# The Cost in Human Energy

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

For a while, I taught a course in human-powered machinery for the Peace Corps. You know, bicycle powered generators, treadle powered pumps, that kind of thing. One of the very rough rules of thumb regarding human energy is that an adult human can put out about a hundred watts on an ongoing, constant all-day basis. If you were to hook up a bicycle to a generator you could generate a kilowatt-hour every day … if you were in good shape and you put in a ten-hour day. Sounds like work to me.

Figure 1. Human-powered aluminum can crusher, Burning Man 2012.

I got to thinking about this number, one kilowatt-hour’s worth of electricity for a long ten-hour day’s work, in the context of the discussion about energy costs. Some people think raising energy costs to discourage CO2 production is a good thing. I say that raising energy costs, whether to discourage CO2 or for any other reason, trades a certain present loss for a very doubtful future gain. As such, it is an extremely bad idea. Here’s why:

The existence of electricity is perhaps the one thing most emblematic of human development. With electricity, we get refrigeration to preserve medicines and foods, light to extend the day, electric heat, power to run machinery, the list goes on and on. Now, as I showed above, we can hire somebody to generate electricity for us, at the rate of a kilowatt-hour for each ten-hour day’s work. Where I live, this day’s worth of slave labor, this thousand watt-hours of energy, costs me the princely sum of about thirteen cents US. I can buy an electric slave-day of work for thirteen cents.

That is why I live well. Instead of having slaves as the Romans had, I can buy a day’s worth of a slave’s constant labor for thirteen measly cents. That is what development consists of, the use of electricity and other forms of inexpensive energy in addition to and in lieu of human energy.

Now, here’s the next part of the puzzle. Out at the farther edges of society, where people live on a dollar a day or less, electricity is much more expensive than it is where I live. In the Solomon Islands, where I lived before returning to the US in 2009, electricity in the capital city cost fifty-two cents a kilowatt-hour, and more out in the outer islands.

Now, let us consider the human cost of the kind of “cap-and trade” or “carbon tax” or Kyoto Protocol agreements. All of these attempts to decrease CO2 have the same effect. They raise the cost of energy, whether in the form of electricity or liquid fuels. But the weight of that change doesn’t fall on folks like me. Oh, I feel it alright. But for someone making say $26.00 per hour, they can buy two hundred slave-days of work with an hour’s wages. (Twenty-six dollars an hour divided by thirteen cents per kWh.). Two hundred days of someone working hard for ten hours a day, that’s the energy of more than six months of someone’s constant work … and I can buy that with one hour’s wages. At the other end of the scale, consider someone making a dollar a day, usually a ten-hour day. That’s about ten cents an hour, in a place where energy may well cost fifty-two cents per kilowatt-hour. Energy costs loom huge for them even now. I can buy six months of slave labor for one hour of my wage. They can buy a couple of hours of slave labor, not days or months but hours, of slave labor for each hour of their work. And as a result, an increase in energy costs that is fairly small to me is huge to the poor. Any kind of tax on energy, indeed any policy that raises the cost of energy, is one of the most regressive taxes known to man. It crushes those at the lowest end of the scale, and the worst part is, there is no relief at the bottom. You know how with income tax, if you make below a certain limit, you pay no tax at all? If you are below the threshold, you are exempt from income tax. But energy price increases such as carbon taxes don’t even have that relief. They hit harder the further you go down the economic ladder, all the way down to rock bottom, hitting the very poorest the hardest of all. So when James Hansen gets all mealy-mouthed about his poor grandkids’ world in fifty years, boo-boo, it just makes me shake my head in amazement. His policies have already led to an increase in something I never heard of when I was a kid, “fuel poverty”. This is where the anti-human pseudo-green energy policies advocated by Hansen and others have driven the price of fuel so high that people who weren’t poor before, now cannot heat their homes in winter … it’s shockingly common in Britain, for example. In other words, when James Hansen is coming on all weepy-eyed about what might possibly happen to his poor grandchildren fifty years from now, he is so focused on the future that he overlooks the ugly present-day results of his policies, among them the grandparents shivering in houses that they can no longer afford to heat … Perhaps some folks are willing to trade a certain, actually occurring, measurable present harm to their grandparents, in order to have a chance of avoiding a far-from-certain distant possible future harm to their grandkids. Not me. I say let’s keep the old geezers warm right now, what the heck, they’ve been good to us, mostly, and lets provide inexpensive energy to the world, and thus encourage industry and agriculture to feed and clothe people, and let the grandkids deal with the dang future. That’s what our own grandparents did. They didn’t dick around trying to figure out the problems that we would face today. They faced the problems of their day. Besides, according to the IPCC, fifty years from now those buggers are going to be several times wealthier than we are now. So why should I be worried about Hansen’s and my likely wealthy grandkids in preference to today’s demonstrably poor children? My grandkids will do just fine. Heck, they’ll probably have the dang flying cars I was promised, and the fusion power I was supposed to get that would be too cheap to meter, so let them deal with it. We have plenty of problems worrying about today’s poor, let’s focus on that and let the future take care of their poor. The real irony is that these folks like Hansen claim to be acting on behalf of the poor, in that they claim that the effects of global warming will hit the poor hardest. I have never found out how that is supposed to happen. I say this because the effects of global warming are supposed to hit the hardest in the extra-tropics, in the winter, in the night-time. I have a hard time believing that some homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk in New York City in December is going to be cursing the fact that the frozen winter midnights are a degree warmer … so exactly which poor are they supposed to be saving, and from what? w. ## 262 thoughts on “The Cost in Human Energy” 1. Ryan says: Human power isn’t very efficient. You need to take in a lot of calories to power all the anciliary parts of the human body (brains for instance). Probably burning ethanol would be more efficient….. 2. Capell says: Interesting point about fuel poverty in the UK. He’s quite correct, fuel poverty is increasing. What might not be understood is that the fuel poverty percentage is nibbling at the bottom of the UK income distribution. If that’s any sort of Gaussian distribution then any increase in electricity costs will raise the numbers in fuel poverty supra-linearly, and I think, quite rapidly. 3. bilbaoboy says: I have been arguing this with my ‘right-on’ friends for sometime. We are creating the worst kind of unnecessary poverty within rich countries (UK fuel poverty is the classic example. Tax energy until it is too expensive then pay allowances to older people) but on top of everything we are denying the true poor (third world) a safer and richer future with a longer healthier life. A regular supply of affordable electricity is possible now. It is the key to human development. Of course, if you think development is, per se, evil, then there is not much left to talk about. Will the greens ever have to face the true results of and accept responsibility for their anything but benign policies ? I suppose we will hear, ‘but, I only had their well-being in mind’ I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. 4. Bloke down the pub says: Hitting the nail on the head as usual Willis. Unfortunately, in this touchy feely world we have created, no politician would dare to be so ‘heartless’ as to state the obvious as you have done. It would be a ‘very brave move’ as Sir Humphrey would tell the prime minister. 5. Telboy says: Another thought-provking pot from Willis. Thank you. 6. nigelf says: Bang on Willis, as usual. 7. Telboy says: thought-provoking post – fat finger syndrome 8. The word incontrovertible sprang into my mind as I reached the end of this article. I would love to ask Hansen to respond to it. Happy new year Willis, another great article. I Look forward to many more. 9. Which releases the most CO2/kw-hr – man powered generators or gas or coal powered plants? My guess is that the answer would be yet another embarrassment to the greens. Thanks JK 10. Tim Clark says: Espousing a philosophy like this will get you tagged a shill for big oil. Oh wait, you already have been! /sarc Nice write-up. 11. RESnape says: Most interesting read Willis and most apposite for the UK Here we not only have a Fuel Poverty Strategy: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/funding/fuel_poverty/strategy/strategy.aspx But also a Fuel poverty Advisory Group (FPAG) http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/about/partners/public_bodies/fpag/fpag.aspx This is an extract from the FPAG Tenth Annual Report (Yes the TENTH! does that not say it all?) Chapter 6: Fuel poverty and poverty In 2009-10 there were 7.8 million working age adults, 3.6 million children and 1.7 million pensioners living below the poverty line.30 Income is a key determinant in a household’s ability to afford to heat their home to healthy levels. In 2010, 50 per cent of households in fuel poverty in England were in the lowest income decile along with a further 22 per cent of those in the second decile. In comparison, only 13 per cent of households in fuel poverty were in the fourth to tenth income deciles. The mean annual income of fuel poor households in the UK was £11,000 compared to an average income of £32,000 for non-fuel poor households. Fuel costs Since 2007 the average annual electricity bill has increased by 24 percent and the average gas bill by nearly 40 per cent. Between 2010 and 2011 the average electricity and gas bills grew by 8 per cent and 9 per cent respectively, a rate significantly out of step with increases in household income. In 2011 most benefits were increased in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI). In April 2011 RPI stood at 5.2 per cent. Increases in average earnings lag even further behind the price of fuel. During the 2010-11 tax year average earning for full time employees grew by 1.4 percent and the minimum wage by 2.5 per cent. Those with the lowest incomes are least able to absorb these price rises. In 2009 the lowest income decile spent almost 8 per cent of their income on fuel in contrast to the highest decile which spent 3.4 per cent on fuel. While exact percentages are likely to have altered since 2009, as fuel prices have continued to rise faster than household income it is reasonable to assume that the lowest income deciles continue to spend a higher proportion of their income on fuel costs than the highest deciles. Whenever producers increase their charges in the UK absolutely NOTHING is said about the ever increasing percentage of these costs that are subsumed by the Government for their lemming like rush for the so called ‘Green energy’. They think that setting up a QUANGO (Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation), (one of many that in total are a drain to the public purse to the tune of £38.4 BILLION) is going to solve the problem! 12. daveburton says: Amen! Well said, WIllis. 13. geoff says: We have given the greenies a big say in Australia over the past few years. That has resulted in 22cents/kwhr . Thats about 23US cents. 14. Steve Thatcher says: Exactly, the only fear I have for the future and the people therein is if the UN or whoever actually manage to take the power they’re trying to grab now. It is imperative to stop them for our children and grand-kids sake!! Steve T 15. Frank Gaudet says: I see this as a crime against humanity. This greater cause,”save the planet ….bull sh**t… nothing else ! 16. Ian H says: I like Greens. They tend to be nice people. They care. They want to do the right thing. They are idealistic. There is a strong green presence among students. It is the thing to be. If you are not Green these days you must not care. Lots of sexy young things with bright shining eyes – eco warriors – the beautiful people – the girls all looking good in their Che Guevera berets. It must be nice to be one of them – to have the sense of belonging to that crowd where everyone is on the side of right and knows what to think and is marching to the beat of the same drum. And yet we’ve seen this kind of thing many times before. A century ago the original communists were exactly like this – young – full of ideals – committed to the cause – fighting injustice (undeniably there was lots of injustice to fight) – out to make a better world. I have no doubt that they were nice people too – most of them. They had good intentions. But crusades of idealistic youth have a habit of being subverted by cynical old men with other goals in mind. Stalin follows Lenin who follows Marx. And what started off as a cause driven by high ideals ends up as just another brutal dirty dictatorship. The true idealists get shunted aside by those with more pragmatic objectives (the ones who won’t stand aside are shot). It is happening today too with the green crusade although they cannot see it. The greedy exploiters are already in full cry; leading the march in more profitable directions; enriching and empowering themselves in the name of the cause. The trillions in carbon credits; the carbon markets where banks and money men can become filthy rich trading meaningless bits of paper; the rich subsidised agribusinesses burning food as biofuels while millions starve; the poor people shivering in the dark unable to afford power. The wind power scam; billions for unworkable machines that can’t deliver but who cares so long as the subsidy is big enough (Build ’em quick, take the money and run ). And just how did a world government funded by carbon taxes – socialist of course – welfare for nations – become step number one in the plan to save the planet. Someone perhaps sees themselves in charge? Some shadowy figure. How selected? Not elected! The first true global leader perhaps? Ultimate power. Now just whose idea was that? 17. SandyInLimousin says: Willis, excellent, succinctly put and covering all the pertinent points. thank you 18. Chris Phillips says: The truly frightening thing is that the proponents of “sustainable development” believe that reducing the number of humans alive on earth is fundamental to achieving their goals. For them, pricing the poor out of electricity is a very useful step along the way. 19. MorningGuy says: ever heard of solar panels??? you can pick up a 200W solar panel now for about$200, will generate about a 1kWh.
here in Oz 1kWh costs ~30cents – $200/30cents = ~700 days payback time, makes sense to me … no punt intended ;P 20. Truthseeker says: Whatever moral high ground motive is used to justify such measures, you can be sure that it is not the real motive for doing it. It is about power and control and redirecting wealth that has not been earned. The poor will be used as a justification and then forgotten when the wealth is being redistributed. Willis, your logic is valid, but clearly beyond the understanding of the zealots who say and do all these things for no other reason than the power that they crave above all else. They say that they are doing the moral thing, but they are only doing the greedy thing. The light of logic will always illuminate the lies of others. 21. The consequence of fuel poverty is excess winter mortality, which is a subject pretty much worth googling. You wouldn’t know. 22. Spot on Willis (as usual). Let the poor deluded CAGW believers do their bit in my KiloWatt Gym – a bit of satire from a while back. 23. BoE says: Yepp! These dang alarmist have forgotten (or never understood) the hardships that our forefathers had just some 150 years ago. And we are all to be blamed for that fact. 24. daveburton says: The Climate Movement activists who reject scientific evidence, such as the measurements that falsify the predicted link between CO2 and accelerated sea level rise, in order to promote the supposed benefits of carbon taxes and resultant high energy prices, are heartlessly condemning the world’s poor to grim poverty. I remember “bleeding-heart liberals.” What ever happened to them? They were likable folks, maybe not always especially smart, but mostly Christians, with their hearts were in the right place. I miss them. Now liberals seem to have hearts of stone. The Left just wants to freeze the elderly, kill the unborn babies, and reduce the surplus population. It seems that when liberals rejected Christ, they lost their souls, not just in the afterlife, but even in the here-and-now. 25. LazyTeenager says: Now, let us consider the human cost of the kind of “cap-and trade” or “carbon tax” or Kyoto Protocol agreements. All of these attempts to decrease CO2 have the same effect. They raise the cost of energy, whether in the form of electricity or liquid fuels. But the weight of that change doesn’t fall on folks like me. ———- Sounds too simplistic to me. 1. If the USA demanded less fuel, prices should go down for the rest of the world including poor people. 2. But in poor countries the wholesale cost is just a small proportion of the total, so any additional due too carbon tax will have little impact. 3. The impact will be so small that there will be little need for carbon taxes to be applied in poor countries. So I reckon carbon taxes or other measures to reduce fuel usage in rich countries will help poor countries. 26. Robert of Ottawa says: Willis, how much CO2 was produce by the cyclist to output an additional 1kW-Hour? Breathing is still part of a combustion process. 27. Andy Wehrle says: Superb insight. But…so what. How do we counter this outrage? That is the question to which I have not an answer. 28. SandyInLimousin says: RESnape Excellent additional information on the original post. 29. Stefan says: I’d heard a problem was people just didn’t understand how much energy we really use. Stating it in human (slave) power is jaw dropping. 30. Crabby says: Exactly Willis!! They want to make it so expensive to live that the poor will find it so hard to live that they will keel over. Then they will only have the middle class to deal with!! My wife is in a wheelchair and I’m her carer and while we’re both on the pension, we both live a reasonably comfy life. I have an old volvo which does not take much money to keep going. We save about 1/3 of both our pensions for bills and luxuries. Our state housing rent is about 1/5 of our pensions and the rest is ours. I’m attending tech school trying to get some qualifications in computers. I get various emails from around the internet and know that the World financial System will collapse and won’t get better again at all!! It is simply because most governments spend to much for their citizens to bear so that creates deficits and DEBTS!! Debt is going to kill all economies because no-one wants to pay the piper. In this country (Australia), we were very fortunate that the Howard Government (1996-2007) payed off all the commonwealth guv debts but that didn’t stop Business debt and the private debt from sky-rocketing. So debt is still a major problem and now that the Socialists are running things well need I say any more. They just want to spend a load of cash on their mates (the union movement) and to hell with the fed guv debt. It now stands at$250-260 Billion and no doubt will be more by years and decades end. Fortunately, we have a federal election this year and will they have a surprise in store for them. Thank you for putting up with my off-topic rambling. We’re soon going to need the miracle of Jesus feeding the 4,000 and the 5,000 (two seperate miracles). HFTC.

31. Doug Huffman says:

Santo fumo! I wonder what is the AU$to US$ that an Australian kilowatthour costs 30AU¢. My REA co-op manager’s mantra is 6¢ per KWH avoided costs, i.e., without the infrastructure investment costs. But I set out to associate a work-day’s labor on a bicycle generator for 6¢.

I have spent many days and many tens of thousands of miles (stopped counting at 50K) pedaling my recumbents, bicycle and tricycle.

32. Willis writes: “I say let’s keep the old geezers warm right now…”

We old geezers appreciate that, Willis! We don’t like being cold.

33. Simon says:

This also sums up the churches response to the perceived climate ‘issue’, i.e. of CAGW. The truly Christian response would be to look at the evidence and see that climate policies such as cap’n’trade, carbon taxes, ethonol-for-fuel, bio-mass combustion, etc. are injurious to the poor such that they should be resisted to their last breath and the poor/3rd world/developing nations relieved of poverty. But no, their response is to jump on the CAGW bandwagon and exacerbate the poor’s plight, committing them to far worse poverty.

As for 350.org’s Bill McKibben’s desire to see fossil fuel use outlawed (and his current student based fossil fuel stocks divestment program), the man is either evil personified or criminally insane. The generation of electricity from such fuels (and also from nuclear) is the one thing that has made life more than just bearable, but pleasant, and lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and sub-human conditions.

34. Gail Combs says:

Very nicely put Willis.

What were our grand/great grand parents worrying about ? The Great Horse-Manure Crisis of 1894 (Original has been removed, I guess it was too popular….)

The other point everyone skims over is the move from people power to mechanized water ( and horse drawn) power in the 1800’s was what actually freed the slaves in the USA. If slave labor had been necessary in the north, the powerful men in the north would not have wanted to get rid of it. It is that simple. At the time of the Civil War, the north did want to sell their machines and machine made goods therefore high import tariffs blocking the importing of British goods was seen as desirable. The south’s whose economy relied on slave labor to produce export cotton to exchange for imported goods did not want those high import tariffs. link and the “Official” USA history of economics of that time.

Farmers made up about 90% of labor force before 1790 by 1860 Farmers made up only 58% of labor force and by 1930 Farmers made up 21% of labor force. Between 1980 and 1990 farmers fell from 3.4% to 2.6% of labor force. link

People forget the industrial revolution was alive and well in the 18th century and many advances were made that freed people from a grinding subsistence level existence. This lead to free time and an explosion of inventions. Up until the 1800’s animals were only used to break the land, all else was done by hand except for milling.

18th century – Oxen and horses for power, crude wooden plows, all sowing by hand, cultivating by hoe, hay and grain cutting with sickle, and threshing with flail…. [

1830 – About 250-300 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with walking plow, brush harrow, hand broadcast of seed, sickle, and flail….
[A whole list of inventions]
.
.
.
1890 – 40-50 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with gang plow, seeder, harrow, binder, thresher, wagons, and horses
1890 – Most basic potentialities of agricultural machinery that was dependent on horsepower had been discovered….

The universal availability of electricity in the USA is less than 100 years old. My parents (and husband) saw the transition from horse to a petroleum based economy.
In the USA in

1930
58% of all farms had cars

1940
58% of all farms had cars

1954
70.9% of all farms had cars

1980-90 Hard times and indebtedness affected many farmers in the Midwest

35. Bruce Cobb says:

Here in the northeast U.S., the “Green” Power grab has begun: http://www.lowelectricrate.com/
Essentially, we are being bribed with our own (and some of others’) money to buy so-called green energy. This North American Power cartel is a front for Big Green, and even though I could save some money on the power portion of my bill, I want no part of it. It’s an outrage.

36. Roisin Robertson says:

So it wasn’t the hottest summer in the USA this year(for the last 117 years), so it wasn’t the wettest year on record in the UK, so climate change isn’t happening, so the Gulf Stream didn’t move south when expected to move north in Europe this year? Laugh if you like about ‘young enthusiastic Greens’, Glad you all know so much and can smirk behind your hands about the destruction caused by (once freak, now normal) weather events (Sandy Superstorm, etc) Climate Science and understanding changes as more research is done….castigating everyone for not agreeing with you is hardly the way to win friends and start a communication..if the Greens are so wrong….

37. Sounds too simplistic to me.

1. If the USA demanded less fuel, prices should go down for the rest of the world including poor people.
2. But in poor countries the wholesale cost is just a small proportion of the total, so any additional due too carbon tax will have little impact.
3. The impact will be so small that there will be little need for carbon taxes to be applied in poor countries.

So I reckon carbon taxes or other measures to reduce fuel usage in rich countries will help poor countries.

So your solution to “simplistic” is… something simplistic?

Lets take this in order.

1. How do you make the US demand less fuel? And, for that matter, why pick on the US when China or India both use more fuel by quite a wide margin these days? But ignoring that, lets answer my first question: the only way to make the US demand less fuel is to artificially raise the price of fuel. Who does that affect first? Why, it would be all those poor that you seem so keen on saving. All those who live on the edge of poverty and just about manage, who would be driven over that edge by rising fuel costs. And of course those rising fuel costs would increase the cost of doing business at every point where transportation, heating or lighting is used (which is every point), slowing the economy further, putting more people out of work, creating more of those poor people who now can’t afford to heat their homes because the price of fuel is so high for some goddamn reason.

2. The wholesale cost is proportional to the supply just as the retail cost is. Wholesale costs of fuel transport to outlying islands are the reason prices are so high out there, never mind the retail markup, which is probably quite low. It costs a lot of money to transport that fuel in small quantities on a regular basis – and, believe it or not, a large part of that cost is in energy required to transport it. Either a pipeline, or ships, or some other method of transportation is required and all these things will become more expensive as the “wholesale cost” of fuel rises. In more than a few causes they will become so expensive that it’s no longer cost-effective to transport that fuel, because the people who are buying it are already on the very edge of what they can afford. They can afford a light, or heat. Possibly not even both at once. They can afford to run their boats, but they might have to sacrifice lighting to do so. They spend a huge proportion of their wages on that, and if you raise the price just a little, they are forced to choose between energy use and feeding themselves.

3. Demonstrably false if you spend even a couple of minutes thinking about it.

Given that “rich countries” are no longer the largest uses of energy on the planet, your premise falls flat before it even starts. Given that those rich and/or energy-intensive countries are usually the producers of the fuel and technology required to maintain our energy networks, anything that slows their economies will impact the entire human race’s ability to efficiently transport and use that energy.

Given that you want to do exactly that, I have to conclude that you either want to see the human race driven into penury, or you are simply too intellectually lazy to consider the nonsense you’re spouting.

I almost wish it was the former. At least then you’d be thinking.

38. Doug Huffman says:

I’m re-reading N. N. Taleb’s Antifragile and thinking about its practical applications.

Without having the concept, I’ve been making my home more robust, antifragile, to energy cost fluctuations.

Light can come from a diesel powered 60/100 Watt Welsbach mantle lamp that also produces good quality waste heat. I have diesel stored for the car and tractor too. We cook and heat with a 500 gallon tank of propane that usually lasts two or three years, and a mantel lamp could be added to its load.

Primary heating is with electric baseboard strips, the cost of which is subsidized by the electric co-op, encouraging adequate load to properly run a generator set at night.

For now I cannot escape electricity for electronic devices and the deep well. When I win the lottery I’ll buy an Aeromotor driven well. We live in a woods that will provide a lifetime supply of firewood – screw the insurance company.

I encourage my Town Board to convert our sewage treatment to mesophilic anaerobic digester for the fuel gas.

39. Speed says:

The carbon taxers acknowledge and respond saying, “Carbon taxes can be a regressive tax, in that they may directly or indirectly affect low-income groups disproportionately. The regressive impact of carbon taxes could be addressed by using tax revenues to favour low-income groups.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_tax

And we know how well that will work.

40. Chris D. says:

This is a great post, Willis. You’ve neatly reframed the issue, especially when one considers Verity Jones’ analysis of the futility of trying to significantly limit CO2 emissions. What shame so much money has been funneled into green boondoggles. I’ve long held the belief that if we were to finally achieve cost-effective room temp superconductor tech and net energy fusion, then most of our dreams could come true. Those areas seem to be far better areas for public investment than current embodiments of wind and solar. Once practical superconductor tech were to be available on a large, and economically feasible scale, then suddenly wind, solar, and all sorts of things would be viable parts of the answer to our energy needs for a very long time.

41. Bill Illis says:

Very powerful analogy.

The majority of the Greens are left-of-centre as well as many of the pro-AGW’ers. Maybe we can get them think twice about the inefficient green power sources by focussing on how much it hurting the poor and making some rich people, even richer. The whole scam is based politically-correct shaming anyway.

Just keep restating that Green technology hurts poor people and maybe it will eventually sink in and the political-correctness will swing back the other way.

42. Nick says:

And then we have the pensions. All the contributions spent, 5,010 bn pounds of debt left. Hidden off the books

43. Excellent as always Willis. The human aspect is the neglected part of the climate debate. I’d like to see all the warmists forced to power their laptops, iPods and Internet connection with bicycle power. I think their blogs and posts would then be a lot less energetic.

This guy is also good at putting the “hard core” greens in their place.

44. Gail Combs says:

Capell says:
January 2, 2013 at 3:44 am
…..If that’s any sort of Gaussian distribution then any increase in electricity costs will raise the numbers in fuel poverty supra-linearly, and I think, quite rapidly.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
It is.
This fits what Willis is saying:

[UK] Annual Report on Fuel Poverty Statistics 2011

The majority of households in fuel poverty are consistently in the lowest three income decile groups. In 2003, there were 1.2 million fuel poor households in the lowest three decile groups, representing 96 per cent of all fuel poor households. In 2009, the number of fuel poor households in these groups rose to 3.4 million, representing 87 per cent of all fuel poor households.

From a questionable site.

More than one in five British households suffers fuel poverty
Figures released recently by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) from their Annual Report on Fuel Poverty Statistics 2011 show a large rise in British households suffering from fuel poverty.

Households are defined as being in fuel poverty if they spend at least 10 percent of their income on energy bills. According to the study, the number of families that fell into fuel poverty had risen from 4.5 million in 2008 to 5.5 million in 2009. The majority of these were in England, where the number rose from 3.3 million to 4 million…..

Fuel Poverty Monitoring Indicators : link This report is very interesting. It shows a sharp decrease from 6.5 million in 1996 to 2 million in 2003 &2004 followed by a sharp increase back up to 5.5 million in 2009. “* Figures for England in 1998 and 2002 are estimates based on movements in energy prices, incomes and energy efficiency.

…In 2003, the number of households in fuel poverty stood at 1.2 million, representing 5.9 per cent of all households in England. In 2009, this figure rose to 4.0 million, which represented 18.4 per cent of all English households. A common theme throughout the chapter is the impact of rising bills between 2003 and 2009 on fuel poverty. Using figures from the Retail Prices Index (as compiled by the Office for National Statistics), domestic electricity prices increased by almost 90 per cent between 2003 and 2009, while gas prices increased by almost 140 per cent over the same period….

One in fifty households with at least one dependent child were in fuel poverty in 2003, rising to one in ten by 2009. In 2003, one in ten households with at least one person aged 60 or over were
in fuel poverty but, by 2009, this had risen to one in four. However, Chart 5.1 shows that the number of fuel poor households tripled across all household age groups (illustrated by age of the oldest occupant) in England between 2003 and 2009. The largest increase was the group where the household reference person was aged 35 to 49….

…households containing someone with a disability or a long-term illness had a higher rate of
fuel poverty than other households. Although the percentage of households in fuel poverty in this group increased between 2003 and 2009 (from 9 per cent in 2003 to 24 per cent in 2009),

The majority of households in fuel poverty are consistently in the lowest three income decile groups. In 2003, there were 1.2 million fuel poor households in the lowest three decile groups, representing 96 per cent of all fuel poor households. In 2009, the number of fuel poor households in these groups rose to 3.4 million, representing 87 per cent of all fuel poor households.

45. eco-geek says:

Fuel Poverty in Britain. Yes I know all about it, at least I found out the other day as my wife told me our energy bills total £170 ($278). a month. It also seems we are behind on our direct debit to the tune of £174 over the year so our actual usage is costing us £184.5 ($302) a month when we settle the difference. This is about 18% of our income (about £1000 a month). Local taxes and water cost us £167 a month, her medication £100 per month, house insurance and telephone leave us with about £500 a month to subsist on. That the Greenies are mad keen on our energy costs rising dramatically in future does not encourage me a great deal especially as many rises are already in the pipeline.

