of the Federal budget. But it’s not nothing – it’s why the EU kept the 500 Euro bill for so long – it was very profitable, even if it’s main users were *ahem* unconventional…

      • Oldfarmermac says:

        Hi Dennis,

        True- Assuming the case of the USA and other similarly organized governments, and assuming the debts so accumulated will be repaid.

        If they are not, then the usual word used to describe this is default, but …… the supply of money is gradually growing, on average, over time, right?

        If a government via its banking institutions increases the supply of money, but fails to repay it, this is in actual essence the same thing as counterfeiting or printing money in to my way of looking at it.

        And rolling over bonds and paper for decades on end, if you once get outside your professional box thinking, is essentially the same thing as defaulting, because if and when such a bond IS eventually actually PAID off rather than rolled over, well, gasoline used to be a quarter and cokes were a nickel back when I was a kid.

        I used to share a communal house with a CPA, who thue last I heard was a fairly important official with the Commonwealth of Virginia, who insisted that the safest investment in the world was US government paper.

        This was at a time when inflation was running substantially higher than the interest rates on such paper as was already issued. She may not have been a CPA yet at that time, but she had majored in economics and business administration and that sort of stuff at what provincial Virginians refer to as “the University” meaning UVA. The fact that the owners of such paper were losing purchasing power at a serious rate on an annual basis ran off her like water off a duck’s back.

        Of course I am not expert at all in these subjects.

        Let’s perform a small thought experiment.

        Assume a self sufficient closed society, one big enough and with resources enough to grow a little over time. Now let us assume that there is only hard money, in the form of silver and gold in this society, with none flowing in or out. Remember this is a thought experiment!

        If the supply is fixed, then there will be a major problem, without enough money available to conduct business. So the powers that be, let us ASSUME government, start issuing certificates good to be exchanged for gold or silver.

        IF these certificates are issued simply by printing them, IN SMALL NUMBERS, relative to the size of the hypothetical economy, as they are needed, to keep the economic wheels lubricated, but not in sufficient quantity to bring on price inflation, the economy can grow while maintaining stable prices.

        In EFFECT, this should have about the same result as creating money thru loaning it into existence. The government gains purchasing power this way rather than thru collection of taxes ( to the extent it prints money).

        That people and businesses pay this defacto tax via inflation that at first glance would seem to be obvious, but many things can be masked or submerged by economic noise, including a modest amount of inflation that would otherwise be obvious.

        If somebody starts printing enough counterfeit cash, and succeeds in putting it into circulation, the value of it declines, perhaps dramatically, maybe to near zero.

        But if only a small amount is counterfeited and successfully passed, nobody will notice. If the amount counterfeited ( printed in the case of government ) is kept consistent with the need for more cash as the economy grows, the counterfeiter profits at the expense of the general public, without the public ever catching on.

        It has been a LONG time since I read a few books about this sort of thing, and even professors at respectable universities occasionally turn out nonsense, as we all know, lol. But I do try to stick to books by reputable professionals.

        But bottom line, in plain language, I believe a government debt that is never in effect truly repaid, because it is rolled over until it is relatively worthless due to inflation, is de facto the same thing as printing the money.

        Or maybe stealing it, if you want to put it that way. Some people would use that term.

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi Oldfarmermac

          Nobody hides the fact that there is inflation.

          You can call it what you like. Bond investors can choose to purchase bonds or not.
          Everyone knows the game if one was forced to buy bonds it would be stealing, that is usually not the case. Money is a means of exchange. It is not a good store of value, bonds are usually better but today not so much, a portfolio of stocks and bonds is better.
          The roll over of debt doesn’t matter. The bonds get paid as agreed.

          Default is part of risk and the reason there are interest payments.

          • Oldfarmermac says:

            Back atcha Dennis,

            I am not disagreeing with anything you say, specifically, but rather trying to gain some additional insights into the nature of the beast.

            People, including professional managers of money, obviously do lots of stupid things, but for the right reasons, considering their own situation.

            Consider a low ranking loan officer in a bank for instance, who might have been reading this blog for the last few years, and was thus aware of the risks involved in loaning to the unconventional oil operators. BUT…….. so long as his superiors and the rest of his coworkers are loaning money to these operators………. he goes along to get along.

            If I were in a position to do so, as the manager of a pension fund, I expect I would personally find it necessary to make very similar investments, as compared to other pension fund managers…….. even though I would be convinced ( am convinced ) that a lot of the money they have invested in various bonds is virtually guaranteed to lose purchasing power over any extended time frame.

            I don’t want to come off sounding too much like Caelan but I can’t help but think that the entire banking and financial system that we depend on is truly in serious danger of falling apart.

            What is your personal opinion in respect to all the promises our current and past generation politicians have made?

            Do you think it is highly probable, probable, or improbable that these various promises can be kept, in the face of growing population, changing demographics, impending resource shortages, and environmental degradation?

            I wonder just how often people in positions of great authority lie to us, the people, about the odds of business as usual continuing on, as usual, indefinitely.

            Maybe ( probably ? I think probably ) most of them don’t even realize just how thin the ice is under our feet, in terms of our running short of critical resources ranging from fresh water and good farm land to oil and rare earths, etc. even as the population continues to grow, and expectations grow with it.

            Now consider this. Strip away all the smoke and mirrors, and forget all the technicalities of the law, and consider so called quantitative easing.

            IF this money, after some fashion, had not been helicoptered into the accounts of the big banks, would we not be experiencing the widespread deflation you often mention?

            In plain words, was this money not created out of thin air? EVEN if it is not actually spent?

            In plain language, did the government, thru its agent the fed, in effect print money to prevent deflation?

            If the economy had been allowed to go into free fall, would one and maybe the most critical result have been a general deflation of the value of real estate, stocks, etc?

            If you can print SOME money to prevent a deflation, it seems fairly reasonable to me to assume that you can print MORE money and create price inflation.

            I have never contended that this printing can actually FIX economic problems, but I do believe it can if well managed help soften and delay the worst effects of a really bad economic downturn.

            Speaking as a student of human nature and politics, it seems to me to be a dead certainty that IF things ever get so bad that a stalled economy and a general deflation are obviously staring us in the face, politicians will resort to deliberate inflation, which will likely put off the day of reckoning for a while.

            We can forget the rule book, including rules codified as federal law, once the shit is well and truly in the fan. The fed is a creation of Congress working with the Executive.

            Congress can do away with it, and will, if circumstances get to the point this looks like the best way for majority of congress critters to stay in office.

            So far as I can see, anybody who thinks it is impossible to prevent price deflation is utterly trapped inside the intellectual box of conventional banking business as usual.

            If congress critters and the prez get together on it, there is nothing to stop them, as a last resort, from depositing ten grand in a new checking account in my name, and the same in the name of every body else as well.

            • Dennis Coyne says:

              Hi Old Farmer Mac,

              Typically the government just reduces taxes, which gives everyone extra income, or it spends money on stuff (military spending is the obvious one) which creates jobs. It could send everyone a check and for those that spend the money (rather than pay off debt or save the money) it would tend to increase inflation, or reduce deflation at least.

              On promises made in the past, they won’t necessarily be honored, retirement age will be raised and benefits will be reduced. I agree deflation is unlikely to be a problem.

              The money printing does not necessarily lead to inflation, it is fiscal policy that does it (tax reduction or increased government spending). The FED has increased the supply of money a lot, but money has just circulated more slowly (velocity of money) with very little effect on inflation.

              Monetary policy doesn’t work well once interest rates approach zero, only fiscal policy will get the job done, and there has been very little fiscal stimulus since 2012 (relative to 2009 to 2011) as the ARRA stimulus had largely subsided at that point. The unemployment rate has fallen to 5%, but incomes are still stagnant. Median real personal income is still below 2007 levels.



              If fiscal stimulus does not work, at some point government debt gets to levels that cannot be sustained. Japan is the poster child for this, with govt debt at 249% of GDP.


              US by contrast is at about 105% of GDP for general government debt in 2015.


              • GoneFishing says:

                Dennis and Mac,
                Would you consider a debt service of 6 percent of your net income to be enough reason for your personal financial collapse?

                • Dennis Coyne says:

                  Hi Gone fishing,

                  Often mortgages are taken where the value of the home is about 3 times net income. Often for first time buyers they might finance 95% and pay private mortgage insurance, there was a time that interest rates on 30 year mortgages were 8% (mid 1990s).

                  Short answer, no.

                  You seem to imply that perhaps the “debt” issue is overblown. If I am understanding you correctly, I agree.

  10. Caelan MacIntyre says:

    The Quiet Revolution: Community Buyback in Wanlockhead, Scotland

    “Generally, our politicians are unreliable on this idea of communities being self-determining and responsible for their own destiny. No doubt it feels threatening to their ideas of representation.

    Which is why I did a double take on hearing the Scottish government’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham at the recent Community Land Scotland conference in Edinburgh. She presented the notion that government should be doing ‘what’s best for communities’, and talking in terms of ‘culture change’ required for Scottish people and the local authorities; sounding more like an activist than a senior minister…

    The Scottish Government’s aim is to have 1m acres of land in community hands by 2020. It has established a fund of £10m to assist communities to buy land whether for cities or rural sites…

    With only 432 people still owning half of Scotland, there is still more work to be done on shifting the feudal culture of Cunningham’s imagined communities…

    ‘…So I say let’s keep it going, let’s get things moving, let’s take back our life, let’s take back our country – and let’s take back our land.’

    I came to Scotland expecting to understand how land reform was being used to empower communities; and to understand the processes of commoning. What I had failed to understand was the scale of the inequality of the existing regime… Already 75% of people in the the Western Isles are now living on community-owned land…”

    See also:
    Terminology of Commons
    Patterns of Commoning

    “What accounts for the persistence and spread of ‘commoning’, the irrepressible desire of people to collaborate and share to meet everyday needs? How are the more successful projects governed? And why are so many people embracing the commons as a powerful strategy for building a fair, humane and Earth-respecting social order?”

    • HuntingtonBeach says:

      A Sustainable Food System Could Be A Trillion-Dollar Global Windfall

      – 21st century permaculture – solar panels included


      • Caelan MacIntyre says:

        Why The Rich Should Reverse Inequality

        “As French economist Thomas Piketty has argued, if we don’t intervene in the current economic system, wealth and power will continue to concentrate in fewer and fewer hands. We are moving toward a society governed by a hereditary aristocracy of wealth.

        The wealthy have already hijacked our democracy. Roughly a year before the 2016 presidential election, nearly half the money in the campaign had come from just 158 families, many of them billionaires. Realities like this have led former president Jimmy Carter to describe our political system as an oligarchy…

        My message to the planet’s most wealthy and privileged citizens—my own people in the top 1 to 5 percent of the nation—is to ‘come home’, to make a commitment to place, to put down a stake, and work for an economy that works for everyone.” ~ Chuck Collins

        It is not so much that the so-called rich should reverse inequality– as if they are somehow gatekeepers of the commons– of everyone’s planet– but that it will likely be done for them, and increasingly painfully, the longer things remain unchanged.

        And procrastinating and letting nature level the playing-field could mean rendering the human species extinct.
        This is apparently how it was done with the thunder-lizards, although they didn’t have much say in the matter. We might. That’s the difference.

        Stepping Stones (circa, ~1991)

        “We won.
        Stepping on them now.

        The stones in our crossing
        Of a shallow, fast-moving river
        Of evolution

        With many a careless step,
        Some fragile bones are crushed
        Beneath stumbling footwork

        Fossils to study at a later date,
        Lessons of failure

        Their descendents might have had
        Our abusive privileges

        The river grows wider,
        The stones become fewer and far between
        As our worried feet get wetter…

        Will we create our own stepping stones?
        Or fall in, to join the thunder-lizards
        Of our making?

