We have met the 1%, and he is us

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

In explanation of my title, I fear I’ll have to go on a bit of a digression. Let me tell three stories, about people in three different parts of our amazing planet.

STORY THE FIRST: In my early thirties, about forty years ago now, through a series of misunderstandings and coincidences I spent some time as the first mate on a sailboat in the Philippines. At one point we spent a couple months anchored up offshore from the Manila Yacht Club while we were getting some boat repairs done. As befits a young man with more testosterone than sagacity, I spent the evenings in the dives and nightclubs in the local red-light district. Not paying for the favors of the ladies of the evening, you understand, that always seemed creepy to me. Just drinking and having a good time. One of the bars had a piano. It also had what they euphemistically called “hostesses”, who I was told could be very welcoming and most hospitable in one of the upstairs rooms for a small donation to a good cause …

It became my habit that each evening after work, I would go ashore. I’d walk the six blocks or so over to the bar and play the piano for a few hours, and talk to the “hostesses” and the bartender, and watch the evening go by. After a while, I was just another fixture in the bar, I was the piano man. People coming in thought I was just part of the floor show, and I was. The management liked having me play, so they paid me … in free drinks and bar food, which was more than welcome.

I got to be friends with the bartenders, and with the “hostesses”, and they would tell me their stories. One of the women working there was a “hostess” named Helena. She and I got to be good friends. We were never lovers, although I wouldn’t have minded one bit. We just hung out together and had a good time in the bar, singing songs, telling stories. Sometimes on the weekends we would meet and wander around the city and she would explain to me the local customs, tell me what was going on. She taught me just enough Tagalog to get in trouble. It was great.

manila slums

Figure 1. Slums in Manila

During this time, Helena kept telling me that I was rich. I always laughed and said no, no, in America I was a very poor man. And that was true—I was an itinerant sailor and fisherman and a boat bum. She just laughed back at me. But she never asked me for anything, not for one penny, not for one gift. Well, that’s not quite true. She asked me for cigarettes for her father. So I kept her old man in smokes. I figured it was the least I could do. She had her pride.

One other thing she wouldn’t do. I kept asking her to invite me over to the place where she lived. But she always refused. I wouldn’t like it, she said with her impish crooked smile. So one afternoon I decided I’d just go over there on my own. I got her address from one of the bartenders. He advised me against visiting there, saying it was in a bad section of town. I said okay. I was young. I was foolish. What did I know?

When I told the taxi driver where I was going, he turned around in his seat and looked at me. “Are you sure you want to go there”, he asked? “Yeah I’m sure”, I said with more certainty than I felt. “OK”, he said, “but you gotta pay me the money now, I’m not waiting around once we get there” … I gave him the money and off we went.

Helena’s place turned out to be located in a shantytown covering an entire city block. The buildings had been demolished at some point in the past and then abandoned. An entire community had sprung up there over the years. As soon as I got out of the taxi, the driver sped away. I turned around and was confronted by the most astounding warren of structures that I had ever seen.

Every possible building material was on display. Concrete blocks, short sticks of wood, old highway signs, flattened out tin cans, cardboard of every color and description, car doors and windows, random bits of glass, hunks of corrugated iron, shipping pallets, foam from appliance boxes. And this potpourri of materials was all strapped and held and cajoled into staying together by a motley assortment of rusty nails, bits of wire, rubber straps, pieces of leather, sections of vine, lengths of duct tape, strips of cloth, the variety of fasteners was endless. There were buildings on top of buildings added onto buildings built underneath buildings.

I asked the first person I came to where Helena lived. He gave me a series of instructions that, as near as I could understand, included obscure directives like “go over that direction except stay this side” and “don’t go under the third walkway, go where the man is selling balut” and “be careful to avoid the other opening”. All of these directions were delivered in what to a casual passerby would have passed for English, but on closer examination appeared to have been assembled from random phrases culled from instruction manuals.

I thanked the man and wandered off in the general direction he had indicated. I stopped at intervals to get new sets of partially intelligible instructions from random strangers. These led me through and over and into more of the 3-D maze. The way to her house went by means of a bizarre collection of passageways that were neither streets nor alleys. I could not tell public from private areas. Eyes looked out of every opening. I knew that I could not find my way back out without a guide. The passageway wandered over and around structures, at points seemingly going through people’s back yards with life in full swing. At other points, the way passed along a ditch running foul sewage, complete with a strange assortment of floating objects that did not bear close inspection. After accidentally looking at one particular piece of flotsam, I repented and quickly switched to carefully looking at the other side of the path, and I eschewed further reckless eyeballing until I left that ditch far behind.

Now, people mistake the Philippines for a nation. In reality, it is much more like a really big family with a bunch of kinda strange relatives. Not bad, just strange. And of course, on this city block of houses-in-wonderland, everybody knew everybody. The nature of communications in the area was such that by the time that the kindness of strangers had brought me to where Helena lived, she had heard the news already and had gotten spruced up and was prepared to meet me at the door. She invited me into what she explained was her aunt’s house. She had a room in the back. She offered to show it to me.

We stepped inside her room. Of course, we could not close the door, that was not proper … nor all that practical given the miniature size of the room. But it wouldn’t have made much difference, there was no privacy. You could hear everything everywhere, the walls were paper-thin. And I suppose that shouldn’t have been surprising, because one wall was actually made of paper, but I was surprised by that detail nonetheless. I noted in passing that the paper wall was made up of pasted together advertising posters for Hindi Bollywood movies, lending a pleasant, almost carnival atmosphere to the place.

Her room was tiny. A small sleeping pallet took up almost all of the available floor space. Inside the room were all of Helena’s worldly belongings. They consisted of a small wooden box which contained a few dresses and blouses and undergarments, and another smaller wooden box which contained a few items of makeup, a mirror, and some little trinkets and costume jewelry that obviously were precious to her. Other than that, there was one pair of shoes, and a cross and a picture of Jesus on the wall. Oh, there was the cloth pallet on which she slept, but that scrap of sewn-together rags likely belonged to her auntie. And that was the sum total of her possessions, all contained in a minuscule room with one wall made of paper …

That was it … that was all that she owned. A few dresses and a picture of Jesus. Now I understood why she thought I was rich. Because by her terms, I most assuredly was rich. I was incredibly wealthy in her world.

I talked with her a while there in the house, and with her aunt. Her uncle was out working. Her aunt had a small sewing business in her house. Life was not bad, life was not good, life was just life. Helena didn’t like her work, but that was the only job she could find, she had no education and no skills. And it paid the bills. Helena translated, her aunt spoke only Tagalog. We laughed some. They had a roof over their heads, albeit one of flattened tin cans laid as shingles. They had each other. We watched the almost-liquid warmth of the Manila gloaming slowly pouring over the city, and we soaked in the last rays of the day.

After while, Helena showed me how to get back to the street, and found me a taxi. I wouldn’t have been able to find the street without her, and no taxi would have stopped for me there at dusk, but they knew Helena. She left me there, she had to go back and get changed and get to work. I said I was going back to the ship, I’d see her later that evening, play some piano.

In the taxi, on my way back to the ship, I reflected on how incredibly wealthy I actually was. I finally realized, with some embarrassment, why she had laughed so heartily when I was so foolish and naive as to claim that I was poor. The only remaining mystery to me was how her laughter at my blindness had been so free of even the slightest hint of reproach for my colossal bumbling ignorance.

STORY THE SECOND: Fast forward five years. I’m working in sub-Saharan Africa, in Senegal. My workmate and I are in some godforsaken village out near the Kaolack salt flats. A 3-D relief map of the turf would look like a flat sheet of paper—it’s the land god stepped on. We get invited to dinner by some farmer, and by custom, we cannot refuse. He lives in the proverbial mud hut, with his wife, a scad of kids, a wooden planting stick, a wooden mortar and pestle for grinding grain, a three-rock firepit out back for cooking, a leaky roof, and not much else.

Having grown up on a ranch, I automatically note when we get there that he has two scrawny chickens wandering the yard. When we go into the house, he confers for a moment with his wife. She disappears. I hear squawking. I realize the man now has one scrawny chicken wandering the yard. The farmer and my associate and I drink sickly sweet tea and talk about the doings in the area. After a while, his wife brings in the chicken cooked up all nice, and offers it to us, the honored guests. The kids watch from the corners of the room.

But I can’t eat that damned bird. I can’t do it. I can’t bear the eyes of the kids. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s not like they are watching me with reproach in their eyes or anything, that wasn’t the problem at all. The thing I can’t bear is that the kids can’t take their eyes off of the chicken. Their eyes caress it. They watch that bird “as one who hath been stunned and is of sense forlorn” as the poet had it, they are blind to everything else. I can’t take it.

Plus I am shamed by the easy generosity of the man and his wife. They have nothing, and yet he offers us half of what they have without missing a beat. I am reminded of Rabelais’ will: “I have nothing, I owe a great deal, and the rest I leave to the poor”. The farmer’s wife has cooked and served the chicken, both of them temporarily appropriating the easy air of people who have hundreds of chickens, people who have chicken for dinner every night. My heart hangs, suspended. I hear the lone remaining chicken complaining outside.

So I trot out my old threadbare excuse from Mexico, and I blame my much-maligned liver. In Mexico, they blame their liver for everything. I have found it’s quite a useful excuse—over the years my liver has cheerfully soaked up the blame for a host of my idiosyncrasies. So I take one small bite for form’s sake, and then (in French, it being Senegal) I compliment the woman and the man on the chicken. I tell them the doctor has said that chicken is bad for my liver,  le médecin has said that le poulet is downright mauvais for my greatly-abused old foie, so as much as I liked the delicious flavor, and as much as I was deeply grateful for the honor they were offering me, I say I’m terribly sorry but I can’t possibly eat any more, they’ll just have to finish it off for me. And I tuck into the rest of the meal, the part that my liver doesn’t mind, to prove my bonafides.

They make the appropriate noises of disappointment that I’m not eating, and they have the grace not to look overjoyed. The children’s eyes are full of expectation. They look at that poor scrawny little representative of the great avian nation with unconcealed longing. The wife takes the plate into the back. In contrast to their earlier raucous play, the children vanish soundlessly on bare feet along with her. It seems that none of them dare to make a sound in case the mirage all disappears, like Cinderella after midnight. Not the time to get mom mad …

I avert my eyes from the disappearing chicken and the children. I look at the man and my workmate. We lapse into small-talk with no reference at all to poultry, or to children, chatting light-heartedly as though nothing meaningful had just occurred.

Thinking on it now, I consider how many times I’ve bought some random chicken in the supermarket on a whim, and how little it represents to me. I could buy fifty chickens if I chose, five hundred if need be. And I think about what that one scrawny chicken meant to that family.

STORY THE THIRD: Fast forward another five years, to when I lived in the Solomon Islands, in the South Pacific. Because I ran a shipyard, I met lots of yachties who were on boats sailing through the Solomons. Often they would complain to me about the high prices being asked by the islanders for their beautiful wood carvings. After the first few complaints, I developed the following analogy which I used over and over.

I told the yachties, imagine that one day an alien spaceship lands in your front yard. It is made out of solid gold, and it is encrusted with rubies, diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds. The alien steps out of the spaceship. He is dressed in cloth picked out in gold and silver threads, and his shoes have platinum buckles and diamonds everywhere, including on the soles … he comes up to you, and through his universal vocoder he says, “I say, old fellow, I rather fancy that old pickup truck of yours. How much money would it take to convince you to part with it?”. 

Now, you know the old truck is worth maybe a hundred dollars, and that’s on a good day with a following wind. And one can’t predict the future, but you are kinda sure that this opportunity will never come again … which means the real question is, would you tell the diamond-studded alien “Oh, I could be persuaded to let it go for million dollars, it’s kinda precious to me”, or would you only say “a hundred thousand dollars”?

Seriously, I’d tell the yachties, you get a one-time chance like that, you have to take your shot. You have to ask for the moon. Might not get it, but why not ask?

Next, consider the average Solomon Islander, I would tell the yachties. The average guy in some outer island village might only see a hundred Solomon dollars in cash all year, that’s thirty bucks US. I said to the yachtie, your watch is worth thirty dollars US. Your yachting shorts set you back forty-five, the cool sunglasses were seventy-five dollars, the Izod polo shirt was fifty-five, the belt was thirty bucks. Your stylish yachting cap was sixty bucks. The nice Sperry Topsider boat shoes were seventy-five dollars. Not counting your socks or your skivvies or your jewelry,  what you are wearing is worth about what cash the average outer islander might see in ten or twelve years. It’s worth a decade of his labor, and that’s merely what you are wearing as you pass through his world.  That doesn’t count the cash in your pocket, or the credit cards in your pocket. It doesn’t count the value of the rest of your wardrobe. And we haven’t even gotten to the money you might have in the bank or your other assets …

So yes, when you sail up to the village in a yacht and ask how much something costs, they will ask a hundred dollars Solomon, or three hundred dollars, who knows? Because to them, you’re an alien wearing gold cloth, with diamonds on the soles of your shoes. They’d be mad not to ask top dollar for their carvings.

And I told the yachties, you know what? Given both that huge disparity in net worth between you and the woodcarver, and the world-class quality of the woodcarving in the Solomons, you’d be mad not to pay top dollar for whatever carvings catch your fancy.

============ END OF THE THREE STORIES =============

Now, I have told these three tales in order to provide a context for a couple of quotes. The context that I am providing is that there is an almost inconceivable distance from the top of the heap to the bottom of the heap. The top of the heap is the 1%, not of the US, but of the global population. That 1% is made up of the people like you and me and the folks who read this, folks who live in the western world, the top few percent of the global population who enjoy the full benefits of development, the winners on the planet. It’s a long, long way from where we stand down to the bottom of the heap, that dark and somewhat mysterious place we don’t like to think about where far too many of the planet’s people eke out a living on a dollar or three a day, and we wonder how on earth they can do so. To them, we are as unknown and distant as aliens in golden jeweled spaceships with diamonds on the soles of our shoes. I offer the stories to give you some idea of the constraints on those people’s lives, and the contrasts between their lives and ours.

Those people have no slack. They have no extra room in their budgets. They have no ability to absorb increases in their cost of living, particularly their energy spending. They have no credit cards, no credit, and almost no assets. They have no health insurance. They are not prepared for emergencies. They have no money in the bank. They have no reserve, no cushion, no extra clothing, no stored food in the basement, no basement for that matter, no fat around their waist, no backups, no extras of any description. They are not ready for a hike in the price of energy or anything else. They have damn well nothing—a wooden digging stick, a spare dress, a picture of Jesus, a paper wall, a scrawny chicken, a bowl of millet.

It is in that context, the context that acknowledges that about half the world, three billion people, live on less than three dollars a day (2005 PPP),  that I bring up the following two quotes:

 “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the [US] price of gasoline to the levels in Europe”


“Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

Here’s my problem with these brilliant plans. Regardless of whatever hypothetical possible future benefit they might or might not bring in fifty years, right here and now in the present they are absolutely devastating to the poor.

The US Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu, the author of the first quote, wouldn’t have his commute to work imperiled if US gasoline prices were to rise to $8/gallon and thus reach the levels in Europe. He can buy all the gasoline he wants for any purpose. But if you are a poor single mom with a couple of kids and a clapped-out car that gets you to work and back and drinks gasoline faster than your good-for-nothing ex-husband drank whiskey before he left, for you a doubling of the gas prices means the kids eat less or something else goes by the board, because you have to get to work. It’s not optional.

And if the cost of electricity for the US and the White House “skyrockets”, Obama won’t be sleeping cold in the winter. Nor will I, for that matter. That would be the poor renter in upstate New York who can’t afford to turn on the electric heater.

The difference between rich and poor, between developed and developing, is the availability of inexpensive energy. A kilowatt-hour of electricity is the same amount of energy as a hard day’s labor by an adult. We can buy that for fifteen cents. We’re rich because we have (or at least had) access to the hardworking servants of inexpensive energy. We have inexpensive electrical and mechanical slaves to do our work for us.

This is particularly important for the poor. The poorer you are, the larger a percentage of your budget goes to energy-intensive things like transportation and heat and electricity. If you double the price of energy, everyone is poorer, but the poor take it the hardest. Causing an increase in energy prices for any reason is the most regressive tax imaginable. At the bottom of the pile people make a buck a day and pay fifty cents a kilowatt-hour for electricity … there’s no give down there at the bottom of the heap, no room for doubling the price of gasoline to European levels, no space for electric prices to skyrocket.

