The Improving State of the World

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With all the gloom and doom being pushed today, the title of this book is one of certain optimism. WUWT reader may recognize the author, Indur M. Goklany, a frequent WUWT contributor. I highly recommend his book, both for the positive outlook and for the factual discourse. – Anthony

Many people believe that globalization and its key components have made matters worse for humanity and the environment. Indur M. Goklany exposes this as a complete myth and challenges people to consider how much worse the world would be without them. Goklany confronts foes of globalization and demonstrates that economic growth, technological change and free trade helped to power a cycle of progress that in the last two centuries enabled unprecedented improvements in every objective measurement of human well-being.

His analysis is accompanied by an extensive range of charts, historical data, and statistics. The Improving State of the World represents an important contribution to the environment versus development debate and collects in one volume for the first time the long-term trends in a broad array of the most significant indicators of human and environmental well-being, and their dependence on economic development and technological change.

While noting that the record is more complicated on the environmental front, the author shows how innovation, increased affluence and key institutions have combined to address environmental degradation. The author notes that the early stages of development can indeed cause environmental problems, but additional development creates greater wealth allowing societies to create and afford cleaner technologies.

Development becomes the solution rather than the problem. He maintains that restricting globalization would therefore hamper further progress in improving human and environmental well-being, and surmounting future environmental or natural resource limits to growth. **Key points from the book** * The rates at which hunger and malnutrition have been decreasing in India since 1950 and in China since 1961 are striking. By 2002 China’s food supply had gone up 80%, and India’s increased by 50%.

Overall, these types of increases in the food supply have reduced chronic undernourishment in developing countries from 37 to 17%, despite an overall 83% growth in their populations. * Economic freedom has increased in 102 of the 113 countries for which data is available for both 1990 and 2000. * Disability in the older population of such developed countries as the U.S., Canada, France, are in decline. In the U.S. for example, the disability rate dropped 1.3 % each year between 1982 and 1994 for persons aged 65 and over. * Between 1970 and the early 2000s, the global illiteracy rated dropped from 46 to 18 percent. * Much of the improvements in the United States for the air and water quality indicators preceded the enactment of stringent national environmental laws as the Clean Air Act of 1970, Clean Water Act of 1972, and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. * Between 1897-1902 and 1992-1994, the U.S. retail prices of flour, bacon and potatoes relative to per capita income, dropped by 92, 85, and 82 percent respectively. And, the real global price of food commodities has declined 75% since 1950.

From the Back Cover

“This optimistic view of the impact of economic growth and technological change on human welfare is an antidote to the prophecies of an imminent age of gloom and doom.”

-Robert W. Fogel, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“Provocative, illuminating, sharp, and fact filled. Do you think that economic growth is a problem for the environment? Goklany will make you think again. Whether or not you’re convinced by his arguments, you’ll learn a ton from them.”

-Cass R. Sunstein, University of Chicago, author of Laws of Fear

“Goklany does an excellent job of refuting the global pessimists by documenting the dramatic improvements experienced in recent times by humankind, not only in the developed world, but worldwide. Goklany addresses a vast array of issues from the improving state of humanity’s life expectancy to his examination of the promise and peril of bioengineered crops. The vast breadth of Goklany’s inquiry is impressive, as is his exhaustive documentation.”

– Roger A. Sedjo, Resources for the Future

“A remarkable compendium of information at odds with the present fashionable pessimism, Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, published by the Cato Institute, reveals that, contrary to popular belief, it is the poorest who are enjoying the most dramatic rise in living standards. Refuting a central premise of the modern green movement, it also demonstrates that as countries become richer, they also become cleaner, healthier and more environmentally conscious. the full review

“In a book to be published next month entitled The Improving State of the World, Indur Goklany, of the Cato Institute, argues that the world’s state is, well, improving. He produces figures to demonstrate that chronic undernourishment has gone down in the past 50 years, we are living longer, we are healthier, the basic necessities of life are cheaper, literacy has gone up and so has educational attainment, economic freedom has increased and a larger proportion of mankind than ever enjoys political freedom. the full article

“Goklany’s essential message in his book, The Improving State of the World, is that the world over, more people are already, or are fast becoming, more blessed than they’ve ever been by a considerable margin. article

“What Goklany concludes is that massive progress has been made in so many areas as a result of the positive impact of economic growth, technological progress and more liberal trade. It’s clear that never have more people had access to education, health care, food, clean water and an improving environment.”

-Michael Campbell, Vancouver Sun

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118 thoughts on “The Improving State of the World

  1. I’ll be buying this one. To understand the motivations behind the “… prophecies of an imminent age of gloom and doom,” I recommend “Tears of the White Man,” by Pascal Bruckner. Originally published in French, The English language translation is out of print so you’ll have to buy it used. Mr. Bruckner, a French writer, is one of the few people who can legitimately be described as an intellectual.

  2. This is exactly what the alarmists, bedwetters, and envirofreaks do NOT want to hear. They do not like at all that we might be having a good time. We make our mistakes, but we are also getting better at fixing and avoiding them.
    These are people who hate the idea that there are people out there, somewhere (they know they’re there), not doing what these people think they should be doing. The fact that the other people even exist bothers them – they are not conforming to their world view. Such people are never happy. They love misery and complaining, it can even be a lifestyle – the Whiners, to whom fun goes to die.

  3. Wonderful! (and he posts here on WUWT).
        I noted with some despair: “Much of the improvements in the United States for the air and water quality indicators preceded the enactment of stringent national environmental laws as the Clean Air Act of 1970, Clean Water Act of 1972, and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974.”
        Can’t y’all over there explain this to your fire-in-the-eyes enviros? (And I’ll try with ours…)
        Thank you for featuring this book, Anthony. Thank you for writing it, Indur M. Goklany.

  4. Dr. Goklany continues the tradition of legendary economist Julian Simon with a master work that is a must read for all. It debunks the doomsayers prophecies and arms the rational man with the irrefutable facts that the state of humanity is improving. If you have not read it yet buy it, you will not be disappointed.

  5. Did not the gladiators in ancient Rome, get well fed housed and generally well looked after.
    This is not about gloom and doom but it could be about deception. The key is to keep the wheat and blow away the chaff.
    Man made global warming is but one scam, all part of a family and all with an objective.
    What do farmers do, fatten calves and ears of corn!
    The issue with me is that yes this is correct but are the motives behind it good and a mighty, we can do a hell of a lot better.

  6. Awesome! And a good thing my birthday is approaching, because I will definitely be treating myself to this one. These are the kinds of facts that are so important to the debate, but aren’t always easy to find.
    Hmmm, maybe Indur and Anthony could get together to make some signed copies available. 🙂

  7. Globalization by free trade has proved to be good for humanity.
    But, recent Globalization using government decree is a different matter. Think Carbon Trading. How can this kind of financial globalization be good for humanity?

  8. Haven’t read the book yet, but I hope the author talks about the problem of the accidental and deliberate transmission of invasive species (such as the Asian Longhorn Beetle and West Nile virus) into new habitats that are a by-product of globalization. Is it possible for Mr. Goklany to comment on the subject in a guest post here? The net result from globalization may be positive, but some aspects are clearly detrimental.

  9. I am a fan of Julian Simon’s work. Indur’s book looks like it will be better by inclusion of more recent themes and evidence.
    I just bought the electronic version of Indur’s book. (took 5 mins to get it).
    Reading now . . . .
    John
    John

  10. Everything is OK, we do accept it. It´s great!, however, what about the liberal fanaticism about: Abortion, stem cells research, drug liberalization, “non-reproductive” behaviors, population control, malthusianism,”Global Warming” scam, “Clima Change”, “Environmentalism”, pseudo “ecology”, NGO´s meddling everywhere against the right of a better living, against development, “human rights” for terrorists but not for they who defend us from it, “free from values” education, worldwide prohibition of traditional and eternal symbols of knowledge as the cross in schools, prohibition of religion at schools, generalized secularization, faked pandemias like AH1N1, etc.,etc YOU NAME IT!, what about these?
    Why all these “Elevated Principles”are forced into the hearts and minds of our kids and more simple hearted people?; what about this?

  11. High time for more positive thinking in this depressing world, the pessimists have us outnumbered 10 to 1.
    Ref – Charles Higley says:
    September 29, 2010 at 5:23 am
    “This is exactly what the alarmists, bedwetters, and…”
    Charles we all start out as bedwetters, some of us return to that condition as we grow older, and for other reasons as well. Please don’t use this term again unless/until you know whatof you speak.

  12. Globalisation is about the erosion of nation states and the destruction of national sovereignty.
    National sovereignty is derived from individual sovereignty. Sovereignty simply means freedom. Your individual sovereignty, your fundamental personal human rights, are under attack from globalisation.
    Globalisation and the erosion of National Sovereignty is the stated agenda pursued by organisations such as the Council On Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Bilderberg Group.
    They say, what you fail to appreciate, you stand to loose.
    If the the people of the world fail to appreciate that the word sovereignty, actually means freedom, they stand to loose both.
    The type of Globalisation pursued by the CFR and the Builderberg Group is the same Globalisation that was pursued by Adolf Hitler and is funded by the same intergeneration Nazi financiers. Now instead of using the Nazi’s they are using the UN, but the agenda is exactly the same. If realised, the consequences will be as bad, if not worse.
    If realised, we will all quickly learn the true meaning of DE-CARBONIZATION.

  13. This theme is a continuation of the view of J. M. Keynes, who was similarly optimistic – and 100% correct in his predictions of a better world through human innovation and ingenuity.
    As Keynes pointed out, compound interest doesn’t just apply to economics, it applies to the human condition in general. Technological progress continues to accelerate. Human health, lifespan, and wealth are on an upward trajectory. Only 66 years after Kitty Hawk we landed on the Moon. In another six decades the world will be as unrecognizable to us as the Lunar rover, computers, antibiotics and lasers would be to the Wright brothers.
    The only real problem is the conniving of intrusive, greedy governments, both national and international, who fully intend to confiscate the wealth of those who produce it by using constant railing about how “racist” and “unfair” it is for wealthy countries to actually *have* the wealth that their productive citizens have honestly earned.
    The governments’ “solution” is always the same: to impose much higher taxes, and funnel the additional confiscated wealth through layers of government bureaucracies – which all get their cut, without producing anything of real value. The result is that the world’s poor only get a few crumbs from the table, if that – while unaccountable governments grow relentlessly, and individual prosperity and initiative stagnates.
    Left alone, the free market will provide astonishing wealth and technological progress, just as it has ever since Adam Smith laid out the road map to greatness in his 17775 book, The Wealth of Nations.
    I’ll be reading Dr Goklany’s book. He’s my kind of guy. The world needs his antidote to the constant drumbeat of doom, defeat and despair, which are constantly parroted for only one reason: to convince productive workers to open their wallets to the insincere, smarmy, smiling government opportunists who always have their eyes on our assets.

  14. AGW sceptics were described in a derogatory way recently as ‘alpha male optimists’ which, by the way is a good description of every CEO or leader I’ve ever met! So I’ll buy into that.
    Of course the world is much better.
    cheers David

  15. Without a doubt, the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere over the past half dozen decades has contributed to a corresponding increase in foodstuff production in countries like India and China. All these resourse-consuming people is what the elitists don’t want and every effort to curtail the benefit of energy derived from burning CO2-producing fuel along with the secondary benefit of feeding plants world-wide are apparently the tools they have in mind to control population expansion. Expletives describing their insular greed are numerous but suffice it to say their agenda isn’t hidden any longer. Nothing else makes sense.

  16. Smokey says:
    September 29, 2010 at 6:51 am
    This theme is a continuation of the view of J. M. Keynes, who was similarly optimistic – and 100% correct in his predictions of a better world through human innovation and ingenuity.

    ————-
    Smokey,
    J. M. Keynes advocated inflation of the money supply (via the central bank mechanism of interest rate manipulation). He did so as an explicit mechanism for stimulating the economy in the short term by government as a means of directly controlling the economy. He was a supporter of some form of a centrally planned economy. In that regard, he was very much like the current many AGW supporters, ideological environmentalists and their political fellow travelers.
    His famous quote in response to someone asking if his economic policies had a net negative impact on a nation’s economy in the long run went something like this, “In the long run we are all dead.” I do not find that in any way optimistic in nature.
    John

  17. Well said Enneogram (spelling)
    Example Corporate windmills are a scam, a fraud upon the people. Saying that, does that make me a pessimist a “denier’. No it does not. Its pointing out the obvious. Similarly, Singapore is a beautiful prosperous place but who would want to live there.
    Growth without freedom is not growth but a deception. Reminds me of those that used to breath sweet smelling pomanders to protect themselves from the deadly bad vapours.
    Better energy, better food and better travel is a great goal and one easily achievable. Yes progress has been made and that is recognised and lauded but at what price?