        Or become the stones, themselves,
        Stepped upon by our
        Own mistakes”

        ~ Caelan MacIntyre

        ” ‘Happy’ 25th. Anniversary, Stepping Stones… Not much has changed, has it…”

        Stepping Stones: “No it hasn’t, Cae, and in fact it’s gotten worse. For example, humans are still tying money-profit into land and nature-grabbing and enclosure, despite everything. That’s not feasible on a finite planet with other humans and creatures living on it that need it.”

  11. Oldfarmermac says:


    It seems the odds of the D’s gaining control of the Senate are improving on a daily basis, and are now about even, according to this link.

    I will not be at all surprised if they take control of the Senate.

    Trump still has a couple of weeks to make a fool of himself and the R party, and while he may not be very good at anything else, he is the all time champion at playing the fool among the presidential candidates nominated by any major party. There has never even been anybody else in his league in this one respect.

    The D’s are going to win more House seats than expected too, imo, but probably not a majority.

    It’s going to be Clinton by a country mile.

    And it is going to take the R party ten to twenty years at least, to get rid of the Trump smell, if it succeeds in doing so at all.

    The R party might actually split, with Trump leaving with a substantial part of his core constituency, and starting a third party.

    • VK says:

      The polls are rigged. Haven’t you seen the Podesta WikiLeaks emails? There was a 37 page report that went out telling recipients how to “oversample” certain ethnic and age groups to favour Clinton.


      “I also want to get your Atlas folks to recommend oversamples for our polling before we start in February. By market, regions, etc. I want to get this all compiled into one set of recommendations so we can maximize what we get out of our media polling.”

      For example;

      “The email even includes a handy, 37-page guide with the following poll-rigging recommendations.  In Arizona, over sampling of Hispanics and Native Americans is highly recommended:

      Research, microtargeting & polling projects
      –  Over-sample Hispanics
      –  Use Spanish language interviewing. (Monolingual Spanish-speaking voters are among the lowest turnout Democratic targets)
      –  Over-sample the Native American population

  12. Caelan MacIntyre says:

    What peak government looks like

    “When you reach peak government, it looks exactly like where we are today. You, the taxpayer civilian, are the poor shareholder of a country that has been in a no-growth environment for 20 years, not entirely dissimilar to Japan. What did Japan do?

    The holders of debt, because that’s what government is and what it does (manufactures debt), become the prey of its leadership. Just like shareholders of a dying company, the leadership decide how best to screw over the people, the very ones to whom they originally sold their paper stock certificates in exchange for a promise of some return.

    Government begins to eat its own people. It does this through dilution or inflation – issuing more debt on top of older debt, then digitally printing up money as a bookkeeping gimmick that would get private companies investigated not just by the SEC, but by the attorney general for prosecution. It is called embezzlement.

    When government embezzles, it does so on the backs of its own people while lying to them at the same time that it is their savior. Japanese citizens hold most of the Bank of Japan’s debt, as do Americans their debt. No, China does not. They have been intelligently divesting.

    Government acts like a predator. It is essentially liquidating itself without a formal Chapter 11 filing. Governments don’t have to file for legal protection. They just default – sometimes suddenly, sometimes over several decades…” ~ Andrew Solomon

  13. Caelan MacIntyre says:

    Museletter 282: Can We Afford the Future?

    “…Permaculturists, organizations of idealistic young organic farmers, eco-villages like Dancing Rabbit and The Farm, and Transition Initiatives represent what appear currently to be barely visible fringe phenomena. But the folks pursuing these roads-less-traveled deserve our attention and help, because they’re about the only people in the industrialized world who are preparing for the kind of future that’s actually within our means.” ~ Richard Heinberg

  14. Survivalist says:

    This is a link to an interview with Dr George Mobus. The last 8 min are particularly interesting because George shares his theory on impending collapse, which is about as close as he ever comes to making predictions.


  15. aws. says:

    This article has me a little concerned. Shouldn’t the re-insurers be increasing their float given that we’ve been juicing the atmosphere with emissions?

    Warren Buffett Loves This Business—Maybe a Little Too Much

    The fading financial magic of reinsurance.

    by Sonali Basak & Noah Buhayar, October 20, 2016, Bloomberg BusinessWeek

    Warren Buffett watchers know that the reinsurance business has been an important ingredient in his winning formula. Companies like his Berkshire Hathaway sell coverage to other insurance companies for natural disasters and other big events. In return, the reinsurance sellers collect lots of premiums, which they can invest while waiting to pay claims. Buffett has credited this “float” with helping to build one of the world’s great fortunes.

    But the business isn’t what it used be. Buffett sold stakes in the world’s two largest reinsurers—Swiss Re and Munich Re—last year, saying their prospects look worse in the next decade than they did in the last. And he put a new leadership team in at Berkshire’s own Gen Re unit to try to reverse more than a decade of shrinking float.
    All of this sets the stage for a shakeout. Many reinsurers are likely to merge, says Rod Fox, chief executive officer of reinsurance brokerage TigerRisk Partners. The event that could really turn the industry is impossible to control: a major natural disaster. There hasn’t been a hurricane big enough to cause significant losses in the industry since Katrina in 2005, which cost $50 billion. This year’s insurance-industry tab for Hurricane Matthew will be $2.8 billion to $6.8 billion in the U.S., according to risk modeler AIR Worldwide.

    “We’re kind of due for a big event,” Fox says. “The point is the world is hot, and when it’s hotter, more stuff happens. Whether it’s wildfires, cyclones, hurricanes, or other kinds of bizarre events.”.

  16. Preston says:

    Bill Nyes stars in this National Geo documentary about climate change. I can’t believe it, but they even let Guy McPherson make a few comments…


    This year is pretty much off the charts on the hot side and we just finished 15 straight months in a row hitting new monthly high temps. Guy may be right and we are doomed, but overall this documentary isn’t all gloom.

    • Mark Frei says:

      Although the funny thing is you never hear these scientists ever weigh in about how the proposed remedies by the left are suppose to change the gloom & doom scenario. They just don’t put forward any real evidence of how the left’s economic or social solutions could do much of anything to prevent the climate from warming.

      Also more to the point, the real troubling thing is that we never seem to hear anyone within the climate change research circle actually say what the normal climate should be. When you have a baseline of millions of years of earth’s existence, why pick out one particular 20-30 period of the most recent decades to determine if the entire world should be worried about temperatures going up?

      • Preston says:

        The solutions proposed in the film are to phase out all fossil fuel use by 2050 (with 80% by 2030). That would be pretty difficult to say the least and requires a massive all out effort, but it is likely already to late for even that to prevent disaster. But you have a point, recycling, changing your light bulbs, shorter showers, riding your bike to work, going vegetarian, and a hole host of other ideas may not hurt, but wont do much to save us.

        Now, in 2016, the earth is hotter than it’s been in over 100,000 years. And whats worse, the rate is speeding up rapidly. It took over 100 years of industry to cause a 0.9C temp rise, but this year is off the chart with a 0.2C increase just this year.

      • Fred Magyar says:

        Mark, you might want to do two things, first, get your facts straight and also take a basic course in logic.
        There are plenty of them on line for free. Here’s one:
        A Crash Course in Formal Logic Pt. 1

      • Oldfarmermac says:

        Hi Mark,

        “When you have a baseline of millions of years of earth’s existence, why pick out one particular 20-30 period of the most recent decades to determine if the entire world should be worried about temperatures going up?”

        This is actually a very good question, and those of us who are already well informed about climate science should remember that not every body has had the time or opportunity to master the basics of this broad subject.

        Mark, in case you are serious, the answer is that climate scientists do not believe there is any particular climate that might be better or worse, in and of itself.

        The argument is that we are currently adapted and adjusted to the climate that has generally prevailed over those last three decades, and over the last few centuries.

        Polar bears are adapted to living on sea ice, and cactus is adapted to living in a desert. Neither can thrive in the other’s environment.

        People by the hundreds of millions and the billions are living lives organized and adjusted to the average RECENT climate conditions prevailing where they live.

        They are also adapted and adjusted to the climate conditions prevailing in places hundreds and thousands of miles AWAY from their homes.

        I get my fresh winter fruits and veggies from thousands of miles away, even though I am a farmer myself. Nobody in New York or London eats locally produced fruit, because almost none is produced locally.

        If you want a steak or pork chop, the odds are VERY high it comes from an animal fed out on grain produced on mid western farms, assuming you are a Yankee.

        The farmers out that way are pumping down the ground water at a truly frightening pace, and will have to go back to dry land farming within the easily foreseeable future. If the rains fail………. you won’t be able to afford a steak, unless you are a one percenter.

        A lot of my neighbors make their living growing Christmas trees, neighbors who are located at the southern fringes of area where the climate is suitable. If the average temperature HERE rises two more degrees, their Christmas trees will die.

        Maybe it is just random luck, but my family has been in the orchard business locally for a century plus, and for the last twenty years, we have been suffering far greater than the usual production losses associated with warmer than usual late winter weather, and the frosts coming at the usual time. We used to lose our crops occasionally due to extremely ( in local terms ) cold weather . Now we lose them to warmer than usual weather, due to the trees emerging from dormancy earlier, and the killing still coming at the usual times- frost that would not have mattered barring that unusually warm late winter weather.

        You can replant a field of grain, if seed rot in the ground due to flood or frosty weather. An orchardist has no recourse except to hold on if he can, hoping for a good year NEXT year.

        Hopefully you are a real person asking real questions and know enough to appreciate what I am trying to say.

        Only a small change in these AVERAGE recently prevailing conditions can spell BIG trouble for people. Floods and droughts and super storms become more common. A little less rain on average for a decade can mean ground water supplies are exhausted , as cities and towns pump it faster than it is replenished by rainfall.

        Perhaps at some time you have used a sensitive balance beam scale. If so, you know that just the slightest change in the weight on the pan, or in the placement of the sliding pointer, can make the scale move abruptly.

        Think about a person whose personal budget is balanced long term. If he starts running a small but consistent deficit, adding more and more debt, eventually he winds up in big trouble, money wise.

        The world is getting a little hotter, year after year, and we have plenty of reason to believe it will continue to heat up, for many years, centuries actually, to come, so long as we continue to pump CO2 into the air in vast amounts.

        Some of the consequences will be massive human migrations, wars, starvation on a massive scale, dust bowls, super storms, super floods.

        We should be doing what we can to minimize these undesirable consequences of climate change.

        Beyond that, fossil fuels are one time only depleting gifts of nature, and we are already paying a HUGE price for using them in the form of public health problems, oil wars, and environmental destruction, etc.

        For everybody else,
        ( But most of us don’t really need this reminder)
        I was once upon a time a teacher, and can say with absolute conviction that there are many people who SERIOUSLY ask such questions, in any introductory course, on just about any subject.

        Such people are NOT NECESSARILY shilling for the Koch Brothers and the Trump Chump.

        Insulting them is virtually guaranteed to drive them OUT of a discussion, and so also guarantee they remain in the camp of the uninformed, voting for politicians more interested in big biz than a livable environment.

        Of course having said this much, in a forum such as this one, such questions do mostly come from farmers of FUD.

        From time to time I forget my manners and pretty sarcastic and insulting myself when such questions pop up.

        We ought to answer the questions of NEW members seriously, in case they are NOT shills. Shills always show their true colors within a few days.

        • Fred Magyar says:

          Of course having said this much, in a forum such as this one, such questions do mostly come from farmers of FUD.

          Whenever I hear anyone ‘new’ on this forum in particular, framing this discussion in terms of a political agenda from left leaning climate scientists, I’m no longer willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. If by doing so I drive them out of the discussion and further into the camps of the uninformed then so be it. Based on past experience I’m betting the odds are infinitesimally small that people asking such questions here are intellectually honest and at this point I don’t think their minds could be changed one way or another even if they were. So I’m more than willing to just write them off!

          In a similar vein, I’m also no longer willing to waste my breath trying to explain the theory of evolution to creationists or convincing flat earthers that the sun and the sky don’t revolve around this saucer, that we live on. I just suggest they go out and get themselves a 21st century education and leave it at that.


          • Oldfarmermac says:

            Fred I hate to admit it, but you are right, just about every new member questioning climate science turns out to be either a shill or somebody who will refuse to exchange his opinions for facts.