So I find it both reprehensible and incomprehensible when those of us who are in the 1% of the global 1%, like President Obama and Secretary Chu, blithely talk of doubling the price of gasoline and sending the cost of electricity skyrocketing as though there were no negative results from that; as though it wouldn’t cause widespread suffering; as though cheap energy weren’t the best friend of the poor.

What Chu and Obama propose are crazy plans. They are ivory-tower fantasies of people who are totally out of touch with the realities faced by the poor of the world, whether inside the US or out. Now please, I’m not making this political. There are people on both sides of the aisle who have signed on to the crazy idea that we should raise energy prices.

When I was a kid, everyone was quite clear that inexpensive energy was the key to a fairly boundless future. Our schoolbooks told of the Tennessee Valley project, and how it lit up the whole region, to everyone’s benefit. In particular, electricity was seen, and rightly so, as the savior of the rural poor. How did we lose that? Just how and when did deliberately making energy more and more expensive become a good thing?

I don’t buy that line of talk, not for one minute. Expensive energy is not a good thing for anyone, wealthy or poor. And in particular, more expensive energy condemns the poor to lives of increased misery and privation.

As far as I know, other than the completely overblown “peak oil” fears, about the only argument raised against the manifold benefits of inexpensive energy is the claim that increasing CO2 will lead to some fancied future Thermageddon™ fifty years from now. I have seen no actual evidence that such might be the case, just shonky computer model results. And even if CO2 were to lead to a temperature rise, we have no evidence that it will be harmful overall. According to the Berkeley Earth data, we’ve seen a 2°C land temperature rise in the last two centuries with absolutely no major temperature-related ill effects that I am aware of, and in fact, generally beneficial outcomes. Longer growing seasons. More ice-free days in the northern ports. I don’t see any catastrophes in that historical warming. Despite the historical warming, there is no sign of any historical increase in weather extremes of any kind. Given two degrees C of historical warming with no increase in extreme events or catastrophes, why should I expect such an increase in some hypothetical future warming?

So I’m sorry, but I am totally unwilling to trade inexpensive energy today, which is the real actual salvation of the poor today, for some imagined possible slight reduction in the temperature fifty years from now. That is one of the worst trades that I can imagine, exchanging current suffering for a promise of a slight reduction in temperatures in the year 2050.

Finally, for those who think that these quotes and ideas of Chu and Obama only affect the US, nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, the policies are being exported and imposed, both by force and by persuasion, on the poorer countries of the world. To take just one example, pressure on the World Bank from the western countries and NGOs is denying financing to coal-fired plants in countries like India with coal resources. So the poor of India are denied inexpensive coal-fired electricity, they end up paying the price for the western one-percenters’ guilt and fear ridden fantasies about what might happen fifty years in the misty future.

Heck, even if the dreaded carbon menace were real, raising the price on fossil fuels would be the last way on earth I’d choose to fight it. Like I said … big current pain for small future maybes, that’s a lousy trade. Now, I don’t think CO2 is worth fighting. But if you do, I implore you, first do no harm—any rise in energy prices harms the poor. If you want to fight CO2, there are other ways.


[UPDATE: a reader has pointed out that I am not describing the poorest of the poor, and he is quite correct. Helena had her job. The African farmer had a house and land, and not to mention originally two, but lately only one, chicken. The people in the Solomons had their bush gardens and the bountiful ocean.

The poorest of the poor have none of these things. They are a whole level below the people I talk about. You don’t want to consider where they sleep or what they eat. And yes, they are hit by rising energy prices like everyone else. -w.]

5 14 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
January 13, 2013 4:12 am

The people who are “easing their consciences” are not the people who have to pay the price. Am I being a conspiracy-nut neurotic when I suspect that carbon taxes are just an excuse for the developed nations to avoid giving aid to the dark-skinned nations of the world?

Reply to  oldfossil
January 13, 2013 7:52 am

Being a conspiracy nut requires believing that people sometimes lie and work together to achieve their desired ends. Logically that is less problematic than normalcy bias which causes otherwise rational people to believe that tomorrow will be like today inspite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Now that said, the expensive energy policy is designed to deal with population growth and resource scarcity. The group of peopl
Soe that can print money, buy votes, and pay off judges, they are worried about peak everything. Their undemocratic, published, funded position is that there are too many people, carbon dioxide emitters.
Take a look at fertility rates, gmo labeling resistance, geoengineering, and vaccine showing increased rate of many diseases. Or take a look at the foundations that gates and soros fund. What are their stated goals?
Conspiracy nuts are not to blame for the world’s ills, its the entranced (media programmed normalcy bias) masses that standby doing nothing while evil men with printing presses and science gone mad, run amock that deserve the negative connation.

Dr Mo
January 13, 2013 4:20 am

Growing up in a South East Asian country, I dig you Willis. I dig you deep. Whatever President Obama experienced when he was growing up in Indonesia – also a SEA country, he must have been pretty sheltered from the rank poverty of the people there, cos to this day (I just visited Indonesia last month), kids as young as 7 or 8 are knocking on car windows on busy city intersections asking for money, when they should be in school.

January 13, 2013 4:22 am

Thank you. I love your stories.
I have traveled as have you. I, along with many, thought Barak Obama would “get it” after going to school in Indonesia, albeit living in Mantang (an elite suburb). I was wrong. I saw with my own eyes the rather desperate consequences of what you say. I usually find that I have to pay the full asking price, I cannot bargain. Chu and Obama are of the elite, they think poor is having an old car and living on social security, they have no idea. I am so disappointed. Inexpensive energy for the poor was and is the key to life. Without it, you die badly in your forties in most of this world. I feel so very lucky to be in the 1% (middle class Australia). I showed my kids what poor was when they grew up, made them live there for a while, so that they feel lucky too.

TomTurner in SF
January 13, 2013 4:24 am

A good read, and a very good point. Now what? The folks who vote for Obama are out of touch with this line of reasoning. Some of them are said to be angry about a recent increase in payroll deductions.

January 13, 2013 4:26 am

Bloody hell. That’s one of the most powerful indictments of “expensive energy” I’ve ever seen.
Willis, you’ve led one heck of a life.

January 13, 2013 4:29 am

Difficult to add anything, Willis. You said it all.

Stephen Richards
January 13, 2013 4:33 am

What can I say ? Youv’e said it all but the arrogant fools that are sociocommunists will not be reading or listening. It’s their crusade and if some of the poor have to die so be it they did afterall vote for Oblarny et al.

Stephen Richards
January 13, 2013 4:35 am

Dr Mo says:
January 13, 2013 at 4:20 am
I think he grew up in Kenya where his father was the finance minister. Ideally placed to feed on the corruption that is rife throughout Africa.

January 13, 2013 4:37 am

I fully agree with Willis.
About electricity for the poor, South Africa is a country to keep an eye on!

Mike Fowle
January 13, 2013 4:43 am

Eloquent and poetic. Not being flippant when I say one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard.

Richard Thal
January 13, 2013 4:44 am

Willis, you’ve done it again. this really puts things in perspective. Brings me to tears.

January 13, 2013 4:45 am

Thank you for those three very thought-provoking stories, and just to prove I read every word, there is a typo in the second paragraph after “END OF THE THREE STORIES =============”. They have no extra room in their budgets. They have NO ability to absorb…

January 13, 2013 4:47 am

Willis, you’ve done it again. Really puts things in perspective. Brings tears to my eyes.

January 13, 2013 4:51 am

The Left cares only about getting and keeping political power. They don’t care about the poor, freedom, the environment, or the country they live in – only power and themselves.

Les Johnson
January 13, 2013 4:53 am

Wills: I have had experiences similar to yours, and I realized too, that I am increadibly lucky for the geography of my birth.
We were poor growing up (two parents and 6 kids in two and three bedroom houses), but we didn’t know it. It was only when I went overseas, that I confirmed that we were indeed NOT poor, compared to most of the world.
One story in Nigeria sticks out, involving my wife. She had one of the neighbours driver come to her, and ask for money so his wife could have a caesarian section. The doctor was asking for a several months salary, and he didn’t have it.
My wife is a firm believer in “doveryai no proveryai”, and asked to visit his wife in the hospital. When she went there (and a in very similar journey you took in the Phillipines), she found the “hospital” to be an infection spa. Blood was everywhere, even on the doctors white jacket. Her pockets were brown, where she put her hands in. The windows were opaque with mold. The sheets had not been washed in days or weeks, and the floors were filithy with subtstances unknown, and best left unknown. My wife tore the doctor a new one. Several new ones, actually, and then paid her for the procedure.
The next day, the driver came in and thanked my wife profusely. Not for the money, but for shaming the hospital into cleaning up.
ps- Mother and child were doing fine, last we heard, when we left Nigeria.

January 13, 2013 4:53 am

In australia increase in price by taxation is used cynically to reduce bad behaviour like drinking and smoking but the worst is gambling where the gov takes 35% of the winnings of hopeless addicts. The poor lose every time.
Willis struggles with the link with 3rd world but here is one example that stands out in my memory: A more direct connection is found in Indonesia where locals were forced to pay world market prices for their own oil. Their petrol is sold in soda bottles because most folks can only afford to buy in small amounts. In 2005 the price of petrol doubled overnight. It was scary. inthe end there were only a few small outbreaks of rioting. Although nothing much happened the tension on the streets was extraordinary. Why did they do this? The gov would never have done something so risk if its hand were not forced…by the world bank as I recall.

January 13, 2013 4:55 am

Right on the button as usual.
The poorest folk I have seen were a family in Port Sudan. 130F in the shade only there wasn’t any. This family lived on a plot of hard sand about 20 yards by 20 yards. They had four bamboo sticks held up by string with a discarded dunnage mat on top. Under the mat lived their goat, in the shade. The family lived outside in the sun. If the goat died they died, it was all they had. I was told the man sometimes got work at the camel market, maybe a day a month.
The countries that people like that live in do not need expensive energy.

Stan Vinson
January 13, 2013 4:56 am

Perspective is a most valuable gift. Thank you Willis for your gift. I will now pass this along to my children.

January 13, 2013 4:58 am

Excellent Willis! Your on point stories reminded me of a presentation I heard Dr. John Christy give in which he talked about his experiences doing missionary work in Africa and things he saw similar to your experiences. “Life without energy” he said “is short and brutal”…

January 13, 2013 4:59 am

Willis you painted three pictures in a detail of words that brought tears to my eyes and heaviness to my heart. You have made your point very well.

January 13, 2013 5:01 am

Spot on, Willis!
Having been in Solomon Islands and Fiji at the same times as you, (and shared a beer in the Honiara Yacht Club, and I think today would be the 20th anniversary of our unexpected meeting on Vakabalea Corner 🙂 ) I can fully grasp the import of every syllable you have written.
Well done, and thank you.

Joe Grappa
January 13, 2013 5:02 am

Too many people. Get the population down to 500 million or a billion or so and everyone would live like a king.

January 13, 2013 5:07 am

You have put real world experiences in my mind. And vivid ones. I already had the intellectual conviction that cheap energy is important both for rich and poor countries. Now there is a couple of strong emotions attached to it too.

January 13, 2013 5:07 am

Brilliant writing, Willis–you make your point with devastating effectiveness. Of course, you neglect a key point: there will be a wrong-headed, stupid, inefficient soul-killing government program to help the poor with their power bills, so the moral authority and smug righteousness of the horrible policy will be in place among the bureaucrats and busy bodies. We had an industrial revolution and an information revolution–what the people of the Earth need now is an energy revolution. Why the brightest of our youth are not studying physics and working on this problem twelve hours a day, I don’t know. Instead, they are playing video games and posting pictures of their cats on Facebook. So it goes. I will email anyone who wants it a free copy of my short story called Energy Independence.

January 13, 2013 5:08 am

brilliant willis,
and yes I as a poor aussie pensioner was seen as rich in my visit to the phillipines also..
such a stunningly beautiful place and such staggering poverty.
made me very aware of what I do have.
always been in the lower income, condemned rental home life, but in comparison my childhood was still well off. we did have food if not much, we did have clothes and shoes albeit 2 sets one summer one winter. and this was single parent aus in the 50s to 70s.
now older and still poor I get hit with 30c a Day rise in powercorp service charges and am wondering what else I can cut out to pay the extra with,. and the actual power use will also rise again soon.

January 13, 2013 5:10 am

on the price of fuel in US and Europe.
Most of the price of fuel in Europe is tax (roughly 70%). If there is higher tax on fuel in US, it will be the rich part of the world that pays, not the poor in your stories. As a result global demand would go down, as would probably the price of fuel in the rest of the world.
By your ‘gold encrusted space ship’ analogy, shouldn’t the rich world pay more for this asset?
There’s lots more to this debate than that, but the idea that the price of fuel in the US should go up is not necessarily wrong purely on the basis of the impact on the world’s poorest people

lowercase fred
January 13, 2013 5:16 am

Archaeology shows that when man left the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to settle in agricultural civilization the average stature and health decreased. We don’t know the whole story but two apparent reasons were that people who would have died of disease or malnutrition managed to hang on to existence and the level of non-state homicide decreased.
The point is that civilization has always been a mixed blessing. There is no Eden to which we can return. Our only option is to push ahead.

George Tetley
January 13, 2013 5:16 am

Gasoline in Europe ( in dollars US )
Germany $9-10 per gallon
Italy $13-14 per gallon
My energy bill in Germany has increased by $750 over the last 2 years to pay for solar/wind
Attention Germany is covered in solar panels, but the average sunshine in Germany is 30 hours a week so we have another country were politicians are living on stupid !

Claude Harvey
January 13, 2013 5:17 am

A really fit man on a bicycle can generate one kilowatt-hour in ten hours. A good horse on a treadmill can do it in maybe 1.4 hours. The wholesale price of one kilowatt-hour of work (force applied over time) in the U.S. today is less than 4-cents. THAT is the fundamental source of our current good fortune. Placing that reliable source of wealth out of both our reach and the reach of others and replacing it with intermittent, 40-cent per Kwh (according to the European record) solar power is criminally insane.

January 13, 2013 5:17 am

Here’s blurb you can use to promote your book, Willis.
Willis Eschenbach has it in him to be the George Orwell of our generation.
–Ken Coffman, Stairway Press publisher and author of Real World FPGA Design with Verilog and novels including Steel Waters, Endangered Species and Fairhaven.

January 13, 2013 5:19 am

here’s something that’s worth noting with regard to President Obama.
He has undermined the global warming arm of his party.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has consistently stiffed the Gorons both when he was the Senator of Colorado, and the Interior Secretary.
He refused to allow the warmers to use the endangered species act as a back door vehicle to impose global warming regulations. He has voted against cafe rules for cars and trucks. Against the repeal of tax breaks for oil companies. Against using global warming as a criteria for Army Corp of Engineers water projects. Increased the area of off shore oil drilling off the gulf coast of Florida (which to the detriment of us all, President Bush set aside as a sop for his brother, then Governor of Florida).
Also President Obama sent Jon Huntsman (who had become a considerable pain in the ass with regard to oil shale developement as Gov of Utah) off to China.
There are probably other things the Big O has done for our side which were not reported for the sake of political delicacy.

January 13, 2013 5:23 am

How ironic that those political institutions of the left – supposedly the friends of the poor, low paid and oppressed – are the very same that fight for the introduction of these costly ‘green’ energy schemes. We need to shame the left into opposing these policies and this blog post should be considered reading for them.

January 13, 2013 5:25 am

The worst of it is that all these “policies” of spending horrendous amounts of money on “renewables” are going to acheive practically NO reduction in emissions (even if such reduction were somehow valuable).
It’s all just hysterically stupid.

Joe Public
January 13, 2013 5:25 am

Thanks for enlightening your readers, Willis.

January 13, 2013 5:25 am

And the Watermelons snerk constantly that the “deniers” are opposed to their campaign to price gasoline like Chardonnay and make electricity rates “necessarily skyrocket” out of purely political motives.
Even were there not imperative sufficient in our adherence to the strictures of scientific method when it comes to the preposterous bogosity of the Warmerbruder idiocy anent anthropogenic atmospheric CO2, there’s acknowledgement of the laws of economics, and our appreciation of the impact of predatory vicious dirigisme on the lives of real human beings.
Just what the hell kind of people are these “global warming” fanatics, anyway?
Do they even qualify as “people” at all?