  18. Yes, but that’s the way it was. I would love to get all optimistic but I’m not even getting close. Dr. Golkany is not really up to date, he’s a bit behind the curve, like about 8 to 10 years. The only thing maintaining momentum right now is mounting debt! We’ve had a few spurts at economic recovery but its going at a snail’s pace overall. Spurred on by getting deeper into debt!
    The people working to bring on the industrialized civilizations collapse have struck another, even harder blow. They won’t stop their goal of returning most of the planet to wilderness. But I sure hope they read his book!

  19. Time will show if Globalisation as it has played out will be in the interest of the Western world in the long run. I think the scenario has played itself out and we cannot go on importing cheap stuff and exporting jobs. The crunch has come. How many more billions or trillions of Dollars can USA continue to send to China as payment for cheap goods, most of which is probably not really required? How many more jobs can the Western world afford to export? We cannot survive on bankers, accountants, truckers, shop workers and public sector workers alone. I think the party is over and unemployment will continue to be a real problem as jobs have been exported and public sector excesses have been allowed to continue beyond control. Even here in UK, if the Coalition manage to impose their £60 billion cuts the public debt will still increase by over £100 billion a year on top of the £trillion or so we already owe bond holders. I have no doubt Globalisation has been good for China. What about the rest of us in the long term???????

  20. Economic growth has certainly helped improve the world but why oh why did Mr Goklany use the term globalization! The definitions are rather vague and could be either economic or political or a combination. I think most of us here recognise carbon trading for what it is and something to be avoided at all costs. We here in Europe are being strangled by EU red tape (particularly in the UK where EU laws are ‘gold-plated’) so I’d be very hesitant to recommend the ‘global governance’ being touted by van Rompuy and his colleagues.

  21. So in less than a century we should see a voluntarily stabilised world population and the beginnings of a gradual decline.
    At the same time we should see improving technologies combining efficient production of energy with less consumption of scarce resources and steady progress towards genuine long term sustainability.
    The real medicine we need to take is more free market capitalism (with checks and balances from a rule of law of course) widespread democracies (or local variations on the theme) and less central direction or regulation.
    The current global financial crisis is a consequence of government meddling rather than an unstable system. It was governments who bought votes by insisting on the creation of vast numbers of loans to unsuitable borrowers and thereby bid up the price of homes to unaffordable levels.
    Let governments and their hangers on get out of the way and all will be fine. Indulge them and instead we will see the decline of the Soviet Union writ globally, perhaps worse.
    The poorer they make us the longer it will take before global population peaks because only wealth, freedom and education for women leads to lower birth rates voluntarily.

  22. I am grateful for Indur Goklany’s work and for his contributions to WUWT. Bought this book when he last contributed to the site. An excellent read. It certainly offers ideas as to what a United Nations worthy of the name might turn its attention to. I am hoping that one of the tea-party-movement reforms will be to give away the present UN to one of its client-states and begin a real one. The Improving State of the World could offer a foundational structure.
    I would ask for one addition: that improving/non-improving measures be more carefully linked to governmental forms and functions. Those that offer the freedoms of the American Bill of Rights (e.g., “freedom of religion”, not just “freedom of worship” — let there be competition among religions) and advocate and protect private property (e.g., pp. 220-234) should be the ideal of this new organization. Masses of evidence show that these are among the main markers of a better life for human beings. Also among the markers for human creativity and inventiveness. Thanks to Indur Goklany.

  23. Who wouldn’t love living in the modern world? Compared to any other time in history, we have more food, better medical care, amazing technology, and expanded knowledge. Even a middle class American lives better then royalty did a couple 100 years ago. Life is indeed grand!
    But there is one nagging fear in the back of my head. Are we kind of like a rookie in the NFL? Suddenly we have wealth beyond our imagination (in the form of plentiful cheap energy for the last 100 years) that allows us to live an amazing lifestyle. But we all know the stories of professional athletes who find themselves at the end of their careers (which is often much sooner than they had anticipated!) with no money and big debts.
    If energy remains plentiful (and other resources as well), then we can continue to live this wonderful lifestyle. But if that wealth runs out, then were will we be? Pro athletes who invest wisely and plan for a career after sports often continue to live wonderful lives. The ones who don’t can end up living in cars working dead-end jobs.
    Don’t we as a race need to develop a plan for “life after oil”? Sure, some think that there is nearly limitless oil seeping up from deep in the ground, but that is certainly not a mainstream view, and I am not quite ready to gamble the lives of my grandkids on that theory.
    Cheap energy is the driving force that allowed “unprecedented improvements in every objective measurement of human well-being.” We are dependent on the equivalent of ~ 5 tons of oil per person per year to maintain our current (western) lifestyles. If cheap energy ends, I fear these unprecedented improvements may slide backwards a bit.

  24. Stephen Wilde
    Nicely said but allow me to restate one of your paragraphs.
    The real medicine we need to take is more free Enterprise (with checks and balances provided by protection of law of course) widespread real democracies (or local variations on the theme) and no central direction or regulation with a return to Common Law.

  25. Stephen Wilde (7:36 a.m.) “The current global financial crisis is a consequence of government meddling rather than an unstable system”.
    Come on Stephen. This is a comment made with “conservative” blinders on. A “free market” is not the one and only answer. We have had plenty of global economic crises before. This one is due to the absence of a “rule of law”. Putting out debt as a form of equity? Invest in debt we were all told — by whom? No government advocated that. There simply has been no punishment for law breakers up and down the line, both Parties. The anything goes atmosphere permits all these regulatory laws that simply rent-seek for businesses/corporations that cannot compete in the free market and enables the elites to line their pockets, too. AGW — part and parcel.

  26. Will says:
    September 29, 2010 at 6:40 am
    That is absolutely true!. All companies of the world now have to conform their products to Brussels’ ISO, 9000, 14000 or whatever standards come from there. ASTM has been trashed. National history it has been reduced to minimum in schools all over the world, etc.etc. International free trade agreements contain provisions for binding “association” (meddling of foreign governments in internal affairs), etc.,etc.

  27. But, recent Globalization using government decree is a different matter. Think Carbon Trading.
    That is not globalization but global government.
    Carbon Trading is a globalized financial product created by financial corporations, lobbying international governments with scientific falsehoods. Trading thin air, brought to you by Goldman Sucks.

  28. Abundant fuel has driven most economic growth in the last century.
    We are now facing a peaking of easily recoverable LIGHT oil. See:
    The oil ‘peak’ has been reached
    Fasten your seat belts. This will cause an economic roller coaster until major quantities of alternative transport fuels are developed from oilsands, heavy oil, shale and coal – or from solar resources.

  29. A world of fake economy, of an speculative economy, intended as a machine for pumping up the fruits of your hard daily working to the wallets of the not ever working elite, can not continue based on “derivatives” or unlimited printing of “money”. Our hard work has its physical limits: The inexorable laws of thermodynamics make it impossible. Though they may concoct an alternative solution….like Carbon Currency!

  30. Stephen Wilde, I couldn’t agree with you more.
    It drives me crazy when I hear people (like my own brother) complain that life is getting worse for the average person. This is a pervasive liberal meme and it is so obviously false I find it hard to believe that anyone falls for it. Of course the left has to believe (or pretend to believe) it as the solution is always more government. Are rich people getting richer? Of course they are. Is the middle class getting poorer? Anyone who believes that is delusional. I recently heard a commentator from Africa saying something to the effect of “poor people in Africa have protuding bones and live in grass huts. Poor people in America are 50 lbs overweight and have cell phones.”

  31. OK!. We’ll pay it!, that’s our fate! , we have no fear of working!, we are healthy people, we don’t wanna live from other people’s work, like you do, that’s for feeble and sick and sophisticated people like you!.

  32. David L. Hagen says:
    September 29, 2010 at 8:29 am
    That is wrong. Synthetic oil is cheaper than US$80 a barrel. There are LOTS of methane all over the world (don’t forget we use to go to the toilet too)….

  33. In some ways money acts just like energy, once it has been created.
    However nature abhors a vacuum (so to speak)
    Thus there is this regulating law. “That created from nothing must return to nothing”
    Therein lies the fate of Fiat money

  34. Fifty years ago, my great grandmother, grandparents and five children lived in a small 4 room (not bed rooms, just 4 room) house in rural North Carolina.
    No interior running water. water was from a handpump on a ground well. Sanitary was an outhouse. Electricity served little other than lights, a refrigerator and a radio.
    Heating was by a single oil fired stove. Purchased food was necessities only; a lot of food came from the garden and preserves. Telephone was on a party line. Clothes were hand washed and air dried. Shoes were saved for church and special events.
    Things are better.

  35. Well, I’m tellin’ ya’, I can’t remember a blog comment from Indur Goklany from which I didn’t learn something. Does the ‘M’ stand for ‘Signal Rich’?
    ================

  36. Mr Golkany’s book now goes on my ‘must read’ list, as I always enjoy his posts here on WUWT. Another book I thoroughly recommend is ‘Climate: The Great Delusion’ by Christian Gerondeau, a French Civil Engineer. His book was originally published as ‘CO2 Un Mythe Planetaire’ and the translation has been updated by the author.
    An improving world does bring unintended consequences, however and I do tend to be concerned about the issue of unintelligent eating which seems to be a plague on the less-than-aware individuals comprising a large section of the mass consumer market, which is no longer a Western phenomenon. Even children’s playground equipment in the UK is now wider and stronger than it was thirty years ago, so it is true that one can have too much of a good thing!
    I tend to be on the same team as Canadian Mike and Stephen Wilde.

  37. (mod please remove the previous comment)

    Come on Stephen. This is a comment made with “conservative” blinders on. A “free market” is not the one and only answer. We have had plenty of global economic crises before. This one is due to the absence of a “rule of law”. Putting out debt as a form of equity? Invest in debt we were all told — by whom? No government advocated that.

    Stephen is actually right. We have plenty of laws, way way too many laws, useless organizations like the SECC already existed. The recent financial crisis would be impossible without government intervention in the economy, especially the creation of moral hazard. There could be no housing bubble without Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Reserve. None of those three have anything to do with a free market. No housing bubble and no financial crisis. This video and books explain it,
    Understanding the financial crisis (Video) (8min)
    Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse (Thomas E. Woods Jr., Ph.D. History, 2009)
    The Housing Boom and Bust (Thomas Sowell, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Economics, )
    People who think the current economic crisis happened because of a lack of government do not properly understand what actually happened.

  38. Enneagram says:
    September 29, 2010 at 6:11 am
    We forgot to mention “faked science” of the ideological “minimalist” ( no Gods in it) pantheon of the left.