            But it’s still worthwhile, to me, to print this reminder, occasionally, because there REALLY ARE tons of people on the intellectual fence, in terms of making up their minds about environmental policies.

            There are in my opinion at least twenty or thirty million basically conservative people who vote, and who are smart enough and well enough educated that if they are GENTLY led to the waters of environmental good sense will partake thereof, abandoning some part or occasionally even all of their cultural programming.

            Moving just one or two percent of these millions politically more to the leftish wing will make a BIG difference , over time.

            One good nudge, applied at exactly the right spot, can do the trick. I have a financially successful red neck inlaw who happens to be an avid sports fisherman, and finally got him to see the light in respect to clean water laws and regulated commercial fishing, lol.

            The environmental worm has been planted in his mind, and is eating away at his Koch Brothers convictions, a little at a time, like water on soft stone, lol.

            This guy might actually vote D, if it weren’t for the fact so many D politicians seem to be dead set on taking away some of his personal freedoms, such as the right to own guns, and and on taxing the hell out of him to support people he knows personally who are dead beats- people who would rather just barely get by, day to day, playing the welfare system in order to avoid actually going to work day after day, as he does.

            ( And yes, I am absolutely sure these dead beats exist, and live that way, because I know at least a dozen of the same ones he does, lol. )

            I will even go so far as to admit that in times gone by, I personally sometimes worked jobs such as nuclear power plant maintenance shutdowns, and took a three month vacation on my unemployment bennies after putting in seven twelves for a couple of months.

            Of course I could have found work sooner, if I had looked HARDER, lol. But I played by the rules, and didn’t look any farther away than what was construed to be a reasonable commute from my address at that time.

            • Nick G says:

              taxing the hell out of him to support people he knows personally who are dead beats

              Ask him gently what welfare benefits he’s thinking of, which unit of government he’s thinking of (State? Federal?) and what percentage of those units of government are spent on welfare benefits. I bet he has absolutely no idea.

              In reality, the percentages of “welfare” are tiny, and the big things are ones he probably likes, such as the military and social security.

              • GoneFishing says:

                Yep, they pay mucho dollars for cigarettes and alcohol but are completely against paying a few pennies on the dollar to help the destitute.
                A bunch of underachieving Scrooges.

      • GoneFishing says:

        Mark, first of all global warming is not a political agenda, it is a physical reality. One can talk all day and pose ideological postions, won’t change anything. This is not a left or right political thing, it effects all of us together, no matter our political leanings.

        Sure we can adjust to a few degrees temperature rise, we are highly adaptive mammals. However it will hit us at our weak points, destruction of food growth and water supply.

      • Caelan MacIntyre says:

        What you could do, Mark (and everyone else), if responses– by the ‘left’, ‘right’ or whoever else– regarding anthropogenic global warming are less-than-satisfying, is consider your own responsibility with regard to that and/or other problems with the ‘Western’ lifedeathstyle and do what you personally can to rectify the situation.

        Consider things like how many trees or other native flora have we planted or how does what we do every day, such as at work (and getting there in our cars), affect the planet and our fellow creatures’ ability to survive and thrive on it? Stuff like that. Stuff that matters.

  17. Longtimber says:

    Floridians > Do not Vote for the Dark Side — * VOTE NO on Amendment #1 *

    “The policy director of a think tank supported by Florida’s largest electric utilities admitted at a conference this month what opponents have claimed for months: The industry attempted to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment.”

    “Utility investors, like Warren Buffett, and the industry’s trade group have warned that distributed energy from solar and wind are long-term threats to the monopoly economics model of the investor-owned utilities.”

    One can Argue that Wind is NOT DG Distributed Generation – Does not scale down & Lion’s share owned by Utilities ( Except in Texas)

    Florida aka. The Sunshine Wasted State


    • GoneFishing says:

      It will take a while for the realities of energy to sink in, much energy will be wasted and much progress will be stunted by political and business attitudes.

      Let’s say it takes, on average, 1 barrel of oil energy to produce 9 barrels of oil. Then another 4 barrels are needed to get it from the well head, refined, transported and delivered to the user. Since the primary use of oil is to be burned in transport, the tank to wheel efficiency is 20 percent so of those energy barrels left (4) less than one barrel of oil energy actually gets to the wheels.

      Overall, oil is less than 10 percent efficient, so we can either make the system and use much more efficient or jump around it to EV’s which have an overall system-transport efficiency of 50% or better when using renewable energy. Since the combination of renewables and EV or renewable and trains is not only instantly more efficient, cheaper, but also reduces pollution dramatically; to resist the introduction of renewable energy is at best fiscally irresponsible and worst will cause a lot of unneeded harm to the environment and people.

      In the words of Nicolas Kosoy:
      “Even if oil is getting relatively more expensive, weaning ourselves off of it is not a matter of simply flipping a switch — the modern world runs on oil and gas. And there are powerful interests that would like to keep it that way.

      But we can’t keep going like this much longer, said Nicolas Kosoy, an ecological economist at McGill University in Montreal.

      Eventually, our oil supplies will run dry. And as we dig up more fossil fuels, we emit more greenhouse gasses and add to the problem of climate change. Kosoy emphasizes we need to get serious about limiting our use of fossil fuels.

      “Either we do it now, and we do it systematically and organized, in an organized fashion. Or we will hit a hard boundary, and we will all have to reduce consumption, but as a must.”

      Words like this don’t make for popular campaign slogans. Modern economies are centered around growth and consumption, and that requires traditional sources of energy. I asked Kosoy what he thinks when he hears politicians arguing over who can best steer the economy back toward more robust growth.

      “Yeah, I listen to the debates, and I laugh at them because all of them are missing the point. Not only Obama and Mitt Romney, but I’m also talking about the South American left, (Hugo) Chavez. I lived in Venezuela for 20-odd years, and it’s unreal. This is a finite planet and all of them are proposing as solutions more growth. C’mon, this is a joke.”

      Still, Kosoy remains optimistic about the future. He’s pushing to make systematic changes today by choice, rather in the future out of necessity.”

      • Fred Magyar says:

        “Yeah, I listen to the debates, and I laugh at them because all of them are missing the point. Not only Obama and Mitt Romney, but I’m also talking about the South American left, (Hugo) Chavez. I lived in Venezuela for 20-odd years, and it’s unreal. This is a finite planet and all of them are proposing as solutions more growth. C’mon, this is a joke.”

        Yeah, sooner or later someone in power is going to have stand up and say what most of us here have been saying for some time now: “The Emperor of Growth is butt naked!”

        • Caelan MacIntyre says:

          Dressed In Air

          From the album, Bad Mood Guy

        • GoneFishing says:

          I like that saying Fred.
          Problem is that many places have not heard that yet.

          Where and when will this end?
          “El Paso County and Colorado Springs continue to grow at a steady pace, but their growth is being overshadowed by Denver and its suburbs, which have been skyrocketing the past few years.

          Population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, released Thursday, show that Denver is now the 19th most populous city in the nation with an estimated 2015 population of 682,545. El Paso County had a 2015 estimated population of 674,471 with the population of Colorado Spring, the 40th biggest city in the country, making up 456,568 of that.”


          List of countries by population growth rate. US shows up in the middle with 0.77 percent growth. United Kingdom is even lower at 0.54. The Vatican is at zero growth for some reason.

          Primary energy use per capita by country:

          Those Icelanders need an energy diet.

          • Doug Leighton says:

            “The Vatican is at zero growth for some reason.”

            What do you expect Fish, it’s filled with celibates. Of course priests do have kids but records are in a secret file, for some reason. Unless you’re referring to the economy which is also in a secret file, for some reason. 🙂

            • GoneFishing says:

              You really need to crank up your sense of humor Doug. Did you really think I didn’t know that? Thy do fit the zero growth paradigm though.

              Here try these to tune up your humor:

              –A car hit an elderly Jewish man. The paramedic says, “Are you comfortable?
              ” The man says, “I make a good living.”

              –I just got back from a pleasure trip. I took my mother-in-law to the airport.

              –I’ve been in love with the same woman for 49 years! If my wife
              ever finds out, she’ll kill me!

              –What are three words a woman never wants to hear when she’s
              making love? “Honey, I’m home!”

              –Someone stole all my credit cards, but I won’t be reporting it.
              The thief spends less than my wife did.

              –We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.

              –My wife and I went back to the hotel where we spent our wedding night,
              only this time I stayed in the bathroom and cried.

              –My wife and I went to a hotel where we got a waterbed.
              My wife called it the Dead Sea.

              –She was at the beauty shop for two hours. That was only for the estimate.
              She got a mudpack and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.

              –I was just in London; there is a 6-hour time difference. I’m still confused.
              When I go to dinner, I feel sexy. When I go to bed, I feel hungry.

              –The Doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn’t pay his bill,
              so the doctor gave him another six months.

          • Fred Magyar says:

            Where and when will this end?
            “El Paso County and Colorado Springs continue to grow at a steady pace, but their growth is being overshadowed by Denver and its suburbs, which have been skyrocketing the past few years.

            That is a good example as to why mathematical literacy is just as important as the ability to read and write. Yet there are people on school boards throughout this country who argue, that subjects such as algebra, are too hard and unnecessary…

            Arithmetic, Population and Energy – a talk by Al Bartlett

            A few years ago, one of the newspapers of my hometown of Boulder, Colorado, quizzed the nine members of the Boulder City Council and asked them, “What rate of growth of Boulder’s population do you think it would be good to have in the coming years?” Well, the nine members of the Boulder City council gave answers ranging from a low of 1% per year. Now, that happens to match the present rate of growth of the population of the United States. We are not at zero population growth. Right now, the number of Americans increases every year by over three million people. No member of the council said Boulder should grow less rapidly than the United States is growing.

            Now, the highest answer any council member gave was 5% per year. You know, I felt compelled, I had to write him a letter and say, “Did you know that 5% per year for just 70 … ” I can remember when 70 years used to seem like an awful long time, it just doesn’t seem so long now. (audience laughter). Well, that means Boulder’s population would increase by a factor of 32. That is, where today we have one overloaded sewer treatment plant, in 70 years, we’d need 32 overloaded sewer treatment plants.

            Now did you realise that anything as completely all-American as 5% growth per year could give such an incredible consequence in such a modest period of time? Our city council people have zero understanding of this very simple arithmetic.

            OK! This is a surprise quiz! It’s worth 100% of your final grade.

            Tell me how big China’s economy will be and how much will it consume in finite resources in the next decade if their economy continues to grow at a mere 7% per year?

            Now add to that every other economy on the planet that wants to grow at even at a modest 2% to 3% per year.

            Now is that even remotely sustainable?

            • GoneFishing says:

              China’s economy being twice as big would just mean it would be making $12,000 per capita, far less than the US or Europe.

              Honestly, I think about half of what people consider economic growth is really inflation. The real growth is in population and resource use and is reflected in the loss of natural area and degradation of the environment.
              Since we are starting to get into limits of how much we can degrade the environment and resource use is forcing us to find alternative materials at this point, no, we cannot continue on a path of population and resource use much longer.
              The need to go cyclic, as nature does, is ever more pressing. Water and food, as well as some materials will limit us otherwise.

              Let’s say population increases 41 percent by 2050. Material and energy use will increase by 100 percent if we do not dramatically change how we do things, because a lot more people will be moving upward on the economic ladder.
              Sounds impossible, but the problem is, without serious investment in alternative materials and energy, we will try to make it happen. That would be a disaster.
              If we work really hard, energy and material use will fall somewhat from current use. If we work less effectively it will stay the same, which we all know is just a way to put off the inevitable, unless we have changed our methods.

  18. Nick G says:

    HuntingtonBeach said: I think one could argue that cars are cheaper today than 50 years ago.

    I agree. *quality adjusted* cars are cheaper than 50 years ago. a 1950 car is far, far inferior to a comparably priced contemporary car.

    But…inflation adjusted cars are about twice as expensive: the average car in the 1950’s was $1,500, which in current dollars is $15,000. The average new light vehicle is about $32k.