January 13, 2013 5:25 am

Poignant, beautiful, sad, and filled with wisdom and compassion – nothing else to say.

January 13, 2013 5:27 am

This reminded me of visiting a hospital in Malawi, the children there are often close to death, childbirth is horrific. I met a little 6 year old boy who was soon going to die. He was insulin dependant. Insulin was available. In my appalling western ignorance I asked why he would die, they had insulin. The doctor replied that unfortunately there was not a fridge in his village and even if there was, there was no electricity, they couldn’t afford it. That has lived with me for my whole life.

January 13, 2013 5:29 am

Here’s a possible way to salvation, a win/win solution that some Greens could be sold on. (The book’s author is now working in Russia on a pilot project.)
Here’s a three-part solution I endorse, spelled out in a book called “Prescription for the Planet: The Painless Remedy for Our Energy & Environmental Crises,” whose details are outlined in the first reader-review, by G. Meyerson:
This book is a must read for people who want to be informed about our worsening energy and ecology crisis. Before I read this book, I was opposed to nuclear power for the usual reasons: weapons proliferation and the waste problem. But also because I had read that in fact nuclear power was not as clean as advertised nor as cost competitive as advertised and was, moreover, not a renewable form of energy, as it depends upon depleting stocks of uranium, which would become an especially acute problem in the event of “a nuclear renaissance.” Before I read this book, I was also of the opinion that growth economies (meaning for now global capitalism) were in the process of becoming unsustainable, that, as a consequence, our global economy would itself unravel due to increasing energy costs and the inability of renewable technologies genuinely and humanely to solve the global transport problem of finding real replacements for the billions of gallons of gasoline consumed by the global economy, and the billions more gallons required to fuel the growth imperative. I was thus attracted to the most egalitarian versions of Richard Heinberg’s power down/relocalization thesis.
Blees’ book has turned many of my assumptions upside down and so anyone who shares these assumptions needs to read this book and come to terms with the implications of Blees’ excellent arguments. To wit: the nuclear power provided by Integral Fast Reactors (IFR) can provide clean, safe and for all practical purposes renewable power for a growing economy provided this power is properly regulated (I’ll return to this issue below). The transportation problems can be solved by burning boron as fuel (a 100% recyclable resource) and the waste problem inevitably caused by exponential growth can be at least partially solved by fully recycling all waste in plasma converters, which themselves can provide both significant power (the heat from these converters can turn a turbine to generate electricity) and important products: non toxic vitrified slag (which Blees notes can be used to refurbish ocean reefs), rock wool (to be used to insulate our houses–it is superior to fiber glass or cellulose) and clean syngas, which can assume the role played by petroleum in the production of products beyond fuel itself. Blees’s discussion of how these three elements of a new energy economy can be introduced and integrated is detailed and convincing. Other forms of renewable energy can play a significant role also, though it is his argument that only IFRs can deal with the awesome scale problems of powering a global economy which would still need to grow. Tom’s critique of biofuels is devastating and in line with the excellent critiques proferred by both the powerdown people and the red greens (John Bellamy Foster, Fred Magdoff); his critique of the “hydrogen economy” is also devastating (similar to critiques by Joseph Romm or David Strahan); his critique of a solar grand plan must be paid heed by solar enthusiasts of various political stripes.
The heart of this book, though, really resides with the plausibility of the IFR. His central argument is that these reactors can solve the principal problems plaguing other forms of nuclear power. It handles the nuclear waste problem by eating it to produce power: The nuclear waste would fire up the IFRs and our stocks of depleted uranium alone would keep the reactors going for a couple hundred years (factoring in substantial economic growth) due to the stunning efficiency of these reactors, an efficiency enabled by the fact that “a fast reactor can burn up virtually all of the uranium in the ore,” not just one percent of the ore as in thermal reactors. This means no uranium mining and milling for hundreds of years.
The plutonium bred by the reactor will be fed back into it to produce more energy and cannot be weaponized due to the different pyroprocessing that occurs in the IFR reactor. In this process, plutonium is not isolated, a prerequisite to its weaponization. The IFR breeders can produce enough nonweaponizable plutonium to start up another IFR in seven years. Moreover, these reactors can be produced quickly (100 per year starting in 2015, with the goal of building 3500 by 2050)), according to Blees, with improvements in modular design, which would facilitate standardization, thus bringing down cost and construction lead time.
Importantly, nuclear accidents would be made virtually impossible due to the integration of “passive” safety features in the reactors, which rely on “the inherent physical properties of the reactor’s components to shut it down.” (129)
Still, if such a new energy regime as Blees proposes can solve the climate crisis, this is not to say, in my opinion, that a growth regime is fully compatible with a healthy planet and thus a healthy humanity. There are other resources crucial to us–the world’s soils, forests and oceans come to mind–that a constantly expanding global economy can destroy even if we recycle all the world’s garbage and stop global warming.“

Here’s the Amazon link:

Joe Sumrall
January 13, 2013 5:31 am

The short of it is, I enjoyed reading your post very much and appreciate its message.

Jim Barker
January 13, 2013 5:31 am

Sad story, but needs told. Shame we can’t crowd source energy projects.

Bruce Cobb
January 13, 2013 5:35 am

Willis, not only have you led an interesting life, your storytelling ability is fantastic. I hung on every word.
I couldn’t agree more with you about the effect of raising energy costs, especially on the poor. In a word, it can be deadly. Imagine the idiotic wastefulness of spending $billions each year on a non-problem, in addition to the effects on energy prices and availability. The mind boggles. There isn’t a place in Hell hot enough for the perpetrators of the biggest, most destructive lie in human history, that our C02 is somehow harming the planet.

Stephen Wilde
January 13, 2013 5:38 am

Wholly agree.
The ignorance of elites has caused most of the tragedies of history.
Progress has occurred fastest when elites have not been so ignorant such as when we saw the development of parliamentary democracy in England and heard the thoughts of the US ‘Founding Fathers’.
I have said several times on other blogs that only universal cheap energy will lead to people everywhere being rich enough and educated enough to voluntarily reduce propulation growth to below replacement level so that eventually there will be true sustaiability.
Everything that our elites currently propose will defer that time, cause unimaginable suffering to ‘ordinary’ people everywhere and enormous additional damage to the environment in the process.

January 13, 2013 5:40 am

What I find funny, or rather sad, is that in the west people can have a negative net worth, to the tune of millions, and yet live like kings! How does that work??

January 13, 2013 5:41 am

Joe Grappa:
re your post at January 13, 2013 at 5:02 am.
You are sad, mistaken and deluded.
Your comment is an expression of pure evil, and it has no basis in fact and/or reality.
Be ashamed. Be very ashamed.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
January 13, 2013 5:41 am

Willis, I am speechless. Having been a few years sailor myself, I had similar experiences in the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and other countries. But by far I can’t express my experiences as good as you do. Driving energy (and food) prices up as is the aim of all activists, will do harm at the poorest of the poorest. They don’t seem to realize that or they underestimate the consequences… Extremely well said!

January 13, 2013 5:42 am

Well done, thanks for sharing 3 great anecdotes which hammered your point home. Cheers, keep up the great work..

January 13, 2013 5:46 am

I have been telling this same narrative to my AGW believing friends. They really don’t like to hear that they don’t actually give a rats ass about the poor. They claim that they care but they really don’t.
Excellent article….you have one small typo…the third sentence in the paragraph telling what the poor will not be able to do, you wrote “to” which should be “no”.

R Barker
January 13, 2013 5:48 am

Following the train of logic of those who believe higher energy costs are “good”, the poor folks can easily solve their problem by just ridding themselves of their gas guzzlers and buying new energy efficient cars. (Do I have to say I am being sarcastic or is that obvious to everyone?)

T. G. Brown
January 13, 2013 5:49 am

Spot on, Willis.
I have been to villages in that very region of Senegal, and have sat where you sat. The hospitality from people who, by western standards, have nothing, is absolutely staggering. Yet the folks you visited are (likely) not even close to the poorest of Africa, or even of Senegal.
It is indeed the cost of energy that so often traps folks. Energy is needed to transport food and to bring water out of the ground. Children (and multiple wives) are needed for labor that would otherwise be done with machinery. As long as it is less expensive to have more children and wives than to buy, run, and maintain a tractor, children and wives will remain the commodity that they are.
But the other part of the equation is the political culture in Africa–often nepotistic and corrupt. Both the price of energy and the political culture will need to change. And, as we have seen so often, the two seem to go together.

Jack Simmons
January 13, 2013 5:50 am

Last night I went on what my wife calls a ‘rant’ over the costs of wind power. The rant was provoked by a GE commercial boasting about producing technology for wind energy. As if this was something good.
I told her the world does not need expensive and unreliable wind or solar energy. It needs cheap energy; the cheaper, the better. Nothing could be worse for the consumers of the world than thousands of jobs in wind and solar energy firms. Each of those jobs would have to be subsidized with higher rates. If the mad men running things succeed in getting a significant portion of our energy from wind and solar, fossil fuel jobs would be lost, along with the tax revenue generated by these ‘dirty’ energy jobs.
We’re in for at least a bad decade for economic growth as the US, along with the rest of the developed world, toys with socialism and central state planning. At least another four years of slow growth, with real possibilities of serious recessions, until people realize how they have been hoodwinked with false promises. It very well could be people won’t get it, as most people don’t think in terms of math and science, confusing alleged consensus among ‘scientists’ for science. All the blame will be placed on the rich and their low tax rates. If that happens, we are in for decades of misery.
And we are the rich ones as was pointed out in this wonderful post.
People think I’m nuts when I tell them anyone living in the US is extremely wealthy compared to the rest of the world. Our homeless are rich beyond belief. There are places where they can go when it gets cold, as it is right now in Denver.
But they have these places of warmth only because we have cheap energy.
The environuts must be going even crazier with the realization that the wicked oil and gas industry has slashed the costs of energy and feedstock for our plastic industry. This was all done right under their noses and the noses of government agencies focused on destroying cheap energy. And we haven’t even started on coal to fuel conversion and the great oil shale deposits in the west.

Robert of Ottawa
January 13, 2013 5:55 am

Quite so Willis. Any policy designed to increase the price of food or energy is immoral.
Biofuels policy is a double evil.

January 13, 2013 5:58 am

Great message form Willis, beautifully delivered… thank you for the read…
papiertigre says:
January 13, 2013 at 5:19 am
“….here’s something that’s worth noting with regard to President Obama….”
Interesting stuff, papiertigre.
Indeed that may be the way to play the game, and if that is what Obama is doing, more power to him …. truly these days with the rabid CAGW masses baying for blood if you just come out with common sense you know you’ve lost those votes and that lot will be against you forever……

Bill Illis
January 13, 2013 6:04 am

Amazing article that needs to be posted on as Green sites as possible. I think this is the only way to get them to see the inadvertent harm their policies are causing.

January 13, 2013 6:09 am

IMHO, this is your best post to date and the things that the “think about the children” enviros will never get

January 13, 2013 6:12 am

>blockquote>Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 5:02 am
Too many people. Get the population down to 500 million or a billion or so and everyone would live like a king.
No they wouldn’t Joe, there would still be a huge difference between the 1% and the rest

Baa Humbug
January 13, 2013 6:14 am

Quite profound. h/t Willis

Steve Keohane
January 13, 2013 6:14 am

Sing us a song you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright…
Billy Joel
This came to mind amidst your three stories, must be your prose reads like a song. You set and sank the nail with one blow Willis.
Regardless of whatever hypothetical possible future benefit they might or might not bring in fifty years, right here and now in the present they are absolutely devastating to the poor.
Spreading the wealth with the government as administrator keeps the wealth in the privileged few doing the spreading.

January 13, 2013 6:14 am

There is a very large elephant in the room that you — we — are ignoring. The Left (the Progressives, the inellectual elite, the !% of the !%, however you want to name them) neither know nor care about the 99% and — listen carefully — want them dead. Gone. They fantasize about their disappearance (see, for example, the eco-porn television series, “After Man”). No, they do not wish to set up camps, since that would involve actual icky shooting/gassing/vaporizing, but they do very much want the “excess mouths” to. simply. go. away. Reference the choice of weapons of Our DearLeader (PBUH), Barack Hussein Obama, President of the United States, Peace Medal recipient, Leader of the Free World: the Annointed One. He chooses to use a very technologically advanced and hands-off weapon: the drone. Every morning (by his own admission), he peruses a list and chooses which ones he wants dead. Push-button war, hands-off murder. If Our Dear Leader (PBUH) could, in the secret heart, push a button and make those 3 or 4 or 5 billion (what’s another number?) messy, dirty, yearning, annoying, stinking farmers just simply *go away* don’t you think he would do it? And that’s just for starters.

C.M. Carmichael
January 13, 2013 6:16 am

We live in a society that has obesity as a common problem for its poorest citizens, only our richest people can afford to be thin. They pay extra for reduced fat, or sugar or salt. They pay other people to force them to exercise, and failing that, they pay Doctors to mold them to their dream shape. Most other societies, current or past would laugh at such a situation. We truly are alien to the 99%.

January 13, 2013 6:18 am

Brilliant article Willis, absolutely brilliant. I hope it goes viral.

January 13, 2013 6:29 am

oldfossil says: “Am I being a conspiracy-nut neurotic when I suspect that carbon taxes are just an excuse for the developed nations to avoid giving aid to the dark-skinned nations of the world?”
The cap-and-trade scam is not a move to avoid giving aid to the less-developed, darker-skinned parts of the world. We liberals love giving them stuff. Their countries have received hydroelectric dams, huge infrastructure loans, and so on. We are providing all of those dark nations with birth control pills and abortion technology.
We will give plenty. There is plenty to give, and it is not coming out of the pocket of us liberals – out of the pockets of those of us with PhDs in various social sciences, those of us at the helms of the various aid societies and agencies. No, this is how we make a living. It lines our pockets to do the needs assessment, deliver the cure, and to have a sustained problem where it looks like we are doing something. The actual dollars come from wealth producers, utilizing land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship.
As long as it lines our pockets, and works to keep them dependent on us.
The news stories are beginning to come out of the Asian countries where we tied economic development assistance to national birth control agandae: birth rates have dropped since we began meddling in the 1950s and 1960s. Now, the population has aged, and there is an insufficient populace to generate wealth to provide for these elderly. D’oh! Sorry about that!

Doug Huffman
January 13, 2013 6:36 am

My aging mother’s best girlfriend’s husband did not walk the March, but hid in the mountains with friends’ families. After their husbands were gone, the ladies visited each year that they were able, they were not Ugly Americans, but they are all gone.

The Old Salt
January 13, 2013 6:39 am

Joe – you need to get out more, and you need to read some history. At any point in written history, when there were fewer people on the planet, how, exactly, did everyone live like a king?
Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 5:02 am
Too many people. Get the population down to 500 million or a billion or so and everyone would live like a king.

January 13, 2013 6:41 am

Again well done Willis !!!!!
Two men were walkin in a meadow,the birds were singing,the younger man
man said,the world is so beautiful. A crow flies over,caw-caw-caw. The older
man says “there is always a critic”. I see a few have already shown up.

January 13, 2013 6:44 am

You’ve written some amazing things over the years, but this could indeed be your Magnum Opus.
Well done!

January 13, 2013 6:48 am

Good read on a Sunday morning. It’s a vicious policy circle we have seen before. Bad energy policy leads to scarcity leads to calls for government controls and around it goes. The EU is the test case and we can see the results.

January 13, 2013 6:48 am

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 5:02 am
Too many people. Get the population down to 500 million or a billion or so and everyone would live like a king.

This makes me very very VERY angry. The earth has enough resources to feed and care for billions more people. Give everybody cheap energy and good farming and we all would live like kings. Do people really think for a second that reducing the population will somehow get rid of the problems that cause poverty? There have been poor people since records have been kept. There weren’t 7 billion people in 1000 BC, but there were plenty of poor people. Population reduction is never the answer. Human life is special. How can anyone sleep at night advocating forced population reduction?

Nigel S
January 13, 2013 6:49 am

Where’s Anna (last thread)? Working on a cracking riposte no doubt but struggling perhaps. Wonderful stuff WE, thank you.