46. Joe Born says:

For some time I, too, have meant to set the problem out in terms of human power, but you’ve no doubt done it in a better fashion than I would have.

I note only that the hundred watts you use as a rule of thumb results from using the body in an advantageous way, such as pedaling, which cannot conveniently be applied to all tasks. A hundred watts is also the power expended in raising five five-pound bricks three feet once every second; I’m sure that even as a young man I couldn’t have sustained that pace for ten hours. And I wonder how much energy it would take to provide the food to fuel that kind of task for ten hours.

47. LazyTeenager says:
January 2, 2013 at 4:45 am

Too funny/weird. I guess, if you don’t listen to yourself the opinion of others matters not.

Thanks, again Willis. The ‘Greens’ are willfully ignorant about population, sustainability and resources. Why we should believe they have a grasp on anything except purse strings is beyond me. I cannot think of a single thing they got right. Ever.

48. The only nit I would pick is on shaking one’s head in amazement at James Hansen. We’re well beyond that. The death toll per penny of carbon tax needs to be calculated and laid at his feet and the rest of the people who advocate such global energy taxes.

49. tgmccoy says:

I’m sitting in my Den, about to go to a Job interview in the high cold of NE Oregon . We have
a High pressure system parked over us for a while. Bit of sun while it lasts then Stratus/fog.
solar doesn’t cut it much.-I have a very solar(Passive) oriented house due to the previous
owner’s work in that area. Right now due to the miracle of Fracking, I am running my furnace.
GAS furnace. for a lesser cost than last year. Yet the Hanson’s of the world want US older
folk to get out of the way…
BTW I am convinced that the greatest green fear is healthy, happy prosperous ,dark skinned
people.-Not dependent on the Good/Bad will of the UN or the favored Kleptocrat du jour…

50. Geoff Withnell says:

Speaking as an old geezer – Thanks!

51. Owen in GA says:

@MorningGuy:
Did you add in the cost of the invertors, batteries and installation? I think you will find the payback, without subsidy, to be considerably longer!

BUT if you can make it work for you without stealing tax subsidy from your neighbors to make it work, more power to you (pun sort of intended).

52. markx says:

Having also lived long term in so called third world countries I have realized very clearly, and commented very often on this one thing: If you double the cost of food for a man who spends all of his money on food, he and his family simply get to eat less….

Glaringly obvious, but apparently not significant to some. And we could elaborate on that by discussing energy …

But Willis has already done that above, and done it so much better that my one liners, in his measured, story telling style.

53. DJ says:

I seem to recall Barack Obama saying that under his policies, energy prices would necessarily skyrocket.

54. highflight56433 says:

Willis: “But energy price increases such as carbon taxes don’t even have that relief. They hit harder the further you go down the economic ladder, all the way down to rock bottom, hitting the very poorest the hardest of all.”

Let us assume here in the US consumption of gasoline is at approximately 140,000,000,000 gallons per year. The price has gone up substantially since 2008 to the tune of additionally costing the cunsumer approximately $500,000,000,000. That equates to fewer revenue to other non essential items and essential items e.g. food, clothing, etc. The standard of living declines rapidly for the unemployed and those on a fixed income who are driven even further into poverty just by the increase in fuel. Now we have a marxist government “necessarily” taking the cost of energy up with a policy of putting coal and other inexpensive power generation out of business with no regard to the quality of life for the average American. So the consequence of higher energy costs is higher everything else costs. The entire country is headed toward the likes of Detriot, a waste land of poverty, while Stalinist Obama vacations on your nickle. No sacrifice for him and his DC cronies. 55. J. Seifert says: This essay ….. a literary masterpiece on the worth of global overheat science….JS 56. tz says: The converse is in developing countries, huge megaprojects aren’t sustainable or needed. The classic example is water. You can drill a well for a few thousand dollars, put a simple (human powered pump, easy to repair), and everyone in the area can get clean water and so waterborne diseases stop. These poor villages could not afford electricity for a penny per kilowatt. Getting them on the economic ladder is an issue that needs addressing, but what is available and affordable in a big city in the USA is not the same thing in the far reaches of the Congo. An advanced, highly networked economy is different from one still near subsistence. So the solutions and fixes, charitable or via trade have to be appropriate. And the free market can most easily address it. Instead, the only “Aid” we want to provide is to have the country go into debt (issue sovereign bonds) to pay for a billion dollar waterworks built by one of our multinational megacorps that won’t even reach the impoverished areas, but will pay the ruling elite for presiding over the complex machinery. Then when they can’t pay the bonds, we impose “austerity” which means starvation in poor countries. And we send crony bureaucrats to manage things. Our solution to their starving children is to send condoms. Our solution to people dying of infections is to send contraceptives. The situation in Greece is ironic, but it is also payback. The beauty of a real market is it will allocate scarce resources. The evil of regulation is that it makes abundant resources artificially scarce, whether through simply taxing them into unaffordability, or creating artificial barriers to entry. 57. SAMURAI says: Perhaps the most ironic aspect of CAGW theory (or should I say theology) is that at its core, it has nothing to do with “saving the planet”, but rather it’s a simple ruse for governments to control and micro-manage industry, collect huge carbon taxes, implement global wealth redistribution, restrict economic growth and industrialization of impoverished countries. The technology of Liquid Fuoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) exists where zero CO2 emissions are possible at an electricity production cost of less than$0.01/kWh (solar/wind is around $.30/kWh) In addition, the residual heat from the gas turbine generators could be used to desalinate sea water, produce limitless supplies of NH4, CH4, H2, diesel/aviation fuel, or any hydrocarbon desired for next to nothing. The only things holding back this technology are government rules, regulations, licensing procedures and formal approval to build them. The government wouldn’t even need to provide the research and development funds as the private sector would readily invest a few$billion to get LFTRs built and patent the technology that’ll make them $trillions in the future. Thorium is a very abundant element. An average-sized rare-earth mine disposes of 5,000 MT/yr of reactor-grade Thorium232 while processing neodymium, which is enough to supply the entire world’s energy needs…for a year… It’s not like we’ll ever run out of this stuff… The Chinese are now in the early stages of LFTR development and the world will most likely be buying reactors from them in the near future. And so it goes….until it doesn’t…. 58. rgbatduke says: ever heard of solar panels??? you can pick up a 200W solar panel now for about$200, will generate about a 1kWh.
here in Oz 1kWh costs ~30cents – $200/30cents = ~700 days payback time, makes sense to me … no punt intended ;P I agree, but the economics are different here. 5 kW peak — note well, peak — costs around$11K installed — the solar cells are a bit more costly retail, and you need inverters and some electrical work done in order to be able to automatically sell daytime surplus back into the grid in lieu of hard storage (installing hard storage — a big pile of batteries — adds substantially to the cost and shortens the lifetime as batteries have to be replaced at least once or twice a decade). Also, electricity is cheaper — even in California — than $0.30 USD/kW-h. A 5 kW peak rooftop would probably be lucky to make an average of 30 kW-h per day, call it$3 (although it might be as high as $4 or$5 or as low as $2) recovered cost. 365 x 3 =$1095/year, and 11000/1095 = 10 years EXCEPT that you have to borrow the money to buy it at (say) 5% annually, compounded monthly. This produces a serious problem, as your “annual profit” has to be reduced by the cost of the borrowed money (this is part of a serious CBA, sorry). So you really only pay off at the rate of $1.50/day the first year — the other$1.50 goes to servicing the debt.

After a bit of fairly serious work with a compound interest calculator with a $90/month fixed payment, it takes roughly 14 years to pay back the loan. Then, of course, it is worth$90/month to you for the next 6 to 11 years to reach the expected 20-25 year lifetime of the hardware, less any maintenance costs along the way.

In Oz, a fair estimate might cut the amortization time in half — or it could stretch it out. I’m assuming very favorable (basically new construction/mortgage) financing, not short term/consumer interest which would cost at least 2-3 points more and drop your paydown period to “forever”, you’d probably barely break even on the cost of the solar collector over its entire lifetime. OTOH, if you have $11K in cash lying around, a return of$1000/year is way better than almost any mundane investment. Indeed, your biggest problem would be finding something to do with the $1000 that would come close to “compounding” the interest, since there AREN’T any other 10%/year investments one can easily make with the money. The point being that in the US, solar panels “make sense now” only in high-insolation parts of the country (the relatively arid Southwest) where 5 kW peak might generate 4 kW average instead of 3 kW average over a presumed 10 hour day that also have expensive conventional electricity, where the amortization period for a consumer-level investment is dropped under 10 years. It is already a win for commercial generation in these places — they have higher operational overhead but they also get bulk prices and cheaper money even losing half of the return to overhead and maintenance a 5% ROI is pretty attractive, with good prospects for that to go higher. Where I live, 14 years is still too damn long. If solar panels, inverters, installation drop one more factor of two in price (or anything close to this — say 5 kW for$7000 or $8000) that would drop the amortization to 10 years, followed by a ROI of$1000/year for 10 to 15 years (which means slightly less than this “forever” if one uses some fraction of the income to rollover replace parts as they wear out or fail). At that point installing built in solar electricity is a no-brainer for new construction — it makes the house much more attractive if you can sell it with “free air conditioning for life” as part of the price (this is more or less what one would be buying, and in the southeast that’s a big deal). Retrofitting old construction would also make sense, but of course it does require owners with the means to borrow the money and service the debt (or pop the money out of savings to buy the higher rate of return).

I predict that we’ll easily reach this sort of pricing by the end of the decade. Willis and others disagree, and all we can do is wait and found out. This is one of many reasons I think that even if there is some truth to the CAGW claims — say truth at the level likely to be stated as the AR5 conclusion, roughly 2.5 K warming by the end of the 21st century (some 0.3 to 0.4 of which has already occurred) then sheer economic choices are rather likely to reduce our consumption of carbon based fuels by the middle of the century well below projected worst case rates, and by the end of the century carbon dioxide concentrations could be coming down, not going up, especially if there is (by then) any evidence of true “catastrophic” sustained warming.

In other words, no reason to panic and little reason to dump huge amounts of money into arcane carbon trading schemes that have no effect except to make all of the brokers in the world rich(er) and provide a flexible and potent instrument for laundering money. Good reasons to continue to support research into solar technologies and to help support the market in ways that will eventually lead to economies of scale here.

I’m certain that it is sacrilege to even suggest what I’m about to suggest, but I still think it is worth kicking out onto the table. Electricity is the fundamental resource, the essential driver of civilized economies and standard of living. Everybody hates paying taxes. Fighting wars over scarce energy resources sucks, and the vast wealth associated with the multinationals that provide them creates “shadow governments” with an income greater than that of many small countries and a disproportionate political influence. We could do a lot worse than to create a national solar electrical project and invest (say) $100 billion/year in massive solar construction for the next decade or three, buying a TW or so of capacity every five years at likely scaled costs. Make the joule the fundamental basis of our currency, and use the income from selling joules to fund the government, eventually buying additional capacity strictly out of income and using the surplus to reduce taxes. By 2050 we might well have eliminated the federal income tax, money could have a solid international foundation for the first time since we went off the precious metal standards, carbon usage would be substantially decreased and possibly even equilibrated. Sure, the government often sucks at running “businesses”, but it could be done by setting up a federal trust or something. The biggest risk is that somebody would come along and invent fusion and obsolete the whole thing, but even that could be managed with a buyout of fusion and indeed would make the whole idea even more stable and productive. The “tax” of buying energy would be perfectly balanced, neither progressive nor regressive. Live off the grid, pay no federal taxes directly, but of course you pay them any time you buy an object manufactured with energy. Live on the grid, the better your lifestyle the more you spend on energy the higher your de facto taxes. Wait, let me put on my flameproof suit. I’m walking down into my concrete bunker. Putting on my flash goggles. OK, now. Bring it. ;-) rgb 59. Willis, you are right. Before getting all worked up about the future of “our children”, shouldn’t we rather worry about all the children who live right now and have no access to affordable energy and its benefits. Save them now before caring about the conditions of living in the future. Man-made social unrests, man-made wars or natural catastrophes, such as volcanoes, meteorites, hurricanes or tsunamis are as unforeseeable as future weather conditions but are within the realm of probability. 60. more soylent green! says: Willis, Have you considered having the unfit and overweight being required to exercise, and having their stationary bikes wired to a generator? Two problems with one stone. Of course, we’d have to keep this people under strict control to keep them from overeating or consuming foods not on the First Lady’s approved foods list. Think of all the savings in food and greenhouse emissions. Of course, if people do succeed in getting fitter and thinner, we won’t have enough obese or overweight people to chain to bicycles. Then it will have to become mandatory for all. 61. highflight56433 says: SAMURAI says: January 2, 2013 at 6:56 am “Perhaps the most ironic aspect of CAGW theory (or should I say theology) is that at its core, it has nothing to do with “saving the planet”, but rather it’s a simple ruse for governments to control and micro-manage industry, collect huge carbon taxes, implement global wealth redistribution, restrict economic growth and industrialization of impoverished countries.” You are spot on. Recall that in the early 1970’s the nuclear industry was talking a nuclear energy device for every household. Who needs a grid if we all have a house sized nuclear plant parked next to the garage, or powering individual industries. No loss of energy through transmission lines. No rolling brown outs or other devasting power outages. 62. M Simon says: Slave power was as far as I know originally a Bucky Fuller idea. He had charts and graphs of slave equivalents. 63. Retird Dave says: Bang on the nail as always Willis – thank you. Here in the UK they are still enthralled with the idea of windmills, although the penny is beginning to drop – it is doing it very slowly and with much infighting within the coalition government. When your Prime Minster’s Daddy-in-Law is getting a subsidy of £1k a week off his windmills….. fill in your own ending. What amazes me is the dirth of good engineering advice given to UK government. It is fact that out of 650 Members of Parliament only 3 have an engineering or science qualification. Why don’t they listen to an engineer like Prof. Colin McInnes. A year ago he wrote this piece for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s online magazine. http://www.ingenia.org.uk/ingenia/articles.aspx?Index=740 64. mkelly says: rgb says: “By 2050 we might well have eliminated the federal income tax,…” Never happen. Governments want to control the folks. Income taxes are one form of control. They will not give up that power. Heck we cannot get a flat tax installed giving up the income tax in toto sounds like devil talk. 65. Roisin Robertson says: January 2, 2013 at 5:28 am You, sir, are not even wrong. Weather (everything you mention) is NOT climate. ‘castigating’ is not what I am interested in any more. Humiliation is what I see happening. My kids are colder this UK winter than last (my grandchildren also) due to costs. My parents are colder due to government skewing of energy production to enrich their friends and relatives, none of whom worry that they will have difficulty with their energy bills – no sir. 66. Pops says: With a rising tide, all boats are lifted equally. With a falling tide, the boats in the shallowest water run aground first. 67. M Simon says: “I’ve long held the belief that if we were to finally achieve cost-effective room temp superconductor tech” We don’t need it right away. A switch to carbon nanotube wires (not quite a production reality) would cut electrical losses by a factor of 5 over copper. In addition all that copper would be released for other uses. 68. Crispin in Waterloo says: The cost to really poor people in poor countries for electricity is$50 per kWh if it comes in the form dry cell batteries. It has remained at that level for more than 35 years, I have observed. Batteries are sold for that historical cost.

LazyTeenager says:
>Sounds too simplistic to me….
>2. But in poor countries the wholesale cost is just a small proportion of the total, so any additional due too carbon tax will have little impact.

Lazy, just who is being simplistic??? Good grief it is clear you have never lived in a Third World country!

Electriciy, the magical fruit, the annointed energy carrier, the golden goal of development enthusiasts, the crystal skull of wealth-bringing treasure hunters, is only affordable at the margins in the LDC’s and when the have it, they don’t cook with it (for example). Many off-grid people are dependent on the few with electricity for paid services and any rise in cost disproportionately and negatively affects those clinging to the margins. A carbon tax is insane because nearly all energy used by the poorest 3 billion people on Earth is carbon-based biomass. If anyone thinks biomass will be exempted, read the UNFCCC rules for calculating the sustainablility of the biomass fuel supply.

I agree that solar panels http://click.email.globalspec.com/?qs=fa4fcf0ebfc24ed9abc55feda058db068d2b0b031a83719c635fbeb218901ea3ab24b37ebf115f38 have a strong future as do thermo-electric and thermo-acoustic generators. The poor can actually benefit from greater access to independent power generation. If it were accessible without subsidy, it would bring real benefits because it can reach sustainable expansion. What is wonderful is that LDC’s are developing the capacity to do this without reference to the technology-developed overlord wannabes. The idea that subsidising ‘renewables’ carte blanche until they ‘become sustainable’ is a bucket of puke.

69. Excellent essay, Willis.

I imagine what the governments will try to do is create a new “fuel assistance” to allow the poor to avoid “fuel poverty.” This will create all sorts of government jobs and paperwork, which they like.

When I was younger I raised five kids doing landscaping and odd jobs, and jobs were few and far between during the winter. (Often I’d work in a factory for a couple months.) One time I actually got in line for fuel assistance. After being sent from office to office, and standing in line after line, I was told I needed written proof from my employer that I wasn’t currently working. When I explained I was a landscaper and handiman, I was told that, as I had multiple bosses, I had to go to each and every person I had worked for, and get a paper stating I wasn’t currently working.

After a few choice words I went and cut wood in the woods. I found that, in the time it would have taken to fill out all the paperwork I, A.) Got enough wood to heat my house; B.) Got lots of fresh air and excersize; C.) Regained my sense of self-esteem and D,) Began a period when I went fifteen years without turning on my propane heater.

70. Joe Born says:

rgbatduke: “Good reasons to continue to support research into solar technologies and to help support the market in ways that will eventually lead to economies of scale here.”

I assume you mean that the huge investments already made are insufficient and/or so ill-directed that Obama in his superior scientific insight should take our money, gaze into the middle distance, and direct its use more efficiently. Gee, what could go wrong with that?

71. The notion that an additional 100 ppm or so, of an atmospheric trace gas fundamental to organic life on this planet, was shaping up to extinguish life as we know it, always struck me as beyond absurd. As a ‘climate science’ layman however, I was prepared to give some credence to what seemed a well-founded concensus that this might indeed be the case – Until Climategate 1 that is. Since then and with the help articles like this I have begun to understand what is realy going on here.

It seems to me that there are two related and overwhelmingly powerful reasons why Western Establishments continue to pay at least lip service to the IPCC ‘Catastrophic CO2 driven climate change’ boondoggle and they have nothing whatever to do with the alleged danger posed by man made CO2 emmissions:

1. Carbon trading is set to become the biggest derivatives market ever, with all that means for the Western dominated globalised financial services industry. What politician seeking the approval of his biggest paymasters is going to risk upsetting that little apple-cart?

2. The REAL but hidden and unacknowledged problem – the implications of an inexorable and irreversible decline in fossil fuel EROEI. In face of that little doozy, governments of all persuasions are happy that the mass of humanity should view their ‘carbon footprint’ much like mortal sin to a good Christian. That way they will then be much more ready to accept the measures deemed necessary to deal with the REAL problem, as physical reality forces the issue.

Thus, just about everyone involved in Energy/Climate ‘Policy’ has an interest in keeping the gravy train in motion – pesky sceptics with superior science to the contrary notwithstanding.

72. The cliamed reduced demand in the West (from carbon taxes) won’t decrease the cost of fuel or electricity in the 3rd World. The main reason is that, while the supply isn’t infinite, it isn’t constrained by demand: when the West uses less, OPEC simply slows down their output to prop up their cash flow. The 3rd World countries, where the fuel/labor ratio is the worst, will simply get less fuel (since the taps are turned down & the costs are up), which will be even more expensive for them.

73. Gene Selkov says:

Ryan says: “Human power isn’t very efficient.”

Define “very”. A few crackers can hurl me and my bike over 20 miles, without any change in my fat store. That beats my car many times for sure. Ask anybody in the weight loss business; they do sophisticated calorimetry and can tell you how unbelievably efficient we are. You have to cut your food intake and do a lot of work to experience any significant weight loss.

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11/mpg-of-a-human/

Over-consumption of food does create a situation where you can say we’re not very efficient, but that is because the extra food we cannot assimilate gets shunted down the toilet. As long as you eat only enough to compensate for mechanical and heat losses, you are a very efficient thermal machine (compared to all we know)

74. MorningGuy says:

@Owen in GA

Don’t need batteries, just feed in tariffs, in Oz they were quite generous at one stage, up to 68c/kWh, now less so but the cost of solar has drop like a brick, all I know is that I’ve paid for my install recently and now it’s FREE for what I’m generating, for the next 20 years, those electricity suppliers can kiss my lily white arse!

@rgbatduke

Yeah the economics keeps changing, they are cutting rebates here and the cost has gone up, but did you hear about the new stuff in China? A DIY inverter box that plugs straight into a wall socket, you just hook up a few solar panels and it’ll spin your meter back. No batteries no electrician, just DIY. Be a while before they introduce something like that here but you can kind of see where it’s headed.

I’m going to be flamed here for suggesting it but electricity suppliers are screwed, the writing is on the wall, solar will do the same to big electricity what gasoline did to steam power. Big electricity will be relegated to supplying base load, whereas solar will take the more lucrative peak, at that stage big electricity will lose market share and become expensive, then it’s just down hill fast for them.

75. Kevin Kilty says:

Ian H

Your idealistic youth are not corrupted by old men, they corrupt from within. Look at all those idealistic youth from the 1960s and what they have become–they are the UN and World Government types, the carbon market makers, they are mentors to the current administration–corrupt as hell.

76. 100 watts continuous for 24 hours (2.4 kWh) is a 2000 (food) Calorie diet equivalent which is a typical diet for humans not engaged in intensive activities. MRE’s provide for a 3600 Calorie per day diet. That means 1600 Calories of work being done over maintenance levels in a day or maybe 2 kWh – still within the ballpark of the post number, especially if a reasonable efficiency is factored in. (The needs of a soldier make a convenient reference for this, I think)

The thing to consider is the carbon footprint involved in that 3600 Calorie diet. From ‘nature’ to plate has many loads on the carbon footprint. Then there is the waste problem which also has a methane issue …

Humans just aren’t a good general purpose energy source. Since the industrial revolution got its start, there has been an ongoing focus on putting human efforts into producing in areas where they are most efficient. That has had signficant social implications both in terms of dealing with change and in allocations of labor. It’s all about leverage of inate human capabilities.

77. RGB, creating the silicon components for solar panels takes a lot of energy. Moore’s law doesn’t apply to solar panels as the technology for CPUs is a different requirement than that for a solar cell. The Moore’s law observation is more of a economics law than a physical law, especially since it now costs 10 billion dollars to build a plant to produce a next generation CPU. You don’t spend that kind of money unless the new chips are significantly more powerful and/or more efficient than its predecessor or your competitors products. As far as I know solar cells don’t need 14nm process node technology and 450 individual steps to produce a functional cell like a competitive CPU today does. I don’t expect solar cells to get much cheaper any time soon.

I did a presentation on solar power in the late seventies in my high school science class during the era of the energy shortage scare and ice age scare. Cheap solar was said to be just 20 years away. I’ve saved an ad from 1989 by B.C. Hydro claiming that cheap solar was just 20 years away.

There are a couple thousand forest fires a year in my province. If push comes to shove from the global cabal, my province could meet low fossil usage (we are at 94% renewable right now) by burning our wood as an energy source rather than just letting it burn as it does now.

My home is surrounded by about 100 trees on my property. Not one of those trees existed when I moved into this home in 1967. Most of those trees tower several stories above my roof. I have been saving some of the branches that have fallen off the trees and have about a chord of wood ready for when I get around to fixing my chimney, which would have been for this winter if I hadn’t of spent so much time in the summer bicycle touring the new lands opened up for me to access by new bridge infrastructure costing about 3 billion dollars. I visited Fort Langley on one of my tours, a place I haven’t set eyes on since I was a child. I would like to thank tax payers for the new bridge from Maple Ridge to Langley, but private business funded and built the bridge, and motorists are paying for it via tolls.

78. RACookPE1978 says:

MorningGuy says:
January 2, 2013 at 8:13 am

Yeah the economics keeps changing, they are cutting rebates here and the cost has gone up, but did you hear about the new stuff in China? A DIY inverter box that plugs straight into a wall socket, you just hook up a few solar panels and it’ll spin your meter back. No batteries no electrician, just DIY. Be a while before they introduce something like that here but you can kind of see where it’s headed.

I’m going to be flamed here for suggesting it but electricity suppliers are screwed, the writing is on the wall, solar will do the same to big electricity what gasoline did to steam power. Big electricity will be relegated to supplying base load, whereas solar will take the more lucrative peak, at that stage big electricity will lose market share and become expensive, then it’s just down hill fast for them.

Solar “might” provide “some” power to “parts” of the world “some of the time” ….. but only between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM. (And only when there are no clouds, storms, trees, dust, snow, water, ice, buildings, or other solar collectors in the way between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM that is.

What are you going to do … say, between 3:01 PM and 8:59 AM?

Storage batteries in everybody’s home?

79. Excellent post Willis! :) I’m surprised at the low power output of the cyclist though: back in my bike activism days it was pretty strongly believed that those bike-powered engines were fairly effective. I’ve forwarded this entry to a few of my old buddies in that camp to see what they may have to add.

Ryan, you say, “Human power isn’t very efficient. You need to take in a lot of calories to power all the anciliary parts of the human body (brains for instance). Probably burning ethanol would be more efficient…..”

That makes sense, though in my case I don’t have much in the way of power-eating brains, though I *do* religiously try to supply enough ethanol for whatever *is* needed.

:>
MJM

80. Johanus says:

Willis said:
“… very rough rules of thumb regarding human energy is that an adult human can put out about a hundred watts on an ongoing, constant all-day basis. “

Certain rare individuals are able to exceed that level. It has been reported, for example, that Lance Armstrong (perhaps with a ‘chemical assist’) was able to generate an average of 400 watts for 7 hours while biking in the Tour de France:

81. rgbatduke says:

“I’ve long held the belief that if we were to finally achieve cost-effective room temp superconductor tech”

We don’t need it right away. A switch to carbon nanotube wires (not quite a production reality) would cut electrical losses by a factor of 5 over copper. In addition all that copper would be released for other uses.

Yet another place where a tech advance (combined with an engineering advance) could change everything. One of the biggest problems with solar is that people don’t live densely in the places where solar power makes the most sense, and it is “expensive” to transport electrical power over very long distances even with Tesla’s lovely step-up/step-down technology. It is therefore simply not feasible to generate electrical power in (say) West Texas and transmit it to Maine for use, no matter how cheaply you can make it in West Texas. We transport energy in the form of fossil fuels simply because it is a lot cheaper to mine and then move the oil, coal, whatever from the mine to generation facilities close to where the energy is used rather than generate the power at the mine and move the electricity.

Sadly, it isn’t clear that any superconductor technologies, room temperature or not, will manage the efficient transportation of electrical energy. The problem is that superconductors have a complex phase diagram and tend to stop being superconductors as soon as you try to jam too much current through them, and that is before worrying about their dynamical response to time varying currents. That is, you can’t just take conventional very low temperature superconductors and transmit arbitrary amounts of power long distances as things stand right now, even if you ignored the cost of keeping them cold.

That isn’t to say that there may not be solutions to this. A superconducting waveguide (if one could keep the materials superconducting in the appropriate frequency regime) might do it. But in the meantime, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for superconducting long range transmission solutions even if somebody manages to make a superconductor at temperatures that might be cost-effectively maintained in a long distance transmission line. See for example:

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/tables/supcon.html#c1

As I understand it, in many cases the limiting current density is related to the density of lattice defects in the superconducting material (not so much for pure superconductors, but very much the case for most high-T_c superconducting lattices). The numbers aren’t particularly small, but the material is highly intolerant of any fault — one could imagine rapidly cycling across the superconducting boundary or even setting up an oscillation between superconducting and not superconducting with truly stupendous consequences (imagine a real-time EMP weapon driven by a power plant). Also, one would still have to transmit the energy at enormously high voltages, possibly DC voltages (again, I don’t know about the frequency response).

There are companies who are actively investing in building prototype power delivery systems using high temperature superconductors in venues where these restrictions don’t matter as much and there are nonlinear benefits due to the high cost of right of way for transmission lines (e.g. someplace like New York City) but I don’t think any of these are ready to deliver (say) a few terawatts from Arizona to North Carolina, or from Spain to Norway, not even at 1/10th the cost.