  39. Poptech -Exactly! being a Reatlor now, I saw this whole mess coming when the Fed,
    Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Congress(in 1999, btw) opened markets and passed laws that made lenders required to loan to people who could not pay their mortgage.
    (Personally, I’d love to see Chris, “Coutnrywide” Dodd and Barney Frank hauled
    before congress if not a Federal Court…
    More Government is not the answer, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

  40. pyromancer76 says:
    September 29, 2010 at 8:03 am
    “Invest in debt we were all told — by whom? No government advocated that.”
    The governments in USA and UK and elsewhere did just that.
    Mortgages are debt. In order to gain votes from poorer citizens the Banks were encouraged (perhaps compelled) to lend to a vast number of hopeless applicants who would never have been able to borrow within normal prudent criteria. In order to give them the money the savings of a huge number of hard working prudent citizen taxpayers were hijacked for political gain and mostly lost in a Madoff style pyramid scheme but sponsored by our elected representatives.
    At the same time Govermment debt was sold in vast quantities while the public sectors were expanded on the back of government borrowing.. Bonds were created and sold supported by nothing but the printing press.
    Those two measures inflated the money supply way beyond the value of goods and services available to be purchased and the surplus liquidity went straight into the housing bubble plus huge bonus payments for those cooperative Bankers and long term unrealistic salaries and pensions for the public sector and their accomplices in government.
    For a while the bursting of the bubble was delayed by the tax revenues generated. In the UK with income tax at 40% the government was the main beneficiary of that corruption of money.
    As always, the longer one defers the necessary correction the harsher that correction must be and the fact is that at this very moment the inevitable future correction is becoming daily harsher because they are still deferring it with more and more ‘quantitative easing’ which is fake money if properly described.
    At some point the system must implode and the real (greatly reduced) value of money will become apparent. It should have imploded two years ago when the Banking system froze but to protect themselves our governments decided that the system was too big to fail and have been ruthlessly screwing taxpayers and savers ever since in order to try an defer the proper outcome for a while longer.
    In a healthy economy the value of money in circulation must match the value of the goods and services produced by the citizens. The more out of line the two parameters become the more disruptive the inevitable adjustment.
    Our leaders are still engaged in a potentially devastating game of ‘pass the parcel’.
    The proposal to control and tax the energy supply is just another device to gain time. It gives them a chance to take more of our wealth and apply it to back up the fake money that they keep printing.
    Regrettably political parties of both left and right are trapped in this merry go round.
    It is not a left / right issue any more. Except that the left and right extremes see it as an opportunity to increase control whereas the centre sees it as a threat that could cause it to lose control.
    It is all a consequence of overconfidence, complacency and decadence in the democratic system. We must go through this and endure the coming pain in order to relearn just how hard won our freedoms, successes and progress really were.

  41. Gary says:
    September 29, 2010 at 6:04 am
    The net result from globalization may be positive, but some aspects are clearly detrimental.
    The problem is not globalization, but the way it was implemented. There is a hard lesson to learn from general systems theory.
    Any large system should be recursively modular. It means it is divided into separate “boxes” with standard interfaces between them using standard protocols. The basic structure of each “box” is the same, that is, it is built up from “sub-boxes”, with interfaces and protocols between them again. Recursivity means this principle is applied successively at each level until the basic constituents become simple enough to be handled separately (let’s call them “atoms”).
    Complex systems need control structures, otherwise they may assume absolutely undesirable states. But control has costs. It is easy to show that with a recursively modular structure the cost of control is proportional to N*log(N) if N is the number of “atoms”. Therefore costs to be payed by each “atom” are proportional to the logarithm of system size.
    On the other hand if the system is not modular, control costs go up as the square of N (each potential connection should be controlled), so they are a linear function of system size for each “atom”. Now, the linear function is much bigger than the logarithm for even moderate values of N (10^20 >> 20).
    A recursively modular structure does not hamper traffic, it just regulates it in a distributed way, whatever is meant by “traffic” (money transfer, commerce, transportation, travel, information flow, etc.).
    A good working example of a global but recursively modular system is the Internet. If its structure were not recursively modular, routing tables would never fit into the memory of backbone routers and routing updates would take forever. This structure also makes distributed control possible with firewalls, filter lists, etc. which are maintained locally. In fact no centralized power structure is needed for proper operation, recommendations like RFCs are quite sufficient. This structure is also very robust, error propagation is damped, for the entire system to work properly it is always enough to solve local problems on each level.
    When Bush, Sarkozy and Barroso met in Camp David on October 18, 2008 and president Bush happened to utter the magic words “Given that the world has never been more interconnected, it is essential that we work together because we’re in this crisis together” one immediately knew we were in deep trouble.
    If a SysAdmin were told such a thing during a network crash, he would send the guy to hell, because his basic assumption is his job is to handle the problem locally in his own sphere of responsibility and if everyone does the same, the problem is solved. It does not mean he would not work together with a few people of his choice, but certainly not with everyone involved. As an example, the SQL Slammer crisis of January 25, 2003 was handled in this manner, successfully.
    As soon as the system gets so interconnected this simple problem solving strategy ceases to work, all is lost. If everyone should work together, no work gets done at all, because negotiations alone take forever. In major software projects this is the point when a complete rewrite from scratch follows (or the company goes bankrupt).
    Therefore the current crisis is not about globalization as such, but it is a demodularization crisis. During the last several decades ill-educated politicians and businessmen removed as many effective module boundaries, time-tested interfaces and protocols from the world system as they could (instead of improving modular structure, interface definitions and protocols) in the hope this way traffic would be more easy and vigorous. To some extent this is what’s happened, but with a plethora of uncontrollable side-effects. The cost of control keeps going up (just think of the bank bailout costs of 2008, payed by taxpayers’ money of course), but there are limits. As soon as cost of control approaches productivity of the system, there is no point anymore controlling it for the sake of control alone.
    Unfortunately rebuilding a reasonably modular structure has not started yet, it even goes against some powerful ambitions seeking more centralized control, not less. The current demodularization crisis can not be solved until these basic issues are addressed properly. We are certainly not done with it, just waiting for the next round.

  42. John Whitman,
    J.M. Keynes is remembered for other things, but he was an optimist about the future because of his understanding of compound interest. He said:
    It would not be foolish to contemplate the possibility of a far greater progress still.
    He was correct regarding “far greater progress.” Even Keynes would not believe the progress that has occurred since he published his seminal work in 1936.

  43. Thanks Bruckner8.
    It’s surprising how similar are economics and climate.
    Each describes a flow (money/energy) through a system (Earth/society) with multiple layers (atmosphere/social classes) each with a variable effect on the speed of flow and in the end the same principle applies that there is only a fixed amount of the available commodity (value of goods and services in the case of money, solar energy in the case of climate).
    I would accept that my observations of, and thoughts about, climate and economics have been mutually reinforcing.

  44. Stephen Wilde says:
    September 29, 2010 at 11:35 am
    A good moment for a reality check devaluation it is right after elections. This has been practiced many times in the past by governments all over the world.
    Somebody must pay for the “party”. After laughing, crying comes….however that less nice part of it should be equally shared too.

  45. Berényi Péter says:
    September 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm
    That is why nature invented frequency. Now, the problem is, that while in nature higher frequencies govern upon lower frequencies, giving them order either by resonance or by interference, in our post modern world, the lowest frequencies and thus of the biggest wavelengths pretend to control the higher frequency ones, in a total violation of cosmic law. In the middle ages they had a cure for it: The Stake. Of course, they won’t succeed but only after doing a mess of the system.

  46. Berényi Péter says:
    September 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm
    It looks like, somewhere up above, the system administrator, will press the RESET button. 🙂
    REPLY: Now that I finally have your attention, you’ve been posting some pretty vile things lately and your comments have been snipped because they are detrimental to this blog. Even though you are on the side of skeptics, please clean up your act. For now, all your posts go into moderation for extra attention. How you behave henceforth will determine if you get put back on regular status. – Anthony

  47. Well done.
    Reading one or two Dickens’ and then looking out of the window in London or any other town for that matter would have done the trick for most common sense persons but a more systematic fact based approach definitely helps the argument.
    In the Netherlands we had Geert Mak to picture the darkness of the past in his “The century of my father” gin destillers widows getting the weeks pay if their husbands -all alcoholics- tripped and fell in the gin kettles and that was it. Babies died from rat bites, less than 100 years ago in the Netherlands. Salmons start swimming up western European rivers again.
    Nothing nostalgic about poverty and shortage nor social inequity.
    Maybe mankind has not become much happier in the last century but certainly a lot less miserable.

  48. I have 2 problems with globalization:
    1.) Too many products/commodities are shipped as far abroad as possible. The Global Traders are looking for the highest price they can get, and 8,000 miles away is perfect. This results in inefficiency due to the lack of localization. It is the throughput that has to be measured.
    2.) The US has been at the wrong end of the stick, mainly due to overeager politicians seeking to buy friendship with countries that do not allow our products to compete. What has been passed off as Free Trade is, in reality, Onesided Trade.

  49. I posted this, or rather, I tried to post this in another thread, and it got deleted by the mods due to the presence of “banned words”, let’s see if it goes this time.
    To an extent I can understand people who deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change or the danger it presents. The climate is a complicated system, and our understanding of it is incomplete, etc., those are reasons why one might be skeptical even though they really aren’t in this case, for a number of reasons, but let’s not go into that. It is can indeed be viewed as an untested hypothesis, although it will be tested only once and by the time it gets tested, it will be too late. So if someone comes to me and says “I am not certain that climate scientists know with a sufficient certainty that things will get as bad as they claim”, I can understand that.
    However, the fact is that there is almost a disturbingly large, almost complete in fact. overlap between people who deny the reality of AGW, and people who deny the reality of Peak Oil, or the existence of any limits to growth in general. And those aren’t untested theories, quite the opposite, they have been tested time and time again in history, and they are 100% true. Hubbert predicted a peak for the lower 48 in 1970, in 1970 it happened, and that’s only the most well known case, the same has been observed again and again all over the world, with oil and with other non-renewable resources. Yet, people will still deny that there is a problem, and those will be the same people who will cry out “I don’t believe in AGW, it’s not good science, test it”. Well, Peak Oil has been tested, you still refuse to accept it.
    Exactly the same thing with the limits to growth – dozens of civilizations have collapsed for that reason historically, the overshoot-collapse type of population dynamics have been observed countless times in the wild, in field experiments and in the lab, yet people will flat out deny the existence of any such things as carrying capacity of the environment and limits to growth that follow from it.
    Curiously, those people who deny AGW, who deny Peak Oil, and who deny the existence of limits to growth, all share a very strong adherence to generally right wing, free market ideology, a conviction that if you look at the biographies of their main prophets existed long ago they were exposed to the issues whose existence they so adamantly preach against. Which means that it isn’t any concern about the accuracy of the science that drives them (which is clear just from the fact that science is actually more than good enough), it is their preexisting ideological commitment that leads them into denial mode.
    Only that kind of person can be blind enough to ignore the mountains of evidence for what the current state of the planet is, the direction that things are headed into, and what this means for the future of humanity, and to disregard all basic rules of reasoning and logic, in order to write the kind of book that’s being promoted here. And again, if this is supposed to be a blog about “good science”, why is that kind of obviously ideological garbage being promoted here? Once more, you can target the uncertainties in climate science, but this is the intellectual equivalent of flat-earthism.
    Reply: I’ll let this through this time despite the implied villification. ~ ctm

  50. It is good to see books like this being published. But I dont think the left is reading them. Its a bit like “The Sceptical Environmentalist” by Lomborg.
    It is a question of looking out through the window.
    How is the air? The water?
    Pretty good, he?

  51. Stephen Wilde (11:35 a.m.) Glad to have a conversation with you. I agree with everything you have written in this comment. All I am interested in is an open field for critiques. Something like the scientific method. I hear too much “big government” is the ONLY problem today. Try looking at the financial shenanigans of banks and investment companies (e.g., Karl Denninger 9/29 http://market-ticker.org/); their corrupt leaders are at least as guilty as are our corrupt politicians. We need the rule of law in every realm. I like I. M. Goklany’s broad brush for research and critique.

  52. When, in the course of the last election, the present Australian PM was repeatedly and scornfully calling our magnificent coal industry “dirty”, it occurred to me that ingratitude really is the the superbug we have all been encouraged to dread. It infects the minds of the most educated, and prompts them to make ruin in the most complex and educated ways. Ingratitude uses the intelligence of the sufferer, so that the greater the intelligence, the worse the infection.
    Consider. I flick a switch and a bountiful supply of power surges toward me without flame, smoke, noise or any kind of intrusion at all. In the exact measure I want. The sheer power of coal! I never see or smell it…and there it is at my command and disposal. Yet Green People send old bicycles to impoverished villages in Asia…so the poor can pedal for their power and not get “addicted” to all the marvels the Green People themselves enjoy at every moment.
    Mr. Goklany’s book looks like a real tonic. As Poptech says, it’s in the tradition of Julian Simon, the man who was so shallow and naive as to be right and who was proven right. (Nobel prizes are given to those who are gloriously wrong, or who, like Krugman, predict what every drunk and his dog already knows.)
    Let’s hope “Improving State” is strong medicine against that great mental plague of our times: Global Ingratitude.

  53. KlausB says: September 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Berényi Péter says: September 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm
    Péter, your post was the very best one.

    That was my feeling too, glad to find I was not alone.

  54. It is indeed strange that the only people who truly believe that compound interest, capitalism and trading in Non Tangibles contributed to the growth of Human endeavour are bankers.
    Well their machinations are coming home to roost well and truly now.
    Thanks to all above for taking on some of my simple lay observations.