Lady in Red
January 13, 2013 6:50 am

I just sent this to some greenie friends and a couple of oceanographic scientists:
“I believe I sent you all the piece by Willis Eschenbach “It’s Not About Me” which was the story of his life, the justification for his thinking about global warming theories (and his late-in-life venture to Burning Man, with pictures).
(“Professional” “trained” and “scientifically educated” folk were complaining that Willis had no qualifications that justified having authoritative, qualified theories about warming and “It’s Not About Me” — but about my ideas and thinking — was the response to the sniping.)
Willis writes often on “the world most viewed site on global warming and climate change,” WattsUpWithThat, a site that smarmy professionals call a “denier blog,” but one I’d characterize as a site advocating honest science. (Interestingly, mostly the honest science and data bend away from the AGW hysteria, but Anthony Watts tells it like it is, regardless. I find the site highly credible.)
Willis is a pretty fascinating man. He reminds me of Bob’s mentor Hank Stommel. When I first met Bob, I didn’t realize how astonishingly brilliant he was, but I certainly sniffed smart. It was the same for Hank (and Hank’s wife, Chickie, who weren’t no slouch). I don’t know if Bob took me to meet them for “approval,” or if they ever discussed me at all, but Hank, especially, enjoyed me tremendously. I made him laugh. Hank so wanted us to visit Cape Cod often and have dinner with them…
Carl Wunsch, a friend who’s still at MIT (although he no longer discusses global warming with me and refuses to follow the blogs and disdains Judith Curry, who I believe is the most broadly educated in the field and extremely fast and facile) wrote this, after Hank died:
“HENRY MELSON STOMMEL, probably the most original and important physical oceanographer of all time, was in large measure the creator of the modern field of dynamical oceanography. He contributed and inspired many of its most important ideas over a forty-five-year period. Hank, as many called him, was known throughout the world oceanographic community not only as a superb scientist but also as a raconteur, explosives amateur, printer, painter, gentleman farmer, fiction writer, and host with a puckish sense of humor and booming laugh.”
Bob and I were the last friends to see Hank alive. Chickie has left and gone to her room for the night and visiting hours were almost over, in the hospital. Hank was so glad to see Bob! They talked and talked and talked and Hank tried to laugh, but he knew he was dying — and fast. At the end, he grabbed Bob’s hand, looked him in the eye, and said, “We had a grand time, didn’t we, Bob!” Then, we left.
I thought to call the NY Times the next morning. They didn’t have a prepared obituary. I talked with them for a bit, but, I get emotionally overwhelmed sometimes, and I was. Anyway, they got it right. Hank was quite a guy. I think that Willis rattles around in Hank’s league. Hank complained over and over to Bob that young oceanographers refused to go to sea, sat at their computers and modeled the world without ever thinking about it, understanding it on any internal, visceral level.
(BTW, Carl and Mel: I’ve put Bob Heinmiller’s “famous” Woods Hole teen club video, “Bag War” up on YouTube. I’d put the *very* famous “The Turbulent Ocean” up on YouTube as well, although I have to break it into ten minute segments, and I don’t know how to do that. It’s a classic about doing real science — at sea — and stars all the greats from around the globe. Poor Francis Bretherton got badly sea sick. Maybe one of you could put it up, in honor of science…?)
This piece, below, by Willis is not about his theories on global warming — and he’s quite good: science that can be explained and understood by ordinary smart folk, never pedantic, arrogant, condescending. This piece is about the economics of global warming, the imposition of the energy tax (and the commissions for Goldman Sachs et al…?) that the greenies cherish so, the “protection” of their planet for…. who knows? It’s the “idea” of the polar bears and the ice caps. …the principle of the thing. This is Willis’ response to that.
Hell, I just like Willis’ writing. He is very good. If he were not still hanging out with his ex-fiancee of thirty-five years, I’d consider catching a boat to someplace….
….Lady in Red

January 13, 2013 6:51 am

One of American liberals favorite demagogue tools is “THE POOR”.
Compare and contrast American “poor” with the real poor of the world.

January 13, 2013 6:51 am

I grew up in India in the 60’s, living in New Delhi. In the US we were middle class citizens, not rich, not poor. In India we were the moral equivalent of multimillionaires. The Indian government more or less required foreign workers (my father worked for the Ford Foundation) to employ a full house staff, so we had a cook, a sweeper, a dhobi (washerman), a driver, a waiter/butler, and a chowkidar (house guard, whose job it was to sit at the front of our driveway and drink tea and smoke bidi’s, cheap brown paper cigarettes, all night), complete with families, all of whom lived in servants quarters out back. We were basically supporting some 20 people including children.
As a child, I was not of course surprised or shocked by India. It was basically “normal” to me as I grew up. The contrast between our extreme wealth (and the even greater wealth of many of the Indian inhabitants of New Delhi who e.g. worked for or in the government or for the major corporations such as Tata), the “middle class” of Delhi who lived decently and had houses or apartments and jobs or small businesses (who included our servants) and the poor — who were enormously poor, living in mud huts or tin-walled shanties or just plain living on the street, carrying their worldly possessions in a small bundle and begging for a living — was unremarkable, just the way of the world in India (and has been for time immemorial). In India, the poorest of the poor are taken care of by the second poorest — it is a virtue to give alms, usually by literally sharing your food with a beggar poorer and hungrier than yourself. It is bailing the ocean with a spoon, for all of that.
There are always those who support this enormous disparity of wealth as the status quo. In particular, those who are on the wealthy side of the equation, all the way down to the bottom of the middle class. These are the people who have “made it” — they have some measure of security, some prospects, some hope for advancement for themselves or their children. At the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are many people who only recently clawed their way out of the extremes of poverty and will do almost anything to avoid slipping back. But the most “entitled” of the group are the wealthiest, who view themselves as the founders of the feast enjoyed by all the rest. It is a macabre, Dickensian world we inhabit.
In India the social construct was embedded in the religion in the form of the caste system and a complex social order of serial rebirth with promotion, but only if you did your duty as a caste member throughout your life, accepting your lot as the destiny you earned in a previous life. It was smoothly adopted by the British Raj, who effectively moved in on top of all castes, and persisted well after independence and partition through the 60s and early 70s. By the 80s and 90s, government policy abolishing the caste system and discrimination was having some effect (as was decades of as near universal education as they could manage) and the Internet and gradual growth and increasing affluence of the middle class created an ongoing social revolution and economic boom. That isn’t to say that the poorest class doesn’t remain just as poor, or even that it is shrinking. There are no easy exists from shantytowns, and the urban streets of India are lined with millions of entire families whose “home” and place of business is 100 square feet of sidewalk, many of them the great-great-grandchildren of people displaced from the Pakistans during the partition, promised resettlement and land, and then abandoned back in the 50’s and 60s. I’ve seen spaces 80 yards wide and a few hundred yards long in between two warehouse-sized buildings filled in with three to four stories of shanties, layers supported by a latticework of bamboo, with a single public tap providing water for the whole thing and a single public field providing its entire system of “sanitation” (and this in the late 90s, well on the way towards greater economic freedom and prosperity).
Without trying to open a can of worms, many other world religions, including Christianity, have played an almost identical role in the socioeconomic culture in feudal, strongly stratified societies throughout history. Christianity was originally largely a slave religion, a religion of the lower class, in the Roman empire, in part because it promised posthumous rewards to the poor and punishments to the wealthy, neither of which was going to happen in this life for either one. It would never have been adopted by Constantine and that same Roman empire otherwise — the addition of the “divine right to rule” meme was all it took to make it the perfect religion for a feudal empire supported by a vast network of slaves and “free” tenants of land owned by the wealthy/entitled who were slaves in everything but name.
Even Buddhism was little better — it never adopted a feudal meme but nevertheless accepted a serial reincarnation meme that included acceptance of station and rejection of attachment and wealth, both necessary to any wealthy ruler seeking to perpetuate their wealth and power without exciting a revolution. Islam has the same sort of fatalism and acceptance of the will of Allah built into it — if one is wealthy and powerful it is the will of Allah, if one is poor it is also the will of Allah, and Allah is portrayed (in the many cultural stories such as the ones we know of as A Thousand Nights and a Night, which are only a sampling of an entire verbal and written storytelling tradition) as being whimsical, as likely to raise you up as to cast you down quite independent of your own efforts. Again the dominant meme is one of posthumous reward or punishment, making it easier to accept any sort of injustice in this life.
In all cases the dominant individuals, the ones with the wealth and power overwhelmingly embrace this view, independent of its religious support. This has persisted even in the West, even after the reformation and invention of Protestantism and the introduction of new memes of religious freedom and the key idea that God helps those that help themselves! The notions of upward mobility, democracy, religious, economic, and personal freedom, freedom of opportunity, racial and social justice and equality — these are all new ideas as far as global culture is concerned, only a few hundred years old and still far from universal. However, one effect of the memetic revolution brought about by Locke, Jefferson, Franklin, and many others is that religions that once supported a divinely sanctioned right to wealth have been — in many cultures but not all — tamed. The American Civil War can be partly viewed as a religious spasm that initiated the rejection of endorsed slavery and poverty as a Christian meme, although the persistence of e.g. the KKK with its crosses and religious trappings shows that it has been a slow, simmering process and not one that is completed even to this day.
The reason I have worked through all of this is to return to the “CAGW is a form of global religion” meme. The caste system in Hinduism has broken down, and no longer is particularly effective in preserving the wealth and political prerogatives of the upper castes in India. Buddhism has failed in China and Japan to accomplish the same thing, although it persists in Nepal, Thailand, and other countries in Southeast Asia. Christianity no longer can punish apostasy with death and hence has little sway or reason to opposed social mobility any longer — it is no longer a good slave religion in most of the world, although you will still see the meme that God rewards piety in material ways put out there on the PTL channel and elsewhere. Islam alone has a death penalty for apostasy and barriers to socioeconomic mobility in many countries, and cracks have emerged that are starting to break down the feudal stratification of wealth and power even there.
What is a wealthy upper class to do, to preserve its wealth and prerogatives and political power? Willis has put his hand right on it. Manipulating energy prices to save the Earth is a made to order religious issue that serves exactly the same purpose as the divine right of kings or the caste system. Raising energy prices is effectively an enormously regressive tax. The wealthy don’t care — no price increase will affect their quality of life. The middle class can cope — it hurts, a bit, but the increase is quickly absorbed in inflation or a deflection of surplus wealth from entertainment (which is cheap and easy as it is, nowadays). It is, as always, the poor who bear the disproportionate burden.
This has enormous global consequences! It removes or stricly limits any hope of upward social or economic mobility from roughly 1/2 of the world’s population. It directly enriches still further the wealthiest of the wealthy, including all of those “energy companies” that are portrayed as being the modern equivalent of Satan, in existence to destroy the Earth itself. Who benefits from Carbon trading? Surely not the poor, or even the middle class. Only the wealthy make money from it, and that wealth is held by the same people who own the oil companies and coal companies and power companies. The rich always get richer, and are always eager to erect a smoke screen (so to speak) to make their acquisition of even more wealth into a virtue.
The end of the Cold War left something of a global vacuum in its place. Without the distraction of a “cause”, ideally one with a religious focus, some offer of salvation from an imagined apocalypse, people might be tempted to simply act in their own self-interest and do the sort of good and compassionate things that people of all faiths or no faith at all are inclined towards when they aren’t being diverted by a holy war. Lacking a common enemy to distract the masses, how can the powerful justify their power? Blink and the next thing you know, there is a large middle class and shrinking lower class, whose wealth comes at the expense of the disparity of the wealth of the wealthiest if nothing else, which reduces their power.
If we didn’t have religions like CAGW (and yes, the real religions too) we’d be forced to invent them, or invent space aliens, or invent some other world-spanning catastrophe to justify the maintenance of inherited power and wealth in the hands of the elite. It is the hidden cost that the cost-benefit analyses of CAGW never manage to include. They project immense costs, but safely in the future where we have to live for generations to realize them, while ignoring the even greater costs in the present, costs borne disproportionately by the world’s poorest people, and the perpetuation of poverty and social inequity.

Reply to  rgbatduke
January 13, 2013 8:12 am

Thought provoking comment. Tnx

January 13, 2013 6:52 am

Nice story about how the poor pinoy showed you that you as a poor american were not really poor at all. Rather undermines your plaintive wails later on about the poor american poor.
Europe has less poverty than the US anyway. The social security systems there provide a far more effective safety net for the poor than anything available in the US. I should think that’s partly funded by fuel taxation.

Michael Scott
January 13, 2013 6:54 am

Brilliant as ever !
Now lets through the cost burden of biofuels into the mix and really see how the poor people of the world sufffer.

January 13, 2013 6:54 am

Thank you Willis, thank you so much for your elegant writing, and clear analysis. I wish my prose even remotely came close to yours.
Having lived ex-pat, I’ve seen the other 99%. Some in India, some in Malaysia, and unless you’ve seen people washing cloths in open sewers because they have no other water available, it’s hard to understand beyond “dirt poor.”
Liking P.J. O’Rourke, I bought “Eat The Rich.” I had a hard time finishing it the first time because there is really so little to laugh at in the larger picture. Later after several years had passed and the memories were a little dimmer, I finished it, and I must agree with him, in the poorer societies, the one thing the poor don’t lack is government. I think about the thousands of deaths in Nigeria from people desperate to have fuel, drilling holes in pipelines of gasoline to steal a little, then explosions and fires that ravage the shanty towns.
You’re making an excellent argument for the free market in energy. It is the only thing which can save those people, or for that matter, our poor, rich as they really are.

Doug Huffman
January 13, 2013 6:55 am

On population density; I recall and have not verified, the statement that all of Earth’s population could be housed in the Grand Canyon without exceeding the density of a common tenement. I live in 900 sq. ft. on 6 acres of woodland on the rocks of the Niagara Escarpment, Earth’s boney spine exposed.

January 13, 2013 6:59 am

The poor people you describe so beautifully would be greatly advantaged by a clean energy world. The oil and chemicals putrifying their waters would be gone. They would be able to access the same sun, wind and electromagnetic wave power as everyone else, once whatever energy harvesting technologies were in place. If you really wanted to level the playing field on this planet, you would be pursuing greener, cleaner technologies for all the planet. As it is now, all 100% of us are forced to slave away at least some percentage of our time, the poor much greater, to buy our paltry share of oil and gas, extracted from the ground at increasingly enormous costs. I cannot fathom thatt you cannot see this. I sadly conclude that you do, but secretly harbor fears that the transition to clean energy will somehow disadvantage you personally. I hope I am wrong, that instead you are in transition and will come to see that what is right for the world in the long run is what’s right for all of us, right now. We simply must all start heading in the right direction!

John West
January 13, 2013 7:01 am

Growing up spending summers at my grandmother’s house in East Tennessee where many of my extended family members had outdoor “facilities” and TVA was synonymous with progress even if it meant flooding a town (Butler, TN), I thought I knew what poor was. Then I was sent to Nogales, Mexico to setup and train the locals on a plating operation and its associated wastewater treatment system. Prior to that the only country outside the US I had been to was Canada, essentially the same as the US. Nogales exposed me to a poor I had never seen. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Nogales and would go back in a heartbeat, the people were friendly and the food was extraordinary. The shanty slums were probably a little better than those Willis is describing as at least Nogales has the benefit of bordering the US and access to our refuse. Nevertheless, I came back with a whole new perspective and appreciation for being in the 1%.
@ Willis: You’ve been on quite a roll here lately and this one in particular resonates with my soul, thank you.

January 13, 2013 7:03 am

Re Joe Grappa on too many people:
Any economist worth his salt will tell you the more minds working to create solutions, the better off the world will be. Lack of resources do not create poverty, lack of freedom does.

January 13, 2013 7:05 am

Masterfully done–once again, Willis.

Peter Miller
January 13, 2013 7:06 am

I have two comments:
1. I am lucky – if that is right word word to have had similar experiences in far flung parts of the world, and
2. Sarc on – it is clear from their ‘research’ that Gore, Hansen and Mann are sure to have had similar experiences in just how the real world works – Sarc off.

Barry Sheridan
January 13, 2013 7:08 am

Excellent points. The whole of the world’s population needs access to affordable electricity sourced from methods that contribute as little as possible to the our global footprint. That is nuclear, if not via current Light Water Reactors then via internationally developed techniques such as the Pebble Bed Reactor or the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. Why are we hesitating?