    So…the people who put together inflation adjustments adjust for performance, speed, quality, etc. Value goes up, even as resource requirements stagnate or fall.

    • HuntingtonBeach says:

      For all us baby boomers who argue 60 is the new 50. I think one could also say when it comes today’s new vehicles. 200,000 is the old 100,000 miles. 50 years ago, if your car make it to 100,000. It’s was worn out and expense to maintain. It pretty much needed everything to be replaced. Today I just don’t believe that is the case anymore. After adjustments for inflation, I believe vehicles are cheaper to own and operate than 50 years ago.

      ” In the 1960s and 1970s, many automobile odometers did not even read beyond 99,999 miles. Hit 100,000, and the odometer turned back to zero. But now, thanks to tougher quality standards and post-recession financial concerns, Americans are driving their cars longer than ever before and high-mileage cars are the rule, not the exception. Is 200,000 miles the new 100,000 miles?”


      Also, new car warranties have gone from 1 year/12,000 to mostly 4 year/ 50,ooo.

    • Dennis Coyne says:

      Hi Nick,

      The assumption that resource requirements are the same or smaller is an assumption you have made, it does seem reasonable as the mass of the average car may be less today or the same as in 1965 (for the average of all light duty vehicles on the road, my guess would be that the mass is similar). I imagine the resources that make up the total mass have changed over time, but perhaps not by much.

      One way to look at resources would be to consider total output in purchasing power parity terms today, much of the World’s population has a much lower share of the total of goods and services produced than the average OECD citizen. In 2013 the OECD had about a 46.5% share of global income, with only 17.5% of the population. If we assume for simplicity that quality of good does not change in the future (not likely to be true but this is difficult to measure) and that efficiency of material resource use does not improve, then a lot of new resources will be needed. Even under the extreme assumption of 100% recycling and no net virgin resource use increase from OECD nations (including non-energy resources embedded in imported goods and services), world output in 2013$ would need to more than double (136% increase) to bring the 2013 World population to 2013 average OECD levels of income.

      If we instead consider a peak population of 9 billion (which is optimistic), then real World GDP would need to almost triple (178% increase) from the 2013 level to bring the World population of 9 billion to average OECD levels in 2013. This has also assumed average OECD income levels remain at 2013 levels (or no real GDP growth in the OECD after 2013).

      More efficient use of resources will help, but cutting by almost one third will be a challenge. No doubt resources will be used more efficiently as prices of scarce resources increase and there are many resources which are abundant. I believe it will be a challenge to increase the World average income to the current OECD average which might be a necessary condition to a peak in population.

      One bright spot for total fertility ratio(TFR) is Iran, where based on UN data the TFR fell from 6.5 in 1985 to 1.75 in 2015, average income in PPP terms was only $17,303/person in Iran in 2014 based on World Bank data which was less than half of the average OECD per capita income level in 2013 ($38,500). It would be interesting to study what has happened in Iran over the past 30 years to accomplish this drastic reduction in TFR (a reduction by a factor of 3.75 in 30 years), it might be a model for other developing nations. Another encouraging example is Bangladesh with a very low GDP per capita of $3123 per capita in 2014 (PPP from World Bank) and a TFR of 2.23 in 2015 (TFR was 5 in 1990), El Salvador has GDP per capita of $8351/person in 2014 (PPP) and a TFR of 1.97 in 2015 (4.2 in 1990). There are many examples of dramatic reductions in TFR over 30 year periods, the policies implemented to accomplish this should be studied further and implemented as far as possible.

    • Oldfarmermac says:

      Hi Nick,

      Given that I am an OLD gearhead, I know a hell of a lot more about old cars than most people.

      Cars built within the last twenty years cars last about three times as long as fifties vintage cars, when comparably maintained. It was a relatively rare car back in those days that made it to a hundred thousand miles without serious problems, even considering that they were far simpler than today’s cars, with far fewer things to go wrong. Lots of them needed new engines and transmissions at well under a hundred thousand miles.

      We were putting old pillows on the seats to keep the springs from puncturing our backsides in fifties vintage pickups in the sixties, lol. The fenders were flapping like sheets in the wind. I personally gave up on otherwise superior Chevy trucks for Fords because it was literally impossible to keep the doors shut on an old Chevy without spending considerable money for all new door hardware.

      It’s totally common place to see cars on the road today that still look great inside and out with three hundred thousand miles on the odometer, still going strong, with no major repairs ever needed.

      Just a few days ago, I had a little fun out of an old geezer bitching about having to replace the distributor in his pickup truck which has two hundred fifty thousand miles on it.

      He was yearning for the days of breaker point ignition, which WAS simple and easy to work on, and CHEAP to work on as well.

      But he had managed to forget that he would have had to replace the breaker points at least fifteen or twenty times in two hundred fifty thousand miles, lol.

      • Nick G says:

        Our local taxi companies went through a long transition to hybrids: they had to convince themselves that total repair costs would be ok, given that they were used to very cheap domestic car repairs (classic Crown Vics, etc). Turned out that much lower repair volumes more than made up for higher cost per repair.

  19. Doug Leighton says:

    Depressing fact:


    “With the future of US healthcare likely to rest on the next presidency, a new study highlights just how complex the medical needs of many Americans now are… But what the future holds for the 50% of Americans suffering from multiple health challenges remains to be seen.”


    • Fred Magyar says:


      Single-Payer National Health Insurance
      Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private.

      Currently, the U.S. health care system is outrageously expensive, yet inadequate. Despite spending more than twice as much as the rest of the industrialized nations ($8,160 per capita), the United States performs poorly in comparison on major health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and immunization rates. Moreover, the other advanced nations provide comprehensive coverage to their entire populations, while the U.S. leaves 51 million completely uninsured and millions more inadequately covered.

      • Doug Leighton says:

        I’ve had experience with healthcare in Canada, Sweden and Norway: all excellent and virtually free. Perhaps the US ought study these (and other) systems? To my mind, easy access to good healthcare and education should be fundamental to any civilized society – for ALL members.

        • GoneFishing says:

          Look, if we don’t keep feeding huge amounts of money into the health system we will be forced into socializing it.

    • Doug Leighton says:

      But, some good news:


      “The IEA says in a new report that last year, renewables accounted for more than half of the increase in power capacity. The report says half a million solar panels were installed every day last year around the world. In China, it says, there were two wind turbines set up every hour…..”


  20. scrub puller says:

    Yair . . .

    HuntingtonBeach and others . . . . .

    “After adjustments for inflation, I believe vehicles are cheaper to own and operate than 50 years ago. ”

    Just perhaps that statement is correct.

    In my part of Australia though it is improvements to roads as much as the cars that has made the difference.

    The vehicles I drove in the sixties and seventies seldom saw blacktop. Put the present crop of glued together vehicles (even some SUVs) onto constant washboards, foot deep bulldust and slamming through potholes and they don’t last ten thousand miles.


  21. Fred Magyar says:

    Scrub, psst! Ya know that acronym, ‘SUV’, well, it stands for ‘Stupid Useless Vehicle’…

    • GoneFishing says:

      My old SUV is very useful, carries all kinds of stuff, and gets 35 mpg highway. Bigger than most of the SUV’s they sell now too. Four cylinders, 5 speed manual.
      Google SUV and a lot of them are rated between 30 and 35 mpg highway.
      So it’s no longer a Chevy Tahoe or Ford Expedition world. Just about anything with a hatchback is called an SUV now. If more people are buying SUV’s that doesn’t mean they are buying gas hogs.
      Get up with the times Fred.

      • Fred Magyar says:

        Get up with the times Fred.

        Bows head in shame, duly chastened!

        Then remembers he drives a 2002 Saturn SL1, 2L, 4 cyl, 5spd manual with a Kayak rack up top and rear seats that fold down. Gets better mpg than GF’s SUV… 😉

        • GoneFishing says:

          That is amazing. I have a Saturn also. Wish they still made them.

          • HuntingtonBeach says:

            Let’s try pulling a 25oo pound bass boat and trailer out of the lake up the ramp a couple of times with your Saturn. Then come talk to me about your $2000 SUV clutch repair.

            A XT5 mid size automatic crossover rated at 3500 pound towing can get 21 mpg @ 65 mph pulling the bass boat, 35 mpg without the boat. No problem all day long on the steepest of ramps. There is a real reason why some buy SUV’s.

            • GoneFishing says:

              So you have over $80,000 of equipment to catch $5 fish that I used to catch out of a rowboat. Whhhooo Hoooo. Talk about overkill and poor efficiency while using way too much material for the desired result.
              BTW, don’t feather clutches, it burns them out.

              • HuntingtonBeach says:

                Oh Kingfish, you know what they say. The difference between a man and a boy is the price of his toys. Also, at your age I would have thought you would know what happens when you assume.

                First off, I have never caught a fish in my entire life. I’m a water skier. My boat is similar to a bass boat haul, engine and a little heavier. I just said bass boat to help you relate. Fishing seems boring to me. I always figured people liked it because of their opportunity to experience nature and bass fishing was all about the thrill of going 75 mph across the water to reach the fishing spot.

                Second, if you think your going to dump the clutch getting that boat out of the water. You got a surprise coming. Either you going to kill the engine because you have any speed to keep it going up the ramp or your going to spin the tires and roll back into the water deeper.

                Third, I buy my fish at the market.

                Fourth, you can’t take it with you and there are some auto assembly workers in Tennessee that are grateful. The same place were your Saturn was assembled. You might say my XT5 is a modern day Saturn.

                Fifth, if your Saturn can make it to Southern California next summer. Let me know and I will show you a great time on the water.

                • GoneFishing says:

                  You are singing to the choir Bassmaster. I used to haul horses with big V8 engines, know all about hauling problems.
                  They did make Saturns with 3500 pound towing capacity. Never used one for towing though.

                  I never had a problem getting my kayaks out of the water though and certainly never had the need to get hauled around on a rope for thrills.
                  Waterfalls and class IV-V rapids were enough for me. Skiing was fun too, didn’t use a lift to get up the mountain either. Ever telemark?
                  Yeah, I have met those kind of boys, spend huge amounts of money on toys. Seemed handicapped to me, couldn’t even move their own ass around and expected me to be impressed by things somebody else made.
                  Not planning on going further than Utah and Arizona, so don’t wait up.

                  • HuntingtonBeach says:

                    Yes, Saturn did make a 3500 capacity V6, auto and tow package, but that’s not what yours is. A 4 cyl and manual isn’t a big V8 auto or creeper gear either. The choir sounds a little tune deaf.

                    How to destroy vehicles on boat ramps-



                • GoneFishing says:

                  Mr. Beach,
                  Thanks for all the info I did not need. Having hauled loads for years I do know enough to match the load and the vehicle.
                  Hope you have fun with your unbass boat, not my cup of tea. Still, enjoy because …

    • notanoilman says:

      My old Jeep carried so much stuff it got nicknamed “El Burro”. (Hence my bike, “Burrito”). Could fit an entire dive boat’s worth of tanks, gear, boxes, coolers, life jackets and even the captain wedged in somehow.


  22. scrub puller says:

    Yair . . .

    Gotcha Fred, I like that. (grins)

    I see latest registration figures for new vehicles shows SUVs only just behind sedans, quite illogical really.

    I do think though that the dual cab utes (pickups) are included in the SUV category.

    Unlike the US though, most have engines of less than four litres. Turbo diesels around three litres seem to be the preferred option.


  23. Nick G says:

    Dennis, here’s a continuation of our discussion above.

    we recycle 99% of the “good” stuff.

    Yeah, there’s a residual that’s a *little* more expensive to recover, so…we don’t.

    There are two different subjects here: what’s being done now, and what *could* be done. I brought up steel recycling as an example of what’s being done now. If you look at the reference you provided for steel recycling, we see that steel is pretty extensively recycled in the US. This is a pretty good indication that the US has changed to a mature, steady-state industrial economy, in which production AND consumption levels have plateaued, materials are recycled, and the extraction of “virgin” materials has declined dramatically in many cases.