  55. Tim Folkerts says: But there is one nagging fear in the back of my head. Are we kind of like a rookie in the NFL? Suddenly we have wealth beyond our imagination (in the form of plentiful cheap energy for the last 100 years) that allows us to live an amazing lifestyle. […]
    If energy remains plentiful (and other resources as well), then we can continue to live this wonderful lifestyle. But if that wealth runs out, then were will we be? […]
    Don’t we as a race need to develop a plan for “life after oil”? Sure, some think that there is nearly limitless oil seeping up from deep in the ground, but that is certainly not a mainstream view, and I am not quite ready to gamble the lives of my grandkids on that theory.

    Well, no worries. Oil ‘depletes’ in a bell curve per the Peak Oil theory. As we took 200 years to reach the peak (if we are even there at all) it will take about the same 200 years to slide down the back side of the curve. It doesn’t just run dry one day.
    We can already easily turn any of coal, tar sands, shale, natural gas, and garbage into “oil” products like gasoline and Diesel fuel at reasonable prices (less than they cost in Europe and almost as low as they cost in the USA). Existence proof is South Africa where SASOL makes oil products from coal and they have substantially run the country on the stuff since the mid ’70s – early ’80s.
    Recent advances in ‘tight gas’ extraction have put us in energy “glut” for many decades to come with TRILLIONS of cubic feet “found” via this new technology. Also, I don’t think we’re going to run out of trash any time soon… (Trash to fuels is in pilot scale production now with production scale under construction near L.A. from a company called Rentech. There are others.) And we’ve got about 400 years of coal (though I suspect we won’t dig it all up).
    After that, we have to start looking more at lots of nuclear electricity. Land based Uranium is good for about 10,000 years, while land based Thorium is good for about 30,000 years. Oh, and we can extract Uranium from sea water at acceptable prices. That’s good for about 2 billion years (when the expanding sun dries up the oceans…)

    Cheap energy is the driving force that allowed “unprecedented improvements in every objective measurement of human well-being.” We are dependent on the equivalent of ~ 5 tons of oil per person per year to maintain our current (western) lifestyles. If cheap energy ends, I fear these unprecedented improvements may slide backwards a bit.

    There is no technical nor economic reason for cheap energy to end. There is only “Sovereign Risk” from folks like Obama, AlGore, The Club Of Rome, and all the Luddites of the world (Green and otherwise) preventing us from using the technologies we already have in hand and demonstrated at full scale via using our government against us and blocking free enterprise solutions.
    So the only thing you have to fear is your government. There is no energy shortage, and there never will be.
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/there-is-no-energy-shortage/
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/ulum-ultra-large-uranium-miner-ship/

  56. Berényi Péter says:
    September 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm
    A nice neat description of exactly WHY large systems start to fail as soon as power and responsibility start getting transferred upward.
    It’s the reason why a succesful society needs independent professional classes to maintain smooth running yet ALL the more sophisticated societies endeavour to make the professional classes increasingly subjugated to the powerful elites at the top.
    Without reducing the independence of the professional classes the ruling elites cannot acquire the degree of control that they think they need.

  57. The last reviewer of the book shown in this article, Michael Campbell, is the twin brother of the current premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, who was responsible for the implementation of the first carbon tax in Canadian history.

  58. David L. Hagen says: We are now facing a peaking of easily recoverable LIGHT oil.
    Which is precisely why it is irrelevant. Like saying we’ve run out of beet sugar and will have to make do with cane sugar. It is the Saudi Light at $2/bbl lifting costs that PREVENTS the use of the other resources by holding prices down. (After the peak of over $100 / bbl the Saudi’s finally ordered some more rigs over to drill some more wells in a few of their fields. Added about 2 Billion bbl IIRC. And they have more to drill if desired. Saudi is NOT following a Hubbert maximum drill plan, so scuttles the Hubbert Peak Curve…)
    IMO Imperial Oil and SU Suncor in Canada are building out tar sands operations at a decent rate now. Saudi, as mentioned, added enough capacity to continue to be the ‘swing producer’ and call the tune on prices. PBR Petrobras has found so much oil it’s headed for the #2 Global Producer spot. Deep water in the gulf found a hugh quantity (but Obama has ‘fixed’ that by shutting it in…) and there are the Russian finds in crystalline rock that doesn’t fit the current peak oil model.
    Heavier, deeper, different rocks. And the USA Shut In. (Did you know that larger than North Slope and larger than ANWR is the Alaskan Strategic Petroleum reserve? And we’ve effectively shut in both Atlantic and Pacific coasts)
    Oil production is static as demand has gone static and supply was increased enough to drop prices back to the “desired” $70-$80/bbl range.

    Fasten your seat belts. This will cause an economic roller coaster

    Um., probably not. It was glut induces price collapses that caused a roller coaster leading to the Texas Railroad Commission (it’s a long story…) price fixing oil, they then helped OPEC as a follow on global model to try to constrict supply to prevent glut and collapse. A hard lid of production would lead to stable prices and allow the plethora of alternatives to finally have a chance of getting funding.
    until major quantities of alternative transport fuels are developed from oilsands, heavy oil, shale and coal – or from solar resources.
    Oil Sands? Check. IMO, SU, XOM Exxon, RDS Shell, and many others
    Heavy Oil? Check. Darned near any supplier and certainly those using Venezuelan or Mexican crudes. VLO Valero and COP Conoco come to mind, but several of the smaller refiners are adding heavy capacity.
    Coal? Check. SSL SASSOL in South Africa and building facilities in China too. Along with SYMX Synthesis Energy Company, SYNM Syntroleum, RTK Rentech and a few others. RTK also going production with trash to fuels and SYNM in partnership with Tyson Foods doing ‘chicken slaughter waste’ to fuels.
    That just leaves shale. Costs more than the others to do, so not really important at the moment. Yeah, I know. 3 TRILLION or so bbl of oil expected out of the US shale deposits. But at about $50-$80/bbl, just not as interesting as the other stuff. Yet. Yes, we’ve had demo scale facilities built to prove it can be done, but with Saudi able to crash prices back to $40 if they want, just too risky right now.
    You left off the list algae based grown oil using sewage and coal powerplant CO2. (they are CO2 limited as they suck it all out of the air ‘way fast’; best growth comes with powerplant gasses…) that makes Diesel at about $3-4/GALLON in astounding quantities. Lab scale at present, but works any time we ‘need’ it. Origin Oil, Greanstream (something like that), PSUD PetroSun, and a few others.
    And so much more. The only “problem” is all that OPEC Light Sweet that they can pump in glut levels of production…

  59. E.M.Smith says:
    September 29, 2010 at 11:44 pm
    Well, no worries. Oil ‘depletes’ in a bell curve per the Peak Oil theory. As we took 200 years to reach the peak (if we are even there at all) it will take about the same 200 years to slide down the back side of the curve. It doesn’t just run dry one day.

    Absolutely no worries indeed. There are no such things as economic and population growth happening at the same time the curve goes down, and society is in no way set up to collapse without that growth. No worries indeed

    We can already easily turn any of coal, tar sands, shale, natural gas, and garbage into “oil” products like gasoline and Diesel fuel at reasonable prices (less than they cost in Europe and almost as low as they cost in the USA). Existence proof is South Africa where SASOL makes oil products from coal and they have substantially run the country on the stuff since the mid ’70s – early ’80s.

    And of course we get hundreds of units of energy for each unit invested in those processes, and they can absolutely provide hundreds of millions of barrels a day, so there is simply no reason to be worried about anything

    Recent advances in ‘tight gas’ extraction have put us in energy “glut” for many decades to come with TRILLIONS of cubic feet “found” via this new technology.

    And that’s absolutely great because those wells have a much higher EROEI than conventional ones, not only that, they create improve the environment, and they never run out, those people who have looked at the depletion profiles showing wells running dry in a year or two are totally out of their minds…

    Also, I don’t think we’re going to run out of trash any time soon… (Trash to fuels is in pilot scale production now with production scale under construction near L.A. from a company called Rentech. There are others.) And we’ve got about 400 years of coal (though I suspect we won’t dig it all up).

    Out of their minds are also the people who point out that thrash to fuels doesn’t really provide you with any energy because you had already spent a lot of energy to produce the thrash to begin with…

    After that, we have to start looking more at lots of nuclear electricity. Land based Uranium is good for about 10,000 years, while land based Thorium is good for about 30,000 years. Oh, and we can extract Uranium from sea water at acceptable prices. That’s good for about 2 billion years (when the expanding sun dries up the oceans…)

    Could you please enlighten us on what those”Accessible prices” are and why nobody is doing it now given that people are already worried about uranium shortages in the not so distant future?

    Cheap energy is the driving force that allowed “unprecedented improvements in every objective measurement of human well-being.” We are dependent on the equivalent of ~ 5 tons of oil per person per year to maintain our current (western) lifestyles. If cheap energy ends, I fear these unprecedented improvements may slide backwards a bit.

    What a profound insight…

    So the only thing you have to fear is your government. There is no energy shortage, and there never will be.

    Well, if the only thing you have done in science classes in school is sleeping, there is absolutely no shortage of energy to be worried about. But I wouldn’t trust the future of the planet into the hands of that kind of people. It seems like it’s already in the hands of people who haven’t even been in science classes to begin with…

  60. “Peak oil”? What a bad joke. The equivalent of light sweet crude oil can easily be made from any vegetative source. The technical knowledge was discovered prior to 1941, and was writen up in an article in Life magazine in 1941. (I have a copy, but it is in storage now). There have been 2 pilot plants that I know of. Addressing the supply source of the vegetative matter and assurance that “Big Oil” would not lower prices to less than now about $25 per barrel are the only issues preventing investors from removing us forever from the myth of “peak oil”.

  61. Stephen Wilde, as always, you have it right and well-said.
    And to Pyromancer76’s point:
    While there certainly were bad actors in the private sector in the financial crisis, government’s primary role is to establish rules against fraud and then have mechanisms to discover it (at least on large scales) early-on. In addition, another essential counter-weight to fraud that government must effectively regulate is transparency in transactions. They failed to do that with the derivatives markets. You can’t make people honest by law, you can only prevent them from (or catch them at) being dishonest.
    I don’t fault those who tried to “take advantage” of the unregulated sub-prime lending market. I fault our government whose job it is to protect the vast majority of us honest folk against the inevitable shysters every society will always have.
    And the above could be said about the failure of government to force transparency in climate research which is the basis on which billions, nay trillions, of our dollars are being bet through the power of the police (taxes) on our incomes.
    See, my comment really was about AGW.

  62. GM says:
    Still beating that “The End Is Neigh!” drum I see. Don’t suppose you bothered to read any of the dozens of pages and links posted to show you where you are in error. I’m not going to repeat it here (folks who want it can find it). But you really do need to read a bit more broadly.
    … reality of Peak Oil, or the existence of any limits to growth in general. And those aren’t untested theories, quite the opposite, they have been tested time and time again in history, and they are 100% true.
    Um, no. World population continues to rise. We’ve never hit a peak. Yes, it’s not straight line, and yes, from time to time some whacko comes along, starts a war, and kills off a lot of folks, but rarely is ‘carrying capacity’ of some location the issue (and when it is, it is often a collapse from a higher stable level to a lower stable level after some political failure. The Maya collapse comes to mind. Started having too many wars and let their agriculture go. Similarly, the population collapse in Europe circa 1930-50 where tens of millions were slaughtered by stupid political behaviours that damaged the crop production capacity in the process).
    Places like Sudan have plenty of food, just not allowed to distribute it as the Muslim north does not like the idea of feeding the Christian south. China had a collapse due to communist ideology, not absolute capacity (as evidence: their prosperity today as they move away from communism). Right on down the line. Religion, Politics, wars, etc. Hardly “carrying capacity”.
    Then there are the plague collapses. FWIW, the “Superbug” multiple antibiotic resistant strains of several diseases showing up in the USA from India are, IMHO, the most likely cause of a ‘collapse’ now. Again, not any ‘carrying capacity’ issue. Just as the Amerindians had a great collapse when European diseases were introduced… Not at all a ‘carrying capacity’ issue.
    I could go down the list of the means of our demise, but it’s not very interesting. Human stupidity (like over prescribing antibiotics when we knew it was going to lead to resistance. We put it in cattle feed by the ton, fer crying out loud…). All not ‘carrying capacity’. So yes, we have sporadic population collapses in history, and no it’s not because we’ve over run the ability of the planet to support us. The simple proof? There are more of us now, by a very large margin, than there were then.