So stay tuned, but don’t count this as “inevitable” in the next decade, at any rate. It’s not clear that the physics itself is there, let alone the engineering, at feasible cost.

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82. S. Meyer says:

Well written and chilling. But I have one question from a simple-minded view of economics: if the West puts a tax on carbon, that should make energy more expensive for the population living in the West, hence reduce demand. If the West’s demand is reduced, there should be relatively more supply for the rest of the world, and, hence, prices for the rest of the world should go down. What am I missing here?

83. rgbatduke says:

What are you going to do … say, between 3:01 PM and 8:59 AM

The same thing that one does now — rely on secondary power generation facilities, probably ones based on natural gas that can very quickly be turned on and off. On the good side, by tilting and orienting the solar cells one can do better than six hours, and in many places one can arrange for the peak power delivery of the solar systems coincide with the peak demand for electricity for air conditioning. Right now power companies who supply electricity to southern states have to be able to deliver a peak load somewhere between 1 and 4 pm in the summer (when the day is maximally hot) that is as much as twice as high as the rest of the non-AC load. This means that they have to build 2.5 or so times as much capacity as they need other times of the year, or in the wee cool hours of the morning. By using solar to pick up the AC load, you reduce the need to build expensive primary generation facilities as you need the most AC power precisely when solar power generation is also peaked.

Solar in this regard also has the advantage of a highly predictable cost structure. Costs in the CBA are all front loaded — capital and land investments — with no running and highly variable costs for fuel and with fairly predictable maintenance and operations costs. One can build a solar plant to help manage afternoon peak with a near certainty that it will provide a very predictable and reasonably attractive ROI.

Battery storage makes sense now or will make sense in the future in two circumstances. When people are living far off of the grid (so solar is the only alternative to oil lamps and dung fires) and no electricity at all, and if/when battery technology takes a quantum leap forward. People with sailboats often have solar panels and/or small wind generators and batteries so that they can keep an onboard refrigerator and lights at night running without a generator or fuel. People who live in cabins or remote farms in the Western US do too — solar stuff with batteries and all are featured in e.g. the Northern Tool online and paper catalog:

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/category_alternative-renewable-energy

One can do better than their prices (especially for inverter/tie-in systems using monocrystalline panels), but even these prices are often worth it to people living off the grid and are still 14 year amortization in places with high energy cost and high insolation. Local companies can often get the panels at wholesale prices and mark them up less with the installation. But it is still (IMO) a factor of 2-3 too expensive to be worth it in general with a short (less than ten year) amortization/payoff time. I’d love to put the 9 kW system on my own house, but not for $30K, not for$20K. For $15K sure, I could service the debt on the monthly savings alone to pay it all off in less than ten years, then reap pure profit for the rest of the system lifetime. And$9K, or $1/watt installed, is the magic number where everybody does this as fast as they can. At that point, it costs$0.50/watt or less for a commercial installation, a half a billion dollars buys a GW near-peak generating capacity for 6-8 hours a day, and that would be enormously attractive to many power companies across the south, all of whom have a large AC burden in the afternoons and the consequent overcapacity.

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84. markx says:

Caleb says: January 2, 2013 at 7:54 am

“…After a few choice words I went and cut wood in the woods. …”

Unfortunately, depending where you are in the world, that may now be illegal in many woods/forests. Even to cut fallen or dead wood.

Or at the very least you may find you need a permit, in some cases, even if the woods/forest are on your own property! (Ha, think you own those trees you planted? Or the water that falls on your roof? Or the air you breathe? …. where does it stop?)

Politically powerful greenies will brook no interference or appeals to logic in their quest for a perfect impoverished world.

85. oldfossil says:

I know that Malthusian doctrine is unpopular here on WUWT.

But the only thing about today’s world that is truly “unprecedented” is the size of the human population.

86. SAMURAI says:

Highflight wrote:

“You are spot on. Recall that in the early 1970′s the nuclear industry was talking a nuclear energy device for every household. Who needs a grid if we all have a house sized nuclear plant parked next to the garage, or powering individual industries. No loss of energy through transmission lines. No rolling brown outs or other devasting power outages.”

Actually, LFTRs won’t ever be for home use. It was an absurd notion in the 70’s that solid fuel nuclear reactors would ever be a viable for home use as they are far too dangerous.

Although LFTRs are extremely safe, with fission taking place in liquid salts (Fluoride/Beryllium) at single atmospheric pressures with no high pressure water involved, there are still very small amounts of highly radioactive wastes that must be dealt with.

LFTRS are very scaleable and can be made small enough to provide electricity for a small town or large enough for a mega city like Tokyo.

Since LFTRs don’t require water for cooling or to generate steam, they can even be built close to where the energy is needed; even in the desert.

[For those readers not as familiar as you are with that style of proposed nuclear reactor and fuel, you should define your abbreviations. Mod]

87. Stephen Richards says:

Dr Brown, I have said this many times and I feel it is still correct today. Solar and wind mills will never be of any use unless and until someone comes up with a cheap, efficient way to store the energy they produce. So, Concentrate on storage NOW and not solar and wind farms and when we have a viable solution start the process of solar farm building (not windmills). In the meantime some research on thorium reactors will provide a means of base supply for the future. I once thought that fusion was the solution but am not so convinced that it is the sensible research path at this time. It may or may not work. It is not the low hanging fruit that thorium APPEARS to be.

88. Willis Eschenbach says:

Roisin Robertson says:
January 2, 2013 at 5:28 am

So it wasn’t the hottest summer in the USA this year(for the last 117 years), so it wasn’t the wettest year on record in the UK, so climate change isn’t happening, so the Gulf Stream didn’t move south when expected to move north in Europe this year?

You’ll have to provide a citation for that last one, I hadn’t heard a word about that. And whether it was the “hottest” or the “wettest” or the whateverest, you’re still beating a dead horse. The majority of the heat records were in the 1930s …

In any case, weather.com says “The summer of 2012 was the third -warmest on record for the contiguous U.S.,”, so you can’t even get the immaterial facts wrong.

Laugh if you like about ‘young enthusiastic Greens’, Glad you all know so much and can smirk behind your hands about the destruction caused by (once freak, now normal) weather events (Sandy Superstorm, etc)

I don’t laugh and smirk about destruction, Roisin, that is serious stuff. I laugh and smirk at people foolish enough to blame Sandy on humans … that is funny. Heck, even the IPCC knows that the frequency of extreme events like Sandy hasn’t changed anywhere that we have looked. You really should try to keep up with the science.

You go on to say (emphasis mine)

Climate Science and understanding changes as more research is done…. castigating everyone for not agreeing with you is hardly the way to win friends and start a communication..if the Greens are so wrong….

And yet, here you come waltzing in the door to do one simple thing—to castigate me for not agreeing with you … funny how that works out.

Roisin, you would do a lot better, and get more traction, if you got your facts straight. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. No, Roisin, Sandy was not caused by humans. No, Roisin, this wasn’t the “hottest summer in the USA this year(for the last 117 years)”. No, Roisin, the Gulf Stream isn’t in the same place every year, it moves north and south.

Here’s the thing, Roisin. Somewhere in the world, the weather is always setting a record. If it is not the wettest year in the UK, it will be the driest year in Borneo, or the coldest year in Japan, or something. As a result, you pointing out that Borneo is having record dry, or Japan is having record cold, or the UK is having record rain MEANS NOTHING. It’s always happening somewhere, so pointing to it happening is meaningless.

Wait to post until you have actually studied the subject for a bit, my friend. Read some more on this site, there’s a lot of info here. Because right now, all you are doing is revealing a profound ignorance of matters climate, and it’s quite painful to watch you flailing around and making a fool of yourself.

All the best,

w.

89. JP Miller says:

REL rgbatduke proposal on turning energy production over to the government….

As others have pointed out, there are serious technology limitations (e.g., demand fluctuation) that make solar, etc. not very feasible for significant amounts of people’s energy needs. More significant to me, however, is your economic naivete. To wit, the government should create a “trust” to own/ run the electricity power system for the US? Are you mad? You have heard of the Post Office, the Federal Reserve, Conrail, Amtrack… need I go on?

Equating large multinationals to government is so wrong-headed as to make me disbelieve you can be serious. Government forces people to do/ not do things because it is the sole entity with police power. Multinationals have to provide services that people can choose to buy or not. So long as there is competition, then multinationals have no real “power.” To the extent multinationals can buy government protection (which I will admit they do) to minimize competition, then you have problems. But, I would argue that trying to solve that problem by turning over economic activity to the government is a far worse solution. Have you noticed that air fares are far lower (in real dollars) than they were under CAB?

In physics, I defer to your judgment. In political-economy, I think you have much to learn.

90. Steve Keohane says:

Thanks for the perspective Willis. Your words are always a pleasure to read.

91. SMeyer says:

@ daveburton
re “reduce population surplus”
I have heard similar statements (that we have to “reduce population size by murdering 99 % of the population”) from both sides, usually as allegations (from the right against the left, and from the left against the right). I cannot find any serious source for any of this. I think this needs a link, otherwise this is just slander.

92. mpainter says:

oldfossil says: January 2, 2013 at 9:23 am
I know that Malthusian doctrine is unpopular here on WUWT.
=====================
Malthus deserves his place in science as a profound thinker who had insights into population dynamics.
==========================
LazyTeenager says: January 2, 2013 at 4:45 am
So I reckon carbon taxes or other measures to reduce fuel usage in rich countries will help poor countries.
=============================
Here’s what you can do to save the world from the USA and salve your conscience at the same time (assuming that you reside within this oppressor of the poor nations). It is income tax time. When you compute what you owe, throw in an extra $1,000 as a carbon tax for your use of electricity, fuel, etc. The IRS will not turn it down, I promise. Then, when you and your buddies are screeching to each other about the deplorable nasty old carbon and the deplorable nasty old USA, you can proudly thump your chest and declare “I put my money where my mouth is!” Otherwise, shut up forever about a carbon tax. 93. Gail Combs says: LazyTeenager says: January 2, 2013 at 4:45 am ….Sounds too simplistic to me. 1. If the USA demanded less fuel, prices should go down for the rest of the world including poor people. 2. But in poor countries the wholesale cost is just a small proportion of the total, so any additional due too carbon tax will have little impact. 3. The impact will be so small that there will be little need for carbon taxes to be applied in poor countries. So I reckon carbon taxes or other measures to reduce fuel usage in rich countries will help poor countries. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> As usual Lazy really needs to spend time following the north end of that south bound mule which is a HUGE step up from third world ‘industrialization’ Lazy, What the heck do you think the USA, China and India DO with all that energy produced by fossil fuels??? Watch TV 24/7? We build and run factories that produce goods. We mine raw materials. We very efficiently produce food so you do not have to follow that mule. So how about some hard facts. Using A History of American Agriculture 1776-1990: Farm Machinery and Technology In 1800 in the USA Farmers made up about 90% of labor force and were using “Oxen and horses for power, crude wooden plows, all sowing by hand, cultivating by hoe, hay and grain cutting with sickle, and threshing with flail At that time (1800) the U.S. had a per-capita energy consumption of about 90 million Btu. link Right after WWII is when there was a change from horses to tractors and frozen foods became popular. In 1940 58% of all farms had cars 25% had telephones 33% had electricity In 1949, U.S. energy use per person stood at 215 million Btu. link In the modern age “…the average per-capita energy usage in the United States was 335.9 million BTUs per person, through 2006….” link The goal of the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Obama is to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050. link If the USA reduces its (carbon based) energy consumption by 80% it equals 45.18 million Btu. per person. That is HALF the btu. per person as was used in an era when people did not even use steel faced plows!!! Only nuclear and only thorium at that has any hope of allowing that sort of reduction without tipping us back into savagery because people like you and the inner city blood suckers are incapable of fending for themselves, growing food or producing clothing or other handmade goods. That is not a theory that is based on my ability to work a teenager into the ground. US kids today can not even keep up with a little old lady walking across a field much less do a decent day’s manual labor. Why the heck do you think farmers use imported labor? Inner city folk would rather riot than do farm work. 94. Gail Combs says: oldfossil says: January 2, 2013 at 9:23 am I know that Malthusian doctrine is unpopular here on WUWT. But the only thing about today’s world that is truly “unprecedented” is the size of the human population. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> And the reason we have such a large human population is because third world countries were INTENTIONALLY kept impoverished by the World Bank/IMF. As soon as a third world country digs itself out of poverty the fertility rate plummets. CIA:…Global fertility rates are in general decline and this trend is most pronounced in industrialized countries… (FR=2.1 is replacement) For 2012, India is at 2.58! Venezuela is at 2.40, Mexico is at 2.27, Colombia is at 2.12, Nicaragua is at 2.08 and so on. 95. Both Malthus and Machiavelli would approve of raising fuel and electricty costs. That’s a convenient way of getting rid of pensioners, who are an expense in terms of pension and NHS and entirely unproductive. So, you raise your profit on one side and cut down in expenses too. Win, win and win again. 96. Willis Eschenbach says: M Simon says: January 2, 2013 at 7:24 am Slave power was as far as I know originally a Bucky Fuller idea. He had charts and graphs of slave equivalents. Yeah, well, I never cared much for Buckminster, who is famous for being the inventor of the geodesic dome. When I was a kid, I found out that he stole the idea of the geodesic dome, and that was it for me and Bucky. I have no tolerance for intellectual thievery … even wikipedia notes that the first dome was built in 1922, and that Fuller merely showed up twenty years later, and patented another man’s idea … Although Fuller was not the original inventor, he developed the intrinsic mathematics of the dome, thereby allowing popularization of the idea — for which he received U.S. patent 2,682,235 [2] 29 June 1954.[3] Bucky was a genius, I’ll admit that … at stealing someone else’s idea, making a few cosmetic improvements, and claiming it (and even patenting it) as his own. As a result, your claim that he came up with the idea of “slave power” would have to be triple-tested by independent auditors before I’d believe a word of it. w. 97. Willis Eschenbach says: Caleb says: January 2, 2013 at 7:54 am Excellent essay, Willis. I imagine what the governments will try to do is create a new “fuel assistance” to allow the poor to avoid “fuel poverty.” This will create all sorts of government jobs and paperwork, which they like. That’s a first world solution, which never occurs in the developing world. In other words, even if it were to work, it would only touch the tiniest fraction of the poor. w. 98. Gail Combs says: Has anyone else ever noticed that ‘Poverty” is an absolute necessity for those in government who want more control? That if there is no poverty to point to they will go out of their way to create it? In 1975 the USA dumped people who had been committed to a psychiatric hospitals out on the streets. At first this was in half-way houses with medication but that disappeared, hospitals were closed and the number of ‘Street People’ went up. Vagrancy Laws and county homes were also revamped. I do not know what the answer is to the problem of those who can not fend for themselves, those who become suddenly very aggressive and threatening like my 16 year old grandniece ( asperger -threatens with a knife) but dumping them with no safety net into society is just not a good answer. For what it is worth the 20-year-old gunman in the Connecticut school shooting had Asperger’s syndrome. 99. clipe says: Roisin Robertson says: January 2, 2013 at 5:28 am So it wasn’t the hottest summer in the USA this year(for the last 117 years), so it wasn’t the wettest year on record in the UK, so climate change isn’t happening, so the Gulf Stream didn’t move south when expected to move north in Europe this year? Laugh if you like about ‘young enthusiastic Greens’, Glad you all know so much and can smirk behind your hands about the destruction caused by (once freak, now normal) weather events (Sandy Superstorm, etc) Climate Science and understanding changes as more research is done….castigating everyone for not agreeing with you is hardly the way to win friends and start a communication..if the Greens are so wrong…. A good read… ” Climate change is a scapegoat for our failures http://opinion.financialpost.com/2013/01/01/the-witches-of-warming/ 100. Willis Eschenbach says: S. Meyer says: January 2, 2013 at 8:36 am Well written and chilling. But I have one question from a simple-minded view of economics: if the West puts a tax on carbon, that should make energy more expensive for the population living in the West, hence reduce demand. If the West’s demand is reduced, there should be relatively more supply for the rest of the world, and, hence, prices for the rest of the world should go down. What am I missing here? You are missing the fact that there are poor in the West, lots and lots of them, just like anywhere else. The people shivering and even dying from fuel poverty are in the UK, not Bangladesh … then think about places like Eastern Europe, where it’s worse. w. 101. mpainter says: S. Meyer says: January 2, 2013 at 8:36 am Well written and chilling. But I have one question from a simple-minded view of economics: if the West puts a tax on carbon, that should make energy more expensive for the population living in the West, hence reduce demand. If the West’s demand is reduced, there should be relatively more supply for the rest of the world, and, hence, prices for the rest of the world should go down. What am I missing here? ============== The point. We don’t want to pay a carbon tax. We like our energy cheap- the cheaper the better. And you? Do you want to pay more for energy? Go ahead, there are lots of ways to do that. You can buy a widmill for$35,000. You can buy a solar array for a small fortune. But, I bet you don’t.

102. Willis Eschenbach says:

Robert Brown, thanks for your contribution above. You say:

I’m certain that it is sacrilege to even suggest what I’m about to suggest, but I still think it is worth kicking out onto the table. Electricity is the fundamental resource, the essential driver of civilized economies and standard of living. Everybody hates paying taxes. Fighting wars over scarce energy resources sucks, and the vast wealth associated with the multinationals that provide them creates “shadow governments” with an income greater than that of many small countries and a disproportionate political influence. We could do a lot worse than to create a national solar electrical project and invest (say) $100 billion/year in massive solar construction for the next decade or three, buying a TW or so of capacity every five years at likely scaled costs. Make the joule the fundamental basis of our currency, and use the income from selling joules to fund the government, eventually buying additional capacity strictly out of income and using the surplus to reduce taxes. and Wait, let me put on my flameproof suit. I’m walking down into my concrete bunker. Putting on my flash goggles. OK, now. Bring it. Since you have been wise enough to put on the flash goggles, I will be straight with you. I would be anyhow, you are one of the good guys. I would not say it is “sacrilege” to say that the government should take over the energy business as a government monopoly. I would say it reveals that you are a physics genius … but not that in touch with reality. Robert, if your idea worked, surely we would have had at least one of the world’s governments try it out … oh, wait, we have had some that tried it. Russia tried that, and China, and Cuba, and North Vietnam … funny, my memory says that didn’t work out so well. No, I’m not saying you’re a communist, Robert. I’m saying that you have failed to learn from history. You have picked a system (state ownership of the means of production) that has failed everywhere and every time that it has ever been tried on a national scale. The beauty of the Founding Fathers of the US Constitution was that they knew that people would lie, cheat, and steal if given half a chance. Accordingly, they built checks and balances into the system. Then you come along and say let’s give some unelected bureaucrats full control of the very lifeblood of our economy, energy, they wouldn’t possibly try to turn that to their own advantage, they couldn’t possibly screw that up, could they, what could go wrong with that? … Really? You really think it’s a brilliant plan to turn the location, development, transportation, and distribution of energy, the most important thing in the modern economy, to the same folks that run the US Post Office? That’s your whizbang idea? Did you sleep through the Solyndra and allied scandals, where the US government was trying to do something like what you are suggesting? The reek of corruption from that one overwhelmed that of our local sewage plant, and before the Solyndra stench has even dispersed you want to try it again … Really? Robert, I have huge respect for your abilities with math and physics, they far outweigh my own. Plus which, you are a good guy, which is always a plus on my planet. But turning the research, extraction, transportation, distribution and provision of energy over to a bunch of fat-arsed, overpaid bureaucrats? On what planet could that ever even possibly be a good idea? I wouldn’t do it even if it sounded like a bulletproof plan. Why? Because the bureaucrats have no skin in the game—they lose nothing if it doesn’t work, they gain nothing if it does work, and that kind of setup never, ever ends well. Best regards, you can take off the flash goggles now … w. PS—The main difficulty with your idea is, what if you are wrong? The problem with government involvement is that once it is started down a path, it is very hard to change it, stop it, or even slow it down. We’re still paying farmers not to grow things, for example, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that we are subsidizing buggy whip manufacturers … As a result, if the real energy source of the future is say artificial photosynthesis or cold fusion, not only will you have you wasted billions and billions of dollars on useless solar stuff, you will have a very hard time getting rid of the by-then established “solar industry”, AKA a bunch of rent-seekers with their hands out. Those kinds of jokers never die, and as a result, if we try your plan everyone on the planet may be running happily on cheap hydrogen or cold fusion, while the US is likely to still be stuck with the failed “Brown Plan” to utilize solar energy. 103. Willis, what a brilliant article! You’ve put the entire thing in perspective and wonderfully so! The look to future woes is another ploy of distraction, of course, but it’s pointless and always has been. We don’t have a clue what the future will even look like. My grandmother was born in 1900, and I am – even now – in awe of her lifetime. She was born before electricity, born before cars, before planes, before radio and television. She wasn’t around long enough to understand just how powerful and useful computers would become, never mind see them in every home, but she knew of them, and she did witness man landing on the moon. She saw some amazing changes in her 70 plus years. How would – how could – that generation back then have “saved” us now from what we perceive as problems? Had they even thought of trying to, you can bet they’d have got it wrong. They’d be thinking along the lines of not enough horses or maybe not enough wood in winter. And that was just a bit over a hundred years ago! What would those from 500 years ago be thinking? Future generations will be a lot healthier and a lot better off only if existing generations face their own problems and stop sacrificing themselves AND their children on the Altar of Green. Making us all poor and ill and scared does not a healthy future make! Teaching our children guilt for existing is no solution for anything, either, in fact it causes more problems and more heartache and more hatred. I am so incredibly grateful that this orchestrated crime – the biggest in all of human history – is being dismantled before my eyes. To get so close to the brink, to have handed over so much power and money, and STILL we pull back before committing the biggest act of mass self destruction ever devised. I’m in awe again – for certain, my grandmother never saw this one coming. 104. GaryP says: Each slave requires about 2000 calories a day in food. This of course is actually kilo-calories. 2000 kilo-calories = 2.32 kw-hr so the efficiency is 43%. That is quite good if you ignore the slave is actually going to require more food for all that exercise. One also needs to ignore childhood, days off, sickness, and old age. I figure you still are going to have to buy carbon credits to operate each slave. 105. You inadvertently revealed the growing horror of life in the third world. Human Slavery is on the increase, the UN estimates there are now some 10 to 30 million slaves in this century. There are now more slaves in the 21st Century than at any time in world history. Slavery is an economic driven malpractice of EXPENSIVE energy in relation to cheap labor. Why? Machinery and automation compete with human labor to produce food and products. Hence any increase in energy costs makes it relatively more attractive to enslave a human. Thus the answer to Lazy Teenager’s comments, expensive energy in the first world gives an economic advantage to slavers in the third world to substitute slaves for machinery. The third world has an abundance of people that are readily exploited with corrupt governments all too willing to look the other way. Shame on you liberals, just as you undermined individual liberty in the first world you crush human freedom in the third world. James Hansen has grown rich off the misery of others. While he may not directly profit from slavery in the third world, as a government paid elite, he personally practices a more insidious version of slavery via forcing taxpayers to labor for him against our collective wills. Refuse to pay your taxes and see what violence people with guns will do to force your cooperation. Liberalism has always been about slavery, just a more nuanced version is practiced in the first world. 106. S.Meyer says: @ mpainter, Willis Eschenbach No, I am not particularly fond of paying more for energy. I also do not think that the whole global warming scare has any solid scientific footing. But I argue a lot with my liberal friends and find that I need clarity of thought to do that. For example; I think we need to be honest about the unintended consequences of green policies. To me, it seems that this is going to hurt our low-income population, but not necessarily those of the third world. I think we could mitigate some of these hurts (low-income heating allowances for example), but I agree with you that high energy costs will show up in all prices and, being a very regressive tax, hurt the poor the most. The question then is: How do we prepare for the inevitable scarcity of fossil fuels in the not-so-far future? 107. rgbatduke your economics only make sense where the existing cost of electricity is already higher than 30 cents a kwhr. As Willis pointed out places like the Solomon Islands (third world) running at 52 cents a kwhr makes a solar and wind system with batteries cost effective. Instead of burdening the first world with non cost effective energy production, why not LOAN money for “green” systems that would actually have an immediate payback in terms of kwhr cost? Would it simply not be cheaper for those areas to side step conventional energy for relatively cheaper green energy via a loan from the World Bank? This is of course makes too much sense and limits the opportunity for graft by politicians and their campaign supporters. Guaranteed profit is much better than risk of actually running a viable enterprise… 108. Yet another really excellent article by Willis Eschenbach which is very informative and thought provoking. The unintended and counter-productive effects of green fascist policies are now becoming more and more evident in the world as the years accumulate. The measure of 1 kwH per day for human effort is a very useful yardstick. 109. Al this talk about political and business elites manipulating and benefiting from ‘green’ policies, while largely true, misses the point of the ‘green’/AGW belief phenomena. Yesterday, I happened to catch Australia’s only elected Green federal MP in a press conference. I normally tune these things out, but one thing he said stuck. That his Melbourne electorate had the highest proportion of government assisted housing in the country. In Australia, if you live in government housing, it means you are a long term welfare recipient. So I asked myself, ‘Why are welfare recipients voting Green?’. I think I know the answer. These people aren’t the traditional poor. They are what I call the new poor. There are large numbers in any university town. A caricature would be someone who majored in medieval poetry or spent a year in Italy training as a circus juggler. They are unemployable, except for unskilled work. They have found various ways to collect welfare and can generally rely on money from parents or grey economy activities. They espouse ‘greenism’ and AGW, in part because of left of centre politics and they have plenty of time on their hands. In part because (and especially in relation to CAGW) they are externalising their own personal life failure outwards to a general failure of society, and CAGW fits the bill. Which is why they are so immune to rational and scientific arguments. 110. clipe says: “The question then is: How do we prepare for the inevitable scarcity of fossil fuels in the not-so-far future?” Another defining feature of the 1970s was the “energy crisis.” Two huge spikes in the price of oil. Shortages at gas stations. Commodity prices exploding. And these weren’t passing phenomena, experts were sure. Global oil production would peak “in the early 1980s,” concluded a group of leading scholars. There was an expert consensus on that point. In 1978, the executive director of the International Energy Agency warned that “all available evidence” indicated oil prices would soar in the mid- to late-1980s, and so “there is a very great likelihood of a major worldwide depression.” Nobody needs to be reminded that we experienced a huge rise in oil prices up to 2008. They’ve fallen back since then but, just as in the mid-1970s, they’re still far above what they were before the spike and everyone is nervously awaiting the next surge. So naturally, it’s time for officials to scare the hell out of us with talk of peak oil. Hello, International Energy Agency. Last week, the IEA issued a warning about peak oil. But with a twist: Peak global production of conventional crude oil actually passed in 2006, the IEA feels, but increases in unconventional sources and new discoveries will keep total petroleum production rising modestly for the next 25 years. Given the accuracy of the IEA’s past long-term forecasts, the agency’s modest optimism suggests we will soon be extras in a worldwide remake of Mad Max. What else? Oh, yes. Declining American power. It was all the rage in the 1970s. Henry Kissinger was convinced the two superpowers would have to make room for three more equals. Or more. “Multipolarity,” it was called. And is called. Because the conventional wisdom is exactly the same today. Go to Amazon, type in the words “America” and “decline,” and spend the afternoon browsing. http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2010/11/16/dan-gardner-welcome-back-to-the-seventies-america/ 111. Gail Combs says: January 2, 2013 at 11:43 am Has anyone else ever noticed that ‘Poverty” is an absolute necessity for those in government who want more control? That if there is no poverty to point to they will go out of their way to create it? * Spot on observation, Gail. The poor are more easy to control, especially if they have to jump through hoops to get food on the table. They will accept a smaller “carrot” dangled in front of them, too, being desperate. I get the feeling this whole scam is just going to fade into the distance while everyone looks innocent and pretends they had nothing to do with it. I would love to see trials for the big players, and big jail time, too, but unfortunately we need outraged societies and governments with backbone to see that happen. It’s a shame, Green Crime against humanity is immense. 112. john robertson says: Willis you have posted the best form of retributive justice I can imagine. For the leaders who have wasted our wealth on solar, wind and pixie dust energy, to ride these cycles when ever the sun and wind fail to provide the needed power. Even at 100W each there is no shortage of these delusional regulators of the human condition, although most will only be good for 25W at first. The beauty is as the output (physical fitness) of the first group of convicted scammers increases, the number of followers will be dropping. Thats an ecologically friendly win win. As the kilowatt gym (Digging in the Clay) snickers at. 113. Ian L. McQueen says: Verity Jones wrote on January 2, 2013 at 4:35 am about his proposed KiloWatt Gym. I had a look at the posting. While it is humorous, it mixes kW and kWh, so the calculations of power usage, unfortunately, have no value. IanM • “it mixes kW and kWh, so the calculations of power usage, unfortunately, have no value.” The KiloWatt Gym supposes a reasonable competence in conversion between power and energy by any reader who cares in the distinction. For those who would like a primer try here. 114. MorningGuy wrote on January 2, 2013 at 4:28 am ever heard of solar panels??? you can pick up a 200W solar panel now for about$200, will generate about a 1kWh.
here in Oz 1kWh costs ~30cents – $200/30cents = ~700 days payback time MorningGuy There is a time figure missing in your calculations. Are you talking about using this system for one day? Without that specification your posting mixes watts and kWh and has no meaning. IanM 115. michaeljmcfadden says: Sheeesh… I wander out to relax on my nice chocolate-milk-powered bicycle and maybe stop off for some ethanol-based energy input and the whole thread is FILLED with stuff I can’t even deal with at the moment! LOL! Meanwhile though, while I was out, I got an email back from one of my bicycle activist friends. I’ll share it here, without comment, but it anyone would like me to invite him here for debate I’d be happy to. :) MJM Here it be: I don’t find Willis Eschenbach’s commentary persuasive. He raises the issue of generating electricity by pedal-power as if that is the only alternative to unfettered use of fossil fuels. And much of his economic analysis is based on that comparison. He completely neglects what would happen to the proceeds from a carbon tax. I’d advocate using gas and diesel taxes, for example, for public transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects. Home energy taxes could be used for insulation and weatherization, for example. And so on. And, in places where electricity costs 52 cents per kilowatt-hour, they already have found substitutes. They certainly do not use electricity at the rate that rich, cheap energy, countries do. A carbon tax could put those countries in the forefront of the effort to find ways to live with less carbon-based energy. We may learn from them. He doesn’t recognize that environmental degradation affects most those near the bottom of the economic scale. But, people with more resources can influence legislative and regulatory decisions that favor them and their own communities. So “put the smokestacks in Chester, not in Chestnut Hill,” no matter who derives the benefits from those smokestack industries. It’s a shame we have to make those decisions, but the more we use fossil fuels, the more times those decisions have to be made. Finally, he seems to think the only outcome of climate change is slightly warmer winters in cold climates. That doesn’t even deserve comment. ==== There ya go! 116. gnomish says: “Make the joule the fundamental basis of our currency”? rgb… i’ve heard that one before. you’ll be differentiating between ‘money’ and ‘currency’, then. you will find it necessary to redefine ‘money’ so you can erase its function as a store of wealth. thought it’s no sillier than the notion that vajazzling backs gold, it won’t work nearly as well in practice. :) 117. Philip Bradley said @ January 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm Al this talk about political and business elites manipulating and benefiting from ‘green’ policies, while largely true, misses the point of the ‘green’/AGW belief phenomena. Yesterday, I happened to catch Australia’s only elected Green federal MP in a press conference. I normally tune these things out, but one thing he said stuck. That his Melbourne electorate had the highest proportion of government assisted housing in the country. In Australia, if you live in government housing, it means you are a long term welfare recipient. So I asked myself, ‘Why are welfare recipients voting Green?’. I think I know the answer. These people aren’t the traditional poor. They are what I call the new poor. There are large numbers in any university town. A caricature would be someone who majored in medieval poetry or spent a year in Italy training as a circus juggler. They are unemployable, except for unskilled work. They have found various ways to collect welfare and can generally rely on money from parents or grey economy activities. They espouse ‘greenism’ and AGW, in part because of left of centre politics and they have plenty of time on their hands. In part because (and especially in relation to CAGW) they are externalising their own personal life failure outwards to a general failure of society, and CAGW fits the bill. Which is why they are so immune to rational and scientific arguments. There’s more than a grain of truth here. The solution to Australia’s unemployment problem was to increase participation in tertiary education. To use Philip’s caricature, there’s only a very limited demand for circus jugglers and medieval poets. Unfortunately, most circus jugglers and medieval poets disdain physical labour. Since the “poor” in Australia now live at the same level as the middle class did half a century ago, there’s little incentive for them to “improve” themselves. Back in the 80s, The Git was an unemployed “dole bludger”. Unemployment in my age group where I lived was around 25% and the Commonwealth Employment Service declared me to be “unemployable”. However, there was seasonal work such as picking apples and this is where it becomes interesting. I wrote a letter to the newspaper demonstrating that the wages for picking apples were insufficient to cover the loss of dole income when the expenses of going to work for the average family man were taken into account. This caused considerable anger among them who can’t do their sums. There was a solution — contract picking — so that is what The Git did. Working very hard and being paid for the number of bins picked resulted in a very healthy income for a few weeks of the year. While this philosopher/historian/artist/writer/gardener/teacher [delete whichever is inapplicable] was happy to work flat out for twelve hours a day, very few jugglers and medieval poets are. FWIW, when seasonal work wasn’t available, The Git was teaching himself how to use computers, became a Microsoft Certified Professional and charged between$65 and $90 per hour to train end users in the 90s, a considerable increase over the$5 per hour he had earned during his first season of picking apples on wages in the early 80s. How “unemployable” can you get?