January 13, 2013 7:10 am

Great article

January 13, 2013 7:15 am

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 5:02 am
“Too many people. Get the population down to 500 million or a billion or so and everyone would live like a king.”
It is funny that Malthusians like you don’t give any logical explanation why that should increase the wealth of the poor.
Since 1984 the population of Ethiopia has doubled while the GDP per capita has halfed. The West uses Ethiopia as dumping ground for excess harvests to avoid another famine on Western TV screens.
The Ethiopian government regulates the price that local farmers can take for selling excess harvest. The farmers have therefore no economic incentive to produce more than their families need.
Reducing the Ethiopian population back to where it was in 1984 would not make the politicians smarter. But Malthusians continue maintaining that everything would become better if only people died.
A reduction in population would do nothing to turn Malthusians into intelligent people.

January 13, 2013 7:15 am

In a similar vein, a couple of years back I spent some time in Romania, building bits of things for a local clinic. I was originally meant to be building or repairing houses for the local Roma but that never happened (no idea why) so instead it was building a fence at a clinic that provided charitable healthcare to Roma who’d had their identity documents seized by the state. Without ID they couldn’t get healthcare, and being Roma (and thus poor as dirt) they couldn’t afford to buy any, nor could they get work without their ID. And they couldn’t get their ID back without proof of income.
What I remember more than anything isn’t the poverty or even the way they welcomed us into their lives and fed us like kings. It was the aftermath. The reaction I had when I got home. I looked at my little apartment that I’d considered to be a tiny cage and I think I broke down crying. I was emotionally wrecked for week afterwards (you might remember, Willis, I had a bit of a yell at you over something. I’m sorry for that), and very angry – particularly at the way so many people in the west consider themselves to be oppressed and in the worst possible situation even though they have everything. My particular bug-bear at the time was the hijacking of anti-bullying campaigns by special-interest groups and I got really, really upset when homosexuals in the US were claimed to be in a worse position than the Roma in Romania. Or the Guarani in Paraguay and Brazil.
So many who “fight” for their latest trendy cause simply have no idea what the world is like. They pay lip-service to saving the world and improving the lives of others and make blog posts about their radical act of wearing purple or not talking for a day or wearing some damn ribbon to show “solidarity” with people on the other side of the planet who won’t see any benefit whatsoever from their “sacrifice”. Then they go off to “save the world” from the scourge of cheap energy and reliable food sources.
See, I’m getting angry again now just thinking about it, years later. Maybe I should cut back on the caffeine.

January 13, 2013 7:16 am

Here in the US, you won’t see the impacts on the poor as much because the government will attempt to increase spending on assistance programs to cover up and cushion the impacts their increase in energy costs would otherwise have on the poor as much as possible. The people who will really feel it are the ones who are barely hanging on to financial independence as it is. The middle class will shrink because they’ll be hit on all sides by the rising costs and by increasing taxes.
Eventually, the government won’t be able to hide the impacts from theAmerican “poor,” but those days haven’t quite gotten here yet.

Bruce Cobb
January 13, 2013 7:18 am

AndyL says:
January 13, 2013 at 5:10 am
on the price of fuel in US and Europe.
Most of the price of fuel in Europe is tax (roughly 70%). If there is higher tax on fuel in US, it will be the rich part of the world that pays, not the poor in your stories. As a result global demand would go down, as would probably the price of fuel in the rest of the world.
By your ‘gold encrusted space ship’ analogy, shouldn’t the rich world pay more for this asset?
There’s lots more to this debate than that, but the idea that the price of fuel in the US should go up is not necessarily wrong purely on the basis of the impact on the world’s poorest people.

I don’t believe that you’ve thought that through, Andy. Aside from the fact that what you suggest borders on some type of world communism, the unintended consequences are numerous, and actually wouldn’t even have the effect you suggest. The overall result of raising fuel costs is that you hurt businesses, forcing them to either shut down or move operations elsewhere. So, you’ve lowered demand in the “rich” country, but raised it elsewhere, probably someplace like China or any number of developing countries. In addition, by injuring the rich economy, you lower living standards there, particularly those in the middle class who’ve been badly battered already, as well as the poor. It has been shown countless times that the richer a country is, the better able they are to attend to (real) environmental concerns, as well as to be able to offer financial aid to poor countries, perhaps so that they can afford to have inexpensive electricity.
No, raising fuel prices is never a good idea, for whatever reason.

January 13, 2013 7:20 am

Quoting Willis:
“The difference between rich and poor, between developed and developing, is the availability of inexpensive energy. A kilowatt-hour is the same amount of work as a hard days labor by an adult. We’re rich because we have (or at least had) access to the hardworking servants of inexpensive energy. We have inexpensive electrical and mechanical slaves to do our work for us.”
When I first visited Camigin Island and stayed a week in one of the tiny one room cottages by the ocean shore where it was HOT and HUMID ohh it was something to bear for a man who lives in Eastern Washington dry desert heat back at home where it is bearable.
The electric supply in Leyte province is jerry rigged and erratic where it can vanish for a while and come back when you least expect it because there is no one telling anyone when it will come back on because it is a way of life there and they just go on about their business as if it was normal.
Several times I have visited the Philippines and each time I am expected to pay the cost for a party as I woo a nice Leyte woman there because I am “Rich” and they want to be around me for that reason but they are always nice about it and prove to be pleasant company.They cooked all the food and discovered that they cook darn good pizza,chicken and of course crab and they see that I like eating them and they are so happy about it which is quite visible in front of me.
I recall riding around the Island of Camiguin for a day with the three of us on a small motor bike that is NOT designed for the weight it carried but the driver/owner still did it because he wanted me to see his Island and was willing to tolerate the damaging effects to his motorbike which he makes his living on.I paid for the ride and the fuel for the trip and he was happy to spend that day carrying this big American man and his girlfriend around.He even lent me the bike to carry around my future wife and climbed up the main Volcano slopes to get a wonderful view of the region but the bike takes a beating the whole time since it is really small and designed for the weight of a single Filipino running it.Fankly I wondered why it held up in all those miles as the tires made it clear there was a lot of weight on them.
A year later the owner of the bike asked if I could help pay for the repairs that was needed to sustain his meager living and of course I gladly paid it because he was very generously using his bike and time to entertain an American man who enjoyed the hospitable hosts support for my stay on the Island.
That was in 2003 and the photo’s I have of that trip will always remind me how generous the philipino people can be with strangers walking around in their world and I never felt unwanted at anytime depite being the “Rich” man around who was not asked for money or favors,for themselves.It is a sobering experience to realize how lucky I am to be in a part of the world where I can have reliable electricity all year long and my Filipino wife now knows that I am not “Rich” here as I was there because she has lived in both worlds yet prefers mine over hers when it comes to comfort and reliability.

January 13, 2013 7:21 am

papiertigre, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. I’m glad to hear of those things, naturally, but beg to insist that Obummercare and the war on people everywhere – including drone murder of anyone he pleases to kill… stuff like that somehow seems more immediate and damaging to us all.
The only answer to poverty, or any of the other pressing problems of the world, is liberty and a truly free market. As long as some people have power over other people against their will, tyranny, poverty and death are the inevitable outcome.

G. P. Hanner
January 13, 2013 7:22 am

Damn, Willis. You did lived on the edge when you were a young man. My own recollections of the Philippines are not so daring. And I never even considered venturing into the shanty towns, although a scant few colleagues kinda sorta explored the Filipino outback around Angeles City. My closest brush with the low down of the Philippines came when the USAF sent me to Snake School.
I agree with you completely regarding the willful ignorance — and arrogance — of those who consider themselves to be the intellectually superior elite of our society. Your quotes from Chu and Obama brought back recollections of the Great Depression and the misguided efforts to raise prices in the face of economic collapse. One thing that has always stuck in my mind is the destruction of food and commodities ordered by then Secretary of Agriculture, Henry Wallace, while a substantial segment of the US population was going hungry and barely clothed. All this was done with the aim of raising the prices of food and commodities. It was all well-intentioned, of course, so it was OK. The only thing that distinguishes it from the actions of Stalin in places like Ukraine is that Stalin did it with malice.
I blame our education system first and foremost. Over the past 50 years it has morphed from education to indoctrination. And since it is the Left that dominates the education system the indoctrination inevitably consists of Leftist ideals. At least two generations have been contaminated with that kind of nonsense. Not all, of course, but enough to disrupt society and make significant contributions to the economic and cultural decline of the USA.
How do we overcome the corruption of the two youngest generations?

January 13, 2013 7:24 am

Pat Ravasio says:
January 13, 2013 at 6:59 am
“They would be able to access the same sun, wind and electromagnetic wave power as everyone else, once whatever energy harvesting technologies were in place.”
What is “electromagnetic wave power” and how does one “harvest” it?
” If you really wanted to level the playing field on this planet, you would be pursuing greener, cleaner technologies for all the planet. As it is now, all 100% of us are forced to slave away at least some percentage of our time, the poor much greater, to buy our paltry share of oil and gas, extracted from the ground at increasingly enormous costs.”
Pat, I live in Germany at the very vanguard of new renewable technology that already produces 1.5% of our primary energy consumption. That means that I am forced to slave away for about 250 EUR/year MORE than without said renewable energy because it is WAY MORE EXPENSIVE than oil and gas. (Germany forces electricity ratepayers to cough up 20 bn EUR a year to subsidize wind + solar. 20 bn EUR, for you, is 26 bn USD)
There is obviously no way in hell the poorest could cough up that kind of dough. But green fanatics like you happily ignore economics. Do you think solar panels are NOT extremely energy intensive in their production? (and the electronics, and the transmission lines, and the batteries; you’ll want some if you remove fossil fuel power generators etc etc…)
Stop fantasizing about things of which you know nothing, absolutely nothing about.

S. Meyer
January 13, 2013 7:25 am

Willis, I am speechless. Who would expect to find such moving prose on a climate blog?

January 13, 2013 7:35 am

While Wills essays have some literary quality, I agree with the critics here, e.g. Les Johnson, Papiertigre and AndyL
First his stand reminds me of Gottfrieds Benn Poem “Reisen” – about travel – you dont win new insights by mer traveling, you carry always your personal world with you.
Second: The poor need higher quality of administration, lower corruption and better infrastructure much more than cheap energy. If you look at what is going on in India at the moment with those rape cases, the poor and the middle class are profiting much more from reliable bus drivers, behaving copassengers, respect towards persons and property and secure ways to reach a work place than from lower energy cost. Les Johnsons brings it to the point – cleaning up a clinic ward is not a question of cheap energy in Nigeria, its the longing to live in a better world and respect for your fellow citizens that makes a difference.
With respect to countries with artificially high enrgy cost like Norway, Switzerland and nowadays Germany – they thrive and have made it out very decent starts relying on a working administraive bodies that delivers on promises. High energy taxes may allow to build up reliable infrastructrure but they need an atmosphere of low corruption, technical innovation and ideas being allowed into products and income.
Third if you want to see how globally the poor are making a better life, ask Roger Pielke and go for the Kaya equation. http://e360.yale.edu/feature/a_positive_path_for_meeting_the_global_climate_challenge/2329/ : The difference in public response to government actions illustrates the immutability of what Pielke calls the iron law of climate policy: <>
Calls for asceticism and sacrifice are a nonstarter. But calls for a working government to provide viable infrastructures and to foster new technologies are appropriate – and via comparing good and bad examples on the political market mankind moves forward. Eschenbach delivers a sort of political standpoint with a narrow perspective but leaves completely out that the world doesnt always share american positions on role of state, culture, sports and gun laws 😉

David Byrd
January 13, 2013 7:38 am

Some what along the same lines….George Carlin nails it here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB0aFPXr4n4

John Gorter
January 13, 2013 7:39 am

Fantastic Willis!
John Gorter

Ed, 'Mister' Jones
January 13, 2013 7:42 am

I would love to shove this Essay up Al Gore’s Kiester.

Doug Huffman
January 13, 2013 7:43 am

Throwing away mature technology – PWR – chasing moonbeams is as foolish as alternative renewable energy.

andy hunter
January 13, 2013 7:44 am

passed to face book and twitter thank you so much and james@ wuwt

January 13, 2013 7:44 am

HalloModerator – I tried to have the follwing quote of Pielke to be inserted in a different format
The difference in public response to these government actions illustrates the immutability of what I call the iron law of climate policy: When policies on emissions reductions collide with policies focused on economic growth, economic growth will win out every time. Climate policies should flow with the current of public opinion rather than against it, and efforts to sell the public on policies that will create short-term economic discomfort cannot People are willing to bear costs to reduce emissions, but they are only willing to go so far.succeed if that discomfort is perceived to be too great.

Bruce Cobb
January 13, 2013 7:48 am

Pat Ravasio says:
January 13, 2013 at 6:59 am
The poor people you describe so beautifully would be greatly advantaged by a clean energy world.
If by “greatly advantaged” you mean dead, then yes, I suppose. That is the ultimate goal of you Greenies, isn’t it? Your biggest problem seems to be that you don’t have a clue about economics, nor do you desire to even get a clue.

Doug Huffman
January 13, 2013 7:49 am

At a glance at current technology (contra science), there are no Pebble Bed Reactors or Liquid Fluoride/Molten Salt/Thorium Reactors producing power. i will be pleased to be contradicted. My good friend Rod Adams, of Adams’ Atomic Engines/Atomic Energy Insights, beat his head on the bureaucratic wall of ignorance until he could stand it no more.

Rud Istvan
January 13, 2013 7:54 am

Touching true stories. There is only one problem. Peak fossil fuels are not overblown concerns.
They are a well documented geophysics problem, not an economic problem as David Yergin would have us believe. Although coming absolute scarcity will also dramatically raise energy prices. First to peak are liquid transportation fuels, which has a double whammy on agriculture and food.
Before asserting this issue to be overblown, study the contemporary facts summarized in my book Gaia’s Limits, and in the many references and scientific sources it provides, as carefully as those posting here do CAGW. It is easy to deconstruct unscientific CAGW nonsense, as done many times in many ways. It is impossible to deconstruct the consequences of geophysics on the ability to continue to produce more fossil energy from finite resources into some indefinite future. And it is quite possible to place reliable estimates, with meaningful uncertainty bands, on when and why and how those production peaks likely arise.
That, not CAGW, should be of concern to everyone, because it begins sooner that economies now have the ability to respond. And it will affect the “1%” at least as much as the 99, because our lives are so much more energy dependent. We do not use digging sticks to plant corn and soybeans in the US.

January 13, 2013 8:00 am

Thanks for the great story. Of course there is a great difference in wealth and in a daily routine of health and security from the world’s bottom to the world’s top. But I take exception to the use of the ‘1%’ term here.
The term 1% is a simple reference for those at the top of the economic ladder whose important decisions (whether a government or economic policy) are selfishly made to only their benefit.
Perhaps 500 years ago, nearly all of the world’s population was rather poor given the lack of inexpensive energy. As the West industrialized, those jobs brought relative wealth to those employed and the infrastructure brought better health to those near that industry (heat, safe water, waste management, etc.). I cannot dispute the importance of this infrastructure that the above and your other essays have mentioned.
As the world’s population has exploded, so have the social organizations. Governments have bloated bureaucracies. Companies have global subsidiaries. Those at the top of these huge social organizations often have no empathy for those at the bottom, nor for those affected by their decisions.
When social organizations are small there is direct accountability. In a small town where everyone knows everyone, crime or social misbehvaior can be dealt with immediately. As the organizations become larger, the accountability becomes more difficult. In the 19th Century, unions became the only check on corporate misbehavaior (unsafe working conditions, long hours, low pay, etc.) where mass demonstrations can involve others to address a social injustice. Since then, social organizations now span international boundaries (UN, multinational corporations and financial institutions). Hunamity has not yet found a way to check misbehaviors at this much higher. Companies can now move subsidiaries across country boundaries to find a place where the population can be abused (with low wages and terrible working conditions) or the environment ravaged (by dumping pollution that had been strictly managed in other places).
Your touching stories reveal how little of Western prosperity (what you called the Western 1%) has reached most of the world’s poor. Your quotes of Cho and Obama and their analysis shows how those at the top do not comprehend the consequences of their decisions or their attitudes.
I believe you could have made your point without mixing all of the WUWT readers into the infamous 1%.
When you bring up the pressure from AGW groups causing the denial of power plants in India, this is also mixing groups. The AGW crowd has been convinced (it is now essentially a religion with its fanatical believers) their battle will save the world. People are social creatures, subject to the influence of groups (as in the book: The Righteous Mind). A person’s natural confirmation bias makes it difficult to convince for others to convince someone of their wrong belief, especially when there is widespread popularity of those beliefs. The AGW crowd has the IPCC and many other groups pushing for increased power at an international level so of course the world’s 1% (the top of the world’s power structures, not those having a certain amount of wealth) is agreeable with this latest fad.