    Hubbert predicted a peak for the lower 48 in 1970, in 1970 it happened,

    Yup. But we also shut in both coasts and made it less than economical to drill here. Basically, not a very good test. Also, the recent finds at great depth tell us there is a heck of a lot more oil to ‘find’ here. Technological change. We can ‘find’ about 20-25% more oil in ‘deleted’ fields now. APA Apache Oil is great at that game… So even in the poster child for Hubbert, there are issues.
    We won’t mention the 3 Trillion bbls of shale oil that “don’t exist” at the present price but are still here and available to use if we wanted to do so…
    Well, Peak Oil has been tested, you still refuse to accept it.
    Yup. Because we keep producing more oil, as needed. PBR Petrobras is cranking out new oil so fast it makes your head spin. Saudi is camped on a load of oil they just won’t drill yet as they don’t want glut. Not following the Hubbert mode at all. And then there are all the heavier oil alternatives detailed above.
    And then we have the Russion Abiotic Oil thesis. Trouble is, they have been finding oil using it. Loads of oil. So much that they are what, #2 producer in the world now? And if that is the correct model, we run out of oil when the planet stops having vulcanism. Subducted carbonate rock turns to oil. We’ve done it in the lab… and that would explain why there is so much oil at subduction zones like California (where we can’t go get it just off shore at the subduction zone), Saudi, Indonesia, etc.
    Exactly the same thing with the limits to growth
    Please realize that The Limits To Growth by Medows et.al. is terribly flawed. According to their original predictions (er, pardon, computer projections) we’ve run out of all natural gas in 1980, whales are gone, most metals and other minerals too.
    Look “Limits to Growth” is just broken. It’s wrong and demonstrably so. There is no limit on what is a ‘resource’ so we can never run out of ‘resources’. (And don’t trot out the tired ‘exponential’ meme. Growth is S shaped, not exponential. Another lethal flaw in “Limits”.) There are hundreds of pounds of copper and related metals on the ocean floor in manganese nodules. I have no use for my several hundred pounds. We don’t mine it due to excess taxes imposed in the sea mining treaty by the UN and lower cost land sources.
    See the pattern? It’s not physical limits that matter, it’s human STUPIDITY and political greed and graft.

    Curiously, those people who deny AGW, who deny Peak Oil, and who deny the existence of limits to growth

    Curiously “Limits to Growth” and AGW have both been tied to The Club Of Rome (one via thanks in the book by the authors…) and a peculiar centralized control cabal…

    , all share a very strong adherence to generally right wing,

    “right wing” and “left wing” are a broken meme for describing America. It comes out of “revolutionary” France and was a choice between a Dictator/ King model and a communist model. Left out is the “free people” model. So you have “Right Wing Fascist Dictators” practicing National Socialism contrasted with “Left Wing Communist” dictators. Neither of those correctly describe America with a free people calling the tune. (Though we are being drug kicking and screaming toward those two choices…)

    free market ideology,

    Well, lets see. Communist Russia moves toward capitalism and thrives. Communist China moves toward capitalism and thrives to the point of dominating world commerce in many areas. Argentina and Chile leave the Dictator thing behind (and Brazil briefly played with both Dictators and Socialism) and when they left them behind for capitalism, they all thrived. When they clung to the other forms, they suffered in poverty and ruin. Cuba sticks with Socialism a long time, and withers, and now Castro the Younger is doing market approaches….
    Call me crazy, but it looks like markets work best. (We won’t mention Maggie Thatcher pulling the UK back from the Socialist kiss of death as Britain seems bent on entering the deadly embrace again…)
    Oh, and the USA is dabbling in ever more Lang Type Socialism and going down the tubes so fast it’s making my head spin…
    Which means that it isn’t any concern about the accuracy of the science that drives them (which is clear just from the fact that science is actually more than good enough), it is their preexisting ideological commitment that leads them into denial mode.
    Ah, yes, my religion is better than your religion so you are a D-word.
    Sorry Jack, just ain’t so. In fact, it is a more strict and rigorous concern for the science that drives me TO being a skeptic. The ‘science’ is just slipshod and crummy.
    FWIW, I find Brazil fascinating. Nominally a Socialist leader, and thriving. Yet the leader specifically stated he would not implement socialist economics. So Brazil thrives. Still, PBR Petrobras is significantly State Owned. There is a curious condition where a capitalist system is inhabited by some Government Socialist enterprises acting as capitalist monopolies that DOES work well.
    It’s not proven yet, but if it can be shown to ‘deliver the goods’ better than a ‘mixed economy’ I’ll be willing to support it. The trouble is it takes 5o years and the potential destruction of a country to find out…
    On BOTH the economic system of choice AND the question of Global Warming, what drives me is a strict adherence to “the science” and “what really happens”. Frankly, I HATE having to deal with a competitive market (though I’ve done it for years). It is only the observation that my life is better for doing so that gets me to accept it. I like the SOUND of the Socialist Siren as much as anyone else; it’s just the results that are sucky.
    The rest of your wandering off into the land of self flagellation and doom saying are just too maudlin to even address.
    Look you are convinced we’re all going to die in an imminent apocalypse. Fine, go get a bottle of something to guzzle and let the rest of us get back to just improving things by fixing problems. We’re good at it, and do it every day. You can come back later after the hangover wears off and enjoy the BBQ with the rest of us…
    I just have one tiny little request. Take a moment to consider the “Earthship”. Constructed of garbage and dirt. Collects and processes it’s own water and power. Works in deserts with 7 inches of rain a year, or snow covered mountains. It is a stellar example of what can be done when you realize that EVERYTHING is a resource and just get on with it.
    This one is in Scotland: http://www.sci-scotland.org.uk/home_earthship.jpg
    doing a google of “Earthship” will give a load more of them. Earth friendly. Pleasant places to live. Surely you can find a bit of joy in them, even if they do show that we never run out of resources… even used tires and pop bottles can make a nice home..
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/there-is-no-shortage-of-stuff/

  63. As I said in the post above that still hasn’t gotten past moderation for some unknown reason, there can be absolutely no productive discussion if one side refuses to accept the validity of the laws of physics. Once someone decides that those aren’t off limits for denial, it becomes impossible (and meaningless) to argue with him

  64. Just how do you really cost, say Alberta Tar sands. The world rigged price goes up. They estimate usd 14 to 18 per barrel to produce it. So they invest 9 billion to produce a 500,000 barrel a day production facility. As they come into production the price shoots to usd 150 per barrel and they get their investment back in 60 days.
    So as the price falls back to usd 80, their start up costs paid for, what is their ongoing production cost. Not a lot.
    Plus what they dont say is the cost they advertise is not crude production cost but part refined production cost.

  65. GM says: As I said in the post above that still hasn’t gotten past moderation for some unknown reason, there can be absolutely no productive discussion if one side refuses to accept the validity of the laws of physics. Once someone decides that those aren’t off limits for denial, it becomes impossible (and meaningless) to argue with him
    I agree entirely. And as soon as you accept that the laws of physics say all the matter stays on the planet and everything is a resource, perhaps we can get somewhere. But as long as you are in denial of the reality, that functionally unlimited resources exist and we can support our population for hundreds to thousands of years with no major issues, then perhaps productive discussions can’t begin.
    Until then, your tedious lack of inspection of the existing resource base and solutions is, at best, unproductive.

  66. I certain believe that today is better than the awful conditions of even 100 years ago. Before the motor car London was piled high with horse crap and the smell, you can imagine. Development is a cure for lots of things and a certain reducer of birth rate- as child mortality rate drops so does procreation rates. We have to ignore so called AGW and concentrate on the development of Africa and the rest of the third world.

  67. Grey Lensman said
    Just how do you really cost, say Alberta Tar sands. The world rigged price goes up. They estimate usd 14 to 18 per barrel to produce it. So they invest 9 billion to produce a 500,000 barrel a day production facility. As they come into production the price shoots to usd 150 per barrel and they get their investment back in 60 days.
    So as the price falls back to usd 80, their start up costs paid for, what is their ongoing production cost. Not a lot.
    Plus what they dont say is the cost they advertise is not crude production cost but part refined production cost.

    It doesn’t work at all like that and if you had some basic energy literacy you would see why. While it is a big problem that energy cost and $ prices are decoupled, there is still quite a bit of correlation, especially when a large portion of your costs come directly from fuel use. So if the EROEI of tar sands is 3-4:1, then if the price of oil is 80 dollars, then the energy cost of extraction alone is at least $20, without all the labor and other associated costs, and if energy prices double, so do the costs of energy extraction.
    So it’s not at all as if costs are fixed and everything above a certain price is profit. There are very large upfront infrastructure building costs, but there are also very high running costs.
    And it’s true not only for tar sands, it is true for deep water oil too – projects that were going to deliver oil at, say $50 per barrel cost when the prices was $80, all of a sudden cost $100 pet barrel when the price was 150. All because of the inflationary effect of oil price all over the system.
    As I said, we have a very serious problem with the decoupling of energy costs from prices as measured in $ signs, which masks the real cost of a lot of things, but as a whole there is no escaping from decreasing EROEI

  68. E.M.Smith says:
    September 30, 2010 at 2:37 am
    I agree entirely. And as soon as you accept that the laws of physics say all the matter stays on the planet and everything is a resource, perhaps we can get somewhere. But as long as you are in denial of the reality, that functionally unlimited resources exist and we can support our population for hundreds to thousands of years with no major issues, then perhaps productive discussions can’t begin.
    Until then, your tedious lack of inspection of the existing resource base and solutions is, at best, unproductive.

    They don’t teach entropy in schools in the US, I forgot that…

  69. John Marshall says:
    September 30, 2010 at 2:50 am
    I certain believe that today is better than the awful conditions of even 100 years ago

    Well yes, we are better off. That’s not the question. The question is how are we going to be 100 years from now, and the answer is that if we are to be at all, we will be in all likelihood much worse than we were 100 years ago

  70. GM says: Absolutely no worries indeed. There are no such things as economic and population growth happening at the same time the curve goes down
    Yes, growth happens, as does efficiency improvement, as does ‘resource substitution’ as covered further down. The point of this paragraph was that the “peak” (should it ever come) is not a cliff but a rounded curve over decades and easy accommodated.
    And of course we get hundreds of units of energy for each unit invested in those processes,
    Most of the list is highly energy positive. But the EROI thing is just silly anyway. It ignores that in most cases it’s the FORM the energy is in that is of value. Even if all we did was take nuclear power and lift oil at a net energy loss, it would still be ‘worth it’ as we have unlimited nuclear power and ‘oil’ as a carrier of energy is a benefit even at NEGATIVE lifting and refining energy gain. For this same reason we are happy at present to toss away 1/2 or more of the energy in coal and oil in the processes of making them into things like electricity and gasoline.
    But yes, tar sands, coal liquids, etc. are energy gain positive (as are tertiary oil recovery from ‘depleted’ fields and several other interesting methods).

    and they can absolutely provide hundreds of millions of barrels a day, so there is simply no reason to be worried about anything

    World oil production is more like 87 Mbbl/day, so we don’t need ‘hundreds’, just enough to offset any (eventual) decline. Then we slowly ramp it up over time as needed. Yes, it could give ‘hundreds of millions’ of bbl/day, but long before that I expect we’ll have electric cars far enough along to start substitution on that front.
    And that is the basic flaw in your process. The blind projection into the future without allowing for resource substitution over time. The stone age did not end for lack of stone, nor the iron age for lack of iron, and the oil age will not end because there is no oil left. It will end when a newer better cheaper process comes along.
    E.M.Smith said:
    “Recent advances in ‘tight gas’ extraction have put us in energy “glut” for many decades to come with TRILLIONS of cubic feet “found” via this new technology.”
    And that’s absolutely great because those wells have a much higher EROEI than conventional ones,

    Really hung up on that EROEI nemonic you learned once, I see.
    Look, it’s a hole in the ground out of which flows massive quantities of natural gas. Produced via a modest increase in drilling activity and some hydro-fracture of the tight shale. Not a significant energy increase on the inputs compared to the outputs. I’d expect it to be about the same total energy in vs out as regular drilling.
    Folks are still making a profit down at $3 gas (down from $15 prior to this technique and these finds) so it’s got to be a pretty darned efficient process.
    I’ll skip your mindless hyperbole, as it’s just that.
    those people who have looked at the depletion profiles showing wells running dry in a year or two are totally out of their minds…
    Well, since they have been in production for over 2 years now, I’d have to say “yes”.