118. Willis Eschenbach said @ January 2, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I would not say it is “sacrilege” to say that the government should take over the energy business as a government monopoly. I would say it reveals that you are a physics genius … but not that in touch with reality.

Robert, if your idea worked, surely we would have had at least one of the world’s governments try it out … oh, wait, we have had some that tried it. Russia tried that, and China, and Cuba, and North Vietnam … funny, my memory says that didn’t work out so well.

Here in Tasmania, the reverse has been tried. For most of the 20th C, Tasmania’s electricity was supplied by the government owned Hydro Electricity Commission. In 1998 the Commission was disaggregated into three separate entities, Hydro (generation), Transend (distribution) and Aurora (retail). The government retained the Hydro, but privatised the other two companies. This supposedly was going to lead to cheaper electricity, however the reverse has occurred at an alarming rate. This, to me at least, was unsurprising; turning a business with one bureaucracy and board of directors into three distinct bureaucracies with three distinct boards of directors hardly seems to be an efficiency move.

Oddly, the village of Franklin where I live was one of the very first places in Tasmania to have an electricity supply. It was provided by the municipal council and unmetered; the cost was paid through rates. Being unmetered, most people left their lights on 24/7. In the late 1920s the state government compulsorily acquired the Franklin hydroelectricity scheme, introduced metering and increased the cost of electricity. Franklin’s citizens were promised in return a railway between Franklin and Hobart for which we still wait.

It seems more than a little perverse that Franklin’s electricity was at its cheapest when it should theoretically have been at its most expensive.

119. mfo says:

Completely agree Willis, the poor will only improve their lives with access to cheap energy. Give them the opportunities gas, coal, oil and nuclear have given the West and they will become healthier and better off. Artificially inflate the cost of energy in the West, as politicians are doing, and poverty and poor health increases.

Those who wear their ‘greeniness’ on their sleeves are too blind with their sanctimonious preaching to understand that you and others who support WUWT are the true greens with a genuine love of the environment and desire to understand and manage it wisely, as well as helping the poor to help themselves to a better life.

I like the Burning Man can crusher. One method of producing energy on a local scale, which I honestly don’t know the economics of, but looks interesting if limited, is converting the kinetic energy from a footstep into electricity. Tiles are placed in high-footfall locations and the energy extracted is stored off-grid and used for lighting.
http://www.pavegen.com/energy-harvesting-systems.php

I loved the story you related previously. We laughed aloud at the twist at the end and the commenter who thought you should tell a story in the first person singular without using the nominative singular pronoun.

120. mpainter says:

S.Meyer says: January 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm
@ mpainter, Willis Eschenbach

The question then is: How do we prepare for the inevitable scarcity of fossil fuels in the not-so-far future?
=========================
Big question, because we keep developing new sources. Shale gas, for example, has changed the energy picture. There are too many unknowns in fossil fuels to make forecasts. Don’t look to run out any time soon. And coal? not to worry, not for a long, long time.

121. Willis Eschenbach says:

S.Meyer says:
January 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm

@ mpainter, Willis Eschenbach

No, I am not particularly fond of paying more for energy. I also do not think that the whole global warming scare has any solid scientific footing. But I argue a lot with my liberal friends and find that I need clarity of thought to do that. For example; I think we need to be honest about the unintended consequences of green policies. To me, it seems that this is going to hurt our low-income population, but not necessarily those of the third world.

Unfortunately, oil prices are worldwide. So when oil prices go up, the third world is hit the hardest. See my piece on “Firing Up the Economy, Literally

I think we could mitigate some of these hurts (low-income heating allowances for example), but I agree with you that high energy costs will show up in all prices and, being a very regressive tax, hurt the poor the most. The question then is: How do we prepare for the inevitable scarcity of fossil fuels in the not-so-far future?

Egads, sire. In the last ten years, we have seen the entire fracking revolution. This has made the US an exporter of petroleum products, due to both gas and “tight oil”, for the first time in decades. Worldwide, this is the largest expansion of available fossil reserves in a long, long time. Heck, even poor old Israel, the only country in the Middle East with no oil, has discovered huge reserves of gas, which will power Israel far into the future.

Then we have coal, global reserves run to about 300 years use at the present rate. We have the Canadian and Trinidad tar sands. And under it all we have the wild card, the untold amount of methane locked up in the methane clathrates under the ocean.

And in the face of all of that, you think the thing to do is to plan for some totally unknown future date when fossil fuels will get scarce?

Sorry, but that’s the same thing that Hansen wants us to do, to sacrifice current losses for the possibility of some future avoided cost. There is no need to plan or stage-manage what will happen when fossil fuels start to get short. There is also no way to forecast when that will be, or how fast it will happen. All of that is just wasted effort.

So no, we don’t need to “prepare for the inevitable scarcity of fossil fuels”. There’s no need to do that at all, the market will take care of it, just as it did when we went from wood to coal, or coal to oil.

If this seems too complex, then simply remember—nobody was wringing their hands in 1850 and saying “we have to plan the inevitable transition off of coal”, and despite that the transition to oil was totally seamless.

All the best,

w.

122. Willis Eschenbach says:

Stephen Rasey says:
January 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Time is Money.
Money is Time.

Let us consider time T, money M, and evil E.

As you point out above, Stephen,

$T = M$

However, what is often forgotten is that

$M = \sqrt{E}$

Solving for E gives us

$E = M^2$

And substituting yields

$T^2 = E$

In other words, just like the fundamentalist preachers used to tell us when I was a kid, Times Square is evil … amazing stuff, math.

w.

123. Willis Eschenbach says:

January 2, 2013 at 2:42 pm

… Meanwhile though, while I was out, I got an email back from one of my bicycle activist friends. I’ll share it here, without comment, but it anyone would like me to invite him here for debate I’d be happy to.

:)
MJM

Here it be:

I don’t find Willis Eschenbach’s commentary persuasive.

He raises the issue of generating electricity by pedal-power as if that is the only alternative to unfettered use of fossil fuels. …

Thanks, Michael. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t get past that second sentence of his, I was laughing too hard. Now, I know that my writing skills are at least reasonable, and that despite that there are sometimes misunderstandings. I accept that.

But is there anyone (except your friend) reading this thread who thinks that I was proposing bicycle power as an alternative to fossil fuels? Seriously?

Michael, if your friend is any representative of the bicycle activists where you are, maybe the pressure which them tight leetle bitty spandex bicycle shorts put on a man’s generative organs is interfering with his rational thought processes. One head affecting the other, so to speak.

I hope so, because that’s curable … since the other option is that anyone who reads what I wrote and can seriously say that I am proposing bicycle power to replace fossil fuels is dumber than a box of hammers.

w.

124. JPeden says:

January 2, 2013 at 2:42 pm

“Meanwhile though, while I was out, I got an email back from one of my bicycle activist friends. I’ll share it here, without comment, but it anyone would like me to invite him here for debate I’d be happy to.”

Well, reading his response I find myself so familiarly again lost among strawmen, gross evasions of the central point, a couple of offers supporting the point he is actually trying to argue against, a “noble savage” and enforced “return to the Garden of Eden” appeal, the usual appeal to blaming the successful for allegedly victimizing the poor and underdeveloped, demonizing the “enemy”/fossil fuel, an appeal to tired old alleged panaceas, a failure to do a cost-benefit analysis, and a general failure for your cyclist activist buddy to first consider what might be wrong with anything/everything he says.

So my advice to you is to limit your exposed relationship to cycling with him. Strangely, that kind of activity is the only venue in which I’ve been able to get along with such people – hiking, playing basketball, jogging, float trips – although some such people seem to like to introduce excessive risk-taking into the mix with even these activities. So beware! But send him over here anyway…perhaps after he tries out his benighted energy poverty for himself, complete with hand-wrought and wooden bike wheels?

125. RDCII says:

Lazy teenager…

When you get to college, take an economics course. There you will learn about Supply-Demand curves, which predict that if Supply stays constant while Demand drops, cost INCREASES, not decreases.

All other things being equal, if the US starts consuming less oil, then oil prices increase for the rest of the world. Thus, your proposition dooms 3rd world countries to greater poverty. I am assuming that is not the result you were intending.

RDCII

126. Gail Combs says:

more soylent green! says:
January 2, 2013 at 7:10 am

Willis,

Have you considered having the unfit and overweight being required to exercise, and having their stationary bikes wired to a generator?…..
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
You mean Congress?

127. Gail Combs says:

dscott says:
January 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm

You inadvertently revealed the growing horror of life in the third world. Human Slavery is on the increase….
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Thanks for bring that issue up. One of the reasons for the high fertility rate in third world countries is because the children are valuable items that are sold. Often it is called child labor not slavery but that is what it is. Child labor is an epidemic world-wide. There are an estimated 246 million children working, often in physically brutal conditions.

128. markx says:

Roisin Robertson says: January 2, 2013 at 5:28 am

“….can smirk behind your hands about the destruction caused by (once freak, now normal) weather events (Sandy Superstorm, etc)…”

This belief puts you into the bracket of the truly indoctrinated, Roisin.

Surely you know Sandy was “unprecedented”!!! – without previous instance; never before known or experienced; …now that is hardly normal is it?

Oh, except for the other times it has happened …. many long ago :

This is just from Wiki – only up to 1900 List of New York Hurricanes:

Before 1800

between 1278 and 1438 — A major hurricane struck the modern-day New York/New Jersey area, probably the strongest in recent millennium.
August 25, 1635 — A hurricane that is reported to have tracked parallel to the East Coast impacts New England and New York, although it remains unknown if any damage occurred.
September 8, 1667 — A ‘severe storm’ is reported in Manhattan and is reported to be a continuation of a powerful hurricane which affected the Mid-Atlantic.
October 29, 1693 — The Great Storm of 1693 causes severe damage on Long Island, and is reported to create the Fire Island Cut as a result of the coast-changing storm surge and waves.

September 23, 1785 — Several large ships crash into Governors Island as a result of powerful waves which are reported to have been generated by a tropical cyclone.
August 19, 1788 — A hurricane strikes New York City or Long Island and is reported to have left the west side of the Battery “laid in ruins” after severe flooding occurs.

1800–99
Estimated track of the 1821 Norfolk and Long Island hurricane

October 9, 1804 — Heavy snow falls in Eastern New York peaking at 30 inches (75 cm) as a hurricane tracks northward along the East Coast and becomes extratropical, as cold air fed into the system.
September 5, 1815 — A hurricane tracks over North Carolina and parallels the East Coast before producing a heavy rainstorm in New York.
September 24, 1815 — Several hundred trees fall and the majority of the fruit was stripped off apple trees just prior to harvesting time after a hurricane makes landfall on Long Island.
September 16, 1816 — A possible hurricane strikes New York City, but damage remains unknown.
August 9, 1817 — A tropical storm produces heavy rainfall in New York City and Long Island.

September 3, 1821 — The 1821 Norfolk and Long Island hurricane results in severe damage on Long Island and is accompanied by storm surge of 13 feet (4 m). High wind causes a ship to crash on Long Island killing 17 people.
June 4, 1825 — A hurricane moves off the East Coast and tracks south of New York causing several ship wrecks, and killing seven people.
August 27, 1827 — High tides are reported in New York City which are caused by a hurricane offshore.
August 1, 1830 – A hurricane passes to the east of New York and produces gale-force winds to New York City and Long Island.
October 4, 1841 — Gale–force winds affect New York City as a hurricane tracks north along the East Coast of the United States. Damage is estimated at $2 million (1841 USD,$41 million 2007 USD).

October 13, 1846 — The Great Havana Hurricane of 1846 tracks inland, causing some damage to New York City.[3]
October 6, 1849 — Severe structural damage occurs in New York City and Long Island with the passage of a hurricane to the east.
July 19, 1850 — A hurricane destroys a Coney Island bath house and causes heavy rain, although damage is unknown.This storm destroyed the ship Elizabeth off Fire Island and drowned American transcendentalist Margaret Fuller.
August 24, 1850 — A storm that is reported to be a hurricane affects New York and New England although there is no known damage.
September 9, 1854 — A hurricane brushes the East Coast from Florida to New England causing rain on Long Island.
September 16, 1858 — Low barometric pressure of 28.87 inches mercury at Sag Harbor is reported, and is thought to be associated with a tropical cyclone which causes no known damage.
September 6, 1869 — A category 3 hurricane makes landfall in Rhode Island and brushes Long Island, which is affected by rain, although minimal damage resulted from the storm
October 28, 1872 — A tropical storm passes over New York City and Long Island.
October 1, 1874 — New York City and the Hudson Valley receives rainfall after a minimal tropical storm tracked over Eastern New York.
September 19, 1876 — The remnants of the San Felipe hurricane track over western New York State, although damage is unknown.
October 24, 1878 — The state is affected by tropical storm-force winds and heavy rain with the passage of a hurricane, which made landfall in Virginia.
August 22, 1888 — A tropical storm tracks over New York City before tracking north along the East Coast of the United States.
August 24, 1893 — Hog Island is washed away by strong storm surge associated with a tropical storm of unknown strength. According to HURDAT, this was a Category 1 hurricane that struck the western end of the Rockaway Peninsula, passing through Brooklyn as a weakening hurricane. Manhattan Island saw gale force winds to 56 mph.
October 10, 1894 10 People were killed and 15 injured at 74 Monroe Street in Manhattan when winds blew a building under construction onto a tenement crushing it. Extensive damage in the NYC and Long Island to telegraph lines, trees and boats docked on shore. Storm formed over Gulf of Mexico as a Category 3 weakened over land in the Southeast and re strengthened to a Category 1 over the Chesapeake Bay before striking Long Island.

129. Willis Eschenbach says:

mpainter says:
January 2, 2013 at 11:08 am

… Malthus deserves his place in science as a profound thinker who had insights into population dynamics.

I guess … except for the part where he is completely wrong, which is pretty much his whole main thesis. He thought population went up geometrically, while food production only went up linearly. He was wrong on both counts.

See my post “I Am So Sick Of Malthus” for further details …

w.

130. Gail Combs says:

S.Meyer says:
January 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm

….. The question then is: How do we prepare for the inevitable scarcity of fossil fuels in the not-so-far future?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Nuclear (Thorium) with fusion hopefully to come on board later. India and China are already investing in Thorium.
A list of links at this site

131. Gail Combs says:

January 2, 2013 at 2:42 pm
….Meanwhile though, while I was out, I got an email back from one of my bicycle activist friends….
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Perhaps a year in one of those third world countries he wants to reduce us to might open his eyes.

Backpacking and caving in the back of beyond in Mexico certainly opened my eyes and made me appreciate what we have here in the USA. How those people managed to scratch out a living in those semi-arid mountains I will never know.

132. S. Meyer says:

@ Willis Eschenbach
“Unfortunately, oil prices are worldwide. So when oil prices go up, the third world is hit the hardest. See my piece on “Firing Up the Economy, Literally”
Very interesting link, thanks for pointing it out.

I was not talking about a carbon tax imposed on a third world country though, but I was thinking about such a tax applied in the USA only.

I agree that oil prices are the same world- wide, based on supply and demand (plus some speculation, maybe). However, a carbon tax added at the consumer end, would make energy more expensive locally, but should not directly affect world-wide prices for oil. An example would be gasoline prices in the UK being roughly twice as high as in the USA. This price difference is entirely due to taxes. I do not think that higher gasoline prices in the UK could influence global crude oil prices, except if  such taxes were to reduce global demand perceptibly. I am not sure that this would happen though. Demand in the third world seems to be rising faster than we could ever shrink our demand.

What I am trying to say here is that I am doubtful that a carbon tax in the USA (applied at the consumer level) would cause harm to the third world.

As to peak oil, I am inclined to agree with you. I still remember the club of Rome and all the predictions of running out of this and that (copper?) which never came true. We’ll find a way, once we have to.

133. S. Meyer says:

Gail Combs says:
“….. The question then is: How do we prepare for the inevitable scarcity of fossil fuels in the not-so-far future?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Nuclear (Thorium) with fusion hopefully to come on board later. India and China are already investing in Thorium.”

Thanks! Here is another link to what I call “pocket reactors”

http://www.celsias.com/article/are-small-nuclear-reactors-safer/

134. mpainter says:

Willis Eschenbach says: January 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm
I guess … except for the part where he is completely wrong, which is pretty much his whole main thesis. He thought population went up geometrically, while food production only went up linearly. He was wrong on both counts.
See my post “I Am So Sick Of Malthus” for further details
==============================
I have, thank you, and 440 (!) comments, which I perused. The man generated controversy in his day and, obviously, still does. I will stand by my statement that he was a profound thinker. Most of the controversy stems from the implications drawn from his postulates which, of themselves, are not so controversial.

Did you know that both Darwin and Wallace credited their reading of Malthus as providing the germ of their ideas on natural selection, which principle they reached independently? That Keynes credited Malthus with influencing his ideas on economics?

Those who rejected Malthus and his ideas include Marx, Engels, and Lenin.

Malthus is credited with founding demographics and originating important economic ideas. Wikipedia has a good article on Malthus, very informative, if you wish to gain some insight on the Reverand Thomas Robert Malthus.

Malthus reached his conclusions through observations. Remind you of anyone? Malthus postulated that population had the innate capacity to expand geometrically, but observed that in fact, it did not. He gave the reasons why it did not. He postulated that food supply was the ultimate limit on population. But Malthus, the observer, was looking backward, and did not realize that he stood at the verge of an agronomic transformation. He was correct insofar as his observations informed him.
Malthus was a scholar and a scientist and preached no doomsday gospel, but simply gave his ideas on population and economics.

mpainter

135. Len says:

Very nice post Willis. Many have been trying to say these things but they lack your clarity and gift of writing to be understood.
—–
Chris Phillips says:
January 2, 2013 at 4:27 am
The truly frightening thing is that the proponents of “sustainable development” believe that reducing the number of humans alive on earth is fundamental to achieving their goals. For them, pricing the poor out of electricity is a very useful step along the way.
—–
Agreed Chris. But please notice that they always believe controlling others’ population, not their own. As you said reducing the poor with high electricity costs.. But for example, consider Al Gore; his great mansion that would power something like 20,000 homes, and other selfish actions while demanding that others must sacrifice. But Al will never sacrifice.

136. S. Meyer says:

Anthony Harmon says:
“January 2, 2013 at 7:51 pm
I was curious as to the carbon footprint of bicyclists, and according to one conservative website, bicyclists emit quite a bit of CO2.”

Tell me that you forgot the “sarc”? Even the climate alarmists don’t count CO2 released from breathing, because it does not come from fossil fuels. We exhale what we eat, nice example of recycling. Unless you eat coal?

137. Chris Phillips said @ January 2, 2013 at 4:27 am

The truly frightening thing is that the proponents of “sustainable development” believe that reducing the number of humans alive on earth is fundamental to achieving their goals. For them, pricing the poor out of electricity is a very useful step along the way.

The truly frightening thing to me is that some might actually believe this statement. The Git is in favour of sustainable development, but has never espoused, or been enamoured by, population control. Given that several of his relatives from his father’s generation were “population controlled” sixty odd years ago, this is hardly surprising. So, why does The Git advocate sustainable development?

The short response is that he doesn’t see any wisdom whatsoever in unsustainable development where he means the OED definition of develop.

To realize the potentialities of (a site, estate, property, or the like) by laying it out, building, mining, etc.; to convert (a tract of land) to a new purpose or to make it suitable for residential, industrial, business, etc., purposes.

The OED defines sustainable development as

economic development which can be sustained in the long term.

When The Git wants to develop anything sustainably that means doing so by depleting his capital by a smaller amount than he will gain from said development. It’s called making a profit. Conversely, unsustainable development means having less money after the development than before, or operating your business at a loss. Quite how believing business should operate profitably equates with advocating genocide escapes me.

138. Graeme No.3 says:

geoff says:
January 2, 2013 at 4:18 am
Electricity at 22c. We in South Australia get it for 30c. We also have the highest proportion of wind turbines in Australia, and as a % of overall capacity we are up there with Denmark and Germany. Mmhhm! All 3 of us has very expensive electricity. What could cause that? sarc off/

139. johanna says:

rgb – I am hesitant at disputing your post, not least because you are an outstanding scientist and I am not. But.

For all of my conscious life, I have been hearing about the solar energy breakthrough that is “just around the corner.” In my sunny country (Australia) this has been an article of faith for at least five decades. Yet here we are, untold billions of dollars worth of research and development later, and solar is still a tiny and hugely expensive contributor to domestic energy use. It is completely useless for industrial use, of course, as machines and computers require reliable and constant input. In the largest sense, of course, all energy is solar – whether it be stored energy in coal or photosynthesis. But, for practical purposes, there seem to be two major problems with solar technologies associated with putting up structures to catch the rays of the sun.

One is the obvious one of intermittency. This means that a single home or business can never rely on solar, because batteries, again the subject of massive research effort, still can’t store enough energy in a safe way at a reasonable cost (although we are always being told that it is “just around the corner”). It also means that conventional power grids have their costs increased and their performance potentially endangered by unpredictable inputs from solar energy sources.

The second, which I approach with caution because I am not a scientist, is the simple physics of what can be garnered from the sun in relation to the area required to collect it. It is pretty clear that collecting enough energy to run a modern settlement involves covering a very large area with panels. It also seems that, despite the promises that I have been hearing for many decades, the reality is that concentrated solar energy in the form of gas or coal or oil, which is transportable and works 24/7, is very much cheaper and more reliable.

We would all welcome the breakthroughs that have been “just around the corner” in solar and battery technology for so many decades, but you must admit that they are likely dead ends.

As for all the cant about “our grandchildren”, it is just like ancestor worship, IMO. It is an excuse for doing what you want to do by invoking people who aren’t around to contradict it. Bollocks!

140. Gail Combs says:

S. Meyer says: @ January 2, 2013 at 8:31 pm

…I was not talking about a carbon tax imposed on a third world country though, but I was thinking about such a tax applied in the USA only.

I agree that oil prices are the same world- wide, based on supply and demand (plus some speculation, maybe). However, a carbon tax added at the consumer end, would make energy more expensive locally, but should not directly affect world-wide prices for oil. An example would be gasoline prices in the UK being roughly twice as high as in the USA. This price difference is entirely due to taxes…..
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Did you forget the 2008 when food riots broke out in more than 30 poor countries???

The 1995 World Trade Organization Agreement on Agriculture, written by Dan Amstutz VP of Cargill and later partner in Goldman Sachs, intentionally wiped out third world farmers and made third world countries dependent on US and EU food by getting rid of the national tariffs that protected local farmers. The 1996 “Freedom to Farm bill” also written by Amstutz end the annual acreage reduction programs that curtailed US farm overproduction. With taxpayer subsidies, US farmers produced grain at below actual cost. As a result the U.S. share of world trade in wheat, feed grains, cotton, rice and soybeans rose to 50 percent. In 2008 Cargill, Monsanto ADM, Goldman Sachs and others reaped the profit from these programs they orchestrated. Meanwhile the price of diesel went from $1.139 in 1996 to almost$4.00 and the price of livestock feed and hay has tripled.

Mexico is one example:
US trade policies destroyed Mexico’s agricultural sector, 2 million farm workers lost their jobs and 8 million small-scale farmers were forced to sell their land at disastrously low prices. In all Mexico lost 75% of her farmers.

Haiti is another:

Decades of inexpensive imports – especially rice from the U.S. – …have destroyed local agriculture and left impoverished countries such as Haiti unable to feed themselves….