    Yes of course there is conservation of mass, if energy was infinite we could recycle at 100%, but it isn’t, so we cannot.

    We don’t need infinite energy to recycle into the indefinite future – we just need some reasonable additional energy to move materials from a diffuse state to a concentrated state. If something exists at a level of one part per billion in the earth’s crust, it might take quite a lot of energy. But…that’s not realistic. Things like copper could be recycled at rates near 99% with just some re-organization of normal operating procedures, and the additional 1-2% that would need to be added wouldn’t be that hard to recover from municipal waste, streams, river and ocean beds, etc.

    And, of course, for most materials we have hundreds of years before we get to that point.


    Bottom line: the current “state of the art” in recycling doesn’t tell us much about what’s “feasible”. It only tells us what’s “competitive” with virgin mining, in a situation where we don’t take into account all of the real costs of virgin mining.

    We can do infinitely more.

    • robert wilson says:

      http://www.ajronline.org/doi/pdf/10.2214/ajr.131.5.926 Decades ago, I wrote this editorial for a major Radiology journal. It included discussion of difficulties recycling the rare element silver. Fortunately the silver problem became partially moot with the unexpected development of digital photography and radiography. Still recycling of silver can vary between easy and impossible. Silver coins can be recycled. Very little silver is lost with fabrication and circulation. But imagine recycling the silver used in cloud seeding, medical uses such as burn therapy, missile technology military applications, etc. http://www.silvercoins.com/uses-of-silver/ There is a growing shortage of helium. It is required to cool MRI units, in welding, in space and for balloons among other uses. Some is usually lost in the atmosphere. Other elements can be be similarly dissipated on land or in the sea. Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen has discussed the dispersal of geologically concentrated materials and and the limits of recycling

    • Dennis Coyne says:

      Hi Nick,

      I agree that we can do more.

      You tend to overstate your case by claiming 99% recycling can be accomplished, in a perfect world perhaps, I live in the real world.

      I noticed on re-reading you said 99% of steel in scrapped cars is recycled.

      That is a little like saying 99% of the steel in cars that are recycled can be recovered.

      Actual recovery rates in the US are about 85% for the steel in vehicles.

      Metals are relatively easy to recycle, there are lots of inputs that are chemically altered as they are used. Maybe we can always find a substitute. You will claim that this is true and the burden is on me to prove that this is not the case. I would claim that the burden would be on you to prove your claim.

      My claim is simple, recycling is a good idea, but the implication that no virgin resources will be needed in the future is an overstatement in my opinion, as is the claim of 99% recovery rates for recycled resources. Note that the 99% claim for lead recycling only applies to the lead used in lead acid batteries. In 2013 about 54% of lead produced in the World came from recycled lead, the other 46% was from virgin resources. Only 88% of lead is used in lead acid batteries in the US.


      • robert wilson says:

        During WWII there were well publicized efforts to recycle scrap metal. I won the prize at my Junior High School for bringing in the greatest weight of scrap metal. This was probably in 1944. For a time I was also collecting old newspapers from neighbors for which one could be paid a small sum. My interest in recycling and conservation was recycled after reading Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth and authors such as Harrison Brown, Hugh Moore and Alvin Weinberg during the late 50’s and 1960’s. This has been an interesting hobby with occasional surprises. http://www.wennergren.org/history/conferences-seminars-symposia/wenner-gren-symposia/wenner-gren-symposia1952-1960/mans-role-c

      • GoneFishing says:

        I think the loop is being closed from both ends. Increased ability to reuse and recycle materials goes hand in hand with using less material, making it last longer and producing less waste.
        Theoretically just about everything can be recycled. Future needs will determine how much of the complex and difficult to recycle will be.
        There is also engineering and design aspects to making products that are easily recyclable.
        If one repairs a motor (electric or otherwise) allows continued use of that motor. At the same time it may be upgraded or the software operating it will be changed thus improving performance.
        I do not think society and technology are anywhere near optimized.

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi Gonefishing,

          I would think that eventually the properties of the materials will be changed. Consider metals that are alloys, often it is difficult to separate them in the recycling process and the recycled metals may be of inferior quality. In many cases theory and practice are different. This is not to say recycling as much as possible, designing products so they can be recycled more easily and designing quality products that last a long time is not a good idea.

          The point is that this optimization of recycling is likely to reach a limit that is more like 85 or 90% in the real world. Possibly less when materials that are consumed or chemically altered in the production process are considered.

          Clearly the atoms are somewhere, but getting them back to their original chemical configuration is often difficult and expensive, even if it is possible in theory.

          • Doug Leighton says:

            I mostly agree with this. There are major problems associated with contaminants (especially copper) in recycled iron/steel. For example, a close friend of mine (a metallurgical engineer) told me that for many applications you now have to specify a supply source, usually a Japanese smelter, because of severe problems linked with most recycled steels. And, the quality of rebar has now become terrible (junk metal) to the extent of putting concrete structures at risk.

            I actually prepared a report for a Japanese government agency on this about 15 years ago but can’t be bothered to delve into details here (and it may not be judicious to do so anyway).

            • GoneFishing says:

              Maybe we should emulate nature, solubilize the iron in water and use bacteria to deposit the iron ore in a pure form.

              I know that railroads have had large problems with Chinese rail cracking in a fairly short time.

              So where is the copper coming from that contaminates the iron?

              • Doug Leighton says:

                Copper is coming mainly from electric motors. Most recycling depots simply toss refrigerators old motors etc. onto the same pile.

          • GoneFishing says:

            You assume that this is a forever option and it is not, our technology will change dramatically in the future and may not even depend much upon metals. Separation techniques will also change.
            So if everything stays the same then it is not a great way to do it in the long run. However, not much stays the same for very long.

            We need to take a lesson from nature, complex molecules are digested, then reformed into useful molecules. All that is done at a low energy state.
            If we never learn how to do similar things to what nature does and displays to us every day, then we are not very smart.
            I think it is possible to remove the copper from iron in a vacuum induction furnace.
            But there are probably much less energetic means using biological mechanisms, if one still needs to work with pure iron at that point in the future.
            Possibly one of our global mistakes is to drag past methods and materials into the future as much as possible. This has caused us to get into a huge energy well that must be filled each day just to continue forward.
            Low energy reactions and methods are so much more efficient because they do not depend on some monstrous energy gathering and processing system to implement them.

            • Dennis Coyne says:

              Hi Gone fishing,

              Does nature attempt to concentrate iron? My impression from some cursory reading is that the iron concentrated at the earth’s core has been in place for a while (before any bacteria were around on earth). 🙂

              I agree things will change in ways that are difficult to envision and we may use less metal for structures in the future as better alternatives might be designed, though we may continue to use aluminum and copper to move electricity around for some time, perhaps these will become obsolete as well.

              Typically nature breaks down things relatively slowly, except in the case of forest fire when it is relatively quick, but not low energy. Humans are impatient, so we usually try to devise quicker methods with unintended negative consequences.

              Best that we use as little as possible, reuse as much as possible, and recycle as much as is practical (without causing excessive damage).

              • GoneFishing says:

                Yes, nature concentrates iron at the surface through iron rich spring waters and bacterial action. Bog iron.

                “Best that we use as little as possible, reuse as much as possible, and recycle as much as is practical (without causing excessive damage).”
                Good thoughts Dennis.

                • Dennis Coyne says:

                  Hi Gonefishing,

                  Interesting, not sure how easy creating bog iron (using a similar chemical process) would be. Iron resources are pretty big and with recycling it can be made to last a while. There is of course the possibility of substitutes if iron becomes scarce.

      • Longtimer says:

        You can make a starter Battery from Recycled lead, but you can NOT make a Tier 1 Energy Storage Battery. To spec a Battery for an application that requires defined capacity requires high purity triple digit Pb and you do pay for it. Average Battery Quality is not what it used to be. It’s no longer easy to test and select matching batteries even for golf carts. Active cell management or segmented charging is recommended on Pb Batteries keeps cells to age together. I think we will joke about Pb Batteries in a few years.

        • GoneFishing says:

          Thanks Longtimer.
          Found this info on purity of lead in batteries.

          Impurity levels in lead for MF and VRLA batteries : Recent ALABC observations
          “Table 4 shows the actual test
          results on some of the pure lead
          samples from different sources. This
          proves that the lead of 99.97 percent
          and 99.99 percent is really does not tell
          us about the real quality of the lead.
          The type and the level of various
          elements determines the suitability or
          otherwise of the lead use to make lead
          oxide. This point should be kept in
          mind. It is not enough if the lead is of
          99.9 percent purity. The balance of
          0.015 percent or 100 ppm of impurities
          is the main factor which determines the
          gassing characteristics. If for example,
          the 100 ppm consists of antimony,
          selenium or tellurium the oxide will
          result in gassing, incomplete charging
          of negative and possible dry out.”


  24. Doug Leighton says:

    This stuff never ends.


    “Today, manufacturing strong magnets is no problem from a technical perspective. It is, however, difficult to produce a permanent magnet with a magnetic field of a specific pre-determined shape. That is, until now, thanks to the new solution devised at TU Wien: for the first time ever, permanent magnets can be produced using a 3D printer. This allows magnets to be produced in complex forms and precisely customised magnetic fields, required, for example, in magnetic sensors.”


    • Fred Magyar says:

      That is really awesome! 3D printing is a truly disruptive technology. It has applications in just about every field imaginable from printing replacement organs built out of stem cells to entire skyscrapers that could never be built with traditional means, and just about everything in between. It makes it cost effective to manufacture limited runs or even one of a kind parts from special alloys, to ceramics and polymers.

      Now imagine mating a 3D electroloom fabric printer with super strong carbon nanotube enhanced spider silk.


      Electroloom Mini 3D clothing printer creates seamless, wearable fabric in under 20 minutes

      Spiders Ingest Nanotubes, Then Weave Silk Reinforced with Carbon

      • Caelan MacIntyre says:

        A comment and a quote from your linked sites:

        “I’ve got 2 questions: 1. Is it really additive manufacturing? 2. How safe is it? will I get a rash if I wear it (I hope not). There are a few studies that show that mainstream technologies (FFF, SLA, SLS) are actually bad for your health, will this one be one too?” ~ I. A. M. Magic

        “Nobody has discovered an efficient way to harvest spider silk, although not for lack of trying.”

        • Fred Magyar says:

          I am waiting for 4D printing where the objects change shape and properties over time depending on environmental circumstances.

          How safe is it? And will it give you a 4D rash?

        • Fred Magyar says:

          “Nobody has discovered an efficient way to harvest spider silk, although not for lack of trying.”

          So what?! And anyways it isn’t even the point, the point is what we can learn from nature by studying it.


          Professor Fritz Vollrath from the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford and current STIAS fellow will present a talk with the title


          Spider silks, like the silks of other arthropods, use proteins as the structural components and water as the solvent. Protein and water combine and separate – under ambient pressures and temperatures – to make the silk thread, which can be so tough that it outperforms even the best man-made fibres.

          So far, our studies of spider silks and webs have lead us to a number of important discoveries ranging from tunable nano-scale composite structures (that absorb energy hydro-electrically) to complex self-assembling micro-machines (that absorb energy mechanically) all the way to the building of complex webs cleverly engineered to absorb energy aerodynamically. All these ways-and-means are the works of Nature’s ‘Design by Evolution’, which is a powerful albeit rather time consuming process, to create and fabricate highly functional – and energy efficient – materials, devices and systems.

          Importantly, silks are not only interesting as highly evolved natural materials but seem to have a bright future as conceptual models to guide our understanding of energy efficient bio-polymers and also as prototype models to guide the design of totally novel polymer systems be it for medicine or engineering.

          As for 3D printing it is a simply a highly disruptive technology on multiple levels. While by itself it certainly isn’t a silver bullet to solve societies problems, it is just another tool in our quiver to engender change to our current dsyfunctional system. It might even help us reduce consumption of natural resources by allowing us to manufacture things we need locally with locally available resources. Thereby putting a major dent in extractive processes such as mining or even the entire long distance transportation infrastructure that depends on fossil fuels.