    Out of their minds are also the people who point out that thrash to fuels doesn’t really provide you with any energy because you had already spent a lot of energy to produce the thrash to begin with…

    Well, yes. I can burry it and lose the energy, or I can turn it to fuel and use it. Net gain. But FWIW, since most of the energy comes from paper and wood products, it’s not that hard to figure how much FUEL went into making a ton of cardboard. And it isn’t much. (The electricity can be ignored as it can come from nukes, so the whole EROI thing is mooted for electricity consumed. Think of it as refining costs to turn a product you don’t want into one you do. Or if still hung up on it, think of it as putting nuke power into your fuel tank, then the EROI of nuke gets averaged with the oil/trash/whatever for a net average gain anyway).

    Could you please enlighten us on what those”Accessible prices” are and why nobody is doing it now given that people are already worried about uranium shortages in the not so distant future?

    Sure. The original price was about $100 / lb when mine source was $40 / lb (IIRC). I quoted the cost / price data in the links you didn’t follow.
    But by now it’s probably in a race condition between technology improvement dropping it and inflation raising it. You can get Uranium prices here:
    http://www.uranium.info/
    $46.50 as I type. So we’re still in the land of abysmally low prices (so the higher priced ‘resources’ will ‘not exist’ as they are not ‘reserves’ at those prices.)
    Since a pellet about the size of the tip of your pinky has the energy of a bbl of oil ($74) in it, you can see that even at $200 / lb there is plenty of profit and energy available.
    And nobody is doing it now because yellow cake from land gives you $46 fuel and, well, $54 is $54 even if it isn’t relevant to the actual cost of the energy produced. So that solution sits on the shelf until we use up the yellowcake on land.
    Per folks being worried about shortages: What can I say, there’s always someone who doesn’t understand resources and resource economics getting all wound around the axle about ‘shortages’ for no good reason. Though sometimes there are temporary shortages. Usually after a price collapse when nobody wants to mine and refine product at a loss. Raise the price a little and tons of the stuff shows up shortly.
    Heck, fuel has been so cheap we even just run it through the reactors on a once through basis instead of running breeders.

    Well, if the only thing you have done in science classes in school is sleeping,

    Um, I actually got mostly “A”s in science…. Pretty much across the board. Got a couple of awards, too. In fact, I do it for fun and even when not in classes. Made money as a tutor for some of the folks who needed help. But I can understand why you might think other folks were prone to familiar behaviours.

    there is absolutely no shortage of energy to be worried about.

    There isn’t. Oh, it will take a bit of work, what doesn’t. But nothing very hard at all, really, as every one of the needed technologies and resources are already in hand.
    It seems like it’s already in the hands of people who haven’t even been in science classes to begin with…
    Sadly, yes. The politicians and the government bureaucrats are typically science training deficient. Largely lawyers (and increasingly green activists in the EPA) they have little clue about either business or technology.
    We really need to get engineering back in the hands of the engineers.
    And again, I’d encourage you to follow the links I posted. Many of your questions are already covered there. Including links to the Japanese source for sea water U mining with polymer mats and cost / production information.
    Oh, and Thorium refining is about the same as U on a cost basis. This paper has reactor grade prices from back when we were bothering to make some for use / testing and with projections to more recent prices showing a roughly $30/ kg price. But I’d expect that to drop with a bit of volume.
    http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/thorium/690798.pdf

  71. But the EROI thing is just silly anyway.

    This is the reason why I said the following:

    there can be absolutely no productive discussion if one side refuses to accept the validity of the laws of physics.

    And I still stick to it

  72. Sadly GM still burbles about his fantasy doom figures that satisfy his own dark thought. The oil Companies themselves priced the cost of production of Tar sands in the range 14 to 18 USD. Whatever you say, thats the fact. Now if their cost estimate included the price of extraction and processing over the life of the resource, which is their usual way of doing things, then that figure changes downwards when those costs are recouped within days of completion. The fact is that they will not advertise that but instead seek to hide in in simple accounting tricks.
    Even allowing for the vast size of that particular resource, it is but a pimple on the total that is available and that thorium stuff just makes any doom and gloomer redundant, totally.
    No matter how I hate dirty energy and all things related to it, I know that we have the resources and skills to not only overcome the limitations and drawbacks inherent in our current system but go beyond and improve both our lot and that of the planet.
    Just Imagine how much better your life will be.

  73. “Largely lawyers ……. they have little clue about either business or technology.”
    Well, there are exceptions !!!!!
    May I have an influencial well paid job as one of the few lawyers with at least some idea ?

  74. GM says:
    Just where to begin on this fantasy description is hard to decide… Perhaps first a direct answer to Grey…

    Grey Lensman said
    Just how do you really cost, say Alberta Tar sands.

    Pretty straight forward. Land, land restoration at the end, fixed capitol costs, variable labor and fuel costs, Add up the fixed costs and estimated variable costs, divide by bbls of product = $/bbl.
    Over time, as actual costs accrue, you adjust your costing accordingly.
    Notice that at no time did the word PRICE show up. The price of oil is irrelevant to a cost of production (other than the oil you consume for truck / plant fuel).
    Then the question just becomes: Am I above or below break even cost? When below, you shut down, when above you run. (It’s a little more complicated than that in real life as sometimes you run at a small short term loss to avoid shutdown / restart costs of larger size…)
    Tar sands started at $50 ish / bbl to produce, then as processes like in situ heating came along, costs have dropped toward $26 / bbl or so.
    One interesting twist: A lot of natural gas is used to warm the tars. When Nat Gas spiked to $15 there was a great worry about the viability of some properties… Now that it’s down to $3-4 the costs are much lower. Note that in all cases it’s a lot below $76 so yeah, IMO and SU are minting money (AND making loads of net energy).

    So as the price falls back to usd 80, their start up costs paid for, what is their ongoing production cost. Not a lot.

    I think you are confounding P&L with “cost accounting”. That the property and capital get paid off early does not change the cost basis for the project. It just adds more P to the P&L in later years…

    Plus what they dont say is the cost they advertise is not crude production cost but part refined production cost.

    Um, well, yes, that too. I think it’s about $7/bbl of costs to refine… but it’s been a while since I’ve looked up the number so that’s a bit soft…
    Back to GM:

    It doesn’t work at all like that and if you had some basic energy literacy

    Way to go! Insulting and alienating folks right out the gate! Makes it a lot easier for me to get a sympathetic audience… Thanks!
    But it does work a lot like that way it had been stated. Capital costs get amortized and depreciated over time on a approved schedule, as does any other long lived fixed cost. Expensed costs and variable costs are typically expensed as they happen. Net result is a ‘cost basis’ for the oil produced.
    Then you sell it. Subtract any added costs (things like dividends and taxes and…) and subtract that quarter allotment of the fixed costs along with the variable costs. The ‘leftovers’ are roughly your profits. (To all the cost accountants out there: I know, I’m skipping a lot and simplifying.. It’s ok…) At present oil prices that profit is high.
    While it is a big problem that energy cost and $ prices are decoupled,
    It is not a problem at all. Not in the slightest. Here, I’ll give you a fictional example to illustrate. Say it took 1 B BTU of natural gas to turn tar sands into 100 M BTU of gasoline. If that natural gas was ‘free’ and making gasoline was not, I’d be better off taking that horrid “negative EROI” but ending up with a desired product (gasoline) than a bunch of useless natural gas.
    This isn’t quite as ‘fictional’ as it sounds, as in many remote places (including parts of Canada and Alaska) there are large fields of Natural Gas that can not be sold. The cost of a pipeline would raise the price of that “stranded gas” above market price of $4 or so, thus making a loss instead of a gain. For this reason, “stranded gas” has zero value (and thus is not a reserve and “doesn’t exist” even though we have billions of cubic feet of it…) Turning that into ‘gasoline’ or ‘Diesel’ either via a GTL facility or via cooking tar sands still makes net energy, even if the cost of the ‘refining’ is a negative.
    , and if energy prices double, so do the costs of energy extraction.
    The fallacy here is treating all energy as costing the same. It isn’t. Nat Gas that can not be shipped is ‘worthless’ either as dollars or as BTUs. It just sits. Gasoline has value (either in BTU or in dollars). And “double nothing” is still nothing.
    deep water oil too – projects that were going to deliver oil at, say $50 per barrel cost when the prices was $80, all of a sudden cost $100 pet barrel when the price was 150. All because of the inflationary effect of oil price all over the system.
    Just nutty. Look, rigs make their own power, often from the nat gas they would flair anyway. CPST Capstone Turbine sells a ruggedized generator for just that purpose. So the price of my fuel is irrelevant and decoupled from oil prices I turn a waste product into electricity, heat, light, whatever I want and the variable cost is zero.
    It’s all capital cost and labor costs. Landed oil has a cost basis decoupled from oil prices.
    but as a whole there is no escaping from decreasing EROEI
    Sure there is. Nuclear electricity running the drills and pumps. Or in the case of offshore platforms, ‘waste gas’ running them for ‘free’ too.
    Maybe a simpler example will help.
    I have 10 lbs of grain. I’m sick of grain. So I feed it to the chickens. Now I have 3 lbs of chicken. I don’t really care that I’ve got negative Protein Return on Protein Invested. All I care about is that I’ve got fried chicken… and we do this on a massive scale globally.
    All that matters is that I have more of SOME Protein than is lost in the conversion to the one that I want.
    And every time you eat beef, pork, chicken or even that Thanksgiving Roast Turkey, you are indulging in Negative PROPI. Oh, the HORRORS!!! We’re all going to die from shortage of Protein!!! /sarcoff>
    We have way too much nat gas and nuclear fuel, and want more gasoline and Diesel. Not a problem, turn one into the other. And EROEI is just not important.

  75. The problem with peak oil theorists is not that they do not understand physics (some do) is they do not understand economics. Based on GM’s logic no company should be investing in the tar sands. But that is where EROEI fails and economics kicks in. So to further support E.M. …
    Thermodynamics and Money (Peter Huber, Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, MIT)

    Today this same nonsense is often dressed up with numbers in an analysis that’s dubbed “energy return on energy invested” (Eroei). According to this theory it can never make sense to burn two units of energy in order to extract one unit of energy. The Eroei crowd concedes, for example, that the world has centuries’ worth of junk oil in shale and tar sands–but they can also prove it’s irrelevant. It takes more energy to cook this kind of oil out of the dirt, they argue, than you end up with in the recovered oil. And a negative Eroei can only mean energy bankruptcy. The more such energy investments we make, the faster things will grind to a halt.
    Eroei calculations now litter the energy policy debate. Time and again they’re wheeled out to explain why one form of energy just can’t win–tar sands, shale, corn, wood, wind, you name it. Even quite serious journals–Science, for example–have published pieces along these lines. Energy-based books of account have just got to show a profit. In the real world, however, investors don’t care a fig whether they earn positive Eroei. What they care about is dollar return on dollar invested. And the two aren’t the same–nowhere close–because different forms of energy command wildly different prices. Invest ten units of 10-cent energy to capture one unit of $10 energy and you lose energy but gain dollars, and Wall Street will fund you from here to Alberta.
    As it happens, the people extracting oil out of tar sands today use gas from the fields themselves to power their refineries. There’s gas, too, under what has been called Alberta’s “trillion- barrel tar pit,” but it’s cheap because there’s no pipeline to deliver it to where it would be worth more. As an alternative to gas, Total S.A., the French oil giant, is thinking about building a nuclear power plant to supply heat to melt and crack the tar. But nuclear reactors extract only a minuscule fraction of the energy locked up in the nuclei of uranium atoms; all the rest gets discarded as “waste.” On Eroei logic, uranium would never be used to generate either electricity or heat. But per unit of raw stored energy, uranium is a thousand times cheaper than oil.
    Greens touting the virtues of biomass as a source of energy rarely note that almost all of it is used by lumber mills burning branches and sawdust on site. No one cares how much energy the sun “invested” to grow all that waste wood. And every electric power plant, whatever it’s fueled with, runs a huge Eroei deficit, transforming five units of cheap, raw heat into two units of electrical energy. But it all works out because the market values the energy in electricity at about 30 times the energy in coal.
    The economic value of energy just doesn’t depend very strongly on raw energy content as conventionally measured in British thermal units. Instead it’s determined mainly by the distance between the BTUs and where you need them, and how densely the BTUs are packed into pounds of stuff you’ve got to move, and by the quality of the technology at hand to move, concentrate, refine and burn those BTUs, and by how your neighbors feel about carbon, uranium and windmills. In this entropic universe we occupy, the production of one unit of high-grade energy always requires more than one unit of low-grade energy at the outset. There are no exceptions. Put another way, Eroei–a sophomoric form of thermodynamic accounting–is always negative and always irrelevant. “Matter-energy” constraints count for nothing. The “monetary culture” still rules. Thermodynamics And Money.