While those policies have been criticized for years in aid worker circles, world leaders focused on fixing Haiti are admitting for the first time that loosening trade barriers has only exacerbated hunger in Haiti and elsewhere.

They’re led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton – now U.N. special envoy to Haiti – who publicly apologized this month for championing policies that destroyed Haiti’s rice production. Clinton in the mid-1990s encouraged the impoverished country to dramatically cut tariffs on imported U.S. rice.

“It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake,” Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 10. “I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.”…
…Cheap foreign products drove farmers off their land and into overcrowded cities….

Imports also put the country at the mercy of international prices: When they spiked in 2008, rioters unable to afford rice smashed and burned buildings….

Three decades ago things were different. Haiti imported only 19 percent of its food and produced enough rice to export, thanks in part to protective tariffs of 50 percent….
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/20/with-cheap-food-imports-h_n_507228.html

Now what ever is done to the USA and the EU directly effects the third world because we bankrupted their farmers.

141. Gail Combs says:

S. Meyer says:
January 2, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Anthony Harmon says:
“January 2, 2013 at 7:51 pm
I was curious as to the carbon footprint of bicyclists, and according to one conservative website, bicyclists emit quite a bit of CO2.”

Tell me that you forgot the “sarc”? Even the climate alarmists don’t count CO2 released from breathing, because it does not come from fossil fuels. We exhale what we eat, nice example of recycling. Unless you eat coal?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
I can’t resist.
If you are in the USA you do. Some of the carbon the plants transform into organics is from our coal burning plants. I am sitting near a coal plant so I definitely ‘eat coal” Also The manufactured fertilizers normally are made from petroleum and natural gas, except for superphosphate and triple superphosphate, which are rock phosphate that has been concentrated using acid reactions.

BTW thanks for the link on the micro-nuclear plant. I have already talked to my local energy coop about them and they are looking into something similar.

142. Gail Combs says:

The Pompous Git says:
January 2, 2013 at 11:06 pm
….The Git is in favour of sustainable development,…..
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
The problem is the word “sustainable” like so many others has been taken over and twisted to mean something else entirely.

If by “sustainable” you mean rotating crops, planting nitrogen fixing cover crops, no till farming, rotating cropland to pasture and back again, planting grass filter strips and tree wind breaks I am all for it. If you mean Agenda 21 which is what “sustainable” means to the bureaucrats then I suggest you watch this video by a liberal democrat who is a California bureaucrat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QK2sZUs2l_U

143. Willis Eschenbach says:

mpainter says:
January 2, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Willis Eschenbach says: January 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I guess … except for the part where he is completely wrong, which is pretty much his whole main thesis. He thought population went up geometrically, while food production only went up linearly. He was wrong on both counts.
See my post “I Am So Sick Of Malthus” for further details

==============================
I have, thank you, and 440 (!) comments, which I perused. The man generated controversy in his day and, obviously, still does. I will stand by my statement that he was a profound thinker. Most of the controversy stems from the implications drawn from his postulates which, of themselves, are not so controversial.

No, most of the controversy stems from the fact that his postulates were wrong. We went through this upthread. His postulates were that population increased geometrically, and food supply only increased linearly. Both were wrong. Both have been repeatedly demonstrated to be wrong. A few years on a farm would have shown him he was wrong. Had he actually observed, not theorized about but observed the increase in population and the increase in food supply in the centuries before the time he lived, he would have thrown his postulates in the trash can.

Then you come along to tell us that his postulates were fine and he was a “profound thinker”.

Did you know that both Darwin and Wallace credited their reading of Malthus as providing the germ of their ideas on natural selection, which principle they reached independently? That Keynes credited Malthus with influencing his ideas on economics?

Those who rejected Malthus and his ideas include Marx, Engels, and Lenin.

This is a combination of the “appeal to authority” and the “guilt by association” logical fallacies. I don’t care who Malthus fooled, mpainter. I already know, it was lots of people, plus you. Color me unimpressed.

Regarding the comment on Darwin and Wallace crediting Malthus, lots of people credit their reading of the Bible for providing “the germ of their ideas” … so what? Does that make the Bible somehow scientific, or somehow correct?

Malthus is credited with founding demographics and originating important economic ideas. Wikipedia has a good article on Malthus, very informative, if you wish to gain some insight on the Reverand Thomas Robert Malthus.

Look, he wasn’t an idiot. He did some interesting stuff. But the one thing that he was known for, the thing that inspired a whole range of thought called by his name, “Malthusian”, has been completely discredited.

Malthus reached his conclusions through observations.

If so, then I’m wrong, he was an idiot. A few years on a farm would have shown him that his Malthusian ideas were garbage.

Remind you of anyone?

Yep. If that is the quality of his observations, he reminds me of a blind man.

Malthus postulated that population had the innate capacity to expand geometrically, but observed that in fact, it did not. He gave the reasons why it did not. He postulated that food supply was the ultimate limit on population. But Malthus, the observer, was looking backward, and did not realize that he stood at the verge of an agronomic transformation. He was correct insofar as his observations informed him.

Nonsense. His problem was not the industrial revolution or any kind of “agronomic transformation”. His problem was, he let his love for mathematics get in the way of his real-world observations. Even a kid on a farm knows that

1) food production increases the more kids you have, and

2) population of your animals never goes up anywhere near geometrically, no matter how hard you try.

Any farmer can tell you that. Your claim that he was “correct insofar as his observations informed him” merely reveals that you, like Malthus, might have looked at farming, but you never observed farming …

Malthus was a scholar and a scientist and preached no doomsday gospel, but simply gave his ideas on population and economics.

Yep. And those ideas were wrong. His bogus ideas have even driven modern scholars round the twist, folks like Paul Ehrlich. He, like you, mpainter, believes that Malthus was a profound thinker. On the basis of that profound thought, Ehrlich has twice, not once but twice, predicted mass starvation and food riots in our time.

Now, the fact that you don’t remember that starvation and food riots (predicted by Paul Ehrlich for 1980 and 2000) hasn’t affected Paul in the slightest. He is now once again beating his tin drum and shouting that WE’RE ALL GONNA RUN OUT OF FOOD AND DIE, EVERYONE PANIC!!!, but now the show has been postponed, I don’t know why, they couldn’t get the stage lights to work or something, but anyhow the famous production called “The Food Death of the Planet“, the long-advertised extravaganza from the famous Ehrlich/Holdren Malthusian Production Company, has been put back for a few years …

Malthusians like Ehrlich are astounding to me. No amount of logic, or experience, or failed doomcasts, or lack of starvation, or centuries of contrary evidence, will ever get them to change their minds. They persist in believing that Malthus was a “profound thinker”, despite all evidence to the contrary …

Remind you of anyone?

w.

144. Vince Causey says:

“No amount of logic, or experience, or failed doomcasts, or lack of starvation, or centuries of contrary evidence, will ever get them to change their minds”

One could draw a similarity between them and biblical end-of-the-worlders – they shrug off missed end-dates as mere timing issues. The Malthusians will never be convinced of the error of their main premise, and will meet the failure of their predictions with the refrain: “Ah, but nobody could have predicted what Borlaug did, or GM crops, or shale oil, or shale gas, or …”

The list of excuses will last as long as the human race, but the Malthusians will continue to insist that Malthus was right – it is only these unknowable historic contingencies that has momentarily bought mankind a little time.

145. Lars P. says:

MorningGuy says:
January 2, 2013 at 8:13 am

@Owen in GA

Don’t need batteries, just feed in tariffs, in Oz they were quite generous at one stage, up to 68c/kWh, now less so but the cost of solar has drop like a brick, all I know is that I’ve paid for my install recently and now it’s FREE for what I’m generating, for the next 20 years, those electricity suppliers can kiss my lily white arse!
…………
I’m going to be flamed here for suggesting it but electricity suppliers are screwed, the writing is on the wall, solar will do the same to big electricity what gasoline did to steam power. Big electricity will be relegated to supplying base load, whereas solar will take the more lucrative peak, at that stage big electricity will lose market share and become expensive, then it’s just down hill fast for them.

you keep comparing MaybeWatts with MegaWatts and you fail to understand the difference.

146. gnomish says:

starvation and disease do limit population.
innovation and increased productivity raise the limit.
where’s malthus’ error?
how is it reasonable to rant against malthus because one doesn’t like erlich?
would it be reasonable to rant against darwin because one doesn’t like (godwyn strikes!)?
reason is dispassionate. the more pitched the passion, the more suspicious the motive.

147. S.Meyer says:

@ Gail
I enjoy your posts, but I have to nitpick a little.
No, doesn’t happen, even if you live next to a coal plant. Here is why:
Take the leaky bucket analogy (which has been posted on this site a number of times; see “the lives and times of carbon”).

Consider a leaky bucket. Water drips in from a faucet and escapes through a crack. The faucet supplies, say, 100 ml per minute, but the crack drips out only 50 ml per minute. With that, the water level in the bucket will rise. With rising water levels, there is more pressure on the crack and the leak rate will increase. Eventually you reach a water level where outflow = inflow. This is a dynamic steady state. The bucket stands for the atmosphere, the water from the dripping faucet represents anthropogenic CO2, and the water leaking through the crack represents CO2 being permanently removed from the system by sequestration into sinks.

So far so good. Now picture that the system is more complicated, in that water is constantly added and subtracted in such a way that it has no effect on the water level. An example would be a pump that recycles say 200 ml per minute (pumps 200 ml out and 200 ml in). The water going through the pump would represent CO2 that cycles through natural systems ( e.g . plants absorbing CO2 via photosynthesis and animals exhaling CO2 from food). These cycles, while enormous in size, don’t add to or subtract from the water level in the bucket.

Now, to make things even more complicated, assume that the pump becomes more efficient as water levels rise. Say the pump now handles 300 ml per minute. This represents enhanced photosynthesis due to increased CO2 in the atmosphere. The pump will also pump more water back into the system (more people eat).

In reality, vegetation has acted as a net sink, but this does not matter for the question at hand: Does exhaling CO2 contribute to CO2 rise in the atmosphere? My vote is no. As long as we regrow the amount of plants that we consume, the net effect of exhaling is zero.
w

148. mpainter says:

I am glad to exchange thoughts with you on that profound thinker, Malthus. I see that his postulates have affected you profoundly, for why else would you hold forth so cogently on the man and his ideas. I can truly believe that you are “Sick of Malthus”. Well, perhaps you had better not read what follows.
I urge you to read up and educate yourself a bit on population dynamics, an aspect of the life sciences but also of demographics. You say Malthus postulated “that population increased geometrically”. Not so, read carefully. As I commented upthread, Malthus put that population had the innate *capacity* to expand geometrically, but he observed that it did not, in fact. You ignored this when you parsed my comment. Malthus discussed the reasons why population was held in check, in other words, he examined the causes of why population did not increase geometrically. His discussion of the *checks* against population growth was in support of the central theme of his thesis. Malthus wrote his essay as a counter to the ideas of the Frenchman Rousseau, whom he knew. He meant his essay as a healthy dose of reality for the idealistic followers of Rousseau. No biologist would argue against the proposition that population has innate capacity to expand geometrically. No biologist would argue against the proposition that there are checks that act against such innate capacity. So, contrary to your assertion that Malthus held that population increased geometrically, Malthus indeed held the opposite view, and proceeded to examine why it did not. Perhaps this distinction is too fine for some.

Concerning food supply. Malthus based his ideas on historical circumstance, i.e., he took his lessons from history, and he was a profound student of history. He observed that historically, food limits put pressure on population and limited its growth. In his day, famine was a reality, and in this observation he certainly was correct. Now, Malthus did not foresee the agronomic developments which greatly expanded food supply. This does not mean that he was entirely wrong, only that he failed to foresee advances in agronomy; indeed, population growth today still has its *checks*. This includes the various means of birth control practiced today, and Malthus recognized this particular *check* and referred to it as “vice”. In his view, however, food was the ultimate arbitrator of numbers and he was certainly correct, according to the circumstances of his day.

“Then you come along to tell us that his postulates were fine and he was a “profound thinker”.”

I am not alone. Those who wish to decide for themselves will find a comprehensive article on Malthus in Wikipedia.

“This is a combination of the “appeal to authority” and the “guilt by association” logical fallacies. I don’t care who Malthus fooled, mpainter. I already know, it was lots of people, plus you. Color me unimpressed.”

Yes, I can see that you are not impressed. You are so unimpressed that you have not the slightest bit of interest in the source of the insights of Darwin, of Wallace, of Keynes, and others. This is nothing but a closed mind as in locked and barred. Interesting that those scientists were “fooled” (your word, not mine) so badly by that miscreant Malthus. Are the rest of us now “fooled” by the “fooled”? Maybe you should rethink that comment.

“Regarding the comment on Darwin and Wallace crediting Malthus, lots of people credit their reading of the Bible for providing “the germ of their ideas” … so what? Does that make the Bible somehow scientific, or somehow correct?”

Who’s talking about the Bible? You are, not me.

“Look, he wasn’t an idiot. He did some interesting stuff. But the one thing that he was known for, the thing that inspired a whole range of thought called by his name, “Malthusian”, has been completely discredited.”

See above.

“If so, then I’m wrong, he was an idiot. A few years on a farm would have shown him that his Malthusian ideas were garbage.”
“Even a kid on a farm knows that 1) food production increases the more kids you have, and 2) population of your animals never goes up anywhere near geometrically, no matter how hard you try.”
“ Any farmer can tell you that. Your claim that he was “correct insofar as his observations informed him” merely reveals that you, like Malthus, might have looked at farming, but you never observed farming …”

Malthus grew up on his father’s farm, a country manor in Surrey. He was a farm boy, of the affluent sort of those days. Also, see above.

“Remind you of anyone?”

Nope. Paul Erhlich, I have heard of, but I never have read him or paid any attention to anything concerning him. Holdren- I don’t know who this is, the Malthusian Production Company I have never heard of, and what are Malthusians?

I think that your ire is misdirected at me. I don’t subscribe to any sort of doomsday scenario and opinion leaders never led me. My ideas are not of the popular media variety, nor of the best seller variety, and I couldn’t you tell who the latest guru/philosopher is, because I don’t need any of them. However, there is one thing that I can tell you: Malthus was a profound thinker.

Thank you for your attention. mpainter

149. Gail Combs said @ January 3, 2013 at 6:04 am

The problem is the word “sustainable” like so many others has been taken over and twisted to mean something else entirely.

And we should accept this because?

150. Keith Sketchley says:

“Ian H”, my experience is that adult Greens claim to be nice but are hypocrites who turn nasty when they realize they cannot win by calm debate. Short of that, you’ll find they support violent people.

You correctly point to examples of the reality that collectivists always end up oppressing people while not being able to feed them.

British Columbia has a sort of regressive carbon tax, low income people are given a few bucks every year to lessen impact.
That’s the BC whose promise to hugely increase use of transit to reduce carbon dioxide emission is not being met. Significant increase but nowhere near promised, and the Victoria BC operation of BC Transit together with the drivers’ union is trying to eliminate those gains by squabbling. (The lower mainland, as in Vancouver BC, is a different operation, but it had to scale back its plans – they’d need to increase service even further to increase use of transit, but that is expensive since transit usually operates at a loss.)

As for few engineers in the UK Parliament, most engineers and business people think they have better things to do with their time than elected office, but they get hurt by politicians. There’s a good dramatization in Part I of the novel Atlas Shrugged, now a movie, still the biggest selling non-religious book in the English language.

151. @ mpainter. Thanks. Important to always read the original rather than interpretations.

152. Gail Combs says:

The Pompous Git says: @ January 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Gail Combs said @ January 3, 2013 at 6:04 am

The problem is the word “sustainable” like so many others has been taken over and twisted to mean something else entirely.

And we should accept this because?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
I gave you one link but if you want I can give you the rest. Please look at the link I gave you since it outline the actual progress being made by a government bureaucrat.. Also look at the Wildlands Map and the list of laws to make it happen. Humans get to occupy the tiny green dots. All else is off limits for the peasants including my farm. I am in a core wildlife buffer. The Future Visioning Plan I got from my county confirms this.

When you read this think of feudalism where every aspect of your life is controlled and you have no real right to own property. It says so right in these statements.

Agenda21

Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.
http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/

I say one of these plans. It was the draft for the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and included all of the state of Massachusetts except the city of Boston and surrounding area.. You could not plant a crop, put in a fencepost or chop down a tree without filling papers and getting permission from the government. I have a copy of it in the attic. It is the reason my husband and I pulled up roots left his family and mine and moved to North Carolina.

Integrated planning and management of land resources is the subject of chapter 10 of Agenda 21, which deals with the cross-sectoral aspects of decision-making for the sustainable use and development of natural resources, including the soils, minerals, water and biota that land comprises. This broad integrative view of land resources, which are essential for life-support systems and the productive capacity of the environment, is the basis of Agenda 21’s and the Commission on Sustainable Development’s consideration of land issues.

Expanding human requirements and economic activities are placing ever increasing pressures on land resources, creating competition and conflicts and resulting in suboptimal use of resources. By examining all uses of land in an integrated manner, it makes it possible to minimize conflicts, to make the most efficient trade-offs and to link social and economic development with environmental protection and enhancement, thus helping to achieve the objectives of sustainable development. (Agenda 21, para 10.1)
http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/susdevtopics/sdt_land.shtml

This is the actual attitude of the United Nations towards land ownership. The document is not on the internet in the original, which is not surprising since it is from 1976. Habit II is on the internet. link

The land policy of the United Nations was first officially made clear at the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I), held in Vancouver, May 31 – June 11, 1976. Agenda Item 10 of the Conference Report sets forth the UN’s official policy on land. The Preamble says:

“Land…cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes. The provision of decent dwellings and healthy conditions for the people can only be achieved if land is used in the interests of society as a whole. Public control of land use is therefore indispensable….”

http://www.sovereignty.net/p/land/unproprts.htm

….Governments at the appropriate level, with the support of the relevant international and regional organizations, should:

(a) Carry out national policy reviews related to food security, including adequate levels and stability of food supply and access to food by all households;

(b) Review national and regional agricultural policy in relation, inter alia, to foreign trade, price policy, exchange rate policies, agricultural subsidies and taxes, as well as organization for regional economic integration;

(c) Implement policies to influence land tenure and property rights positively with due recognition of the minimum size of land-holding required to maintain production and check further fragmentation

(h) Formulate and implement integrated agricultural projects that include other natural resource activities, such as management of rangelands, forests, and wildlife, as appropriate;

United Nations agencies, such as FAO, the World Bank, IFAD and GATT, and regional organizations, bilateral donor agencies and other bodies should, within their respective mandates, assume a role in working with national Governments in the following activities:….

D. Land-resource planning, information and education for agriculture
Basis for action

14.34. Inappropriate and uncontrolled land uses are a major cause of degradation and depletion of land resources. Present land use often disregards the actual potentials, carrying capacities and limitations of land resources, as well as their diversity in space. It is estimated that the world’s population, now at 5.4 billion, will be 6.25 billion by the turn of the century. The need to increase food production to meet the expanding needs of the population will put enormous pressure on all natural resources, including land….

Objectives

14.36. The objectives of this programme area are:

(a) To harmonize planning procedures, involve farmers in the planning process, collect land-resource data, design and establish databases, define land areas of similar capability, identify resource problems and values that need to be taken into account to establish mechanisms to encourage efficient and environmentally sound use of resources;

Basis for action

14.44. Land degradation is the most important environmental problem affecting extensive areas of land in both developed and developing countries. The problem of soil erosion is particularly acute in developing countries, while problems of salinization, waterlogging, soil pollution and loss of soil fertility are increasing in all countries. Land degradation is serious because the productivity of huge areas of land is declining just when populations are increasing rapidly and the demand on the land is growing to produce more food, fibre and fuel. Efforts to control land degradation, particularly in developing countries, have had limited success to date. Well planned, long-term national and regional land conservation and rehabilitation programmes, with strong political support and adequate funding, are now needed. While land-use planning and land zoning, combined with better land management, should provide long-term solutions, it is urgent to arrest land degradation and launch conservation and rehabilitation programmes in the most critically affected and vulnerable areas.

(b) To establish agricultural planning bodies at national and local levels to decide priorities, channel resources and implement programmes.

153. Willis Eschenbach says:

gnomish says:
January 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm

starvation and disease do limit population.
innovation and increased productivity raise the limit.
where’s malthus’ error?

As is my habit, let me quote from Malthus directly:

Assuming then my postulata as granted, I say, that the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.

Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will shew the immensity of the first power in comparison of the second.

By that law of our nature which makes food necessary to the life of man, the effects of these two unequal powers must be kept equal.

This implies a strong and constantly operating check on population from the difficulty of subsistence. This difficulty must fall somewhere and must necessarily be severely felt by a large portion of mankind.

This is the claim that is distinguished by the name “Malthusian”—that in order to keep things in balance, a bunch of people need to starve. This starvation is described by Malthus as a “check on population”, meaning people dying. It is this same claim which is at the root of Ehrlich’s claims.

What Malthus never seems to realize is that the amount of food produced is in many respects a function of the number of people who are producing the food. Food doesn’t just appear, it is produced by human effort. If you have a big family you can produce more food than if you have no kids, they help with the production.

As a result, Malthus disregards the way humans have actually solved the problem of population growth—through a corresponding growth in the food supply. That is why the doubling of the global population from 1960 to 2000, where we went from 3 to 6 billion people, didn’t lead to the food riots so confidently and unsuccessfully predicted (twice!) by Ehrlich.

how is it reasonable to rant against malthus because one doesn’t like erlich?

Ehrlich is a Malthusian, that is, he agrees with Malthus that there must be widespread starvation to balance out geometrical population increases, that they can’t be balanced by increased production. As one judges the effects of Marx by looking at the actions of Marxists, so with the effects of Malthus and the actions of Malthusians.

would it be reasonable to rant against darwin because one doesn’t like (godwyn strikes!)?

I don’t know who Godwyn Strikes is or what he has to do with Darwin.

reason is dispassionate. the more pitched the passion, the more suspicious the motive.

Are you channeling Spock here? Me, I’ll take a passionate man of reason over a cold reasonable fish any day. Not sure why you’ve adopted the Vulcan philosophy …

Regards,

w.

154. Willis Eschenbach says:

mpainter says:
January 3, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I am glad to exchange thoughts with you on that profound thinker, Malthus. I see that his postulates have affected you profoundly, for why else would you hold forth so cogently on the man and his ideas. I can truly believe that you are “Sick of Malthus”. Well, perhaps you had better not read what follows.

With an introduction of such insight and eloquence, it would seem almost churlish to refuse your advice to not read the rest of your missive … so I’ve done just that.

One question. Does the advice that I “better not read what follows” involve not reading just what follows in your comment, or did you mean to advise me that I had better not read anything that follows from you?

w.

155. @ Willis Eschenbach:

I know you know: But for reference1kWh = 860 calories, which need to be made up to sustain the life of the person performing the labor. So we would need to add in the extra cost of 860 calories of food, which for the poor is substantial –in America, where food is plentiful, Americans would lose weight with this regimen. That is, their basic metabolic rate would increase! However, in poor countries people would need to spend a lot more money to support the work equal to 1kWh of energy.

This is a fascinating perspective and I agree with your excellent perspective here. A liberal engineer friend of mine is trying to say that energy prices have not gone up over the past several years – and says it’s proof green is NOT increasing costs. I point to fracking as reducing costs, and those reductions of cost being negated by the increases due to so called renewables. The increases are from subsidies, feed in tarrifs, cap and trade and general energy prices being forced higher than they otherwise would have been by requiring renewable energy to supplement otherwise cheap energy to the grid.

156. Willis Eschenbach said @ January 3, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I don’t know who Godwyn Strikes is or what he has to do with Darwin.

I believe mpainter averts here to social Darwinism, aka Nazism hence Godwin’s Law. Just as the Nazis appealed to Darwin for validation of their racial extermination program, the Erlichs of this world appeal to the Reverend Malthus for theirs. This does not mean that Darwin explicitly endorsed the Nazi racial purity program, nor that Malthus would have explicitly endorsed Erlich’s analysis of world affairs in the late 60s. Mpainter’s interpretation of Malthus fits well with the philosophical Principle of Charity, i.e. we should not attribute malice to the proponent of an idea. In any event, the Nazis and Erlich came well after the time of death of those they appeal to, so we can hardly ask them for their opinions about such.

157. mpainter says:

Willis Eschenbach says: January 3, 2013 at 8:31 pm

One question. Does the advice that I “better not read what follows” involve not reading just what follows in your comment, or did you mean to advise me that I had better not read anything that follows from you?
====================================
I meant it for that comment. Really, I wanted no argument over Malthus, but I decided to put some light on the topic for the sake of others. I read your posting on the link that you provided and it seemed to me somewhat skimpy on Malthus.
mpainter

158. gnomish says:

people do starve – by the millions, annually. do you suppose that has no effect on population? what presently limits the world population – or do you think the population is increasing unchecked? do you think it can double every 40 years indefinitely?
do you think war has nothing to do with resources?
and do you conflate the german dictator (godwyn’s law- his name is filtered – get it?) with charles darwin because the principles of evolution constitute the basis of eugenics?
i think mpainter is too innocently generous. you do get the nuances but pretend you don’t. you have higher priorities. it’s obvious what they aren’t.

159. gnomish says:

as much as i sometimes admire your wit and insight, willis, it doesn’t mean every word you utter is valuable or even true.
by all means, flaunt it if you got it but learn to tell when you don’t. faking it is so… rommulan.

160. richardscourtney says:

mpainter:

Yes, you are right, Malthus was “a great thinker” and his observations are applicable to much of the natural world.

But Malthus’ observations are NOT applicable to human population and/or human activities.

Simply, Malthusianism views population development as being like the growth of a bacillus in a Petri dish. The population expands to consume available resources until the resources are exhausted and then the population collapses. But humans are not constrained by resources in that manner.

People ‘make’ new resources by obtaining new sources of resources and finding alternative resources. This is why the Club Of Rome was wrong when its 1972 publication ‘Limits To Growth’ predicted mass starvation – with resulting population collapse – by year 2000. Agricultural developments enabled more food so there are now more people than in 1972 but fewer starving people now than in 1972 (n.b. fewer starving in total number and not merely in proportion).

A variant of Malthusian predictions of population growth is ‘peak oil’. All such predictions are plain wrong because they extrapolate present trends and ignore that human ingenuity responds to problematic trends and so alters the trends. Other creatures do not possess human ingenuity.

I see no reason to suppose that in the foreseeable future human nature will alter to stop the process of all human history. Hence, I consider Malthusianism to be irrelevant to any rational discussion of human activities (except in small, isolated communities which are now very few).

Richard

161. Willis Eschenbach says:

gnomish says:
January 4, 2013 at 3:46 am

as much as i sometimes admire your wit and insight, willis, it doesn’t mean every word you utter is valuable or even true.
by all means, flaunt it if you got it but learn to tell when you don’t. faking it is so… rommulan.

gnomish, if I wrote something you don’t like, quote my words. That way, you won’t sound like the village idiot, wandering around muttering abour rummulans, uttering vague platitudes like “flaunt it if you got it but learn to tell when you don’t”, and not making sense at all.

Here’s the bad news. I haven’t the slightest clue what it is that I did that you are talking about. None. Consider that the next time you are convinced you are speaking clearly. From this side, it’s meaningless babble. Seriously. I don’t have any idea what you are upset about.

w.

162. Lars P. says:

S.Meyer says:
January 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm
@ Gail
I enjoy your posts, but I have to nitpick a little.

Speaking of nitpick…
If we ignore all the carbon “used” to produce that food, but even then eating fossil fuels is possible – here the first link I found at a search in Google, don’t be confused by the… intermittent photos:
[snip – this video is inappropriate, and pointlessly presented – Anthony]
So exhaling or not exhaling is the question.

163. mpainter says:

richardscourtney says: January 4, 2013 at 4:07 am

But Malthus’ observations are NOT applicable to human population and/or human activities.

=========================================

Malthus in a nutshell (in his words):

“That the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence,
that population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase”

Who could dispute these principles?

Up to the time of Malthus, food was scarce in the sense that there was seldom a surplus and often there was a scarcity. History affords innumerable examples. The history of France can be cast in terms of the history of its famines. The era known as the High Middle Ages coincided with the MWP, and was followed by a general contraction, i.e. shorter growing seasons. This diminished the means of subsistence severely, and the Norse of Greenland disappeared. Retrospect confirms the principles of Malthus.

But can the principles of Malthus be applied to the present era of food surplus?