          Short Caelan: “Science is bad, knowledge is bad, technology is bad. Nothing good can come of it!” Why? Because that is what I think and I can’t imagine it any other way!

          • Caelan MacIntyre says:

            Learning about nature is great, but it’s what we do and don’t do with what we learn that counts, right, Fred? Duh.

            And for indications of that, all you have to do is look around at your degrading planet, like your beloved coral bleachings and trashed communities, courtesy of that techno-idiogarchy, whose links and wet-dream experiments you appear so fond of stroking on POB.

            You appear to want to eat your techno-idiogarchy cake and have your corals too. Like that Western-dressed guy with a solar panel on his ‘mud hut’ that you had posted a photo of. (Maybe there’s a rammed-earth McDonalds down his street, full of corporate wage-slaves and factory food.)

            If I were TechGuy, incidentally, I might be amused at the ostensible irony that seems strangely, along with my own contentions, lost on you. Wilful ignorance.

            In short we are not (yet) impressed, nor should we be.

            • Fred Magyar says:

              Don’t blame me. It’s all Doug’s fault! 🙂
              He started it with his mention of 3D printing of magnets, I mean how evil is that… All I did was kill all the corals in MY own reefs, hey they are MY reefs after all.

              And you are so right, those Africans living in huts, should never be allowed access to solar panels, clean water, basic medicine, etc. They should continue to burn kerosene.

              Next thing you know they will be posting comments on sites like this one, using evil computers and the internet, especially now that they have become corporate zombie slaves.

              • Africa was and is being colonized in various ways, its natural ecosystems, resources and cultures/lives, plundered, pillaged and generally trashed.

                This is a recurring theme around the world, such as against native populations.
                The USA, for example, was built, and continues to operate, on slavery with a sprinkling of cultural, human and economic genocide– both at home and overseas.

                Africa doesn’t need the global-industrial plutarchy to tell them what they want and need, with a model that doesn’t ask.
                Africans, and probably everyone else, including our ancestors, have taken, and can and will take, care of themselves just fine without it.

                • Fred Magyar says:


                  Caelan, if there wasn’t already someone on this site calling themselves clueless, I’d suggest you adopt that handle yourself.

                  Guess what, most of the people on this site including myself know all that already! But thanks for trying to educate us by preaching.

                  Guess what else, giving villages in Africa access to electricity with very small scale distributed solar is still orders of magnitude less harmful than having them continue to burn kerosene. Even if those panels are produced by Chinese corporations…

                  Perhaps giving them access to education might help turn the tide with regards the destruction of their ecosystems and biodiversity as well. Not very likely but there is still a slightly greater than snowball’s chance in hell. Humans have been agents of ecosystem destruction since the dawn of agriculture at least for the last 10,000 years, long before the advent of our current governments or corporations.

                  The current system is not sustainable but no matter how much you preach you are not going to change the world or human nature by being angry at the universe. Nature, and humans are a part of nature, is the way it is. Get over it already!

                  The fact that some of us here make comments about 3D printing of magnets or spider silk or synthetic biology or a thousand other things that are technological fruits of scientific knowledge doesn’t mean we think any of that by itself makes the world a better or a worse place. Most of us here understand that things are not starkly black or white but rather 16 million shades of grey!

                  We are swimming in the matrix and we observe the world around us. Sometimes some of us can help start little avalanches and attempt to steer the big avalanches away from the sleeping village below. Usually we can’t!

                  • Caelan MacIntyre says:

                    “…giving villages in Africa access to electricity with very small scale distributed solar is still orders of magnitude less harmful than having them continue to burn kerosene. Even if those panels are produced by Chinese corporations… Perhaps giving them access to education might help turn the tide with regards the destruction of their ecosystems and biodiversity as well. ” ~ Fred Magyar

                    So preaches someone ostensibly in a country with less than 5% of the global population that consumes ~25% of fossil fuel resources?

                    If so, the (clueless?) hypocrisy (that ‘education’ doesn’t seem to help) seems thick enough for mortar, but I wouldn’t use it for my foundation.

                    Leave Africa and whoever else alone, Fred, and concern yourself with your own sordid affairs in your own backyard– affairs that are negatively-impacting the world, including Africa, (and that likely won’t be anywhere near remediated by your ignora-tech rackets).

                    Again, they don’t need your proselytizing ‘help’.

                    If we’ve been agents of ecosystem destruction since the dawn of agro, then maybe it’s time to turn over a new leaf, hm?
                    The original solar panel?
                    The one that’s spelled with a lower-case ‘l’?

      • GoneFishing says:

        I am waiting for 4D printing where the objects change shape and properties over time depending on environmental circumstances.

        Wait, nature already did that and they regenerate themselves too without machinery. Cool stuff.

        • Caelan MacIntyre says:

          Great point.

          Sarcastically-speaking, if we can improve on nature, then we can improve on how humans go about it.

          Hypothetical Fred Magyar: “Wait, what?”

  25. Duncan Idaho says:

    Grassland tuned to present environmental conditions suffers in a hotter future – Study finds no CO2 fertilization effect


  26. robert wilson says:

    7 Tesla MRI delayed due to a shortage of helium. Helium burn-off is an operating expense and can prohibit complete recycling. Perhaps medicine is becoming too complicated. http://www.freshwatercleveland.com/innovationnews/clinicmri080113.aspx

    • Ulenspiegel says:

      You can recycle the helium of MRI and NMR spectrometer, it makes sense when a few machines are in the same building.

      In addiditon some of the new NMR spectrometer (do not know for MRI) have cooling units that dramatically reduce annual helium burn-off, Bruker claims that their new generation of Aeone-Magnets does not need refills.

      The more interesting question is whether we can replace for some applications helium with nitrogen in future.

      • GoneFishing says:

        Last NMR I worked on was a Bruker 400. Sounds like they are using refrigeration on their high end units.

        We may not be running out of helium.
        “Helium is the second most abundant element in the Universe, but it’s relatively rare on Earth – so much so that some have called for a ban on party balloons to ward off a worldwide shortage. However, a team of scientists led by Diveena Danabalan of Durham University conducted a new study that indicates that there may be vast new sources of the gas in the western mountain regions of North America.”


        • robert wilson says:

          That well known element Hopium.

          –For a number of years the companies manufacturing MRI units have been aware of the helium problem and have attempted to decrease loss of helium. This has been offset by the increasing popularity of MRI and fMRI as well as the tendency to increase magnet strength to enhance diagnostic accuracy.

          • Doug Leighton says:

            Actually there is no helium shortage:


            “Using a new exploration approach, researchers found large quantities of helium within the Tanzanian East African Rift Valley…They say resources in just one part of the Rift valley are enough to fill more than a million medical MRI scanners.”


            • robert wilson says:

              Not necessarily a given.
              “Prof Jon Gluyas, of the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University, who collaborated on the project, said the price of helium had gone up 500% in the last 15 years.
              “Helium is the second most abundant element in the Universe but it’s exceedingly rare on Earth,” Prof Gluyas told BBC News.
              “Moreover, any helium that you do find if you’re not careful, will escape, just like a party balloon it rises and rises in the atmosphere and eventually escapes the Earth’s gravity altogether.
              “It’s used in a whole array of key instrumentation, particularly medical MRI scanning and so on, and so we have to keep finding

              The amount of helium is estimated at more than 54 billion cubic feet – which could potentially meet global demand for several years.
              The next step is to find the best place to drill to exploit the gas and bring it to the surface.”

              • Doug Leighton says:

                No sweat, there is a guaranteed ready supply of helium on Jupiter.

                • GoneFishing says:

                  Isn’t there a problem with the gravity well at Jupiter. Pretty strong field to be fighting against. Lassie might never get Timmy out of that well, even on steroids.
                  Won’t we have all the helium we need once fusion is powering the world? 🙂

                  • Doug Leighton says:

                    Don’t be a defeatist, technology will rescue us. We can always wear anti-gravity suites as just one obvious example.

                • GoneFishing says:

                  Well shades of Cavorite.
                  Here I thought you might come up with some high speed robotic scoop that would blast in, plow up some atmosphere, then still retaining kinetic energy blast back out. The speed of impact would compress the atmosphere sample for easy transport.

                  But no, you jump right to the high tech solution.

                  How about just teleporting it up to passing ships?

  27. JN2 says:

    For Fred and others, an update on Sadoway’s liquid metal battery company, Ambri:


  28. Fred Magyar says:

    And in the bad news column…


    More corals are dying and others are succumbing to disease and predators after the worst-ever bleaching on Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, scientists said Wednesday.

    A swathe of corals bleached in the northern third of the 2,300-kilometre (1,429-mile) long biodiverse site off the Queensland state coast died after an unprecedented bleaching earlier this year as sea temperatures rose.
    And researchers who returned to the region to survey the area this month said “many more have died more slowly”.
    “In March, we measured a lot of heavily bleached branching corals that were still alive, but we didn’t see many survivors this week,” Andrew Hoey of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University said in a statement.
    “On top of that, snails that eat live coral are congregating on the survivors, and the weakened corals are more prone to disease. A lot of the survivors are in poor shape.”

    Of course we all know that massive coral die off in the Great barrier Reef and in the my own back yard, the Caribbean, has nothing to do with anthropogenic climate change, it is all caused by natural variation… So let’s work on saving the fossil fuel based global economy by promoting economic growth. After all, even contemplating no growth is a preposterous and dangerous idea.

    And just to put things in perspective from JN2’s link above re: Ambri’s battery:

    In the energy sector, you’re competing against hydrocarbons, and they’re deeply entrenched and heavily subsidized and tenacious,” he said in a separate interview, earlier this year, with MIT News.
    Donald Sadoway

    • GoneFishing says:

      Sorry Fred, looks like fossil fuel use is going to continue.

      Florida has no reason to use fossil fuels of any kind. It’s warm there, plenty of sunshine and wind. Electrify everything that needs power. The place is flat, so it’s energetically low power.
      Will be shocking when the ocean rolls over it but that will be quite a while, I think. In the meantime dump the incumbent government and go electric all the way. Make all those rich people pay for it.

  29. GoneFishing says:

    From the Alaska Volcano Observatory – code Orange

    52°49’20” N 169°56’42” W, Summit Elevation 5676 ft (1730 m)
    Current Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
    Current Aviation Color Code: ORANGE
    From the Alaska Volcano Observatory

    “Unrest continues at Cleveland Volcano. Since yesterday’s explosion, nothing of note has been observed in satellite data under partly cloudy to clear viewing conditions. Clear web camera images this morning showed intermittent minor steam emissions occurring within the summit crater. It is possible that these emissions contain minor amounts of ash, but the plumes are very small and are rising just slightly above the crater rim. No significant activity was detected in seismic or pressure sensor data during the past day. ”


  30. Doug Leighton says:


    “Experts have offered up an explanation as to why our planet began to move in and out of ice ages every 100,000 years…We can think of the oceans as inhaling and exhaling carbon dioxide, so when the ice sheets are larger, the oceans have inhaled carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making the planet colder. When the ice sheets are small, the oceans have exhaled carbon dioxide, so there is more in the atmosphere which makes the planet warmer.”


    • GoneFishing says:

      Doesn’t make much sense to me as being the primary driver, more of a follower. If the oceans were acting as storage for CO2 why did the “exhaled” CO2 never make the atmospheric concentration very high again.
      More than likely the CO2 had been permanently sequestered, helping to put the earth into a glacial mode. At least permanently sequestered until the methane hydrates let loose.
      The more than 100 watt/m2 differential caused by orbital changes is a much larger effect than the 100 ppm CO2 range effect.
      The ocean tends to hold more CO2 as it gets colder and less when warmer, thus amplifying the changes on land once the snow season starts to extend toward permanent annual snow, causing even less heat to available to the earth/ocean system.

      So we can all breathe deeply now and let out a sigh of relief. No glaciation in sight.