January 13, 2013 8:02 am

Joe Grappa,
Maybe you should practise what you preach and set an example for your own ideas, get it?

January 13, 2013 8:03 am

Great piece!!

Joe Grappa
January 13, 2013 8:05 am

It is shocking to see how many pro-crowding people there are around here.
With robot factories churning out cheap goods of every kind, a small population would enjoy the creme de la creme of the stuff.
Sure, there will always be people at the economic bottom – there has to be somebody there, right? But even if they are lazy, stupid, mentally twisted, it will be hard for them to live less well than, say, a Prince.
Or, since you fellows don’t like the idea of personal responsibility, let’s say their rulers are stupid and twisted. The crumbs the people get will be like a whole loaf is today.
And look, we won’t be causing climate change or whatever it is with co2, since there won’t be enough people to generate much of it. The rivers will be clean, the lakes will be clean, the skies will be blue, there will be no traffic jams.
Enforced Population Reduction: a win-win solution.

John West
January 13, 2013 8:05 am

@ Pat Ravasio
How about providing some evidence to WUWT that “alternative energy” is viable.
1) Determine how much energy you use from the grid monthly. Record: kWhrs and $/month
2) Have an alternative energy system quoted to provide that power completely off-grid. Record: Capital expenditure, operational costs, and expected operational life.
3) Calculate and record monthly cost: Operation costs on a per month basis plus Capital expense divided by expected operational life in months.
4) Report to WUWT: grid $/month and off-grid $/month and show your records and calculations.
Simply saying something like we can power the world with clean energy with existing technology doesn’t make it true.

January 13, 2013 8:06 am

Pat Ravasio says: January 13, 2013 at 6:59 am
Maybe your comment would make a little bit of sense if your so-called “clean-energy” schemes actually worked and could exist without enormous subsidies.
They don’t. And they can’t.
So your “clean-energy” schemes aren’t part of any conceivable solution. They are a very large part of the problem.

Doug Huffman
January 13, 2013 8:06 am

In re education; Charlotte Thomson iserbyt’s masterwork’s first edition was a 700 page chronological collection of education policy papers from the Thirties and John Dewey to post-modern OBE. The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America has been edited and pared-down for modern consumption, but it’s still a free PDF at her website or much more expensive at AmaXon.

Andrew Dickens
January 13, 2013 8:11 am

Good stories, but I don’t understand how raising US taxes on fuel would affect the cost of energy in Indonesia. In fact, if it resulted in a reduction in demand for fuel in the USA, the world price of oil might even go down. All of this has nothing to do with global warming, Fuel conservation is sensible for its own sake. it’s not going to last forever – best spin it out as long as we can, by which time (with any luck) we’ll have invented our way out of the problem.

Rich Lambert
January 13, 2013 8:12 am

Willis, thank you. These stories also point to the evil of taxpayer subsidized production of ethanol and the mandated burning of it for car fuel, thus raising the price of food for the poor.

January 13, 2013 8:15 am

Good story. Perhaps you might consider to write a political satire in the form of a novel that shines a light on the falseness and totally hypocritical thinking of the current crop of democratic/liberal leadership in the West. These parties are often elected because they espouse a desire to help ordinary workers or the environment but their policies are in fact at odds with this.
Governments globally now use energy as the single biggest source of tax revenue after income or consumption taxes. It is a simple fact that energy prices are much higher because governments universally share a desire for greater tax revenues – rentier states want more take and so do consumer states – every government wants more tax revenues and this all leads to greater restrictions on economic development of an increased energy supply that would in turn drive down costs.
What is worse is that huge government subsidies for environmentally approved renewable sources of energy are typically ten times more costly and do more damage to the environment than fossil fuels (yes wind farms are environmentally a disaster, ethanol drives up the cost of food, etc)
The very politicians who claim they are trying to protect both the poor and the environment are in fact their worst enemy. The people at Greenpeace, WWF and other environmental alarmist NGO groups, as well as the greedy CAGW scientists at the taxpayers trough are also ALL enemies of the poor like Helena.
So sad.

Amr marzouk
January 13, 2013 8:16 am

One of the best

Ron Richey
January 13, 2013 8:16 am

Write a book.
And have it published.
I’ve read a few of your “chapters” here at WUWT and I loved each one. I’ll buy the first 12 books in advance for my kids and grandkids. “Perspective” has a powerful influence on humans if it can be communicated. You sir, communicate.

January 13, 2013 8:21 am

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 8:05 am
“With robot factories churning out cheap goods of every kind, a small population would enjoy the creme de la creme of the stuff.”
“Enforced Population Reduction: a win-win solution.”
And we have a winner for the Toatalitarian Of The Day award. Thanks for confessing that you won’t wait for voluntary population reduction. I love it when a totalitarian is candid about his goals.
Are you part of the “Zeitgeist movement”?

January 13, 2013 8:23 am

To add an additional slant, the public utilities have now entered the business of NOT selling electricity. In other words they have inverted capitalism so they are in the business of minimizing sales. An extremely dangerous economic model that throttles production, destroys primary and secondary production, and ever drives up unit costs. Now reflected as outrageous surcharges on utility invoices.

January 13, 2013 8:28 am

Joe Grappa:
At January 13, 2013 at 8:05 am you whinge at people who disdain the obscene views you espoused in your post at January 13, 2013 at 5:02 am which called for culling the world’s human population.
Your whinge says

since you fellows don’t like the idea of personal responsibility,

No! On the contrary.
I was the first to object to your nasty little post and I take full responsibility for my actions.
You say the population should be reduced but clearly fail to adopt “personal responsibility” because you are still here.

January 13, 2013 8:33 am

“Rud Istvan says:
January 13, 2013 at 7:54 am
Touching true stories. There is only one problem. Peak fossil fuels are not overblown concerns.
They are a well documented geophysics problem, not an economic problem as David Yergin would have us believe.”
Rud, Firstly it is Daniel Yergin not David. Secondly, I am in the know having studied this stuff for nearly a decade. There is no peak fossil fuels not for at least several hundred years or more (probably much longer). Why worry about this problem today when we don’t know what smart energy source may be invented by Physicists in 100 years time? Sorry but Yergin makes a living from selling industry analysis and like climate scientists his organization tends towards a little hyperbole in order to grab headlines and to add urgency and importance to their domain. (IEA and countless other groups do the same – so I don’t wish to single out Yergin as I have a great deal of respect for him. Yergin is brilliant. “The Prize” was a great book. Some of his stuff on Russia/Cold Wars etc. was also brilliant.)

January 13, 2013 8:34 am

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 8:05 am
Enforced Population Reduction: a win-win solution.

Could i ask how you intend to reduce population?
Will you follow the pre-war model or the Chinese model or do you have other ideas?
Will population control be in other countries or just your own?
In which country will population control start or will it be worldwide?
Which is your favoured method, forced sterilisation, forced abortion, culling or other?
Will this be some kind of Logans Run scenario and where will you be in this scenario?
Will you be part of an elite, allowed to live, have more than 1 child or will you allow any over population by your family to be “disposed of”?
Where will your idea fit within the context of Human Rights?
Thanks in advance

John West
January 13, 2013 8:34 am

Joe Grappa says:
”It is shocking to see how many pro-crowding people there are around here.”

”Enforced Population Reduction: a win-win solution.”
I’m a pro-crowding person for the simple reason that no other driving force has historically (or pre-historically) been sufficient for compelling expansion and progress of humanity. We must expand beyond this planet or we’ll become extinct along with all other life on this planet sooner or later (probably much later), therefore it’s shocking to me how indifferent you are to what happens after you are gone to not only humanity but all the ecosystems we could potential save by expanding our civilization beyond the grasp of a single planetary disaster to wipe out.
I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume by Enforced Population Reduction you’re referring to birth control and not wholesale murder. Even so, who decides who can reproduce and who can’t? How many potentially useful traits might we lose in such a process? It boggles the mind at how short-sighted you Malthusianists are.

January 13, 2013 8:37 am

[Please provide a few words of explanation when posting links. — mod.]

George Gillan
January 13, 2013 8:37 am

Typographical error: “They have to ability to absorb increases in their cost of living, particularly their energy spending.” should be “They have no…”

Joe Grappa
January 13, 2013 8:37 am

DirkH says:
“Thanks for confessing that you won’t wait for voluntary population reduction. I love it when a totalitarian is candid about his goals.”
The Chinese are doing it now. What is it – 1 child per family? Those nasty totalitarians!
“Are you part of the “Zeitgeist movement”?”
Never heard of it.

January 13, 2013 8:38 am

Peter says:
January 13, 2013 at 4:22 am
I used to live in Mentang myself. I had a company house with chandeliers in the bathrooms.
The park in front of our house however, was full of homeless. We used to have our houseboy give them anonymous money for healthcare.
Great post, Willis

Jeff Alberts
January 13, 2013 8:44 am

oldfossil says:
January 13, 2013 at 4:12 am
The people who are “easing their consciences” are not the people who have to pay the price. Am I being a conspiracy-nut neurotic when I suspect that carbon taxes are just an excuse for the developed nations to avoid giving aid to the dark-skinned nations of the world?

I can tell you one thing. The more prices rise here in the US, the less we’re able, as individuals, to offer aid to those in need around the world.

John West
January 13, 2013 8:48 am

Andrew Dickens says:
”I don’t understand how raising US taxes on fuel would affect the cost of energy in Indonesia.”
I don’t think that was necessarily the main point although there’s some truth to the saying that when the US economy sneezes the world catches a cold (paraphrasing). The main point being that raising US energy costs has the potential to convert our “rich poor” into the kind of poor the rest of the world knows.

Stephen Richards
January 13, 2013 8:53 am

We were poor growing up (two parents and 6 kids in two and three bedroom houses), but we didn’t know it. It was only when I went overseas, that I confirmed that we were indeed NOT poor, compared to most of the world.
Blimey, you were rich even compared to londoners.

January 13, 2013 8:54 am

600,000 German families had their power cut off last year because they could no longer afford it. Now if they can’t afford it, then forget about poor countries ever escaping the grinding poverty Willis describes.

Jeff Alberts
January 13, 2013 8:54 am

MamaLiberty says:
January 13, 2013 at 7:21 am
papiertigre, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Not one with an electronic display.

January 13, 2013 8:54 am

Now, you know the old truck is worth a maybe hundred dollars, and that’s on a good day with a following wind. And one can’t predict the future, but you are kinda sure that this opportunity will never come again … which means the real question is, would you tell the diamond-studded alien “Oh, I could be persuaded to let it go for million dollars, it’s kinda precious to me”, or would you only say “a hundred thousand dollars”?
Seriously, I’d tell the yachties, you get a one-time chance like that, you have to take your shot. You have to ask for the moon. Might not get it, but why not ask?
brilliantly put!!!

Dan in Nevada
January 13, 2013 8:55 am

Willis says “The difference between rich and poor, between developed and developing, is the availability of inexpensive energy.”
MamaLiberty says “The only answer to poverty, or any of the other pressing problems of the world, is liberty and a truly free market.”
Willis, loved your article and your conclusions are right as far as they go, but MamaLiberty nailed both the true cure for both poverty and inexpensive energy: liberty and free markets. As Hernando de Soto describes in “El Otro Sindero”, wealth can only come from free markets and the foundation of free markets is private property rights.
The poverty you so aptly describe is a direct result of not being secure in owning anything. People live in hovels because if they do anything at all to improve their conditions, somebody stronger or more connected will simply take it. Development of even the most basic of industry, not to mention energy production, can only come by bribing police and officialdom to leave you alone. “Protect and serve” means protection rackets and serving the well-being of the state and oneself.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people that believe that instead of protecting property rights, which would result in permanent prosperity, governments should be providing Euro-style safety nets and “free” energy and social support. This will appear to work for a while, but eventually people become more dependent on being taken care of (Greece, for example) and the system eventually collapses. We here in the U.S. are on the same road, just not as far along as Greece. As much as I detested Mitt Romney’s candidacy, he was totally correct about the 47% (and growing) that depend on the government for everything.
Government-provided cheap energy results in things like Chernobyl and the documented environmental issues at the Nevada Test Site, Hanford WA, and the Savannah River Project. The government always exempts itself from being held accountable for failures by bureaucrats.
As much as I loved your article, I’m just afraid it will just give the lefties ammunition to demand more intervention into both energy and the economy, which is the exact opposite of the right solution.

Chris Riley
January 13, 2013 8:57 am

Willis, yesterday’s piece you showed that the war on energy supply was, economically, a spectacularly inefficient response to problems that are claimed to be waiting for us in the future due to AGW. Today’s piece shows that the efforts to reduce the supply of energy are also profoundly immoral. Taken together this is perhaps the most compelling single argument I have read. If you wrote a book, or produced a film, this nightmare might end. Get to work!

January 13, 2013 9:06 am

We’re all rich in America… the parking lot at the local high school where I live is full of cars driven by sixteen year olds. How does that happen? It’s not like any of the kids have the wherewithal to produce a fully functioning car – or their parents – or their teachers. People who worry about financial inequity are oblivious to the magic of America’s productive economy. Human squalor is real, but thank goodness we don’t have it here.

Michael P
January 13, 2013 9:10 am

Thank you for putting into thoughtful words what I have understood for many years. My life has not been as adventurous as yours (I’ve been east of the Mississippi once) but I know about some of the plight of the poor in the third world. I enjoy your stories and your insight.

January 13, 2013 9:13 am

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 8:37 am
“The Chinese are doing it now. What is it – 1 child per family? Those nasty totalitarians!”
They are indeed very nasty totalitarians. You have probably never heard about it but google Falun Gong. When you’re not in China you should be able to do that without getting a subsequent visit by communist party thugs.

January 13, 2013 9:19 am

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 8:37 am
“The Chinese are doing it now. What is it – 1 child per family? Those nasty totalitarians!”
Another word. As you seem to be a terribly childish or sociopathic person with no knowledge of the world whatsoever, just to inform you, it is so that not every Chinese mother lets the communist party kill her baby when she’s 8 months pregnant. Many of the illegal children are born. They never get papers, they exist as illegals in their own country; they don’t get access to healthcare and don’t appear in any statistic. They have no rights. They don’t get an education. Millions of them exist.
““Are you part of the “Zeitgeist movement”?”
Never heard of it.”
You should join them They are sick twisted people who dream of robotic factories and other Technocracy Inc style nonsense, and of course, capitalism will in their glorious vision of the future be replaced by a rational, wait for it, planned economy (that they call a resource based economy). You’d love it.

January 13, 2013 9:24 am

Willis, your essays should be collected into a book. It would stand comparison with the best in the English language

Kevin Kilty
January 13, 2013 9:25 am

I realize the term 1% was largely for literary effect because it is actually about 25% of the world’s population that lives quite well. The real wonder is, why can’t the other 75% live so well? The obvious answer is “bad government”, an answer that most of our politicians, political activists, and the UN cannot stomach.

January 13, 2013 9:25 am

Willis, Pachauri’s got nothing on ya in the romantic novel genre

Crispin in Waterloo
January 13, 2013 9:25 am

I am fortunate to be working with a Harvard anthropologist in Java, the stomping ground of Obama’s mother for several years when she was married to an Indonesian (she studied the local industry of small-scale metal-working artisans) . There are really poor people in Java, measured by our reckoning which is of course $$, not services or lifestyle or cost of living or subsidised energy.
One of the notable things about Java is that the forest is full of people who live in beautiful weather-approporiate clay-roofed homes and they run the forest like a huge permaculture garden. It is not natural randomness at all. The forest is literally full of food. When one ‘monetises’ on paper the value of the contribution of the local environment to the living and lifestyle of the people, there emerges a very different $ value to their ‘income’. Free wood energy, free water, free building material, free all-sorts-of-things, things that literally do not come from the garden in Europe or Canada.
This approach to comparing ‘lifestyles’ is much more realistic and perhaps why poor people like to stay where they are many times, and why rich 1% folks pay so much to try to live for a few weeks or months in the environs of those living much closer to the earth from which we all sprang.
When my kids were told by the locals ‘they were rich’ they replied, “Then why are we going to same school as you?” Poverty is relative and the calculation of it depends greatly on what value you place on things like clean air, polite neighbours and puttering around the food garden.