Again, Malthus:
“The population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase”

Enough said. It is true that Malthus was a great thinker

Malthus should not be held responsible for the application, or misapplication, of his ideas by the
various catastrophists. Nor should I.

164. Gary Pearse says:

richardscourtney says:
January 4, 2013 at 4:07 am

“This is why the Club Of Rome was wrong when its 1972 publication ‘Limits To Growth’ predicted mass starvation – with resulting population collapse – by year 2000.”

Perhaps you realize that the first COR publication on limits was in the 1950s – I recall they had a list of metal and the “ore reserves” of these indicated vast shortages in coming decades. They were totally ignorant of two aspects of these reserves:
a) it costs money to delineate ore reserves so a company only drills off what they need for planning – 10 to 20 years. When, finally, additional drilling doesn’t expand reserves sufficiently, they have a time frame for replacing these reserves with a new deposit – exploration and development, buying an undeveloped discovery, mergers and aquisitions, etc.
b) they mentioned the dire shortage of zinc – three quarters of which is used for galvanizing steel for culverts, barn rooves (that’s how it used to be spelt?) ducts, etc. Like all linear thinkers among ideologues, it never occurred to them that we could use other coatings or even different materials for culverts, rooves, etc.

So the COR took another crack at predicting disaster and failed. Are they still around?

165. richardscourtney says:

Gary Pearse:

Thankyou for your post at January 4, 2013 at 10:04 am.

Yes, I was aware of those matters.

The Club Of Rome was still in existence this time last year so I suppose it is “still around” now.
And I implied the other resource issues which you splendidly illustrate when I said that ‘Peak Oil’ is another example of the Malthusiian fallacy.

Richard

166. richardscourtney says:

mpainter:

re your post at January 4, 2013 at 9:31 am.

I did not intend to imply you were responsible for any “misapplication” of the principles of Malthus, and I apologise to you if my words made any such implication.

Richard

167. Willis Eschenbach says:

mpainter says:
January 4, 2013 at 9:31 am

… Malthus in a nutshell (in his words):

“That the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence, that population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase”

Who could dispute these principles?

That would be me, they are simplicity itself to dispute. All you need is a counter example. To take just one among many, Japan has plenty of food, but the population, rather than increasing as Malthus foolishly says “invariably” happens, is dropping. Malthus says it is impossible, that if there’s enough food population has to rise … but there sits Japan, lots of food, population dropping.

So, who you gonna believe, painter … Malthus, or your own lying eyes?

There’s dozen of countries that are counter-examples to Malthus’s foolishly all-encompassing claim. You really need a “red team”, someone to challenge your more wilder statements before they hit the electronic airwaves …

Again, Malthus:

“The population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase”

Enough said. It is true that Malthus was a great thinker

Since that claim about population increase is demonstrably wrong, the idea that the man making the claim was a “great thinker” is perforce wrong as well.

In animals, sure, population is often food-limited. He’d be right about animals. But for humans? There are a host of other things, from customs to contraception, that limit human population. Malthus paid no attention to any of them, he assumed we were just like the animals, food-limited.

Only Malthus and his modern followers are foolish enough not to have noticed that humans do things differently from the animals, and that, of course, means that neither he nor his modern followers could possibly qualify as “great thinkers” …

w.

168. Lars P. says:

gnomish says:
January 4, 2013 at 3:29 am
people do starve – by the millions, annually. do you suppose that has no effect on population? what presently limits the world population – or do you think the population is increasing unchecked? do you think it can double every 40 years indefinitely?
…….
i think mpainter is too innocently generous. you do get the nuances but pretend you don’t. you have higher priorities. it’s obvious what they aren’t.

yes, there is hunger, however:
“The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase.” (worldhunger.org)
On the other side very interesting to see is that the population is not increasing in almost all countries that achieve a certain level of development.
The absolute increase in world population (about 70 million per year) is now equal to what it was mid 20th century (1960s) when total population was about half the current numbers. By then about the same number of people were suffering of famine.
Meet Julian Simon the Doomslayer:
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.02/ffsimon_pr.html
By Julian L. Simon and Sheldon L. Richman
November 11, 1996
In 1980 the Global 2000 Report to the President began by stating that “if present trends continue, the world in 2000 will be more crowded, more polluted, less stable ecologically, and more vulnerable to disruption than the world we live in now.” The introduction to The Resourceful Earth (edited by Julian Simon and the late Herman Kahn) revised that passage: “If present trends continue, the world in 2000 will be less crowded (though more populated), less polluted, more stable ecologically, and less vulnerable to resource-supply disruption than the world we live in now.”

There was a post about Simon here at WUWT not long ago:
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/01/25/the-simon-erlich-wager-at-seven-billion-people/

169. Willis Eschenbach says:

gnomish says:
January 4, 2013 at 3:29 am

people do starve – by the millions, annually. do you suppose that has no effect on population?

No.

what presently limits the world population

A variety of things, from customs to contraceptives to food shortages to later marriages to people choosing not to have more kids.

And? Is there a point?

– or do you think the population is increasing unchecked?

Depends on what you mean by “checked”

do you think it can double every 40 years indefinitely?

Perhaps I look like an idiot, but I do know that nothing can double indefinitely.

do you think war has nothing to do with resources?

No.

and do you conflate the german dictator (godwyn’s law- his name is filtered – get it?) with charles darwin because the principles of evolution constitute the basis of eugenics?

would it be reasonable to rant against darwin because one doesn’t like (godwyn strikes!)?

Perhaps if you spelled “Godwin” correctly people might understand the cryptic humor … or not. However, onwards to the question, which is:

Do I conflate Hitler with Darwin?

What are you smoking? I haven’t mentioned either one of them, have no plans to mention them, don’t think about either of them more than once in a long while. What do they have to do with me?

i think mpainter is too innocently generous. you do get the nuances but pretend you don’t. you have higher priorities. it’s obvious what they aren’t.

So your accusation now is that I’m smarter than I appear? I believe that you are right … but not in the way that you intended it.

Finally, since my priorities are “obvious” to you, perhaps you could let me know what they are. My gorgeous ex-fiancee accuses me sometimes of not having any priorities at all, so if you could give me a quick list of some of my more obvious ones, next time I could wave it in her face and say “See! I do have priorities!” …

w.

170. richardscourtney says:

Lars P.:

At January 4, 2013 at 11:03 am you say

On the other side very interesting to see is that the population is not increasing in almost all countries that achieve a certain level of development.

Yes, indeed,and there are good reasons for this. For example, people in rich countries do not need large families as ‘insurance’ for times of illness and old age, so their having many children becomes a net cost and not a benefit.

And the decline of population with achieved affluence is why all forecasts of human population suggest the human population will peak then start to fall at some time near the middle of this century (i.e. well within the life-time of many people now alive).

If these forecasts are right then the foreseeable problem is the economic effect of population decline.

Sustained economic growth requires a growing population but the developed countries now have declining indigenous populations. Therefore, developed countries are importing people from poorer countries. This immigration will not be available if the poorer countries develop affluence so they stop producing surplus population.

In other words, the Malthusian fear of overpopulation is – like so many other scares – probably the opposite of reality. Declining human population is the problem which is more likely to be addressed in future.

Problems are addressed when they occur. And the desire of some to address problems they forecast may exist in the future is a severe mistake.

Each generation needs to address its existing problems so the effect of those problems is not continued into the future. Failure to address existing problems means their effects diminish abilities to solve whatever the problems in the future turn out to be.

The existing major problem is the world-wide economic crisis. Failure to solve it will compound whatever difficulties confront the future world population whether that population is grows or shrinks.

Richard

171. mpainter says:

richardscourtney says: January 4, 2013 at 10:58 am
mpainter:
re your post at January 4, 2013 at 9:31 am.

I did not intend to imply you were responsible for any “misapplication” of the principles of Malthus, and I apologise to you if my words made any such implication.

Richard
=========================
Please, not you, Richard, your words made no such implication and I did not take them so. The point was directed elsewhere.
And the point missed by a mile, as can be seen.

172. Lars P. says:

richardscourtney says:
January 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm
…..
Yes, indeed,and there are good reasons for this. For example, people in rich countries do not need large families as ‘insurance’ for times of illness and old age, so their having many children becomes a net cost and not a benefit…

Exactly. The population “check” is not done as per the Malthusian model as explained by mpainter above:
mpainter says:
January 3, 2013 at 2:12 pm
…..
I urge you to read up and educate yourself a bit on population dynamics, an aspect of the life sciences but also of demographics. You say Malthus postulated “that population increased geometrically”. Not so, read carefully. As I commented upthread, Malthus put that population had the innate *capacity* to expand geometrically, but he observed that it did not, in fact. You ignored this when you parsed my comment. Malthus discussed the reasons why population was held in check, in other words, he examined the causes of why population did not increase geometrically. His discussion of the *checks* against population growth was in support of the central theme of his thesis. ….”

it is not famine and wars that must “check” the human population. Higher living standard does it efficiently and if the improvement in living standard continues the human population stabilises itself soon – unless some countries do not manage to come out of the underdevelopment morass.

I agree with your statement that Problems are addressed when they occur. And the desire of some to address problems they forecast may exist in the future is a severe mistake.
Indeed, focusing on imagined problems whilst not addressing real ones binds resources, aggravating real problems.

I personally do not think that Sustained economic growth requires a growing population but the developed countries now have declining indigenous populations. is an issue.
The increase in productivity can compensate for declining population, at least to ensure increase in living standard even in the case of an absolute decline in economic output. Why should this not be a viable option?

173. johanna says:

The common Malthusian fear that we will just keep breeding till our population collapses, like a mouse-plague or a flock of locusts, is nonsense. Even the UN, which is not a source I would usually quote, agrees that by mid century the global population will most likely move towards stabilisation:

http://esa.un.org/wpp/Analytical-Figures/htm/fig_overview.htm

The evidence of history is that as societies get richer, they have less children per family. That has been further facilitated by birth control. Given a choice, not many women want to be pregnant and/or nursing every year between the ages of 18 and 40.

Well, societies are getting richer, in some cases (like Japan) to the point where their populations are set to decline if they don’t do something about it.

The population-bomb fanatics just don’t like people – especially the wrong kinds of people – reproducing and multiplying. They ignore the fact that the environment in cities was much worse 100 years ago with a lot less people. Look at London, where the Thames was a filthy sewer and the air was often a brown, choking fug when Conan Doyle wrote his Sherlock Holmes stories. He didn’t even mention the horse piss and poo all over every street, probably because it was taken for granted. The population was about 6.5 million. Today, it is over 8 million and the air, water and streets are dramatically cleaner, plus people’s standard of living is very much higher.

The promoters of Malthusian overpopulation scenarios and the promoters of CAGW tap into the same seam of superstitious fears. These world destruction and species destruction fantasies have always been around, in one form or another. They are fun in comic books and movies, but we need to crush them anytime someone tries to sell them as reality.

174. bw says:

The 100 watts electrical output requires more than 100 watts of mechanical power. Say 125 mechanical watts. Very few people can maintain that level for more than an hour. In most medical research, 75 watts is the level of mechanical work a healthy human can maintain for 8 hours, ie about 1/10 of a horsepower. The muscles then have to dump the waste heat. Pro athlete bike riders have this info, mountain climbers, etc.
A large adult male has a basal (thermal) metabolism of about 100 watts. Thats just sitting and maintaining body temperature. So the 100 watts mechanical work requires 400 watts of waste heat, thats 500 watts on top of the basal metabolism for a total of 600 watts. Your 100 watts of basal metabolism approximates to 2000 food calories per day. The average adult male diet is 2700 calories per day. That includes all average activity, walking around, etc. Assuming it takes 100 watts of mechanical work to produce 75 watts of electrical power, then the total food cost for that work is 5 times the basal metabolism, thats 10 thousand food calories per day on top of the basal metabolism for a total of 12 thousand food calories per day. Even if the athletes metabolism is a little more efficient than most adults, that still means at least 10000 food calories per day.
Thats why people don’t use farm animals on treadmills, the cost of food exceeds the value of the electricity produced.

For the CO2 exhaled, the rule of thumb is about 1 kg per person per day. So at least 5 kilograms CO2 is exhaled by the human generator. Compare that to the nuclear plant of 1 gigawatt electrical power with zero CO2 emissions.

Lastly, say one person exhales 365 kg CO2 per year, thats 0.365 tonnes. For 6.5 billion people, thats 2.4 gigatonnes CO2 per year. Human biological respiration is a tiny fraction of the total global biological respiration. Now, accountants say the annual fossil fuel usage results in around 30 gigatonnes CO2 produced. Estimates of total natural global biological respiration is probably 25 times that number. Therefore fossil fuel use has increased the total carbon cycle by about 4 percent, at most.

175. richardscourtney says:

Lars P.:

The increase in productivity can compensate for declining population, at least to ensure increase in living standard even in the case of an absolute decline in economic output. Why should this not be a viable option?

I am not an economist and reported what economists have told me. My very limited understanding is as follows.

The difficulty derives from the desire of an increasingly affluent population to all share in the growing affluence. This makes it difficult to fill “menial” jobs (i.e. jobs that provide low pay). An imported ‘poor’ population overcomes this difficulty.

I can understand the cause of the difficulty.
Every member of a poor family needs to work to obtain income or the entire family suffers. But
a ‘rich’ family can afford to support some of its ‘unemployable’ members who are not really unemployable but are merely unwilling to do ‘menial’ work. Not all families will support such ‘drones’, but the proportion of families that will support ‘drones’ increases with growing affluence of the society. (Upper classes have always supported such ‘drones’ and historically payed to put them into politics or the clergy.) Hence, an already affluent society reduces its ability to fill necessary ‘menial’ jobs as the society gains more affluence.

But I don’t know why the importation of ‘poor’ people is the only way to solve the difficulty. Which is not to say that I know how to solve it: I don’t.

Richard

176. mpainter says:

—Gee, I hate to tell you this, Willis, but Malthus, that profound thinker, is way ahead of you. He has anticipated all that you touched on.
You think that you are refuting Malthus by citing aspects of population dynamics that you imagine that Malthus had overlooked. But what you cite has been addressed by Malthus in his writings. You see, Malthus was a profound thinker. Really, you should do yourself a favor and acquaint yourself with the writings of Malthus before you post anymore sitting ducks.

You say “There’s dozen of countries that are counter-examples to Malthus’s foolishly all-encompassing claim” Wrong, again, Willis: there are countries that have such low birthrates that population is declining, it is true. Japan is one. But the profundity of Malthus encompasses more than you imagine: he recognized that population growth was held within the limits of available resources by two types of “checks”, what he called “positive checks” and “preventative checks”. Positive checks increased the death rate and preventative checks lowered the birth rate. The preventative checks he listed as celibacy, birth control, postponement of marriage, and abortion. So we see that it is the “preventative checks” that contains the population of these countries like Japan, Russia, and other Asian countries, as foreseen by that profound thinker, Malthus. Demographics, the discipline that incorporates the principles of Malthus, can examine these phenomena in better detail and give account for it.

You say: “So, who you gonna believe, painter … Malthus, or your own lying eyes?”
Well, you are inviting the world to choose between yourself and Malthus, that profound thinker. You might want to reconsider that.

You say: “You really need a “red team”, someone to challenge your more wilder statements before they hit the electronic airwaves …”
Talk about “more wilder statements”; no, I have no intention in competing with you there. You really should try some visine.

You say: “There are a host of other things, from customs to contraception, that limit human population. Malthus paid no attention to any of them, he assumed we were just like the animals, food-limited.”
See above. Really, Willis, you need to read Malthus before you make these kinds of statements. It will save you a lot of embarrassment.

A few quotes:
Darwin referred to Malthus as “that great philosopher”, and wrote

“In October 1838… I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population… it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species.”
—Charles Darwin

“But perhaps the most important book I read was Malthus’s Principles of Population… It was the first great work I had yet read treating of any of the problems of philosophical biology, and its main principles remained with me as a permanent possession, and twenty years later gave me the long-sought clue to the effective agent in the evolution of organic species.
—Wallace, Alfred Russell 1908. “My life: a record of events and opinions”

“So, who you gonna believe, painter … Malthus, or your own lying eyes?”
—Willis Eschenbach, 2013

Regards, mpainter

177. If Malthus was completely mistaken in his argumentation against Condorcet, then Condorcet presumably was correct, and we now live in a Golden Age of Equality (aka Utopia) where everyone shares the lack of prejudice of the French. Also, if Malthus was no great thinker, then the acknowledged sources of his ideas must also stand condemned of being small minded: Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin, David Hume, & Robert Wallace. How odd…

178. @ Richard Courtney

I possess a number of “slaves” for menial work: a vacuum cleaner, a high pressure sprayer for cleaning the outside of the house, a hi-fi and TV set rather than my own jongleurs, an internet and telephone service to convey my messages, a Subaru rather then a sedan chair… The rate at which we have replaced menial workers with machines has been rather high lately.

I note that the beginning of this trend came during the High Middle Ages (aka the MWP). Wind and water mills began to be widely used to grind corn. The plough was much improved and that had its impact on the quantity of food grown per farm worker. That said, my neighbour has some film taken in the 1960s of an Eastern European peasant using a breast plough because such could not afford a horse or ox, let alone the lack of prejudice of the French.

179. @ mpainter

Many thanks for stimulating me to reread Malthus and also discover the first edition of his essay. I note that this was severely criticised and that the later editions incorporated changes in his thought resulting from that criticism.

180. gnomish says:

“So your accusation now is that I’m smarter than I appear? I believe that you are right ”
You admit to playing dumb and indeed, that’s one way to dodge a point.

“Finally, since my priorities are “obvious” to you, perhaps you could let me know what they are. so…, next time I could wave it in her face and say “See!”
You answered your own question. You have also explained the nature of the ‘ex-‘ in ‘ex-reader’. Buh bye, bully boy.

181. Willis Eschenbach says:

mpainter, you explained a whole raft of things. What you didn’t explain was the problematic statement I actually pointed to and quoted. Malthus:

The population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase.

See, the nettle you refuse to grasp is, the population DOESN’T invariably increase like he claims. That’s plain old, flat out, simply not true. Japan is one of many examples.

Nor are his most fundamental claims true, the idea that population increases geometrically and food supply arithmetically. If those were true, we’d have been dead long ago. Neither one is how the world actually works.

Now, you can claim that well, he understood that it really wasn’t arithmetically, blah, blah, blah. What Malthus missed entirely is that in many ways food production is a function of the number of people. This means that it has no inherent rate of increase, whether arithmetical or not. In other words, if the number of people goes up geometrically, then so does the food supply. Not arithmetically. Geometrically. But if the number of people goes up arithmetically, then so does the food supply. Not geometrically. It has no inherent rate of growth, it is a product of human labor and ingenuity.

Now, you claim above that Malthus saw all of this stuff … but if he did, why does he think that it is some kind of law of nature for population to invariably, not sometimes but invariably, increase if food is available? Why does he think that food production increases arithmetically, when it has no inherent rate of increase? Look, population doubled in my lifetime. But food production more than doubled. You show me where Malthus talked about that situation.

Your citations of Darwin etc. prove that Malthus was influential. And I will gladly grant you that he was influential, has been for a long time. In fact, his nonsense about population growth always outstripping food supply continues to be retailed by alarmists to this day. In fact, we call that particular flavor of serially failed doomcasters like Ehrlich by the man’s name, “Malthusian”. That’s unbelievably influential after all these years.

But influential doesn’t necessarily mean that he is any more right than any other 18th century doomcaster, my friend … all it means is that humans love apocalyptical stories and predictions of catastrophe.

w.

182. Willis Eschenbach says:

gnomish says:
January 4, 2013 at 5:06 pm

“So your accusation now is that I’m smarter than I appear? I believe that you are right ”

You admit to playing dumb and indeed, that’s one way to dodge a point.

“Finally, since my priorities are “obvious” to you, perhaps you could let me know what they are. so…, next time I could wave it in her face and say “See!”

You answered your own question. You have also explained the nature of the ‘ex-’ in ‘ex-reader’. Buh bye, bully boy.

gnomish, have I been bullying you? I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was being so heartless. It must be terrible to be trapped like a rat and unable to escape some big bully. Perhaps you could share with us how that made you feel … or if you’re not ready to face the public after your pain and suffering, perhaps you’d prefer that I privately call the grief counselor?

My opinion? We should be so lucky as to have you actually leave us. But I suspect that like many of life’s recurring irritations, you’ll show up in one of my threads again. Heck, maybe it will even be this one. You are too enamored with the sound of your own theories to leave me alone forever.

Plus which, even though I have to admit that I’m obviously a jerk, you have to admit that I’m an interesting and entertaining and wicked-smart and unpredictable and sometimes funny jerk … so people keep coming back, near as I can tell they read me just to find out what my current mental problems might be, plus what scientific insights my somewhat demented climate research has given me.

But at least there should be a short interval of peace before your return.

My best to you in your travels, don’t hurry back, write if you find work,

w.

PS—Before anyone jumps up to tell me how horrible it is for me to talk to poor gnomish like this, that I’m being krool to the lad, that I’m destroying the lovely harmony of the WUWT spheres, stop right there. Thats the wrong path.

Instead, try this path. I want you to reconsider my words in the light of a very different question—what are you assuming that I want gnomish to do? Serious question, which people often ignore to their cost. I don’t pick words at random. I always, always am crafting them and assembling them with some particular end in mind. So which way am I trying to move gnomish here? Metaphorically, do I want him to have a “come-to-Jesus” experience or take a “go to the Devil” path? Do I want him to respect me? Reject me? Dissect me? Neglect me? Lots of possibilities out there.

Once you understand what someone is striving to accomplish, only then is there a chance of a profitable discussion regarding why they’ve chosen the particular tone and words they used. Until then … not so much.

183. mpainter says:

Willis, our population explosion of tenfold (or whatever) since the time of Malthus was only possible because of the contemporaneous expansion of the food supply. This is consistent with his premises. Others can see that, and they can also see that you can’t. You have made that plain enough. You seem to have a thing about Malthus.

“food production is a function of the number of people”

Again you were anticipated by Malthus, who certainly recognized that increase stimulated food production, but within certain parameters. But his postulates here failed with the agronomic transformation. Gail Combs has just posted on another thread figures that show how the number of people engaged in farming in the US has declined to a tiny fraction of those engaged one hundred years ago, or so, and food production has multiplied, of course.

Once again, you argue from an uninformed point of view. Go read Malthus, and then I can better help you understand.

184. mpainter says:

The Pompous Git says: January 4, 2013 at 4:42 pm

@ mpainter

Many thanks for stimulating me to reread Malthus and also discover the first edition of his essay. I note that this was severely criticised and that the later editions incorporated changes in his thought resulting from that criticism.
===================================
Most welcome, and yes, Malthus generated controversy since day one. Many objected in the same terms as Willis: “18th century doomcaster”. So it goes. Malthus reacted against the pollyannas of his day and they reacted against him. The truth is that Malthus was a profound thinker, yet he was capable of accepting criticism and recasting his thoughts to deal with valid objections to his premises.This is the sign of greatness.

185. @Robert of Ottawa says:
January 2, 2013 at 4:47 am
Willis, how much CO2 was produce by the cyclist to output an additional 1kW-Hour? Breathing is still part of a combustion process.

1kWh = 860 calories. at 5 calories per gram for starch/sugar and protein – this equals 2.6 pounds of sugar burned. I am too lazy to figure out the molar mass of CO2 released…

186. Willis Eschenbach says:

mpainter says:
January 4, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Willis, …

mpainter, I’ve asked the same simple question twice. When you work up the courage to stop nattering endlessly about extraneous things and ANSWER THE QUESTION, at that point I’ll believe you are serious about this. Until then, you are just flapping your gums and avoiding the issues.

In fact, let me repeat my previous post, since nothing has changed at your end:

mpainter, you explained a whole raft of things. What you didn’t explain was the problematic statement I actually pointed to and quoted. Malthus:

The population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase.

See, the nettle you refuse to grasp is, the population DOESN’T invariably increase like he claims. That’s plain old, flat out, simply not true. Japan is one of many examples.

So was Malthus right? Does population invariably increase as long as there is food? Or could there possibly be places where there’s plenty of food and the population is decreasing … like maybe Japan?

You gonna deal with that, mpainter, or are you gonna continue focusing on non-essentials and wasting everyone’s time?

w.

187. Willis Eschenbach said @ January 4, 2013 at 8:23 pm

So was Malthus right? Does population invariably increase as long as there is food? Or could there possibly be places where there’s plenty of food and the population is decreasing … like maybe Japan?

Willis, why don’t you give an example of a place where population decreased and food increased that Malthus could have known about. Your example occurs in the second half of the 20thC whereas Malthus died in 1834, more than a hundred years prior. The dramatic improvements in 19th century European agriculture occurred following Malthus’ demise, so you will need to find an example from the high medieval period during the earlier agricultural revolution.

188. mpainter says:

Goodness gracious, Willis I thought that I had and, in fact, I know I answered that question, and more than once. Apparently it just didn’t sink in, so here I go again. Maybe the third time is the charm. The answer is yes, and the few exceptions to be found only prove the rule. The overall premise that population increases as food supply increases can be shown with innumerable examples, as I have previously stated. The era since the days of Malthus is the most obvious example of this. I’m surprised that you can’t see that. You should have. The exceptions that prove the rule will right themselves as natural balance is restored, obviously. The demography of such situations, when explored and explained, certainly will give some rational account as to why such aberrations occurred. This situation might be compared to the ravages of the plague wherein whole towns were depopulated and fields went unharvested because there was no market for the produce, there being a glut of foodstuffs available with markets obliterated. Here is an instance of depopulation and food surplus that seems to refute the premise of Malthus, but in fact does not really because Malthus addressed such exceptions and accommodated these in his postulates. Malthus addressed these exceptions and in fact, wrote notably on the subject of surpluses and their economic significance, profound thinker that he was. You see, Malthus made his mark in several fields, including economics. Now, I want to ask you to do something, something that I have asked before. Go read Malthus, and this time I insist. I am somewhat wearied of having to spoon-feed Malthus to you, especially when you refuse to do your homework. When you have done that, and you want me to explain something that you don’t understand, well maybe.
regards, mpainter

189. Fanakapan says:

Malthus, operating within the context of the then current body of knowledge, was probably right ? Large parts of the world do seem to operate along Malthusian lines even today ? Obviously he could not, as we cannot, foretell progress, so rendering his idea’s flawed. It’s likely that the ire that his works are apt to produce today, is in no small measure, provoked by the long line of Hucksters who may have utilised ‘Malthusian’ type scenario’s to raise a fraudulent bob or two from the Gullible. Even so, it could be that he may warrant, along with Hobbes, some perusal, even if only to see how progress can mess up the best thought out theories :)

190. Willis Eschenbach says:

mpainter says:
January 4, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Goodness gracious, Willis I thought that I had and, in fact, I know I answered that question, and more than once. Apparently it just didn’t sink in, so here I go again. Maybe the third time is the charm. The answer is yes, and the few exceptions to be found only prove the rule.

Let me put it to you again. Malthus said:

The population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase.

Now, “invariably” means always. Without exception. No contrary examples. 100% of the time. That’s called “invariably”. Obviously, if there are exceptions then it is not “invariably”, it is “mostly” or “almost all the time”, but it’s not “invariably”.

In addition, you misunderstand the old adage of “the exception proves the rule”. “Prove” in that adage is used in the same sense as in the term “proving ground”, meaning a testing ground. The meaning of the saying is that the exception tests the rule. And indeed, that’s the only way it makes sense. A rule is tested when you find an exception, but finding an exception certainly does not and cannot prove the rule is right. It proves nothing about the rule at all … well, save for the fact that an exception proves that the rule is not true “invariably” as Malthus claimed, only “mostly”

Look, the meaning of the words is clear. Invariably means always. Japan alone proves Malthus was wrong and there are many more examples. Stop trying to twist his words, stop trying to pretend that Malthus said anything but what he said. He said “invariably”, which turned out not to be true.

Nor is this a minor point. It is this same insistence on inevitability, on invariability, on inescapability that is made by the “Malthusian” alarmists in their claim that population will inevitably outstrip food production. Ehrlich was totally convinced that the “population bomb” was going to lead to food riots in the 1980s. Why? Because he believed, like Malthus, that the population would invariably increase to the point of starvation. That was the “population bomb”.

But events proved once again that both he and Malthus were wrong. Let me return again to his original logic:

Assuming then my postulata as granted, I say, that the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.

Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will shew the immensity of the first power in comparison of the second.

As it turns out, however, the power of population was NOT greater, much less “indefinitely greater” that the power to produce food.