      • Doug Leighton says:

        I think I agree with most of your comments at least up to that ‘sigh of relief’ part. You’ll have to wait quite a few sleeps Fish but, mark my words, the ice is coming back to get you. 🙂

        • GoneFishing says:

          That sounds personal Doug, the ice is coming back to get me. I never believed I was that important, I feel so much better now, yet wondering what I did to deserve such natural attention.
          Oh, I remember now, I am a human.

          Well, if it’s going to get me I will have some fun letting it.

          • Oldfarmermac says:

            Hi GF,

            I am just wondering- Do very many people really play in Arctic waters ?

            I can imagine how much fun it would be, but you would need a really good wet suit, and transportation and lodging would be serious hassles.

            And conditions would be changing constantly, maybe hourly, if you were playing in glacier runoff, rather than like river rapids, which are fairly stable from one year to the next except as rainfall varies.

  31. islandboy says:

    The EIA updated their Electric Power Monthly yesterday (October 25) with data for August. The US electricity sector continues to set records for the amount of NG used to generate electricity, with 155,866 TWh being generated using NG for the month of August, up from the previous record of 152,459 TWh set in the previous month. In August, the total amount of electricity generated in the US at 410.885 TWh, was slightly less than the 413.304 TWh generated in July. Conventional hydroelectric, wind and solar all generated less electricity in August than they did in July.

  32. islandboy says:

    Below is the graph of monthly energy output from solar PV and solar thermal from the EIA’s latest Electric Power Monthly.

    • Dennis Coyne says:

      Hi Island boy,

      As solar expands and catches up with wind, it will complement wind output pretty well.
      Wind output is higher in winter and lower in summer and PV is the reverse. If solar expands to be a larger supply than wind, pumped hydro or some other storage medium will be needed (batteries fuel cells, hydrogen production or vehicle to grid). Maybe solar thermal for heating buildings in winter would help, along with tighter buildings and more insulation.

      • islandboy says:

        Hi Dennis,

        One graph I find intriguing is the one below of total generation at utility scale facilities by year. When you juxtapose the steepening ramp up of solar approaching the summer months (solstice) I wonder if some day in the future the bump in generation during the summer will be produced largely by solar. Doesn’t seem too far fetched to me.

        • Longtimber says:

          Meanwhile in France…..
          “The scale of forced closures in nuclear power-reliant France – 19 reactors offline and 12 more due to shut – is the biggest since the Fukushima disaster in 2011”

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi Islandboy,

          We just need solar to increase by a factor of 9 to take care of the summer bump with solar and by a factor of 60 to provide all summer electric power (assuming no increase in demand). If EVs ramp up, demand for electricity is likely to increase so maybe a factor of 100 or so more PV than currently. If we get 10% average growth rates for solar PV for 50 years we will get there. For the past 10 years or so average growth has been 30%, but that will slow to 10% within 10 years. There is also wind, which is growing at about 20% per year for the past 5 years, if they both grow we may be able to replace most fossil fuels by 2060.

      • Oldfarmermac says:

        Hi Dennis,

        I’m as big a supporter of renewable energy as anybody, but I also like to remind everybody as often as possible that conservation and efficiency for now and for some time to come will deliver more bang for the buck than anything else, at least in terms of the bucks of individual home and business owners in most places.

        On a collective basis, it may be that the subsidies that we are spending on renewable energy are paying us a decent monetary dividend already, in terms of lower fossil fuel prices across the board.

        If this is true, it’s sort of a paradox, within a paradox.

        Most anti renewable opponents believe or at least say that renewable energy increases the costs of electricity, which is true short term in a lot of places. But it’s also true that wind and solar power are already lowering the cost of electricity in some other places.

        EVEN IF the cost of a typical consumers electricity goes up a dollar or two or even five bucks a month, due to having lots of subsidized renewable electricity on his local grid, he is without a doubt getting part of that subsidy back in terms of lower prices on other goods, ranging from food to new cars.

        Reducing the quantity of coal and gas sold to generate electricity obviously lowers the price of these commodities to some extent. Cheaper coal and gas mean cheaper steel, cheaper food, and cheaper consumer goods.

        This get us to the nested paradox. Cheaper food and cheaper cars may mean that we use and waste even more energy and other resources than we save by having wind and solar farms, lol. We’ve all heard of Jevons and his paradox.

        I wish I could find some decent figures on just how much we are saving on the purchase of coal and gas to generate electricity already here in the USA given that we are getting five percent or more of our electricity from wind and solar power.

        I am fairly sure that for every kilowatt hour we generate with coal and gas, we save at least eighty five to ninety percent of the quantity of coal and or gas needed to generate that kilowatt hour. The percent may be higher than ninety, but a solid figure is very hard to come by. We do use a little more gas and coal than usual to maintain the needed hot spinning reserve in locations where there is lots of wind and solar power on the grid.

        Beyond the actual savings in the QUANTITY purchased, there is also an additional saving due to the price of that purchased coal and gas being a little lower.

        And then there is the unquestionable but hard to quantify public health benefit. Less air pollution means healthier people and lower health care costs.

        And while coal miners are losing jobs due to renewable electricity, the number of people going into wind and solar power is substantially larger than the number of people leaving the coal industry.

        I don’t know if the consumption of gas is rising or falling, short term, as the result of wind and solar power. I do know that more gas is being burnt in peaker plants that can come on line fast as one result of having more wind and solar electricity, but the overall market for gas for electrical might still be less due to burning less when the wind and sun ARE cooperating. It probably IS less, in my opinion, but that’s only a guess.

        If anybody has links to articles dealing with these speculations and questions, please post them and thanks in advance.

        • GoneFishing says:

          As we replace fossil power with renewable the amount of ill health in the country will fall. Also pollutants and particulates from transport will reduce as EV’s come on line. That will add up to a significant amount of money not spent on medical problems and more productive workers with more discretionary funds. Funds that can buy better windows, insulation, and more efficient cars.
          As the air gets cleaner, higher levels of insolation will improve the efficiency of solar PV and might make more wind. More positive feedbacks.
          Increased implementation of renewables should also promote further conservation in energy. Once people see the changes happening it will become easier to make energy conservation as part of a way of life. Same with EV’s.

          I heard a fellow on NPR talking about autonomous vehicles, giving various scenarios of their possible effects on society. One of the scenarios he postulated was that once people realized that they were no longer wasting their time while commuting they might commute further. They could read, do work, write, whatever, since they no longer needed to drive the car.

          Myself I don’t see it as a problem because much of the business moved to the towns and suburbs over time, making the commutes shorter anyway.

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi OFM,

          I agree improved efficiency will be important. Note that Jevons paradox assumes that supply of coal is adequate, if depletion is causing the supply of coal to decrease at about the same rate as demand decreases due to efficiency increases, then the coal price is unchanged and the paradox of an increased quantity of demand due to increased efficiency of steam engines disappears.

          Jevons paradox requires a very specific set of assumptions which may not apply in a World of limited energy resources.

          On the spinning reserves, the US grid is highly interconnected and the total spinning reserve needed to back up wind and solar is likely to be small relative to the total backup of the system needed to maintain reliability. There are always unexpected outages which require backup and the wind and solar can be forecast pretty accurately with modern weather forecasts so, the “unnecessary” backup that you may believe is running all the time to back up wind and solar is likely negligible. We will know better as natural gas prices increase and solar and wind subsidies are removed and replaced with a carbon tax. In that case if the spinning reserve is as high as you believe wind and solar will not be a profitable investment and they will not expand. I am highly doubtful that this will be the case as the cost of wind and solar continues to decrease over time.

          I do not have hard numbers on this, but the EIA does some analysis of this.

          See http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf

          Note especially the minimum cost in table 2 where at minimum regional cost, wind and geothermal are lower than all fossil fuel electric power by 2022 even with no tax credit. When tax credits are included even solar PV in the best areas (minimum cost) beat the cheapest fossil fuel power plants in 2022.

          Note that the EIA outlooks tend to assume very low natural gas costs in the future (which are not realistic in my view) as well as very conservative estimates of future decreases in the cost of wind and solar.

          In other words wind and solar are likely to be even more competitive than this AEO2016 analysis reveals.

  33. Doug Leighton says:

    There are times I think I’m an optimist, others, not so much:


    “The Living Planet assessment, by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and WWF, suggests that if the trend continues that decline could reach two-thirds among vertebrates by 2020. The figures suggest that animals living in lakes, rivers and wetlands are suffering the biggest losses.”


  34. R Walter says:

    You gotta stay busy, no free lunch, coffee fuels the energy.

    One day here not too long ago I was driving down the road getting there when on my left was a moose walking along in the ditch. I kept on driving, but since there are bison on the other side of the fence, a bison ranch, I wondered what kind of encounter it might be between a bison bull and a bull moose.

    Since the moose can run, my guess is the moose would hightail it out of there and the bison bull would go back to grazing. There were no buffalo in the pasture at the time. They have to be moved to greener pastures.

    Antelope out there by the score, the deer are doing the best they can these days. Cranes, geese, ducks, all still there. The coyotes howl, fox are on the prowl. Eagles, hawks, and owls are out there on the hunt. No grocery stores for them to visit, the good earth provides.

    Couldn’t do that or see any of it if you aren’t there, a vehicle* with four wheels, an engine, a steering mechanism and you are there.

    Will wonders ever cease?

    *An electric vehicle or one with an ice, doesn’t matter, both require fossil fuels to move.

    • GoneFishing says:

      NATURE, brought to you by EXXON.

      • Fred Magyar says:

        Shit, if EXXON can no longer provide, then methinks NATURE is FUBAR!


        Even Exxon Mobil Is In Trouble
        XOM continues to report deteriorating earnings.
        Q2 saw a profit but margins are rapidly declining.
        So is cash flow and that means XOM can no longer afford its dividend.

        The only way to save NATURE is to save EXXON!
        On second thought, we don’t need no stinkin NATURE, so ride a bike or take a hike!

        • GoneFishing says:

          The sentence “Nature, brought to you by Exxon” comes from the credits for the PBS TV show Nature.

  35. GoneFishing says:

    Destructive weather. After a long time with low rainfall, central and western Pennsylvania finally got some. Actually way too much, up to 7 inches of rain, a storm with winds up to 100 mph leaving a path of destruction for 150 miles. A bridge blown out along with a gasoline pipeline break directly into creeks and headed for the Susquehanna river.


  36. VK says:

    You know things are going crazy when even the Dem-friendly Washington Post writes that Clinton’s future foreign policy will lead to a direct hot conflict with Russia – WW3. Obama is atleast not suicidal.


    “In the rarefied world of the Washington foreign policy establishment, President Obama’s departure from the White House — and the possible return of a more conventional and hawkish Hillary Clinton — is being met with quiet relief…
    The Republicans and Democrats who make up the foreign policy elite are laying the groundwork for a more assertive American foreign policy, via a flurry of reports shaped by officials who are likely to play senior roles in a potential Clinton White House…
    The studies, which reflect Clinton’s stated views, break most forcefully with Obama on Syria …. call[ing] for stepped-up military action to deter President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Russian forces in ­Syria.
    Most of the studies propose limited American airstrikes with cruise missiles to punish Assad ….
    Last year, Obama dismissed calls for a no-fly zone in northwestern Syria — a position advocated by Clinton — as “half-baked.”…
    Even pinprick cruise-missile strikes designed to hobble the ­Syrian air force or punish Assad would risk a direct confrontation with Russian forces, which are scattered throughout the key ­Syrian military bases that would be targeted.
    “You can’t pretend you can go to war against Assad and not go to war against the Russians,” said a senior administration official who is involved in Middle East policy and was granted anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.”

    • Fred Magyar says:

      “You can’t pretend you can go to war against Assad and not go to war against the Russians,” said a senior administration official who is involved in Middle East policy and was granted anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.”

      Well, I hope not all economists are as ignorant of physical reality as this guy… and he is touted as a guru in the field of political risk. Unfortunately he still ‘BELIEVES’ in Infinite Growth and US energy independence due to the shale oil and fracking technology revolution. He sounds exactly like the type of economist a future Madame Clinton administration might listen to. To be fair he does raise a few good points.