  76. Stephen Wilde says:
    “Largely lawyers ……. they have little clue about either business or technology.”
    Well, there are exceptions !!!!!
    May I have an influencial well paid job as one of the few lawyers with at least some idea ?

    Sorry, thought I was making a clear point that it was Politicians that happened to have law degrees that had little technical background. There certainly ARE lawyers that have technical know-how (many starting as Engineers…). But those that enter politics typically have no interest in things other than politics and get a law degree without much else.
    Sadly, all the technical lawyers I’ve known have had to settle for exceptionally well paid non-influential positions… 😉

  77. GM says:
    They don’t teach entropy in schools in the US, I forgot that…
    I think you for a moment may have forgotten that the big ball of fusion power up in the sky which we usually call the sun.

  78. Poptech said on The Improving State of the World
    September 30, 2010 at 4:49 am
    The problem with peak oil theorists is not that they do not understand physics (some do) is they do not understand economics. Based on GM’s logic no company should be investing in the tar sands. But that is where EROEI fails and economics kicks in. So to further support E.M. …

    Do you realize the absurdity of that statement? This is where the saying that in order to think that infinite economic growth is possible you have to be either a madman or an economist. This is also why people of the Milton Friedman and Julian Simon kind should have been straight locked up in the mental yard and never let out.
    What exactly governs what happens in the world we live in? Physics or economics? Is the economy a subsystem of the natural world or is it the other way around?

  79. Espen says:
    September 30, 2010 at 5:13 am
    GM says:
    They don’t teach entropy in schools in the US, I forgot that…
    I think you for a moment may have forgotten that the big ball of fusion power up in the sky which we usually call the sun.

    I repeat that statement.

  80. E.M.Smith says:
    September 30, 2010 at 4:53 am
    “Sorry, ”
    No need for apologies. I was commenting in amused vein 🙂

  81. GM asks: “What exactly governs what happens in the world we live in? Physics or economics? Is the economy a subsystem of the natural world or is it the other way around?”
    In a “society” (a man made structure) these processes interact, often in unusuall ways. Poptech gave a rather long post, plus one or two that followed. I suggest you read them, along with EM Smith’s.

  82. This is where the saying that in order to think that infinite economic growth is possible you have to be either a madman or an economist.

    Nice strawman as no economist would argue that infinite growth of some meaningful quantity is possible in a finite space. If you believe otherwise please show me where this argument was made.

    This is also why people of the Milton Friedman and Julian Simon kind should have been straight locked up in the mental yard and never let out.

    They both have forgotten more about economics than you know,
    Milton Friedman, B.A. Economics, Rutgers University (1932), M.A. Economics, University of Chicago (1933), Ph.D. Economics, Columbia University (1946), Research Assistant, Social Science Research Committee, University of Chicago (1934-1935), Associate Economist, National Resources Committee, Washington, D.C. (1935-1937), Lecturer, Columbia University (1937-1940), Member of Research Staff, National Bureau of Economic Research, New York (1937-1945, 1948-81), Visiting Professor of Economics, University of Wisconsin (1940-1941), Principal Economist, Division of Tax Research, U.S. Department of the Treasury (1941-1943), Research, Columbia University (1943-1945), Associate Professor of Economics and Business Administration, University of Minnesota (1945-1946), Associate Professor of Economics, University of Chicago (1946-1948), Professor of Economics, University of Chicago (1948-1963), Consultant, Economic Co-operation Administration, Paris (1950), John Bates Clark Medallist, American Economic Association (1951), Visiting Fulbright Lecturer, Cambridge University (1953-54), Consultant, International Co-operation Administration, India (1955), Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (1957-1958), Ford Faculty Research Fellow, University of Chicago (1962-1963), Paul Snowden Russell Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago (1963-82), Wesley Clair Mitchell Visiting Research Professor, Columbia University (1964-1965), Columnist and Contributing Editor, Newsweek (1966-1984), Visiting Professor, U.C.L.A. (1967), Visiting Professor, University of Hawaii (1972), Nobel Prize for Economic Science (1976), Visiting Scholar, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (1977), National Medal of Science (1988), Presidential Medal of Freedom (1988), Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University (1977-2006)
    Julian Simon, B.A. Experimental Psychology, Harvard (1953), M.B.A., University of Chicago (1959), Ph.D. Business Economics, University of Chicago (1961), Assistant Professor of Advertising, University of Illinois (1963-1966), Assistant and associate professor of marketing, University of Illinois (1966-1969), Visiting Senior Lecturer in Business, Hebrew University (1968), Professor of Economics and of Business Administration, University of Illinois (1969-1983), Visiting Professor of Business Administration and of Demography, Hebrew University (1970-1971), Visiting Professor of Business Administration, Hebrew University (1974-1975), Visiting Senior Fellow, Heritage Foundation (1983), Professor of Business Administration, University of Maryland (1983-1998)

  83. GM – you’re free to explain why you mentioned entropy, but the short story is that there’s no law of physics that stops the entropy of the earth system to decrease – until someone shuts off the sun.

  84. @ Poptech:
    That’s like listing the credentials of the pope within the Catholic church when you’re trying the argument that he’s an authority on evolutionary biology. Exactly the same thing in fact – you have science on one side and religion and ideology (economics in this case) denying its results

  85. Enneagram says:
    September 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm
    REPLY: Now that I finally have your attention,….,– Anthony

    With due respect, I meant GOD.

  86. GM says: Do you realize the absurdity of that statement?
    And do you, sirrah, realize you are blowing off a very very well done presentation of the actual physics you so frequently wave about without knowing why?
    I can only surmise you did not read two key parts of that posting (for which I thank Poptech, as it is very well done):
    (Peter Huber, Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, MIT)
    Mech E. folks study thermodynamics rather a lot. More than just about anyone else on the planet and with great depth. Ph.D and MIT say he’s most likely one of the very best at it.
    In this entropic universe we occupy, the production of one unit of high-grade energy always requires more than one unit of low-grade energy at the outset. There are no exceptions. Put another way, Eroei–a sophomoric form of thermodynamic accounting–is always negative and always irrelevant.
    The three laws of thermodynamics assure this. As a ‘sophomoric’ paraphrase you ought to be able to grasp:
    1) You can’t win.
    2) You can’t break even.
    3) You can’t quit the game.
    Any energy generation system will have a net increase in entropy and so a net “loss” of some of the energy “invested”. As Dr. Huber points out, the balance is always to the negative side. Energy runs down hill and you can’t stop it, all you can do is put more in than you take out in exchange for moving some of it up hill to a more desired form.

    This is where the saying that in order to think that infinite economic growth is possible you have to be either a madman or an economist.

    Ah, back to your hatred of Economists, I see. Still not learned that Malthus IS an economist and that your preferred mind-set IS classical economics. Just amazing.
    From U.C. Berkeley: http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/malthus.html
    (I hope you will accept them as something of an authority… being from the left leaning fringe and embracing the thesis of our demise at the hands of an angry Gaia…)

    Malthus was a political economist who was concerned about, what he saw as, the decline of living conditions in nineteenth century England. He blamed this decline on three elements: The overproduction of young; the inability of resources to keep up with the rising human population; and the irresponsibility of the lower classes

    From the Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Robert_Malthus

    The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world”.
    —Malthus T.R. 1798. An essay on the principle of population. Chapter VII, p61

    So can you at least admit that the Malthusian Doctrine which you so passionately embrace IS economics? That it is largely Economists who promulgated the idea, explored it, and presented it to the world? Perhaps even going so far as to recognize that Malthus is required in Economics education? (I’ve still got my Econ texts and can quote to you chapter and page the readings…)

    Between 1798 and 1826 Malthus published six editions of his famous treatise, An Essay on the Principle of Population, updating each edition to incorporate new material, to address criticism, and to convey changes in his own perspectives on the subject. He wrote the original text in reaction to the optimism of his father and his father’s associates (notably Rousseau) regarding the future improvement of society.

    If you can not accept that what you are advocating is a position straight out of Classical Economics, that is, The Malthusian Doctrine, then I can see no hope of rational discourse.

    What exactly governs what happens in the world we live in? Physics or economics?

    “Yes.”
    Your question is of the form: “Did you walk to school or bring your lunch?”. It is not an ‘exclusive or’ it is an ‘inclusive or’.
    And physics tells us that all energy production runs down hill. We can but divert part of the flow (from higher energy in, to lower energy out than was in the original form) to serve our needs. We can pump some entropy backwards, but only by making MORE entropy net. While economics tells us which sources to use first for this diversion effort. And if it is to burn more natural gas than ends up in electricity and “waste” half in the process, well, that’s just fine

    Is the economy a subsystem of the natural world or is it the other way around?

    MU! (The question is ill formed.)
    Economics describes part of the natural world and how we operate in it.

  87. E.M.Smith says:
    September 30, 2010 at 8:57 am
    Energy runs down hill and you can’t stop it
    Except for LIFE: Nature’s trick to overcome entropy.
    But that’s only one way of the emission wave: To the outside. Alchemists (the one who dealt with psychological alchemy) directed their efforts to within.

  88. GM has been likened on these pages to Sheldon Cooper, the self-assured-but-clueless genius on “The Big Bang Theory”. Personally, I see him more as the character Matthew Harrison Brady from the film “Inherit the Wind”: dogmatic, scientifically (and economically) illiterate, thumping his infallible bible (“The Limits to Growth”, with EROEI as his god), and of course utterly indifferent to facts.
    And when our version of Henry Drummond (E M Smith) shows up, the “movie” really gets good!
    Pass the popcorn, please.

  89. That’s like listing the credentials of the pope within the Catholic church when you’re trying the argument that he’s an authority on evolutionary biology.

    It is sad to see these tired analogies injected repeatedly into these discussions. GM will cry innocence but they are far to common for that. I am sure GM believes all skeptics of AGW alarm and Peak Oil doomsday scenarios are religious believers in creationism. I am sorry to disappoint him by informing him I support evolution theory.
    Lets try a proper analogy, it is like listing the credentials of a Nobel Prize winning economist when you are trying the argument that he is an authority on economics.
    Crazy, I know.

  90. To be read alongside Mark Steyn’s cheerful doom and gloom bestseller, “America Alone”. Ironically perhaps, I believe the fundamental thesis of both books are correct: The world is getting better, as measured by quality of life, environmental and developmental standards. And also, the world is getting worse by political and demographic standards, to the point that the West is in danger of selling its own birthright to those who would love nothing better than to raze it to its foundations. And if the west falls, so may all the liberties and core values that have helped us make these gains on the other side of things. Even as we observe an end to the “big wars” on a global scale we are watching the emergence of another kind of global war that would engulf us if we do not respond with conviction and with wisdom.

  91. Incidentally, how about a review of Ezra Levant’s new book, “Ethical Oil”, a defense of the Alberta Oilsands on the basis of ethics?

  92. Incidentally, how about a review of Ezra Levant’s new book, “Ethical Oil”, a defense of the Alberta Oilsands on the basis of ethics? Consideration of the environment, human rights, economic, and terrorism considerations all place the Oilsands above the natural alternatives.

  93. Incidentally, how about a review of Ezra Levant’s new book, “Ethical Oil”, a defense of the Alberta Oilsands on the basis of ethics?

    I read the synopsis. While I firmly support getting oil from Alberta’s Oil Sands, I disagree with the premise that we can use it to replace oil from Mexico, the Middle East and Russia. It can merely supplement it as nothing on the planet (yet discovered) can replace the Ghawar field, let alone the oil reserves of the rest of those countries.
    Anyone preaching energy independence just has not looked at the numbers.