A clue to why Malthus was wrong can be seen in his very formulation of the sentence. He speaks of “the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”, as though the amount of food were a function of “the power in the earth”. But food production is not a function of the earth, or the power of the earth, as he claimed. It is a function of humans, and of the power and imagination of the humans.

And this fundamental misconception, this mistaken paradigm that food production is a function of the power in the earth and not a function of human imagineering, kept him from ever envisioning the possibility that the population could double, and that at the same time the food production could more than double. Read his words above. He believes that the power of population is “indefinitely greater” than our ability to produce food. It is not.

I’m sorry, mpainter, but events have overtaken both him and Ehrlich. Our ability to produce food has proven to be greater, not “indefinitely greater” but absolutely greater than population growth. It is one of the premier achievements of my lifetime, the fact that after going from 3 to 6 billion people from 1960-2000, at the end almost everyone ended up better fed, clothed and sheltered than at the start. Malthus said that couldn’t happen, because the power of population was so dang strong, and I believed it in the 1960s too, I thought Ehrlich’s book “The Population Bomb” was prescient, until nothing of the sort happened … because as events turned out, population isn’t that strong. We’ve proven conclusively that population is not stronger than food supply, the direct opposite of Malthus’s words in the quote above.

That’s why I say Malthus was wrong, painter. I’ve quoted his exact words, and shown exactly where they were in error. I’ve given the evidence.

I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide for themselves.

Finally, my point of view. Was Malthus ahead of his time? Assuredly. Did he think long and deep about the subject? Sure, wrote the book on it. Was he influential on other thinkers? Absolutely, his ideas have been much discussed right up to this very day. Hugely influential, for good or for bad.

And with all of that, yes, he can still be wrong. When he says that the power of population increase is “indefinitely greater” than our power to feed ourselves as quoted above, events of the last 40 years have proven him 100% wrong. When he says that populations “invariably” expand as long as there is excess food as quoted above, countries like Japan have proven him 100% wrong.

The crazy part is, no matter how many false alarms of Armageddon are issued by failed Malthusian serial doomcasters, that doesn’t dent Malthus’s followers in the slightest. No matter how many of Malthus’s statements have been shown to be clearly wrong, he’s still revered. No matter what evidence of the power of humans to feed ourselves is demonstrated, the belief persists that Malthus was right, that the population is just about to outstrip the food supply, and there will be food riots and mass starvation. Heck, Ehrlich is totally unrepentant. Twice he’s predicted global food riots and mass starvation. In the sixties he said it would happen in the eighties. In the eighties he said it would happen around the turn of the century.

Now? He hasn’t changed his tune in the slightest, still intoning the Malthusian chants and spells. Now, he says that actually he was right all along. He just got the date a little bit wrong, he says now, but he was right that there will be mass starvation and food riots. They just didn’t happen quite yet. Yes, they’re a third of a century late, but that just means they’ll be worse when they get here … same old Malthusian song and dance, sorry, not interested.

w.

191. mpainter says:

You didn’t read Malthus, did you? like I asked you to. You still seem to expect me to spoon-feed you on Malthus. Well, I have better things to do. Go read Malthus, I say for about the sixth or seventh time. You reject out of hand the works of the man who inspired Darwin, Wallace, Keynes, John Stuart Mill and others, men whom you claim were “fooled” by Malthus, and you justify this rejection with harangues about Erlich and other catastrophists whom I have never paid any attention to, Malthus never heard of, and who may or may not have understand what Malthus intended. And it is clear that you have imbibed the whole of your “Malthus” from them. You should know better, because here you come to regurgitate those types which regurgitation you present as Malthus, and thus show your unfamiliarity of his writings. Apparently you don’t give a hoot about how you are perceived.

And why did you fill your skull with the effusions of these ”opinion leaders” if you so hate what they have put? Another mystery, because it gave you a case of red-eye that you have carried ever since. And, believe me, it shows.Your whole argument comes on like a diatribe against catastrophism and Erhlich, throwing in Malthus for good measure. Go read Malthus, the profound thinker. It’s like a smart pill.

192. richardscourtney says:

Willis and mpainter:

I respecfully suggest that your discussion has devolved into an ‘angels on a pin’ debate.

You are both right.

As I tried to say in my post at January 4, 2013 at 4:07 am, Malthus was a ‘great thinker’ whose observations are directly applicable to the natural world, but his principles do not apply to human populations because human ingenuity acts to alter problematic trends.

Indeed, as I said, Malthus is completely irrelevant to human activity because humans can generate affluence such that for resource constraints are not limiting for humans. This unique lack of a limit makes human behaviour unique in the natural world.

This uniqueness was almost irrelevant when Malthus wrote his treatise. Very few people – and no society – had the affluence which the industrial revolution has provided the developed world. Hence, when Malthus wrote there could not have been counter-examples such as the Japanese example cited by Willis.

So,
1.
Malthus was completely right about the natural world, and he still is.
2.
Malthus was mostly right about the human population of agrarian civilisations prior to the industrial revolution.
3.
Malthus was wrong about the human population of developed civilisations following the industrial revolution.

But Malthus could not have known about industrialised civilisation because it did not exist when he wrote.

And he was only partially right about the human population of agrarian civilisations because even at his time applications of technology were separating the direct relationship of human population from resource dependence; e.g. a water-powered mill increases the grain production possible for a society.

The problem we now face is that modern-day Malthusians assume the principles of Malthus are applicable to industrialised civilisation, but they are not.

Humans have escaped from the limitations of the natural world which Malthus described. The escape was enabled by human ingenuity obtaining industrial civilisation mostly by replacing the little power of humans and animals with the much greater energy supply available from use of fossil fuels.

As mpainter says, Malthus is still right about the natural world and was mostly right about the human population up to his time.

As Willis says, Malthus was wrong about the human population following the industrial revolution.

Modern-day Malthusians dislike industrial development and deny its benefits. Indeed, many of them desire a return to agrarian civilisation with its poverty disease and starvation.

Richard

193. Simon says:

Without having looked into the details and history, from what I have read, the experience in recent Indian and Pakistani history disproves Malthus, in that the use of human ingenuity in the form of a new GM wheat variety developed by Norman Borlaug nearly doubled producton and so prevented mass starvation. If Malthus was right, that new variety would not have been developed and mass starvation would have happened.It was, and it didn’t.

I agree with Richard Courtney, on 2 counts, (i) you can’t fault someone’s writing and thesis for not being able to see the future, and (ii) when proved wrong, folks like Malthusians need to stop defending the indefensible and move on. This second count is also clearly evidenced in the climate debate regarding the greenhouse effect, now demonstrably wrong.

Simon, you wrote, “from what I have read, the experience in recent Indian and Pakistani history disproves Malthus, in that the use of human ingenuity in the form of a new GM wheat variety developed by Norman Borlaug nearly doubled producton and so prevented mass starvation. If Malthus was right, that new variety would not have been developed and mass starvation would have happened.It was, and it didn’t.”

Of course once the population doubles again from eating all that nice new GM wheat then Mr. Malthus may once again come a’knockin’ at the door…

– MJM

194. Lars P. says:

January 5, 2013 at 9:19 am
Of course once the population doubles again from eating all that nice new GM wheat then Mr. Malthus may once again come a’knockin’ at the door…
– MJM

MJM please do not start from the beginning. It was discussed up in the thread that human population does not multiply like bacteria in a Petri dish. It was shown that the relative increase in human population was 2% in the 1960s and is 1% now – not through “checks” by famine and war.
It was also shown that majority population projections see a stabilisation and decrease of the human population in the future, not through “checks” by famine and war and possibly no need for draconian Malthusians laws.
So you can get old and wait for the population to double and it may never happen again, not due to Malthusians limitations.
And very probably if the trend continues and the humans have the chance we will be then richer and better.
And as Willis explained above “The crazy part is, no matter how many false alarms of Armageddon are issued by failed Malthusian serial doomcasters, that doesn’t dent Malthus’s followers in the slightest. ” there will be another Malthusian that will post later again very soon the same sentence that you post now irrespective of what anybody else has written, irrespective of what it happens…

195. richardscourtney says:

At January 5, 2013 at 9:19 am you write

Of course once the population doubles again from eating all that nice new GM wheat then Mr. Malthus may once again come a’knockin’ at the door…

Of course you are right. Similarly, once pigs grow wings they may fly.

Many things may happen, but we have real problems to deal with. Considering hypothetical and improbable possibilities that may happen at some future date is a distraction which inhibits dealing with real problems.

Poverty is a real problem in India. And once the Indian population becomes sufficiently affluent then India’s population will decline (n.b. ‘will’ and not ‘may’). So, if you really care about avoiding India’s population doubling then help to deal with the real problem of India’s poverty.

You can ensure the potential problem you state will become a real problem by inhibiting India’s ability to develop by insisting India uses the Medieval technologies of windmills and biomass instead of using fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Richard

196. MJM says “Of course once the population doubles again from eating all that nice new GM wheat then Mr. Malthus may once again come a’knockin’ at the door…”

This is called a “guess.”
guess
[ gess ]

predict something: to form an opinion about something without enough evidence to make a definite judgment
conclude something correctly: to arrive at a correct answer
suppose something: to think or suppose something

Synonyms: deduction, conjecture, supposition, presumption, speculation, estimate, guesstimate

And this is what makes Malthus an augur, or a soothsayer, and not a scientist – along with all others who predict doom and shortages for the human race in the future. He may not have known what the future of agricultural developments were, but as a scientist, he should have known that too. It is the inability to recognize one’s own speculations for what they are that make common environmental activist the biggest plague upon us right now. But the scientists and academics who garb their speculations and conjecture about the future into sleek scientific language are utterly abusive of science and possibly frauds.

Overpopulation activists have very much in common with eugenics movements, and I am always going to be in the group that there should be less of, I guarantee you that.

It is wrong to assume you understand the systems of the earth and the state of future science enough to make such sweeping prophecies, and it is outside of the purview of science to convince others that you see the future well enough to base totalitarian policies on it. This is the error of the Save the World for the “public good” crowd. They are not scientists, they are activists, every single one. Don’t let them do you any favors.

197. mpainter says:

WTF is a “malthusian”? Do you mean Darwin? Wallace? Are they “malthusians”? Are the principles of evolution “malthusian”? Is the study of population dynamics “malthusian”? Keynes was influenced by Malthus’ theory of rent and his ideas on surpluses. Does this mean that Keynesian economics in fact “malthusian”? P—- on those who go around saying “malthusian”. I never do.

Demographers, biologists, ecologists, all who study populations are familiar with this man’s work and employ his principles. Are all of these to be sneeringly labeled “malthusian” by the red-eyed haters of Erhlich and such?

If Willis were as brilliant as he likes to think, he would see that the principles of Malthus could be used to refute the likes of Erhlich and the other catastrophists, but I doubt that Willis can ever clear the red from eyes concerning Malthus, that profound thinker, long enough to read him.

198. Willis Eschenbach says:

mpainter says:
January 5, 2013 at 5:58 am

You didn’t read Malthus, did you? like I asked you to. You still seem to expect me to spoon-feed you on Malthus.

Yes, I did read him. Again. Once again found nothing of note, sorry. Near as I can tell his words haven’t changed in the last few days, he’s still wrong.

And I quoted him. Again. And I asked you, for the third time, to comment on the quotes. And for the third time, you have wandered off into irrelevancy, talking about anything and everything but Malthus’s actual words. You’d rather accuse me and abuse me than answer simple questions about Malthus.

When you gonna have the balls to actually answer the questions, mpainter?

w.

PS—If your interpretation of my words is that I want you to “spoon-feed” me Malthus, you desperately need a reading comprehension class. I can think of few things more unpleasant than the image of you actually trying to “spoon-feed” knowledge to anyone, particularly me. Your bizarre claim that I “expect [you] to spoon-feed [me]” brings up nausea-inducing images, and is a testament to your misunderstanding of the world.

199. Willis Eschenbach says:

mpainter says:
January 5, 2013 at 10:47 am

WTF is a “malthusian”? …

Ah, yes, another desperate attempt to not answer the questions. mpainter, if you don’t understand what a Malthusian is, don’t worry. The folks that need to know, do know, so there’s no reason for you to trouble yourself with things you don’t understand.

w.

PS—since both the dictionary and the encyclopedia have definitions for “Malthusian”, and since you are obviously an admirer of Malthus, your claimed ignorance on the definition of “Malthusian” is, well, somewhat difficult to understand.

What’s even stranger is asking me and the rest of the folks for a definition. Do your homework if you don’t know what a Malthusian is, mpainter, wikipedia has a reasonable article on the subject, you could start there.

200. Willis Eschenbach says:

mpainter says:
January 5, 2013 at 10:47 am

… If Willis were as brilliant as he likes to think, he would see that the principles of Malthus could be used to refute the likes of Erhlich and the other catastrophists, but I doubt that Willis can ever clear the red from eyes concerning Malthus, that profound thinker, long enough to read him.

Malthus can be used to refute Ehrlich? Do tell. Give us some quotes from Ehrlich and refute them with some quotes from Malthus to back up your cheap talk, mpainter, or that claim joins your other fanciful ideas in the circular file.

w.

PS—Is there anyone here who actually believes mpainter’s claim? Because I think that mpainter will never make the slightest effort to back this claim up. I doubt we’ll ever see mpainter put up a quote from Ehrlich, along with a quote from Malthus that refutes Ehrlich.

I could certainly be wrong, mpainter could come back with the goods, and if so he gets my apology … but I doubt it will happen. Ehrlich is spouting the straight Malthusian line (those who don’t know what that is, go stand with mpainter).

201. mpainter says:

I copy myself from above:

If Willis were as brilliant as he likes to think, he would see that the principles of Malthus could be used to refute the likes of Erhlich and the other catastrophists, but I doubt that Willis can ever clear the red from eyes concerning Malthus, that profound thinker, long enough to read him.

202. Gail Combs says:

S.Meyer says:
January 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm

@ Gail
I enjoy your posts, but I have to nitpick a little.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
The comment was with tongue tucked firmly in cheek. I just could not resist because a case could be made using Climastrologist’s logic.

I thought the opening remark conveyed that.

203. Gail COmbs says:

gnomish says:
January 4, 2013 at 3:29 am

people do starve – by the millions, annually. do you suppose that has no effect on population? what presently limits the world population – or do you think the population is increasing unchecked?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Actually it is not food that is the limiting factor. It is other things. A high standard of living is the best way of limiting the human population. We do have the ability to feed people but the infra-structure to deliver is not there.

… Every day some 3,000 Indian children die from illnesses related to malnutrition, and yet countless heaps of rodent-infested wheat and rice are rotting in fields across the north of their own country.

It is an extraordinary paradox created by a rigid regime of subsidies for grain farmers, a woeful lack of storage facilities and an inefficient, corruption-plagued public distribution system that fails millions of impoverished people….
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/07/01/uk-india-wheat-idUKBRE8600KB20120701

The USA now has a similar problem, as I mentioned in my other comments Want food security? Bring back a national grain reserve and Grain Reserves

India is also getting her population explosion under control. The Fertility Rate is now 2.58 and ” the number of deaths of infants under one year old in a given year per 1,000 live births in the same year” is 46.07 deaths/1,000 live births
A FR of 2.1 is generally considered a replacement rate.
For comparison:
USA FR = 2.06, baby deaths = 6 deaths/1,000 live births
Uk FR = 1.91, baby deaths = 4.56 deaths/1,000 live births

If people do not think some of their children will die before adulthood, they will produce less and invest more in the ones they do have. Most countries in the world now are below a FR = 3.00 except for Africa.

204. Gail Combs says:

Willis Eschenbach says:
January 5, 2013 at 1:44 am

…And this fundamental misconception, this mistaken paradigm that food production is a function of the power in the earth and not a function of human imagineering, kept him from ever envisioning the possibility that the population could double, and that at the same time the food production could more than double…
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
That in a nutshell is the difference between Skeptics and the Catastrophists. We believe that humans can think themselves into a better future if others would just let us get on with it.

The Catastrophists want to hamstring the human race because of their fears.

205. Gail, it seems we both have a bit of a tongue in cheek problem. Folks, I was *not* pushing the Malthusian argument in any sense seriously in my “once the population doubles again” statement: I’m fully aware of the existence of lots of different and fairly unpredictable variables out there. However … it’s certainly interesting to consider the question of just what would have happened to the world’s population over the last 30 years without that advance? Would we have truly seen mass starvation in the billions? Or would other social mechanisms have intervened? (If this has already been dealt with, please ignore the question: I’ve admittedly only skimmed the arguments in this thread: too many other noodles stirring in my post-holiday pot here!)

— MJM

206. Can’t we credit CO2 here, just a little bit, for its synergistic affect of enabling more food growth…

207. mpainter says:

Tell you what Willis, I never read Erhlich. I never read that sort of crap, it’s a waste of time. So I can’t cite Erhlich or any of those types.
But I imagine that these catastrophists who cite Malthus try to pass him off as a sort of prophet of doom. He was not, but you (and others) have imbibed your Malthus from them, and so you think so, too.
Assumingly, they paint a dreadful picture of mass starvation, food riots, etc. Well, this is unlikely, according to the principles of Malthus, who gave his understanding of how things worked. It is all upthread in my postings. Simply put, people behaved in such a fashion to keep population within the bounds of resources, meaning food, and so the specter of starvation was allayed, to a certain extent (keeping in mind that his day saw massive crop failure occasionally). In effect, Malthus explained why starvation was not an ever present spectacle in his day, even though the potential was there via the innate capacity of increase. He attributed to population a behavior that acted as a “governor” of increase. Presumably, the catastrophists ignore this aspect of Malthus, because it indeed refutes their doomsday panic-peddling of bunny rabbits multiplying exponentially.

Like I said, it’s upthread, but I recommend Malthus rather than myself. In effect, mass starvation ain’t gonna happen because people ain’t gonna let it, barring some terrible unforeseen disaster, such as massive crop failure. Population tends to adjust behavior so that the problem of provision of food is not exacerbated, as postulated in the principles laid down by this profound thinker. The catastrophists ignore these aspects of Malthus, it seems. I would imagine that they have closed their minds to the postulates of Malthus that show how population behaves to avert catastrophic food shortages (as you have). So by this, you can turn Malthus around to use against them and refute their wilder “malthusian” claims. They cannot ignore their own “claimed” authority. Sitting ducks, you see.

This simplifies Malthus. Malthus did indeed view food supply as the ultimate arbitrar of population, but much of his writings were concerned with how populations behaved to avert that “ultimate” point. Also, much of his writing on population also involved economics, because it all had to do with the behavior of “population”, though at a fairly basic level.

You have read Ehrlich, not I. So go to. Write yourself up a great Erhlich-bashing essay with the help of the profound thinker. Go read Malthus.
Regards mpainter

208. mpainter said @ January 5, 2013 at 10:47 am

WTF is a “malthusian”?

Well, in Malthus’ day it was pretty much synonymous with political economist. His writing certainly played a role in the institution of the first general census since the Domesday Book. Of course that generated data and a concomitant rise in the use of statistics to analyse the world.

One of the problems in this discussion is that Malthus’ writing is being read outside of the context of his day. Indeed, outside of the context of his other writing on political economy. If The Git were a complete cynic, he might conclude that we were gradually being led toward accepting Malthus’ severest critics for our guides: Engels, Marx and Lenin.

As mpainter wrote very much earlier in this thread, Malthus’ essay was a reaction to Rousseau and his ilk.

The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.

From Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality

209. Mario Lento said @ January 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Can’t we credit CO2 here, just a little bit, for its synergistic affect of enabling more food growth…

Yep! About 15% over the 20thC. Dunno how much is due to improved machinery, but it would be a huge amount compared with improved varieties and fertilisers. As I have pointed out in this place before, the major crop-limiting factor is water. Roger Pielke Sr (IIRC) has pointed out that we now harvest about half of the rainfall on the planet.

210. mpainter said @ January 5, 2013 at 2:24 pm

In effect, mass starvation ain’t gonna happen because people ain’t gonna let it, barring some terrible unforeseen disaster, such as massive crop failure.

Sorry mpainter, but it doesn’t work that way.From the Wiki-bloody-pedia:

The Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомор, “Extermination by hunger”; ‘Морити голодом’, hunger-extermination was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian SSR between 1932 and 1933. During the famine, which is also known as the “Terror-Famine in Ukraine” and “Famine-Genocide in Ukraine”, millions of Ukrainians died of starvation in a peacetime catastrophe unprecedented in the history of Ukraine.

The estimates of the death toll by scholars [have] varied greatly. Recent research has narrowed the estimates to between 1.8 and 7.5 million, with modern consensus for a likely total of 3–3.5 million. According to the decision of Kyiv Appellation Court, the demographic losses due to the famine amounted to 10 million, with 3.9 million famine deaths, and as 6.1 million birth deficit.
Scholars disagree on the relative importance of natural factors and bad economic policies as causes of the famine and the degree to which the destruction of the Ukrainian peasantry was premeditated on the part of Joseph Stalin. Some scholars and politicians using the word Holodomor emphasize the man-made aspects of the famine, arguing that it was genocide; some consider the resultant loss of life comparable to the Holocaust. They argue that the Soviet policies were an attack on the rise of Ukrainian nationalism and therefore fall under the legal definition of genocide. Other scholars argue that the Holodomor was a consequence of the economic problems associated with radical economic changes implemented during the period of Soviet industrialisation.

211. mpainter says:

Sorry git, let’s stick to the subject, please. You knew that I was not talking about genocide. Please do not pretend that was the issue.
Concerning the famine of the Ukraine, I was there way before you. I read the book on Lazar Kaganovitch, aka The Wolf of the Kremlin. Genocide was not within the purview of Malthus, as far as I know.

212. Brian H says:

Suppose our grandparents had decided to “dick around” and pre-solve our problems for us. I can’t think of one thing they could have known about, anticipated, or done anything about if they had. What are the odds we’d fare any better, esp. in view of the much touted accelerating rate of change of human knowledge and society? “Prediction is hard, especially about the future.”

213. @ mpainter

I am sticking to the subject matter: food and mass starvation. Your claim that “mass starvation ain’t gonna happen because people ain’t gonna let it” is plainly false. Famine from political causes has happened all too often within living memory. Given the food surpluses of the 20thC that means they were genocidal. This is not outside the purview of Malthus; he was a historian and political economist. Not to mention a curate who in the fashion of the time would have sermonised about the “poor, starving Chinese” and asked his congregation to contribute money for their relief.

214. mpainter says:

The Pompous Git says: January 5, 2013 at 10:21 pm

This is not outside the purview of Malthus
======================================
The famine of the Ukraine was genocide. Malthus did not address genocide in his writings.

215. Lars P. says:

[snip – this video is inappropriate, and pointlessly presented – Anthony]
Apologies Anthony, was not intended to upset anybody.

216. Vince Causey says:

mpainter says:
“He attributed to population a behavior that acted as a “governor” of increase. ”

Yes, I can see how he would think that. For centuries, population sizes remained fairly static – they occasionally crashed such as during plagues, but grew back to achieve a new status quo. It is obvious that the population limited itself to available means.

Nowdays, technology has advanced so much, that the new status quo is very high indeed. The human population doubled to 7 billion in the latter half of the twentieth century, and food production increased likewise. This is an example of the population readjusting to the new reality of available resource.

What you have said about Malthus does run counter to what most people seem to attribute to him. Perhaps if Malthus were alive today, he would not be a Malthusian.

217. Vince Causey said @ January 6, 2013 at 6:59 am

For centuries, population sizes remained fairly static – they occasionally crashed such as during plagues, but grew back to achieve a new status quo.

Except populations didn’t remain static for centuries. For example, Medieval Britain suffered 95 famines, and France at least 75. The famine of 1315–6 is estimated to have killed at least 10% of England’s population (500,000). This was a period of relative food abundance (think Medieval Warm period). The Little Ice Age saw a great increase in the number of famines.

Two massive famines struck France between 1693 and 1710 killing over two million people.
In the 1690s Scotland’s famine reduced the population by 15% or more. The famine of 1695–96 killed 10% of Norway’s population. Nine severe harvest failures were recorded in Scandinavia between 1740 and 1800, each resulting in a substantial rise of the death rate. The Great Czech Famine (1770-71) killed about one tenth of the population (250,000). In northern Italy there were 111 famines in 316 years. I could go on, but you get the picture. Famines were frequent and recovery from them usually very slow. Peasants ate their draught animals and seed stocks hampering recovery when growing conditions improved.

A major role of government until modern times was implementation of measures to minimise the impact of famine. Malthus, among others, advocated a changed approach to famine management that resulted, as I wrote earlier, in the first general census, and the establishment of demographics as a discipline. The idea that knowing the statistics (literally information about the state) could lead to the formulation of a more rational approach to the then ever present problem of famine was opposed by the Romantics. These latter were vehemently opposed to labour-saving machines, the dehumanisation of people by counting them, and measuring things. Today, we call them the Greens.

So, to my mind calling Paul Ehrlich a Malthusian makes about as much sense as saying Vlad the Impaler was compassionate toward his enemies.

218. Willis Eschenbach says:

The Pompous Git says:
January 6, 2013 at 10:08 am

… So, to my mind calling Paul Ehrlich a Malthusian makes about as much sense as saying Vlad the Impaler was compassionate toward his enemies.

Thanks, Git, glad to hear from you.

For better or for worse, the claim that the population will always and inevitably outstrip food production, with attendant starvation/riots, is called “Malthusian”. Might not be fair, but that’s how it is. A couple of ideas combine under that rubric.

First is the idea that there is a mathematical underpinning for the claim, which is the idea that population increases geometrically and food only increases linearly. Note that neither of those is true, and that both Ehrlich and Malthus believe(d) that they are true.

This is associated with another idea, which is the inevitability of the oncoming crash. It is believed to be inevitable because of the supposedly “rock-solid” mathematical underpinnings of the idea. Again, both Malthus and Ehrlich believed in this inevitability of a food-scarcity-driven population crash.

Now, as others have noted, for Malthus this made sense. He lived years ago, when the lives of most people were not touched by human imagineering. He couldn’t conceive, for example, that Japan could have more food than it needs and a falling population. Perfectly understandable, he was born in 1766. They’d never seen anything like that.

For Ehrlich to still believe in “The Population Bomb”, on the other hand, requires a pretty impressive concentrated focus of blindness, particularly after his first two predictions failed so miserably. But Ehrlich is perfectly convinced that Malthus’s math is correct, that population increases geometrically but food only increases arithmetically. So even after two failures, he still says that a big population crash and massive starvation and food riots are just around the corner …

That’s why he’s called a “Maltusian”. Because he’s just making Mathus’s same old argument, that population will always and inevitably outstrip food supply because one increase is geometric and the other is arithmetic.

Was this Malthus’s only claim? By no means. As you point out, he argued for more statistics, he wanted censuses, he wanted, like any good scientist, more data. He would have loved the data access afforded by the web, I suspect.

So you and others are correct that the “Malthusian” argument of population outstripping food wasn’t his only claim to fame. However, it was the popular argument, the one that got the ink then and now … and it was incorrect. Sadly, he’s known more for the mistake that’s attached to his name than for the other good work he did, but life is like that, not always fair.

w.

219. @Willis: You wrote: “Again, both Malthus and Ehrlich believed in this inevitability of a food-scarcity-driven population crash.”

Something make this come true… a new ice age. But short of that, I see that their model is wrong. The problem with models, is that often ignorantly “model” reality. Reality is often too chaotic and organic to be modeled. The higher the number of “chaotic variables” that are involved, the further from reality the models become.

220. Willis Eschenbach said @ January 6, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Thanks, Git, glad to hear from you.

Back at you Willis; it’s always a pleasure to read your writing.

You write:

For Ehrlich to still believe in “The Population Bomb”, on the other hand, requires a pretty impressive concentrated focus of blindness, particularly after his first two predictions failed so miserably.

Perhaps I’m more cynical than you. I see Ehrlich as a bullshitter, one who unlike the truthsayer,or liar, has a complete disrespect for truth. He knows he’s wrong, but doesn’t care.

221. johanna says:

222. mpainter says:

The Pompous Git says: January 6, 2013 at 10:08 am

Vince Causey said @ January 6, 2013 at 6:59 am
For centuries, population sizes remained fairly static – they occasionally crashed such as during plagues, but grew back to achieve a new status quo.
===========================
Except populations didn’t remain static for centuries. For example, Medieval Britain suffered 95 famines, and France at least 75. The famine of 1315–6 is estimated to have killed at least 10% of England’s population (500,000). This was a period of relative food abundance (think Medieval Warm period). The Little Ice Age saw a great increase in the <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Yes, Git, it is true such disasters overtook populations from time to time. Vince’s point was that the decrease was temporary and that population was restored within a generation or less, which is not so long when viewing the big picture.