      Dubbed a “rising guru” in the field of political risk by The Economist, Ian Bremmer teaches classes on the discipline as global research professor at New York University and is a foreign affairs columnist and editor at large for Time magazine. His latest book, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World, was published in May 2015.

      Question: Shouldn’t issues like Population, climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification, bio diversity and habitat loss, to name just a few of the things that concern me personally be included when assessing ‘Political Risk’?!

      On the other hand, maybe what the planet really needs is a good all out global nuclear war to bring on a long term radioactive ice age! That would certainly change the ecological playing field once and for all and perhaps allow some new species to evolve, who knows, maybe in a few million years a truly intelligent species might even develop, eh? /SARC!

      • GoneFishing says:

        First of all, we have been up against the Russians and the Chinese in the past, shooting at them as well as they shooting at us. The Russians love saber rattling and showing their bravado. They push trying to get the other side to give in or just give up. I doubt if they will start a nuclear war. It’s also a good way to learn the true military strength of the enemy. The first Iraq war showed the Soviets that the US could be very deadly on the ground, as well as air.

        Fred, nuclear war is not what you think it is. Since the 1960’s strategic weapon attack methods involved a multi-altitude attack system. Low weapons for mass destruction of dense cities and hardened fortifications, high altitude weapons to burn off hundreds of square miles all at once in the less dense regions. When whole regions catch fire at once, no one knows the depth of the firestorm that will occur.
        Since much of the vegetation, buildings and infrastructure of large parts of the world would burn, nuclear winter would only be the first problem. Huge amounts of CO2 and toxic pollution would enter the atmosphere. First cold then steadily increasing heat. Look at 6C as the lower boundary. Weather would be completely unpredictable for a time and ocean currents would change. Ocean levels would start to rise quickly, any remaining maritime cultures, water edge cities and seaports would be in jeopardy.

        • Fred Magyar says:

          Yeah, GF, I know most of that already.

          But once the wars are over life might again revert to more primitive forms of single celled organisms leveling the ecological and evolutionary playing field so to speak.

          Think about the possibilities of another era after this event as a period similar to the Cambrian.

          Giant mutant Cnidarians hunting new forms of squid like cephalopods in warm, stormy acidic and radioactive seas.

          Hey in another half million years or so we would have new shale deposits…

          The future of life on this planet looks bright indeed! It has a long ways to go before the sun finally burns out. Humanity will have played it’s part by causing the sixth mass extinction and will have long since vanished by then along with most of the creatures and plants that lived alongside us.

    • Oldfarmermac says:

      About VK’s comment:

      At least Clinton ain’t Trump.

      It’s hard to say how hawkish she will be but maybe she will turn out to be more dovish than some folks think.

      Politicians tend to play to the opposition this way, with Democrats knowing they can capture some independent voters who are hawkish without actually losing any committed D voters.

      Republicans can play to independent or dovish leaning voters sometimes knowing the R core will stick with them anyway. Some Republicans in districts with lots of young folks are beginning to talk some sense about legalizing pot.

      The main thing I don’t like about Clinton is that she is just about as much in the vest pocket of big biz as any Republican, although most D partisans are either too dense or too cynical to admit it. Sanders supporters knew it and not only admitted it but pointed it out.

      But at least she ain’t Trump. LOL and thank the Sky Daddy or Sky Mommy that you like best- or fear the most.

  37. Longtimber says:

    Buffett On Medical Marajarwanna cure for Solar Power
    The Empire Stikes Back – Vote all drones into Darkness ??

  38. Oldfarmermac says:

    Every hard core D in the country ought to be out making burnt sacrifices to the the gods of their personal choice for Trump.

    He is personally going to be responsible for turning both the WH and the Senate over to the Democrats.


    • GoneFishing says:

      Trump puts on a baseball cap and suddenly the angry frustrated working guy is on his side. He talks a bit like them too. It’s that simple. Also he and his minions are sowing a fog of propaganda, denying and refuting anything negative about him and his campaign, even he polls.
      Not enough to get the presidency, but enough to make us sit back and really think about the state of affairs within the nation. A model for eventual ascendency to power across the nation.
      Just think if he was a little smoother and cagier, he might have a strong chance.

      Remember, Obama grabbed a lot of votes just by talking about change. Simple and effective.

  39. Oldfarmermac says:

    This article has links in it to six more articles about the politics of energy.

    They are all worth reading.


  40. R Walter says:

    The fossil fuels industry loves the renewables industry such as wind and solar.

    You need fossil fuels to build solar and wind, period.

    A healthy wind turbine manufacturing facility will be using coal and oil. A construction company erecting wind towers for wind turbines will be using fossil fuels to do the work to get ‘er done.

    Fossil fuels are there at the beginning and will continue to be there to aid the wind and solar industries, for wind and solar need fossil fuels, can’t do it without them.

    A carbon-free energy structure is all bunkum and bosh.

    • Fred Magyar says:

      Fossil fuels are there at the beginning and will continue to be there to aid the wind and solar industries, for wind and solar need fossil fuels, can’t do it without them.

      A carbon-free energy structure is all bunkum and bosh.

      Considering that carbon is the 4th most common element in the universe that may well be true but it doesn’t necessarily follow that we need to get it exclusively from fossil fuels… har!

  41. R Walter says:

    By 1886, the Westinghouse Company was one of the biggest and most successful in the entire world.

    Westinghouse was a Protestant Christian gentleman and totally unlike the robber barons of that era….His motto was the golden rule, and his employees shared in the success of his company. He believed in doing his good works in secret, and many charities throughout the country were helped by his largess.

    He offered to buy all the AC patents from Tesla for the staggering sum of 1 million dollars cash and royalties of $1.00 per horsepower of electricity produced.

    Unlike Edison, George Westinghouse was a man of his word, and offered Tesla a staggering sum for all his AC patents:

    So favorably impressed was Westinghouse that he decided to act quickly. The story was related to the author by Tesla.
    “I will give you one million dollars cash for your alternating current patents, plus royalty,” Westinghouse blurted at the startled Tesla. This tall, suave gentleman, however, gave no outward sign that he had almost been bowled over by surprise.
    “If you will make the royalty one dollar per horsepower, I will accept the offer,” Tesla replied.
    “A million cash, a dollar a horsepower royalty,” Westinghouse repeated.
    “That is acceptable,” said Tesla.
    “Sold,” said Westinghouse. “You will receive a check and a contract in a few days.”
    Here was a case of two great men, each possessed with the power of seeing visions of the future on a gigantic panorama, and each with complete faith in the other, arranging a tremendous transaction with utter disregard of details. (O’Neill, Prodigal Genius, pp. 74-75).
    The decision to give the world alternating current put George Westinghouse on a collision course with Morgan and Edison.


  42. An interesting article about Wikileaks emails disclosing a conspiracy by the radical left to smear a university professor


    • Oldfarmermac says:

      Hi Fernando,

      The part of the membership here that posts political comments is so solidly D oriented that they will never read an article critical of the Clinton camp.

      They know everything from Cattle Gate to White Water to the secret email system is all part of the Great Right Wing Conspiracy to get the Clintons, lol.

      But something tells me the smell the dead fish emanating from both camps is perfectly obvious to most of us, although I am the only one who mentions it as a rule.

      Clinton is going to win, by a substantial margin, maybe a landslide, and it is now looking like the D’s will take over the Senate as well.

      Taken all around, given that the D party is environmentally more right and righteous about environmental issues, this is ok by me, considering the alternative.

      My state will be going D by a considerable margin, and given the electoral college system we use, I feel free to vote a third party, which is a good thing, because somebody would have to hold a gun on me to get me to vote for either Clinton or Trump.

      But everybody should realize that the Clinton camp is as firmly in the vest pocket of big business and big lobby interests as the R party.

      It hasn’t always been that way. Sad.

      Sanders could have mopped the floor with Trump, and the R’s could have mopped the floor with Clinton, if they had nominated any candidate with a measure of common political sense and charisma.

      Trump has succeeded in driving the middle of the road voters and almost all the younger folks into the D camp. The only people I run into now who want him in office are those who hate or fear Clinton, plus a few with business interests who think he will be good for their business, plus of course all the fools who don’t know doo doo from apple butter about anything.

      This last observation proves that Twain was wrong when he had one of his characters say that paraphrased, we have all the fools in town on our side, and that’s a big enough majority in any town, lol.

      Trump is dead sure going to lose, barring some extraordinarily unlikely late surprise, such as Clinton having to go to the hospital and stay there until the election. The odds of that sort of surprise are at least a thousand to one against.

      I am extremely lucky in that a really superb physician decided to give up life in the big city and his privileges at a big city hospital, and move to my neighborhood. He makes house calls, and he accepts Medicare, but otherwise you need not mention insurance to him. He does not accept insurance.

      He typically charges forty bucks for an office visit, and you get as long as you need to talk over your health and your options. I’ve been in and out in five minutes, and I’ve been in for a full hour, depending on the reason for the visit.

      I am afraid he will retire early if he is forced to deal with what he thinks is coming in terms of being told how to practice his profession. He has dropped a couple of hints to that effect already.

      He has plenty of money from his city days anyway, and he’s not a big spender.

      This is not to say I don’t understand that a single payer health care system similar to the ones common in Western Europe would be a GOOD thing for this country.

      But it won’t be a good thing for me, personally, if he retires due to being forced into dealing with Ocare.

      • Dennis Coyne says:

        Hi Old Farmer Mac,

        All politicians in the US have been in the pocket of big business for a very long time.

        It is just a matter of degree. Most people in the US would be unlikely to support a “socialist”, so many felt that Sanders was not electable. Unfortunately without big business behind a candidate their chances are pretty slim for being elected, this is just reality.

        Personally I would have liked a Sanders presidency as he is much further to the left of Clinton. Most of the nation has political beliefs that are more to the center and this “silent majority” has views that are pretty well aligned with the views of Clinton.

        I have not followed all the various scandals very closely, not of much interest to me.

        All politicians are a bunch of crooks, all part of the game in my opinion.

        You know the old saying “the crap floats to the top”. 🙂

        • Oldfarmermac says:

          Hi Dennis,

          Unfortunately, I must agree with you. The thing that seems the saddest to me is that Clinton is MORE in the pocket of big business and big money, to a truly substantial extent, than past D party nominees.

          There really can be major changes in the way the country as a whole looks at things. Sanders was just a little before his time I guess.

          But just about every really literate and passionate younger person I know was a Sanders fan, and remains a Sanders fan.

          With a little luck, the country is headed his way, long term.

  43. HVACman says:

    Question for the group:
    What are you seeing in your community for Trump or HRC yard signs or bumper stickers? In past elections around here in far northern California, there was a proliferation of signs/stickers for both R’s and D’s by early October. It’s just 11 days until this year’s election and around here…almost nada. Lots of signs for state and local elections and propositions, but just a handful of signs for Trump and nothing for HRC. Nary a bumper sticker, either.

    • GoneFishing says:

      Same thing here. A few Trump signs, nothing for Hillary.

    • Fred Magyar says:

      Pretty much the same here in my neck of the woods. I haven’t seen anything for HRC and just a smattering for Trump. Local issues and politicians seem to trumping the presidential election by quite a margin. Hadn’t really been on my radar until you mentioned it. BTW, given that I’m in Florida that is a bit unusual to say the least.

      • Longtimer says:

        A few Hillary Yard signs in select affluent neighborhoods.
        Seems like Hillary 4 Prison bumper stickers outnumber Trump,
        even on Prius’s. Perhaps a hold your nose thing I guess.

        • Oldfarmermac says:

          I am in the political backwoods, and Trump signs are common. Clinton signs are almost non existent.

          This election IS turning on who hates and fears the opposition most.

  44. GoneFishing says:

    World’s largest marine protected area just formed off Antarctica. It took over 50 countries to beat Obama’a Hawaiian marine preserve in size.


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