  94. Goklany’s book is over three years old; it was published in January 2007. There might be some details that are no longer true, but I’m confident almost all of the book is still right on. The rest of this note is a copy of my review at amazon.com; I’ve not reread the book, but I think the review is still accurate.
    The title is “The Improving State of the World” and Goklany shows the state of the world is improving. By nearly every measure of human wellbeing, we are better off than we used to be. Life expectancy is increasing. Starvation and malnourishment is decreasing. The air is cleaner. The water is cleaner. Child labor is less prevalent. Literacy is increasing. Personal income is increasing. There are many more. The good news applies to the world as a whole, the developed world, and the developing world. But this is not just cheering for the status quo. He identifies the exceptions to the general trends, and does it for each of the measures of wellbeing. Most of the exceptions are in Africa south of the Sahara, and in the former soviet empire.
    The subtitle is “Why we’re living longer, healthier, more comfortable lives on a cleaner planet”. The reason is technology, economic growth, human capital, education, the rule of law, and private property, all linked together in many interconnected “virtuous cycles.” For example, economic growth means more money to buy technology such as fertilizer and tractors which means more food and less hunger, and time for education so more children can make even better technology and sell it for less to more well fed, less sick, longer lived people who can use their energy for economic growth. With better infrastructure, less food rots before it is eaten, so less land is needed for farms so there is more room for biodiversity. With economic security, families tend to be smaller. Each improvement makes improvements in other areas more likely.
    The book was published by Cato Institute, the well known conservative think tank. Liberals should consider the message, rather than the messenger. You don’t get up before dawn and look west just because Hitler said the sun rises in the east.
    It is easy to evaluate the arguments and check the claims in the 420 pages of text. There are 85 pages of notes. Most of the links in the virtuous cycles are fully explained by statistics. There are a few places were Goklany resorts to qualitative explanations, but these are clearly stated to be not quantitative. The statistical data is used more fairly than in any other work I can recall. Almost all the time series analysis uses all the data available; the few exceptions are explained and justified. He uses data from advocates of positions opposite what he will conclude. For example, he accepts the data from IPCC and uses it in his analysis that shows adaptation to changing climate is better than intervention to try to prevent the change. He uses consistent rules for fitting trend lines. Sometimes, there are different statistics that seem to be about the same reality. He sometimes explains why one source might be undercounting or overcounting. He often will do the analysis with both sets of data.
    Some of Goklany’s arguments clearly follow Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People do not care about the environment when they are hungry. People do not care about quality of life next year when they are concerned about surviving this year. Economic growth allows people to care about the environment. Technical advances allow them to do something about it.
    The tone is level and matter of fact. This is not a hate book, but some will hate some of the conclusions. He presents the arguments for other conclusions fairly. Those that reach other conclusions are not portrayed as evil or stupid, or even as paid shills of some vast conspiracy.
    The book is optimistic about our future, with the emphasis on what is good for people. He does not praise or deplore large families, but notes the strong trend towards smaller families as wealth increases. Wealth brings health and less infant mortality, so an increase in population, but increased family size happens only for a while.
    The conclusions Goklany reaches will seem correct to more conservatives than Liberals. The book will not appeal to the extremes of either political wing, but it could be a big help to most of us in the middle that wonder what we can do to help humanity.
    This is not an entertaining read. There is a lot of information to absorb. There are many steps in some of the virtuous cycles. Some of the vicious cycles Goklany debunks have to be examined in detail to show they are wrong. You do not have to read it straight through to benefit from this book. The next time you are invited on a crusade or bandwagon, pause and check it out. Use the detailed index and find out all sides of the issue. You might find enough information to satisfy yourself in just a few pages. But most things influence most other things and you might want to dig
    deeper. You might find you have read half the book by the time you cover all the issues that are related to the topic that was your starting point.
    This is an important and excellent book. I highly recommend it.

  95. @ Chuck Bradley:
    You can only read that kind of nonsense and believe if you are completely ecologically (and generally scientifically) illiterate.
    Setting side the many objections to the factual accuracy of the claims in that kind of books (sure, there is less pollution in the West, but that’s only because all the manufacturing and associated pollution has been exported to the developing countries where we don’t see it, which doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen; that sort of thing), the basic premise that you can somehow judge the state of humanity by the superficial appearance of prosperity at the present is total madness.
    I can sell my house and all my other property, add it to the money I have in the bank and blow it on living like a king for a short period of time. It will look as if I am doing very well to anyone who doesn’t know that I am blowing all my capital while doing it, but the reality will be that what I’ll be doing is still extremely stupid and shortsighted and I will be much much worse when that capital is gone than I was before that.
    This is exactly what humanity is doing right now

  96. GM says:
    “You can only read that kind of nonsense and believe if you are completely ecologically (and generally scientifically) illiterate.” That is pure projection by a true scientific illiterate.
    Next, GM says:
    “…there is less pollution in the West, but that’s only because all the manufacturing and associated pollution has been exported to the developing countries where we don’t see it…” & blah, blah, etc.
    Wrong. Absolutely, mindlessly wrong. For one of a myriad of examples, all U.S. manufactured cars are much cleaner and more pollution-free today than cars of even twenty years ago. Emissions now consist almost entirely of equally harmless CO2 and H2O. Future automobiles will be cleaner yet. So much for GM’s false claim that all the manufacturing has been exported. Rather, companies like Toyota, Honda, etc. have built manufacturing plants in the U.S.
    Finally, GM had better start worrying about what Obama has done to his taxes, starting in 2011 – only three months away. For a short list showing how the country has been screwed over by this clueless president and his hated Congress, see here: BOHICA
    The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.
    ~Ecc. 10-2

  97. Poptech says:
    September 30, 2010 at 5:05 am
    Nuclear:
    … Uranium resources sufficient to meet projected nuclear energy requirements long into the future (Nuclear Energy Agency)

    Nuclear only provides about 6-7% of the world’s energy needs. And the quoted article says there is “at least a century” worth of uranium left at present rates. So if energy needs don’t increase, then there is enough proven reserves uranium to power the world as a whole for at least 6-7 years.
    Some how i am not comforted.
    Wikipedia suggests that world reserves are around 5,000,000 tons and annual production is around 50,000 tons. That does indeed sound like 100 years worth at current rates. Sure, some more might be found. Some more might become economically worth mining at higher prices. Sure, breeder reactors could improve the efficiency. Perhaps there is 50 times more energy available! That would be 5000 years at current rates (with some wishful thinking) or a couple hundred years for a totally fission-based energy supply.
    Why do these numbers not jive with “land based Uranium is good for about 10,000 years” or “we have unlimited nuclear power” or “We have way too much nat gas and nuclear fuel”? even with some wishful thinking I see to come out way below these estimates. Am i missing something obvious? Is the rest of the internet way off-base on uranium resources?

  98. Tim F,
    As E.M. pointed out you have two significant future possibilities with Nuclear Power,
    How long will the world’s uranium supplies last? (Scientific American)
    1. Extraction of uranium from seawater would make available 4.5 billion metric tons of uranium—a 60,000-year supply at present rates.
    2. Breeder reactors could match today’s nuclear output for 30,000 years using only the NEA-estimated supplies.
    Combine the two and you have effectively unlimited Nuclear Power.
    Some other notes: “Using more enrichment work could reduce the uranium needs of LWRs by as much as 30 percent per metric ton of LEU. And separating plutonium and uranium from spent LEU and using them to make fresh fuel could reduce requirements by another 30 percent. Taking both steps would cut the uranium requirements of an LWR in half.”
    Lastly you need to factor in the ability to convert the vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons to fuel.

  99. Poptech says:
    October 1, 2010 at 4:35 pm
    Tim F,
    As E.M. pointed out you have two significant future possibilities with Nuclear Power,
    How long will the world’s uranium supplies last? (Scientific American)
    1. Extraction of uranium from seawater would make available 4.5 billion metric tons of uranium—a 60,000-year supply at present rates.

    As he explained to you, “present rates” means 6-7% of total energy use. That immediately lowers your estimate by a factor of at least 10. Another factor of at least 10 comes from the fact that energy use isn’t going to increase exponentially for as long as economic and population growth continue, and even without the latter, it will still continue increasing due to economic growth (of course, we will have collapsed long before we get to that point, but I am just pointing out the absurdity of that kind of thinking). So your 60,000 years quickly become just a few hundred. There’s also the “small” matter of flows vs resources. How much seawater can you realistically filter in a year? And there is also the other “small” matter of EROEI. You need vast amounts of negative entropy to get stuff dissolved at very low concentration out of seawater. Not only that, the more you extract it, the more negative entropy you are going to need to invest to get the same amount of stuff out, because as you get it out, the concentration gets even lower, and so on.
    The small insignificant details of reality, you know.

    2. Breeder reactors could match today’s nuclear output for 30,000 years using only the NEA-estimated supplies.

    They could. But they don’t exist. And they never will for there will be no civilization capable of building them, if this is even possible, which is not at all certain.

    Combine the two and you have effectively unlimited Nuclear Power.

    Again, only a completely deluded person can say that. Someone had done the back of the envelope calculation that if we were to climb through all the stages of the Kardashev scale at our present rate of 3% growth of energy consumption a year, we would have consumed THE WHOLE GALAXY in less than 5 million years. Curiously, someone else had claimed that we can continue growing for 7 billion years. That’s one heckuva discrepancy. Guess who was the economist…

    Some other notes: “Using more enrichment work could reduce the uranium needs of LWRs by as much as 30 percent per metric ton of LEU. And separating plutonium and uranium from spent LEU and using them to make fresh fuel could reduce requirements by another 30 percent. Taking both steps would cut the uranium requirements of an LWR in half.”

    How exactly is cutting uranium requirement for something that we only have a few decades of recoverable reserves at present rates of consumption in half going to solve a problem that’s an order of magnitude larger??
    See, the problem with people like you is that the only thing that gets past your information filter is “more resources, more efficiency”. But the actual numbers never seem to matter, neither do the other inconvenient details of operating in real life. The fact is that linear increases have no chance against exponential ones, and there is no getting around that. Framing one’s thinking in “more”/”less” terms doesn’t exactly help to appreciate that.

    Lastly you need to factor in the ability to convert the vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons to fuel.

    News flash – we already do that. At present, 1/3 of the uranium that’s burned comes from nuclear weapons decommissioned after the end of the Cold War. If it wasn’t for those, there would have already been a shortage of the stuff.

  100. (mod please delete previous post) [done ~ac]

    As he explained to you, “present rates” means 6-7% of total energy use. That immediately lowers your estimate by a factor of at least 10.

    A factor of 10 would be 6000 years, add in breeder reactors and you have effectively unlimited nuclear power.

    And there is also the other “small” matter of EROEI.

    This has been explained repeatedly above.

    They could. But they don’t exist. And they never will for there will be no civilization capable of building them, if this is even possible, which is not at all certain.

    What are you talking about? Experimental reactors have already been built and commercial reactors are being constructed now,
    India’s fast breeder reactor gets critical component

    Again, only a completely deluded person can say that.

    You do understand figurative language? The point is we have effectively unlimited nuclear power.
    No one is seriously concerned with more than 100 years into the future, let alone thousands to millions.

    How exactly is cutting uranium requirement for something that we only have a few decades of recoverable reserves at present rates of consumption in half going to solve a problem that’s an order of magnitude larger??

    Not a few decades but a few centuries,
    “If the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has accurately estimated the planet’s economically accessible uranium resources, reactors could run more than 200 years at current rates of consumption.”
    Those efficiency steps could add another 100 years to LWR with current uranium supplies.

    See, the problem with people like you is that the only thing that gets past your information filter is “more resources, more efficiency”. But the actual numbers never seem to matter, neither do the other inconvenient details of operating in real life.

    The actual numbers support my position. Unlike every position you have presented here, real life has proven you wrong.

    News flash – we already do that. At present, 1/3 of the uranium that’s burned comes from nuclear weapons decommissioned after the end of the Cold War. If it wasn’t for those, there would have already been a shortage of the stuff.
    Yes I am well aware of this but there are still over 22,000 warheads that can be used as fuel if need be. The point being another source of nuclear fuel not regularly mentioned. For anti-nuclear weapon proponents you would think this would be something they would support. But apparently preaching the discredited malthusian catastrophe theory is more important.

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