January 13, 2013 9:26 am

You say to Steven Mosher who – at January 13, 2013 at 8:37 am – provided this link

[Please provide a few words of explanation when posting links. — mod.]

Yes, he should have because the short lecture is brilliant, superb and entertaining (despite its acceptance that AGW is a real threat).
Everybody needs to take a look at that link.

January 13, 2013 9:27 am

I mean that in a good way.
I see palm trees when I read your tropical tales.

G. P. Hanner
January 13, 2013 9:33 am

Joe Grappa says: Enforced Population Reduction: a win-win solution.
Grappa: Your worldview screams fascism.

January 13, 2013 9:33 am

It is even worse than you suggest and the poor can end up subsidising the middle class in energy. This is by the use of photovoltaics. An array of solar panels feeds energy to the grid when you have no use for it, but then they expect energy on demand at other times. It is often claimed that this can lead to zero energy bills so is ‘green’. In fact it just moves the cost of the energy infrastructure on to those who can’t afford, or don’t have the space, to install solar panels. It is not green – it is just a way of robbing everyone else.

Rud Istvan
January 13, 2013 9:33 am

Jeremy, correct on Daniel Yergin ‘name, but not on his conclusions. You possiblly confuse remaining known and potentially discoverable reserves with annual production rates. Peaks are not about running out of reserves. They are about the inability to annually produce more usefulmenergy from them than in the past. Why don’ you read a few technical books and papers on the subject, including Yergin’s argument for hoped for inventions that circumvent geophysics as fuel prices continue their inevitabe rise owing to the need to tap ever more marginal and expensive reserves, and then get back. You might even try my book, which was deliberately written using only dumbed down incontrovertible facts ( many of which are pictorial). Then get back with real counter facts if you have them, rather than mere arguments from authority. That is a technique Warmists use. Jim Hansen styles himself an authority on CAGW, but he is just crazy wrong also.

January 13, 2013 9:33 am

Richard Thal says:
January 13, 2013 at 4:44 am
Willis, you’ve done it again. this really puts things in perspective. Brings me to tears.
Second that!

Q. Daniels
January 13, 2013 9:34 am

The disparate impact is a feature, not a bug.

What Ever
January 13, 2013 9:37 am

Big deal

Steve Garcia
January 13, 2013 9:38 am

Willis –
In my day you didn’t have to go to the Philippines to find houses shingled with tin cans and whatever. I lived (mostly) just outside East St Louis, Illinois. Where now there are ramps to and from the I-55/I-70/I-64/I-44 bridge over the Mississippi River, there was a shanty town of 4th world proportions.
And that was before E St Louis fell apart at the seams. The USA as a whole is the 1%, yes, but we have such pockets of poverty as to make at least one or two 3rd world countries look prosperous. I never saw any here as bad as your photo, but I’ve seen close.
Steve Garcia

January 13, 2013 9:40 am

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 5:02 am
Too many people. Get the population down to 500 million or a billion or so and everyone would live like a king.

This is a post highlighting pure evil.
It also demonstrates an utter lack of understanding about how humans behave. If you did manage to reduce the world population like this it wouldn’t change or improve lives at all instead it would make peoples lives worse.
And again we have a display of someone who believes and defends evil for no good reason other than it suits their sensibilities.

January 13, 2013 9:41 am

Typo 3 paragraphs from the end of Story the third. The paragraph starts with “Nest” when I think you intended it to start with “next”.
[Thanks, fixed. -w.]

Lars P.
January 13, 2013 9:44 am

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 5:02 am
Too many people. Get the population down to 500 million or a billion or so and everyone would live like a king.
Well Joe, we had that already in our history, even less then 500 million, but am not sure that everybody lived like a king in those times?

January 13, 2013 9:45 am

A wonderful piece of writing but there are still so many who are beguiled by their preconceived notions. Think people, think.

Gary Pearse
January 13, 2013 9:45 am

When you can drive entirely across most European countries in the distance between Ottawa and Toronto, the gas pinch isn’t as bad for Europeans. Mind you when you add the rest of the pinches from socialist governments, it becomes considerable. So far I haven’t seen anything in Canadian news about elderly folk buying used books – particularly large tomes to use for heating fuel in the winter.
If socialist governments are not looking after the poor and particularly the elderly poor, what is their constituency? I know they call themselves conservatives and social democrats but they are all socialist these days – kill the engines of the economy and then redistribute what? Arithmetic will catch up with them before too long I would hope.

January 13, 2013 9:53 am

Brilliant article, Willis. Like you I’ve travelled and seen the “other 99%” and we – even those camping in Times Square, outside the European Central Bank and elsewhere (on social security benefits) are the 1%. I fume with rage everytime someone like the Peabody Trust or the Guardian proclaim that “children in Britain are living in poverty” because they can’t afford Nike trainers, electronic games or some other luxury item. I’ve also been ashamed by hospitality in Africa, Indonesia, the Middle East (Yes, Christian families don’t get the best paid jobs) and in other “developing” nations.
You are absolutely right. Driving the cost of fuel upward will simply destroy any hope these folk have of improving their lives in any way. Worse, it will seriously damage the lives of those who are on low wages in our own societies. Only overpaid, over guilt-ridden politicians, activists (either funded by wealthy parents or the generosity of ‘social security’ or ‘charities’ milking fear and ignorance) could or would come up with moronic suggestions like these. Only they can’t seem to connect the dots – higher fuel and energy costs drive prices for basic commodities upward – and out of reach of the poorest – the same one’s they claim to be trying to help.
Excellent examples in your stories, sadly the bleeding heart mob will no doubt respond with their usual wail of “but we HAVE to do something! It will be hard for everyone …”
Yeah, right.

January 13, 2013 9:53 am

Obama’s world view does not reflect any of the lessons he might have gleaned from his exposure to third world conditions in Indonesia. He is what is known as, a “Red Diaper Baby”, period!

Alex the skeptic
January 13, 2013 10:02 am

This commentary should be an OpEd in all news papers.

Jim D
January 13, 2013 10:02 am

Indeed energy costs (household and transportation) rank up there with food and health care as basic needs in a civilized society. The poor should be entitled to a basic level of each of these with government aid where necessary. A nation is judged by how its poorest live.

January 13, 2013 10:03 am

What Willis has gotten at here is the lack of perspective that comes with being born and raised in America. Unfortunately many of our liberal/leftist friends are the worst offenders in this respect, although admittedly some are aware of the level of poverty around the globe and mistakenly believe Western societies are responsible for it. The opposite is true of course. If it weren’t for prosperous, creative, dynamic Western societies the hellholes of the world would be even worse.
Several decades ago in San Francisco I met a woman artist who told me of a trip she had taken to the Middle East some years before. She had gone to Israel and then courageously went on into Egypt as an adventure. She met a wonderful family who took her in for a week or two, which was a surprise to her since she was Jewish. They were not a poverty stricken family, they must have been middle class, because eventually they scraped the money together to visit her years later in San Francisco.
The story she related about their visit that had really opened her eyes was their reaction to going into a large American supermarket for the first time. The Egyptians had a shopping list of basic items. They wanted cooking oil. She would ask them, do you want corn oil, peanut oil, olive oil, vegetable oil, Crisco oil, etc. Her guests were overwhelmed by the choices. Each item on the list presented the same long list of choices. She said their eyes were wide with wonderment and appreciation as she took them down each aisle in the store. It really brought home to her how good we have it here in America.
Willis has it right. If you are poor in America, your situation is infinitely better than middle class people in most countries around the world.

Steve Garcia
January 13, 2013 10:09 am

Story #2 reflects so much on my own experience and a question I have that I may never find an answer to.
Willis, I can’t write as well as you do, so I won’t try. But I can vouch for the utter generosity of people around the world – and it seems that the less they have the more generous they are. I’ve found it in the Mediterranean, in South America, in Latin America, in Europe, and in the USA. It bollixes my mind where the generosity comes from. “Is it in our DNA?” I wonder mostly. And there I get stuck. I cannot conceive of any other possible answer. Life is life, for all of us. When a stranger shows up on our doorstep, we reach out to help them, sometimes with food, sometimes with assistance – and sometimes the biggest gift of all is the gift of cameraderie/genial company.
Altruism is not – and never will be – dead. In a dog-eat-dog world some refuse to be that way. Maybe some others just discover it along the way. And, I suppose, even those who manage to become the 1% OF the 1% will find their generosity, in their time. Not everybody will, but some will. Even as we compete for and win great wealth (or not), I wonder if the gene inside us still looks for chances to offer some of what we have to someone we encounter who touches that generosity in us.
The times I’ve seen poor people offer so much of the little they have, I have been stunned into humility. Sometimes we don’t find ways like you did – to receive only a tiny bit – and we go away never forgetting how much was given. We come away feeling like we owe something now. And once that has taken hold, it never goes away. And when we do give, it is never enough to free ourselves from the memory. Maybe that is what altruism is about – trying to balance things in our memory, to give us peace of mind. So far I have not gotten there yet.
Steve Garcia

January 13, 2013 10:27 am

I worked in Nuclear Power for 20 years. Let’s go over some points as FAST as we can, and as COMPLETELY as we can. Can’t get rid of NUCLEAR WASTE? BULLSHIT! All the ‘cores’ of all the commercial power reactors run in this country would fit on the football field in the local “MetroDome”, with room to spare. These could easily be put in rock storage/disposal…or BEST YET, drop them the Marianus trench SUBDUCTION ZONE and send them to the center of the Earth!
MEANTIME, if we had had the WILL we could have had 500 reactors in this country supplying ALL our nuclear power!
WE ALSO could (by using the Liberty and Victory ships) have provided (Provisional) power to all the world during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
AVAILABLE AND CHEAP INTENSE POWER is the answer to allow these “impoverished areas” to lift themselves. LOOK AT THE PROGRESS OF THE CHINESE (Albeit with FOSSIL FUELS).
So the real question is – HOW SHOULD THE OBSTRUCTIONISTS BE PUNISHED? (On your 1% side).
I say we should round them up and EXILE them to the 99% side you refer to and let them back, ONLY WHEN THEY APOLOGIZE for their obstruction! (And beg forgiveness.)

Steve Garcia
January 13, 2013 10:28 am

@Willis Eschenbach January 13, 2013 at 9:50 am
“Finally, the gold spaceship analogy. The main reason the US and other countries have “gold spaceships” is because they have cheap energy.”
Willis, I agree, but to cheap energy I would add easily available natural resources. The end of the “American Century” coincided with the end of our iron mines. Right or wrong, I see a cause and effect in that. Certainly other factors exist, too.
But I also see the rise of the BRIC countries as the rise of those who now have the capacity (in large part because of cheap energy) to dig into their large stores of natural resources. An argument can be made that Japan was not able to sustain its rise because of their lack of natural resources.
And I agree with not signing on to expensive energy as a field-leveler. Oh, it might level the field, but at a significantly lower level. The Liberals have long been floating some level of REALLY expensive gasoline as a cure for all sorts of economic woes – but it is really only a part of the underlying AGW agenda: to take the world back to some idyllic (imaginary) time before industrialization. Both that world and the idea that expensive will take is backward are misguided; if energy gets really expensive, we humans will not go backward – we will find another way to go forward. Short of a comet impact, there IS no backward.
Steve Garcia

January 13, 2013 10:33 am

Willis– Another great read. You’re on a roll.
Chu and Obama would do themselves and the world a great favor by understanding the lesson of Bastiat’s Broken Window Fallacy.
What Socialists and Keynesian aficionados don’t WANT to understand are the unintended consequences of idiotic social and economic policies. If $100’s of billions or $trillions of a country’s limited capital resources are needlessly and stupidly wasted to accomplish some failed philosophical preconception, that wasted capital is unable to be used by other entrepreneurs to: start new businesses, develop new technologies, improve production facilities, hire new staff, expand business, roll out new and improved products, etc.
Free markets are by far the most effective, efficient, moral and equitable way to allocate limited resources, as the best managed companies producing the best products at the highest quality at the lowest price survive and less capable companies with inferior products fail; as they should.
Free markets are based on mutual agreement, where both sides win, whereas government controlled economies are based on coercion, where both parties eventually lose, and lose big.
I often look across the city and imagine how vastly different our living standards and quality of life would would have improved had governments not tried to micromanage economies and hadn’t busted all those damned windows over the past 100 years…..
We’d be living like the Jetsons by now…. but alas….

January 13, 2013 10:33 am

Re: MamaLiberty says:
January 13, 2013 at 7:21 am
How did you know that my clock is stopped? Does it show?

January 13, 2013 10:33 am

Thanks for this story Willis. I live in Manila, and while things have somehow improved economically for many people, many are still very poor, like Helena. And our electricity prices are second to Japan most expensive in Asia, due to past problems in energy policies. Now we have a Renewable Energy (RE) law and it gives feed in tariff (FIT) for the renewables like solar and wind, so they plan to make our already expensive electricity to become even more expensive, to “save the planet.” I have challenged many of those planet saviors to a debate on climate and energy policy, including the main lobbyists for that law — Greenpeace, WWF, other environmentalists, they have only one answer, the sound of silence. They even block me from following and debating them on twitter. They’re nuts and yet they succeeded in making our electricity prices to become even more expensive.

January 13, 2013 10:36 am

One addendum to my writing on Nuclear – I hope folks can follow this train of thought.
I went to a lecture on a “round the world” cruise a local retired Engineer went on, a few years ago. He was disappointed when he missed the “Entry of the Kings”, i.e. the Politburo coming into the meeting hall in Shanghai. But he noted, “12 of the 14 members of the Politburo were trained as Engineers. I got a good laugh out of the audience, when I said rather loudly.. “Maybe we should re-evaluate this ‘communist’ thing?” (Said firmly tongue in cheek.)

Henry Galt
January 13, 2013 10:46 am

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 5:02 am
“Too many people. Get the population down to … ” Pick a number, any number.
Not “Too many people..” Too many greedy people, maybe. Too many uneducated people? Definitely. Amongst them, those who believe stupid shit that others have spouted at them and they mindlessly regurgitate – such as your statements from seemingly fundamentalist, willful ignorance.
‘Allowing’ those stupids to breed is a basic human right that I will fight tooth and nail for, so that it may remain a classless privilege that even cretins such as you can take advantage of.
Sorry mods. Angrified but accepting of snippage am I. Nearly didn’t press the post button.
Thanks Willis. Once again you show humanity … well, humanity.

Joe Grappa
January 13, 2013 10:46 am

You pro-crowders are a sad bunch. All you can do is appeal to some
vague stuff about how ‘history shows…’ and ‘more people = more
ideas’ and ‘lack of understanding about how humans behave’, and how
we need to go into space, and on and on, including the old standby
It should not be hard to realize that if you are going to feed and
clothe and house all these billions you love so much, you have to
build more factories. The end result is to turn open spaces into
termataries, while forcing people to live cramped and crabbed lives
in order to avoid the pollution that would go with such an obscenely
large population.
Why in the name of Malthus would anybody be so stupid as to want
that to happen?
I think a combination of economic incentives, and forced
sterilization via engineered viruses would do the job.

January 13, 2013 10:50 am

Willis, as usual, wonderful.
But fuel and food prices no longer matter, at least in the US. It must be so because they’re ignored in the (US) government’s core inflation numbers.
And stay tuned. The “let them eat cake” US elite are about to bring us “chained CPI” to help “control costs” for the US Social Security Ponzi scheme, where reductions in value of consumed goods don’t count as a price increase (e.g. — when beef steak gets too expensive consumers downgrade to hamburger, when hamburger too expensive, beans and rice, when beans and rice too expensive, dog/cat food, etc.). Problem solved magically, prices no longer increasing, no need to increase cost-of-living adjustments.
And to G.P. Hanner, don’t believe that Obama and company are doing it without malice.
Seems that only economists and climate “scientists” get to redefine the rules and pretend it represents reality.
If you haven’t already, John Williams’ wwwDOTshadowstatsDOTcom for US CPI, core inflation, unemployment and other real values before the US royalty redefined them.

January 13, 2013 10:53 am

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 10:46 am

I think a combination of economic incentives, and forced
sterilization via engineered viruses would do the job.

Good solution. Have you bred yet, or do we have to start with you and your family’s enforced sterilization and death?
/sarchasm – That gaping whole between a liberal and reality.