This was the school of Malthus, who saw from history that disasters such as crop failure scythed down the population from time to time, yet such disasters were exceptional. He observed that the potential fecundity of populations meant power of unlimited increase, yet the limited food resources of his day seldom led to famine because such increase was held in abeyance. He then asked the important question: why was this so?- that is, why were these incidents of famine exceptional in a world predicated on unlimited population increase?

His answer to that question was the foundation of such studies as population dynamics and demographics: the behavior of populations. Malthus saw that populations acted in such a fashion to “govern” increase through various types of behavior, and he enumerated the different aspects of this “governance” in detail. This is the contribution of Malthus. It is true that his prospect included a vision of famine, pestilence, war, etc., but these were the realities of his day, as well as the teaching of history.

The catastrophists, such as Erhlich, ignore the teachings of Malthus in great part. They focus on the prospects of overpopulation, famine, war, civil strife, etc. and ignore the postulates that Malthus formulated as restraints against population increase. And so it is that Malthus has been presented as a catastrophist in our day, because disasters sell books, newspapers, movies, etc., and nobody is interested when someone says “not to worry”.

This brings us to the CAGW crowd, who are essentially catastrophists, but also boobs, half-wits, frauds, etc. They use the same sort of tactics as Erhlich & Co. And this is why people like Willis see red when someone suggests that Malthus was right in the main.

But now Willis perhaps sees that the “real” Malthus can be used to pooh-pooh the catastrophists and refute them by the writings of the same Malthus that they claim as authority for their panic mongering.

Now, I have simplified Malthus somewhat. His writings covered many more aspects than I have given. He addressed economics, formulated theories on wages, rent, surpluses, and more. But these were all within the purview of his study of the behavior of population.
He also recognized that population increase led to increase in food production by adding to more intensive cultivation of the land. Yet he saw that the power of population increase, which he termed as “geometrical”, surpassed the power of food increase, which he termed as “arithmetic”. This terminology, however, was not meant to characterize his demography as a matter of bald mathematical constraints.

Malthus failed to foresee the developments in agronomy which led to our present food surplus. No matter, the principles of this profound thinker of demography, population dynamics and economics are still respected in those disciplines. Yet he was controversial in his day, and he remains controversial. But I have to believe that much of that stems from ignoring the real contributions of Malthus and concentrating on the prospects of disaster that were addressed in his postulations.

One more thing. Perhaps some have seen my comments wherein I confront the CAGW idiots with the prospects of famine in the future. I do this to piss them off. They wail about doomsday warming, I wail louder about doomsday cooling. Nothing pisses them off more or shuts them up faster. They retreat, muttering dark prophesies against my grandchildren. This is the way I amuse myself, and it does not necessarily mean that I subscribe to catastrophism. But I do know as a solid, incontrovertible fact, that life flourishes in a warmer world, and that cooling is the sycthe.
Thank you for your attention and WHEW!

223. gnomish says:

Dear Gail- you said:
“A high standard of living is the best way of limiting the human population.”

Standard of living is wealth per capita. Regardless of the metric used to produce any figure for wealth, these facts are immutable:
there are but 2 ways to increase the wealth per capita- increase the numerator or decrease the denominator.
There are 2 reasons for the correlation you perceive. One is increase of the numerator, wealth, by innovation and productivity, and has been discussed. The other is reduction of the denominator.
It is nonsense to say that an increase in wealth limits population.
It is, per Malthus, death that limits population. Modern accounting practice just keeps it off the books unless there’s a birth certificate.

• Gene Selkov says:

To elaborate a bit on the observation that wealth affects behaviour, if you want to challenge any of the explanations and examples given in support of this idea, you can, because the exact mechanism for how it works is not understood and indeed there may be thousands of distinct mechanisms with a strong co-operative effect. You really need to be in ethology up to your eyebrows to really begin to understand how it works.

But what is clear beyond doubt is the observation itself: wealth negatively affects reproductive behaviour. I want to point it out to gnomish and others who seem incredulous about this simple fact that we don’t need to know how things work to make a positive statement about the effect.

But there is more. Wealth is not the only factor that is negatively associated with replacement rate. It is also the manner in which we cluster. The urban population’s growth is more affected by wealth than that of the rural population. What you see in big cities (and that’s where populations tend to cluster) is crowds of people engaging in a host of activities that can generally be described as expensive self-harm (note expensive and note harm: that should give you a hint about one of the possibilities for a mechanism).

224. Dear Gnomish:

No, wealth is not ‘per capita’. Sorry. Wrong initial assumption so all the rest is void.

Wealth is an individual property. When the individual is more wealthy, they have fewer children. When the individual woman is better educated that woman has fewer children.

Take a population of 1 Million poor serfs and 2 rich SOBs. Kill 100 serfs. The SOBs did not suddenly get wealthier. (Depending on the society they might have gotten poorer if the serfs are slaves…)

Kill 1000 serfs, it has no effect on the rest of the serfs or what their birth rate might be.

Put 1/2 million serf women in school through college and give 1/2 million serf men a good job such that they have a TV set, full fridge, and know their children will live to be adults, they are now individually relatively rich and birth rates drop to about 2.7. Make them bored with their wealth and it drops to under replacement rate. Leave 1000 of them as serfs, they continue to have the serf level of fecundity…

Further, your view that Malthus was right presumes a ‘zero sum game’. That just isn’t how the world works (and why Malthus was wrong). The USA has way over doubled in population a couple of times, we are more wealthy than ever (both as individuals and as an average) and we have the lowest birth rate ever. Education, health, and wealth reduce reproductive rate (fecundity).

THE best way to drop birth rates it to give every woman a college education and all the medical care needed to assure children survive and thrive. That is individual ‘wealth’ in the form of education and medical care. Add in reliable food and some comforts; folks then would rather have 2 kids and party than 4 kids and not.

225. gnomish says:

that’s quite a disjointed collage of strawmen, mr smith. what kind of butthurt makes you gibber so?

226. @gnomish: I love reading your posts. However, I have to call you on what you wrote: “It is nonsense to say that an increase in wealth limits population.” You wrote this in response to Gail Combs who wrote “A high standard of living is the best way of limiting the human population.”

I think Gail’s statement passes the smell test, and your quoting someone else’s words begins to sound like religion. You wax eloquent, but I think I know what she’s talking about. It is a fact that the more affluent are waiting longer to have children… and they have fewer of them. Poor people have more children. Our society in the US even rewards single mothers with more money than if she were married. Each baby gets more funding.

Ideology can not replace actual data. Gail usually makes sense (to me) when she posts – except when she’s sarcastic… I can’t always know if she’s just messing with us or not. I’d say if she does not make sense, it’s because I don’t understand. She probably is making sense.

You rock Gail…

227. gnomish says:

Mario-
well, thanks. i like to read Gail’s comments, too. i confess, too, that my words were my own, though i wouldn’t claim that my thoughts are original or exclusive to me.
my main point, which must have been badly presented, was that wealth is not a behavior and is not directly related to contraception or abortion, the means by which individuals successfully regulate the rate of population increase absent disease, famine or war. (i would not credit abstinence for it).

228. mpainter says:

Malthus: “That the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence,
that population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase”
==================================
“The present level of food production would be unobtainable without the improvements in agronomy of the past 150 years” – none dispute this

“Without the agronomic improvements of the last 150 years, populations worldwide would be much lower.” – many dispute this

229. @All:

OK, a couple of hours later I’ve dredged through the rest of the upthread comments. Quite a load.

Unfortunately, a lot of it Economics. ( I’m a degreed Economist… ) so it’s ‘my field’. The good news is that I’m not going to correct it all (as at this point in my life I’m rather bored with Economics). The good news is that I can give some decent crib notes.

For those not aware of it, Malthus is considered a “founding light” of Economics. Required study. “We’ve met”. Demographics is part of Economics. “We’ve met”.

Malthus was a profound thinker who set the course of development of Economics, Demographics, Resource planning, and a few other Economic disciplines. He was also wrong… Like many “first lights”, lots of bright ideas that end up getting ‘fixed’ later, but still lauded in the field… Willis has pretty much put his finger on the “wrong bits”.

In a nut shell: Malthus might still be proved right and the “4 horsemen” might still collect his wager for him, but it’s not looking that good for his side. IFF we ever ‘get off this rock’ and into space, he’s simply flat out wrong. Forever. IF we don’t, eventually we come to terms with a limited planet. We might do that via war, pestilence, famine, etc. Or we might all “Go Japanese”. Time will tell. (Present trend, as Gail pointed out, is “we all go Japanese”… even in Latin America…)

Per Club Of Rome: FWIW, they are still around. Who do you think started pushing this whole Global Warming thing? Yup. Same folks.

As to who at the UN would push for such a thing as Agenda 21: Maurice Strong. Collecting massive Rent Seeking for decades. There are loads of others, too.

I see Gnomish couldn’t stay away long. Sorry Willis… I also see he doesn’t know about actual demographics. Despite having stated it once, he needs it more than once. OK, for the ‘slow learners’:

1) Time has past since Malthus. Demographics has advanced rather a lot. We now know what causes fecundity (tendency to have children) to drop. #1 on the list is the education level of women. This is not my opinion it is measured data. #2 on the list is income level ( wealth). You don’t need kids to care for you. #3 on the list is health (you know you and your spouse and your kids are likely to live). No need for ‘extras’ for insurance. After that the effects of #4 and on are not very important. So those are what actually drives fecundity. No, it isn’t death that limits population, it is education and wealth and health.

2) Labor and capital produce wealth. Diminish the labor, you diminish the wealth. “When the cobbler dies, everyone wears old shoes.” (In modern terms we would add energy resources as they are fungible with some physical labor and ‘intellectual capital’ – what we know – as a kind of capitol stock, but labor is still in there.) So when you kill off population you reduce your wealth creation. (There is a quibble here in that ‘unproductive’ folks dying doesn’t do that. Godwin’s muse exploited that ‘loophole’. I think we can choose not to ‘go there’.) This is where capitalism is NOT a zero sum game. We make more stuff with division of labor and less when the labor force is reduced and narrowed.

3) Fecundity is a function of the individual status. Not of the collective. Take 100 women and put 50 of them through college, it is THAT 50 who have the lower birth rate. It is not an average property. (Though the population numbers reflect the average effect). Similarly wealth. Similarly health. It is bringing those properties to individuals that reduces the fecundity of those individuals.

BTW, #3 is also why Malthus has a shot at being right very long term. As the well educated wealthy die off, the remaining ‘few poor’ continue to have high fecundity. Eventually they make ‘more of them’ and the economy may slide back down the Malthusian chute. I say “may” as so far the experience has been that the society as a whole doesn’t do that. We all get ‘rich enough’ and the whole population has fewer kids. The recent diaspora of Muslims may yet change that, though, as they have a doctrine of the ‘war of the womb’ in some sects and God told them to have more Muslim babies.. But as of now, even Muslim countries are following the ‘education / wealth / health’ curve. (Except in places where Taliban like folks keep women out of schools…)

Hopefully that expansion of the known facts of Demographics and Fecundity will make it easier for Gnomish to follow.

On “Running out”:

In college I had an Econ class “The economics of ecology” that was based on “The Limits To Growth” by Meadows et. al. Great class. The prof. got us wound up the first half reading “Limits” then sent us off to the library with a reading list of critiques to do a report the last half. Folks felt so ‘burned’ by having swallowed the crap in “Limits”… THE largest thing missed in Limits was “resource substitution” via technology change. We don’t need ivory for billiard balls anymore, nor does my screen need 12 lbs of lead for the ‘lead glass’ to protect me from the “CRT X-rays”. My lantern no longer needs propane or gasoline and a thorium mantle (now LED and solar cells) We use metal 2×4 studs and sheetrock instead of old growth tree paneling. It’s a long list.

“The stone age did not end for lack of stones”.

The other major “wrong bit” was they went exponential growth on ‘reserves’ consumption and assumed fixed supply. Ignoring ‘ultimate resource’. Reserves means “economical today”. Resource means “May be economical tomorrow if the price rises.”. As soon as you run a bit short, the price rises… So we have had “running out of oil” since about 1975. 38 going on 40 years of “running out”. The result? We have “50 years of reserves”. In my book collection is a nice engineering book from 1919. It was pointing out there were only “50 years of reserves”. In 1975 we had, yup, 50 years of reserves. As of now, the “ultimate recoverable resource” of oil is about 3 Trillion barrels from “unconventional oil” source alone. “Limits” said we had 10 years of natural gas “reserves” left!!! Bet you didn’t know we ran out of nat gas in 1984 did you? (We have about 90 years of ‘resource’ in the USA as of right now).

So you see the “Limits” folks and the “Peak Oil” folks have a tap root that goes (along with the AGW folks) straight back to the Club Of Rome and through them to Malthus.

Did I mention that Malthus was a great thinker? Who was wrong?…

Some details on energy and oil up thread from:

WHY “Limits” was wrong:

https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/there-is-no-shortage-of-stuff/

https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/there-is-no-energy-shortage/

And an interesting example of resource vs reserves is that Uranium at \$150 / kg or so is functionally unlimited and can cheaply supply all the power the world needs for 4 times the present population forever (including hydroponic food). But as Uranium sells for less than that, it’s not a ‘reserve’ so we’re going to run out of ‘reserves’ Real Soon Now… (at which time more will ‘magically’ appear due to a small price rise….)
https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/ulum-ultra-large-uranium-miner-ship/

230. “wealth is not a behavior and is not directly related to contraception or abortion, the means by which individuals successfully regulate the rate of population increase absent disease, famine or war. (i would not credit abstinence for it).”

That is exactly wrong.

Wealth determines behaviour (as does health and education). They directly determine contraception. (In the case of some particular religious educations toward more kids… but even as a child of a Catholic, the increase in wealth and education in my family had Grandpa 13 kids, Dad 4 kids, me 2 kids…)

Disease, famine and war determine the rate of death, but not of fecundity. It is fecundity that drives population growth. Focusing on the means of death is a, pardon, ‘dead end’… Malthusian, if you will. What matters is what young healthy women choose. (Only women matter as only they have children. Sorry. That’s just the way the demographics of population and fecundity works. That’s also why women having a college degree matters and men not so much…)

In W.W.II we had a heck of a lot of dying in war and disease. The result was a Baby Boom we are still dealing with demographically. The reason was a lot of young non-college folks deciding to be fecund while they had the chance…

This is all “Old hat” in the economics of demographics. I think it was even in Econ 1A… though expanded in an upper division class. I’ll have to look in Samuelson (I still have my original copy) and check…

231. Yup. Samuelson, pgs. 30-36. I’d make that first week of the first Econ entry level class. Malthus and all. (Including where he was wrong). Expanded in section 6, so we came back to it later for more depth. So most everyone who had Econ had this even if they dropped the class the second week. (Samuelson was pretty much the Econ Starter Bible for a couple of decades…) Even has the “boomers” and that wealth and health were the major drivers (with the religion caveat). IIRC the “college for women” was covered later.

232. gnomish says:

i guess willis made a mistaken assumption, chiefio, as did you.

to falsely attribute contraceptive powers to health or wealth is not just a mistake.

do inquire of a healthy, wealthy female what means she employs to reduce her birthrate.
if you put up another wall of text in deliberate obfuscation, i will have no more time for you.

233. Oh, and @The Pompous Git:
As covered here:

Fresh water is no longer a limit. Sea water is.

a sample of the details in that other comment:

http://www.seawatergreenhouse.com/abudhabi.html

Since the Tenerife pilot greenhouse, the second design evolved into a more elegant yet lower cost solution using a light but strong steel structure similar to a multi-span polytunnel. This structure was designed to be cost-effective and suitable for local sourcing. This second Seawater Greenhouse was constructed on Al-Aryam Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in 2000.

Crop production in terms of quality and quantity has been outstanding, with the Greenhouse supplying in excess of the water required for irrigation.

Note that this is in production.

End Quote.

That, btw, is an example of WHY I’m so tired of the Club Of Rome and dumb Green Malthusians and their “running out” scare. It will lead to exactly the doom they wish to avoid.

We can, easily, give every woman on the planet a college level education, make sure every person has decent medical care and more than enough food and heck, given them all a computer, with TV sites, and internet feeds. At that point, demographics ‘top out’ at steady and we have a glorious happy wealthy world.

That we have idiots demanding we all ‘suffer’ and toss out our wealthy life style dooms the world to a Maltusian solution of too many children, famine, wars, and pestilence…

Right Now, we could be building seawater greenhouses with nuclear powerplants nearby (Saudi has this, but with oil power plant) and live in glorious cities in the desert wastelands. Net productivity of more wealth than consumed. But the Doom & Gloomers want to stop prosperity. Which means poverty, poor health, MORE population growth, and the road to a Malthusian end.

Sigh. The incredible power of stupid…

234. mpainter says:

E.M.Smith says: January 7, 2013 at 10:23 pm
=================
Malthus still has the power to set people off, just as in his day. I see that we agree in the main on Malthus, except for a few small points; first, I copy myself from above:

Malthus: “That the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence, that population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase”

mpainter puts:

“The present level of food production would be unobtainable without the improvements in agronomy of the past 150 years” – hardly any dispute with this
“Without the agronomic improvements of the last 150 years, populations worldwide would be much lower.”- hardly any dispute this

Malthus, again: “That the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence, that population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase” – For some reason, people dispute this vehemently.

E.M.Smith: “No, it isn’t death that limits population, it is education and wealth and health.”

mpainter: Malthus postulated “preventative checks” which limit birthrate and enumerates these, which see, and “positive” checks- death by various means and these together limited population.
What has he missed? This is not to dispute your assertion that Malthus has been improved on or that society has changed.

E.M. Smith: “Fecundity is a function of the individual status. Not of the collective”

Fecundity (Wikipedia): In demography,[1][2] fecundity is the potential reproductive capacity of an individual or population.

235. @MPainter:

Malthus was correct in what he laid out as bounds inside his time. He was wrong in his conclusions about what would come, and wrong about what future technology would do. He was wrong about “invariably increase” (just ‘almost always increase in his day’) as he didn’t have experience of a population with >50% women with college degrees and living a ‘modern middle class’ level of wealth. So he missed the “wealth and education” aspects. (The times being more in tune with ‘moral drivers’ and all..)

Can’t really fault him for not seeing the world of today. It was still wrong.

You quoted a wiki definition at me. Fine. Now put “is a function of” after it, and follow that with “the individual status”. That’s what I said. The population fecundity will be a function of the individual status on health, wealth, education. It can be no other way as only the individual becomes pregnant, or not. (And those are women only. Guys do not become pregnant. No matter how un-PC it is point it out, that’s the rules of demographics…)

put another way: Two populations, both average 2nd grade education. One all 8th grade, The other population as zero in one half, BA in the other. Very different demographic result.

Oh and “means of subsistence’ is the wrong measure. Mostly because very few of us are anywhere near the limit of ‘subsistence’. Our “subsistence level” today includes central heat, and color TV, and not working in the field… It is likely that the population growth curve was much more ‘subsistence’ driven then due to near zero education and wealth levels, and he just had no clue that “subsistence” was not the major driver and would be insignificant now. Maslows’ Hierarchy of Needs and all not being around yet… In any case, he pushed this one big and missed the others. Why is a different question…

I probably ought to add that “death” isn’t nearly as important as he made it out to be. Like getting your Tom Cat neutered just doesn’t make a difference. It’s how many women choose to have children. Now he didn’t have the “Single mom” morality (nor the notion a single woman could be a school principle and support 3 kids and 2 dogs…) so again, can’t fault him for not seeing the world of plenty of today and what choices our wealth lets us make… So one Tom ends up very happy, and the demographics don’t change. Nor did he foresee what things like vaccination would achieve. It’s that kind of ‘error’. On Specifics and the results of them.

So “right on the big lumps”, wrong on the result. And not a seer of the future.

I see Gnomish can’t tell the world “fecundity” from “contraception”. Oh Well. It is the behaviour that matters, not the tool. What people choose to do and why. All the “French Ticklers” in the world do nothing if left on the store shelf. Abortificants and various preventative ‘washes’ have been around forever. (Some apes have been observed apparently using abotificant plants ‘for effect’… ) http://www.sisterzeus.com/Abortif.htm

Hopefully the text above is sufficient to be a ‘wall’. One can only hope..
Then again, I’ve completely failed the ‘deliberate obfuscation’ on every post I’ve made…
There may be no hope… ;-)

236. gnomish says:

the point i made, that birthrate is a population limiting factor just as is famine, disease or war, has been fully accepted after much ado.

if something is not the only factor and not a necessary factor nor a sufficient factor, then there’s not much of a claim for causality. correlation is not causation.

that really doesn’t require further elaboration. too bad if it doesn’t fit somebody’s utopian narrative. poor tinkerbelle…lol

237. mpainter says:

E. M. Smith: Correct if I am wrong, but it seems that we agree essentially concerning the Right Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus:

1) That he was a profound thinker.
2) That he laid the foundation for the study of population dynamics, demography, and made notable contributions to the study of economics; and that our understanding of these subjects has progressed accordingly from his foundation (or contributions).
3) That Malthus failed to foresee developments in technology, science, society, etc. that would fundamentally change aspects of life, but this does not void his accomplishments.

From my own point of view, I would add to the above that modern day catastrophists distort the postulates of Malthus to achieve sensationalism, and this sensationalism has shaped the general view of Malthus, who does not deserve the antipathy that has been directed toward him.

Finally, for better or for worse, I think that we are stuck on this planet.

238. Gene Selkov says:

gnomish says:

> the point i made, that birthrate is a population limiting factor just as is famine, disease or war, has been fully accepted after much ado.

This point is irrelevant (even if valid), because there is no such thing as “a population”. We can have distinct sub-populations with different modes of behaviour and different generation times even among the progeny of a single cell in a Petri dish. With humans, we observe wildly different birth rates in various populations, and yes, they vary with wealth in a predictable way. Whether there is a simple causality or not is immaterial for this argument, which was, I understand, precisely that Malthus and followers kept thinking of “a population” where there is indeed a continuum of varied populations; among them, wealth and birth rate vary in predictable ways. And it is not only birth rate and wealth show such a strong covariance, check out suicide rate, for example.

239. gnomish says:

for J.W.
as long as the fine examples are on the table for dissection, look what semantic analysis reveals:

the subjunctive tense is employed for discussing ‘that which is not’, i.e., unreality.
to say ‘if pigs had wings’ is to admit that they do not have wings.
an argument laden with subjunctives, e.g. ‘would’, ‘could’, ‘should’, is dealing with fantasy.

figurative use of the third person plural (waving the ‘we we’) is the hallmark of a collectivist.

a wall of text saturated with 3rd person plural subjunctives is, therefore, eassily recognizable as a collectivist fantasy.

240. gnomish says:

Gene:
you said:
“there is no such thing as “a population”
and then proceed to say
“we observe wildly different birth rates in various populations”
i’m not making sense of that. should i?

• Gene Selkov says:

@gnomish:

Sorry, I was clumsy. I meant to say “there is no such thing as a global population”. Idealised population dynamics can’t be used to model humans on a global scale.

I like your characterisation of collectivist fantasies, and with your permission, I will use it when given a chance, but I still want to say that we humans are not a homogenous population. You can, in theory, model us as an assembly of separate populations, but that sounds like a tall order to me; very much like climate modelling.

241. mpainter says:

Gene Selkov says: January 8, 2013 at 7:59 am

This point is irrelevant (even if valid), because there is no such thing as “a population”.
============================
“no such thing as a ‘population’ ” Poor census takers, all of that work for nothing.

242. gnomish says:

a sweeping generalization requires ignoring the individual case.
yet it’s all individual cases.
i totally get that.
didn’t expect anybody else to appreciate elementary semantic analysis. if you understand an idea, you make it your own. NJoY.

243. @Mpainter:

Yes, we are roughly in agreement, though I toss a few more darts at the specifics where “he was wrong”… ;-)

Most notably his conclusion that we were ‘Inevitably’ driven and were doomed. THAT is still with us, still driving the Club Of Rome, the UK Royals, the AGW movement, the … and it is profoundly evil so ought not be swept away with “but he was sort of right most of the time”…

@Gene Selkov:

You are doing so much better a job of making the distinction between population effects and the individual decisions than I had done. And why the Malthusian ‘population’ anchor is set in the wrong place… Thank you.

@Mpainter:

The word “population” is used more in a stochastic sense. A similar grouping of objects. “The population of purple elephants” is zero. The population count of speeding VWs. There is no ONE grouping of things whose behavour can be described as the same. My point about reproduction depending on the individual, not the population, is the same point.

244. mpainter says:

E.M.Smith says:January 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm

@Mpainter:

Yes, we are roughly in agreement, though I toss a few more darts at the specifics where “he was wrong”… ;-)

Most notably his conclusion that we were ‘Inevitably’ driven and were doomed.
==============================
Never a conclusion of his but of the catastrophists invoking his name. This is the whole point of my discourse on Malthus.

245. Willis Eschenbach says:

mpainter says:
January 8, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Most notably his conclusion that we were ‘Inevitably’ driven and were doomed.

==============================
Never a conclusion of his but of the catastrophists invoking his name. This is the whole point of my discourse on Malthus.

Malthus said:

Assuming then my postulata as granted, I say, that the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.

Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will shew the immensity of the first power in comparison of the second.

I don’t see any “maybe” or “sometimes but not others” or “might happen” or anything of the like in Malthus’s words. I see Malthus saying it is inevitable that population will outstrip food supply, because of the “immensity” of the power of population versus the power to produce food.

In other words, the inevitability of population expanding to consume all a available food, as well as the inevitability of population outstripping food supply, were most assuredly conclusions of Malthus. I’ve put up the quotes to show that they are his conclusions, in his own words. I have invited you to say where he stated that he changed his mind on either of those issues.

I’m still waiting for you to come up with some Malthus quote that I could use to refute the claim of mathematical inevitability made by both Malthus and by modern Malthusians. Instead of providing such a quote, you’ve merely restated your claim … sorry, doesn’t help.

Still waiting …

w.

246. Mario Lento says:

@gnomish says:
January 7, 2013 at 9:44 pm
“Mario-
well, thanks…wealth is not a behavior and is not directly related to contraception or abortion, the means by which individuals successfully regulate the rate of population increase absent disease, famine or war. (i would not credit abstinence for it).”

Much like the climate debate, there are correlations and direct, and indirect causes – many. I keep an open mind… and become skeptical whenever something doesn’t pass the smell test. I do think that there is a reason wealthy people tend to have fewer children… but for a techy I get Macro economics better than most techies (not all). I think people as a whole tend follow patterns of behavior, which is why history seems to repeat itself. I digress with metaphors.

I still like your posts Mr. Gnomish –but have to say, I think from what little I’ve seen, Gail’s logic always passes the smell test for me.

247. Mario Lento says:

@Gail Combs: You wrote “The Catastrophists want to hamstring the human race because of their fears.”

If I could add to that… “…with other peoples’ money, and usually only if they can make a business of it.”

248. Willis Eschenbach says:

Just to remind folks (emphasis mine) …

Willis Eschenbach says:
January 5, 2013 at 11:22 am
mpainter says:
January 5, 2013 at 10:47 am

… If Willis were as brilliant as he likes to think, he would see that the principles of Malthus could be used to refute the likes of Erhlich and the other catastrophists, but I doubt that Willis can ever clear the red from eyes concerning Malthus, that profound thinker, long enough to read him.

Malthus can be used to refute Ehrlich? Do tell. Give us some quotes from Ehrlich and refute them with some quotes from Malthus to back up your cheap talk, mpainter, or that claim joins your other fanciful ideas in the circular file.

w.

PS—Is there anyone here who actually believes mpainter’s claim? Because I think that mpainter will never make the slightest effort to back this claim up. I doubt we’ll ever see mpainter put up a quote from Ehrlich, along with a quote from Malthus that refutes Ehrlich.

As far as I know, to date mpainter has never made the slightest effort to back this claim up … shocking, I know.

w.

249. basspig says:

Energy tax is not the only tax that hurts the poor. Property taxes are due regardless of whether you have an income or use electricity at all. Some of us can survive without electricity; we just burn wood to heat. Heck, we can make a steam engine power a generator if we need it that badly. But no cash? The town will soon come with armed men to steal your property. That is the issue that underscores everything, property ownership, or the lack thereof. It’s what’s robbing our kids of their inheritance, and putting it in the hands of the wealthy.