January 13, 2013 10:56 am

@Willis in response to Pat
January 13, 2013 at 10:26 am
Pat obviously doesn’t have a clue as to how horrifying life would be in the third-world oil-producing nations if it were not for oil revenues from the advanced nations. The Middle East would be a charnel house. While there is little chance that demand for oil will abate much in the future, think of what would happen to those countries if it did. They talk about the West’s dependence on foreign oil. They never talk about the developing nation’s dependence on revenue from the advanced countries.

January 13, 2013 10:57 am

thanks richard.
if i were to recommend the video closed minds would reject it on that mere fact.
there are three huge problems.
reducing the cost of energy for the poor
limits of FF reserves
the effects of burning all the FF we have

Mario Lento
January 13, 2013 11:03 am

With Americans being made poor (less rich) by the Obama/Chu ideologies, how much less money can we afford to donate to the starving areas of the world? This is truly a crisis, and as I recall, the people who vote for Obama mostly do it because they want more free stuff. How ironic that the most stingy, self serving of people are the most to blame for this mess the world is in. Shame on your liberals, shame on you all!

January 13, 2013 11:06 am

I enjoyed your stories very much, Willis. I am one of the world’s elite. I am very rich and I know it, though I have no money to speak of – no stocks, no shares, no savings, no insurances and all I own is a bunch of books and a few very old computers – but I have a warm spacious room and live with good friends in a peaceful neighbourhood; I eat good food and the water is clean; I don’t watch TV nor listen to radio – just too busy with all the creative things I can do and not enough daylight hours to do them. My gold is the morning sun (when it breaks through the modern Maunder Minimum gloom of Western Europe), my garden, the birdsong and visits from my grown up kids. My carbon footprint is very small! If the rest of England lived like me, the economy would collapse!
But I have one advantage….I am a yogi. My inner world is as rich as my outer world and thus I have few hankerings. I could tell some stories too…of meeting a family in the Atlas, during the treks of my youth, who also killed their chicken and offered equally sweet tea! Or a little boy starving in some tiny village on the Kenya/Sudan border and me passing through with my expedition land-rover and three weeks supply of food for my team. That encounter led me to vow I would not spend my life accumulating capital for my own ends.
I have worked with lots of money….ran a research group in Oxford, which I set up myself after the University failed to back my ideas. We worked for disadvantaged communities providing scientific and legal expertise…on the risks they faced from industrial developments on their doorstep. I know about the real costs of coal, oil, gas, chemicals, hydro, biofuels, barrages, turbines, and all types of nuclear plant, uranium mining, fuel fabrication and waste disposal. I also know about how long energy supplies will last. Like you, Willis, I am a sceptic…..based on several years analysis of the computer models compared to real world data…but I have also been a ‘green’ – working for ecologically sustainable agriculture, forestry, biodiversity and stable human communities. I have written science papers, overseen theses, lectured and given seminars in Universities around the world……including writing a book on climate change (Chill: a reassessment of global warming theory) endorsed by the drafting author of the Kyoto Protocol….all of which counts for nothing with the modern greens who refuse to read the book and the left-liberal press who refused to review it.
I don’t belong with these kind of closed minded environmentalists. When bloggers write them off as Stalinists intent on a command economy….I have to say, yes, they would happily take command with all manner of surveillance technology in a carbon-accounting economy funded by global taxes. I have had my share of ‘we know where you live’ threats. They constantly seek to prevent my voice being heard.
I tell of of this because close as I am to your own wild heart….I think you are blind to one thing…and that is there is no longer any cheap energy available and fracking gas or some new fangled reactor ain’t going to help them. The poor are getting poorer (I live with the English subsection and I know how much they are being squeezed right now by ‘fuel poverty’ and that will continue). Oil is $110 dollars a barrel. Wind and solar are three to five times the cost of fossil fuels. There is not enough land for biofuels as well as food. I know nuclear…I spent twenty years studying its pros and cons…and leaving aside the risks….one thing it is not is cheap.
The problem with BOTH the sceptic blogosphere’s worldview and the green-left-liberal-quasicommunist-UNsupported conspiracy, is that everyone thinks there IS a solution! There is not. Only when this sinks in will minds start to get creative enough to address the real issues. Western elite lifestyles cannot be sustained. The global poor cannot follow the same road because that road was paved by cheap energy.
Eventually, those who are currently excluded from the social norms within the developed world (5 million in the UK and what, 20 million in the US) as well as within the development model (which creates more elites in Africa, southern Asia and South America)….will rebel and it will not be pretty.

January 13, 2013 11:06 am

Re Joe Grappa: It’s always refreshing to find a radical misanthrope who is proud to voice his contempt for mankind.
What people like Joe don’t understand is that the final solution they advocate would require a totalitarian reign of terror that would make the Great Leap Forward look like a picnic.

January 13, 2013 11:11 am

Beautifully put.
This should be compulsory reading in all schools in the western world.

john robertson
January 13, 2013 11:13 am

Wonderful post Willis, you’ve nailed it once again.
Been wondering about the visceral hatred toward the worlds poor, apparent in the actions of the CAGW movement.Their words hint at a callous indifference toward people unlike themselves, their actions in the name of saving us from AGW speak clearly.
Population must be reduced is the underlying chant, starve the poor the solution.
Does raising children in an atmosphere saturated in “White Liberal Guilt” and political correctness, produce this appalling desire to eliminate the poor coloured people?

January 13, 2013 11:14 am

“The Chinese are doing it now. What is it – 1 child per family? Those nasty totalitarians!”
Yes, they are. It’s the reason Chinese routinely abort or kill female babies and they now have a huge oversupply of men relative to women in their population.
It’s also largely a response to Mao’s demands that the Chinese rapidly increase their population in order to have cannon fodder for a war with America. When that turned out to be disastrous they went to the other extreme, which is now proving disastrous.
Most people who have to work for a living are quite capable of determining how many kids they can afford to have. When government gets involved, the results are inevitably disastrous.

January 13, 2013 11:22 am

It’s not the benefits of delusional “development” that are ours, it’s the benefits of the wisdom of our European Western Civilization, trade, ag., tech, invention, creativity, er, science. European Western Civilization was created from smart people taking the advice of even smarter ones.
Socialism toward power which include immigration of non-Westerns and the wasting of vast monies will be the end of the successful modern world we have become used to with our quality of life. You grandkids aren’t going to have Sperry Topsiders, they will have to with their flip-flops in the snow. I expect an increase the poor of the world, even mass starvation, based on the current collapsing of Western tradition. How else could it go?

January 13, 2013 11:24 am

Peter Taylor:
In your post at January 13, 2013 at 11:06 am you write

Western elite lifestyles cannot be sustained. The global poor cannot follow the same road because that road was paved by cheap energy.

That is plain wrong!
You need to spend 10 minutes watching the link provided by Steven Mosher at January 13, 2013 at 8:37 am. To save you needing to scroll up to it, I copy it here.


January 13, 2013 11:28 am

A joy to read, as always.
I recall a survey of African villagers a few years back asking what they most wanted.
A school and electricity were far ahead of everything else.

Doug Huffman
January 13, 2013 11:30 am

A traditional house does not poverty make.
While schooling at NRTS-NRF, I lived in Pocatello, Idaho and knew folks from a modest neighborhood that lived in a sod-house that stood three feet above grade with sod walls and roof. There may have been a half-dozen such in the neighborhood, not rich but not poor.
The observation that money is a poor valuation is spot on. Retired on investments and annuities, my dollar income is falling from what it used to be, but my life is full, serene and challenging. I start my ten year old VW, still getting 50+ mpg on summer bicycle trips, and know that I did good!

John West
January 13, 2013 11:39 am

Joe Grappa says:
“The end result is to turn open spaces into termataries, while forcing people to live cramped and crabbed lives”
Let’s consider what a future human-termatarium (hutarium) might be like. Perhaps a “super-duper” mall like structure with sections not just for retail but also manufacturing, housing, medical, import/export, administrative/financial, high efficiency farming, and recreation all connected through elevators and moving sidewalks. One might leave ones’ apartment in the morning, take a sidewalk to work, leave work taking a multi-directional elevator to the lake surrounded by the hutarium for some kayaking, go by the retail section for some personal items, eat at the food court, and make it back to the apartment just in time to catch a favorite TV show before going to bed. Doesn’t sound that bad to me. Oh, this could also be a floating island, in the middle of a desert, or wherever space isn’t being currently utilized.
The point being, like all doomsayers before you, you underestimate technological advancement. You might as well be the guy in 1899 NYC warning people how the city is going to be buried in horse manure unless “something is done now!” except you add a whole new dimension of objection with your elitist managed reproduction of humanity.

January 13, 2013 11:41 am

Joe Grappa: you need to read The Ultimate Resource by Julian Simon.
Then if you still believe man is a “cancer on the earth”, you should begin by killing yourself.

Bruce Cobb
January 13, 2013 11:42 am

@Joe Grappa; Tell us the truth. Your real name is Ebeneezer, isn’t it?

Henry Galt
January 13, 2013 11:45 am

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 10:46 am
It should not be hard to realize that if you are going to feed and
clothe and house all these billions you love so much, you have to
build more factories. The end result is to turn open spaces into…””
Currently we waste half the food we produce globally. Stop that and we could feed as many people as we have now and the maybe 3 billion more we will get before the population plummets as we educate and enrich everyone – oh, yeah, that’s not on your agenda is it.
We already use less land, year on year, to produce said food. ]
There are enough mature trees in the Ukraine alone to provide everyone alive with a house the size of the White House – we will never need that much as families are in the majority and are happy to live modestly on the whole.
You are arguing for genocide because of a logistics problem that would be easily fixed with some resolve and the billions wasted on clima-sci.
Enough of your trolling. You could take my mum’s place in the queue to ‘resyke’. We could make Soylent Green out of your remains.

Mario Lento
January 13, 2013 11:48 am

@Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 10:46 am
“You pro-crowders are a sad bunch… I think a combination of economic incentives, and forced
sterilization via engineered viruses would do the job.”
I have an idea that you can inflict upon your miserable self. Why not forced self-sterilization…
You’re a sick demented person who without the benefit of fossil fuel we’d not be hearing from. Still, I would fight tooth and nail for your right to spew whatever it is you feel the need to.

Rex Knight
January 13, 2013 11:50 am

Willis, many have said it better then I, but again thank you very much. Great pictures for my mind.

January 13, 2013 12:00 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
January 13, 2013 at 9:52 am
lowercase fred says:
January 13, 2013 at 5:16 am
Archaeology shows that when man left the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to settle in agricultural civilization the average stature and health decreased.
“Archaeology shows”? Bzzzt! Citation alert! Citation cleanup needed on aisle three!
I don’t have the citation handy either but I have heard of the studies and it makes nothing but sense to me that when the noble savage was tamed, deprived of his paleo diet, and forced to live in circumstances much like you describe in city states, in the service of divine kings; that his health and stature would decline.
So what? That trend is long since reversed, and even modern Rousseauians like Pat don’t want to go back to the paleolithic.

January 13, 2013 12:09 pm

“You want an example of a truly free market, one that pays absolutely no attention to government regulations? Think organized crime, pigs with guns.”
Sorry, but this is absurd.
A free market is just what people do when no-one is holding a gun to their heads, and organised crime only exists because of government regulations prohibiting the law-abiding from trading things that they want to trade. Not only does that give crime gangs a massive profit margin to fight over as illegality pushes up prices, but they can’t use non-violent means of settling disputes because what they’re doing is illegal; just imagine two criminal street gangs asking an arbitration agency to settle a turf dispute, for example.

Arno Arrak
January 13, 2013 12:10 pm

Willis, you are a thinking person. Also talented. And a mystery. I fully agree with the viewpoint you have elaborated but don’t have any answers. When I started doing climate science I was just mad at the stupidity of the likes of Gore. I keep learning ramifications of it I never expected. My hope is that in the end we can stop the insanity of the pseudo-scientific cabal of these warmists before they destroy civilization. They have no scientific backing for their theories. They are still talking of Arrhenius when the Miskolczi experiment proves him wrong. Miskolczi theory has been observationally proved and invalidates the greenhouse theory completely. And with that, the anthropogenic global warming theory is dead. But people who should side with us are so confused by the years of talk about carbon dioxide that they are not fully convinced the theory never worked at all. They just want to tone it down and make the warming non-threatening when in fact the theory is dead.

ferd berple
January 13, 2013 12:10 pm

Joe Grappa says:
January 13, 2013 at 5:02 am
Too many people. Get the population down to 500 million or a billion or so and everyone would live like a king.
Are you volunteering to go first?
The worlds population was 500 million about 200 years ago. Only a very few lived as kings. Today, most of the people reading this enjoy a better standard of living than any king 200 years ago.

January 13, 2013 12:14 pm

Child survival is the new green

Les Johnson
January 13, 2013 12:14 pm

For what its worth, I was agreeing with Willis. Poverty is the problem. Without cheap energy, or without wealth, it won’t be fixed. Cheap energy and wealth is synonymous.
If there was sufficient wealth in Nigeria, then the clinic would not likely need to be cleaned up. If there was wealth, the driver would not need to ask foreigners for money. If there was money, the clinic would have proper equipment and properly trained people. If there was wealth, there would be proper oversight, so the clinic would never get to that state.
I really don’t know how my post was confused as a criticism of Willis. Far from it. It was an endorsement.
We in the west are indeed the “1%” in the world. Higher energy costs won’t hurt us as much as it does the world’s poor. The best thing we could do for the poor, is make them not poor. Higher energy costs won’t allow that.

January 13, 2013 12:17 pm

“Western elite lifestyles cannot be sustained.”
Doomsayers were claiming that — and demanding that we kill off the poor — a hundred years ago.
There are vast amounts of resources under our feet that we haven’t even touched yet, and even vaster amounts above our heads. The only thing we need to exploit those resources is abundant cheap energy, which is probably the CAGW-ers are working so hard to prevent it.
Get the luddites out of the way and we’ll have no problem sustaining and improving our lifestyles over the next century, just as we did over the last. A century from now our descendants will look like gods or cave-men to us, depending on which path we take.

Mario Lento
January 13, 2013 12:26 pm

@Ferd Berple: You wrote to Joe Grappa: “Are you volunteering to go first?”
and then placed facts to support your sentiment. I like your post far better than mine… Yes, self sterilization is too kind of an act for Joe Grappa (recall he wants a man made virus to sterilize other people). The likes of Joe Grappa see themselves as too important to volunteer their own lives, their generosity is in giving or offering the lives of others. That is the way of the neo Liberal. They want wealth that someone else has, so they vote to take it, be it lives or property. Truly a loathsome bunch. If I’m snipped, I understand.

Joe Grappa
January 13, 2013 12:27 pm

John West says:
“Joe Grappa says:
“The end result is to turn open spaces into termataries, while forcing people to live cramped and crabbed lives”
Let’s consider what a future human-termatarium (hutarium) might be like. Perhaps a “super-duper” mall like structure with sections not just for retail but also manufacturing, housing, medical, import/export, administrative/financial, high efficiency farming, and recreation all connected through elevators and moving sidewalks. One might leave ones’ apartment in the morning, take a sidewalk to work, leave work taking a multi-directional elevator to the lake surrounded by the hutarium for some kayaking, go by the retail section for some personal items, eat at the food court, and make it back to the apartment just in time to catch a favorite TV show before going to bed. Doesn’t sound that bad to me.”
It doesn’t!? It sounds like a nightmare to me.
Contrast your nightmare with a world in which people live in small towns in which the average family can afford a decent home with plenty of land around it.
That’s one of the differences between 9 billion (or 10 or 15 or whatever the size of the nightmare will be) and 500 million population.
It may not be possible to bring the population down until it reaches some obscenely large number, but I would have thought that people would at least believe that reducing the population is a good thing; instead, I see here an incredible, to me almost insane, yowling about how awful it is to suggest that getting the population down to 500meg is a good thing.

David L. Hagen
January 13, 2013 12:28 pm

Thanks Willis for reminding us of pragmatic realities. It reminds me of Indur Goklany’s article:
Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries?

the increase in poverty owing to growth in biofuels production over 2004 levels leads to the conclusion that additional biofuel production may have resulted in at least 192,000 excess deaths and 6.7 million additional lost DALYs in 2010. These exceed WHO’s estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs attributable to global warming. Thus, policies intended to mitigate global warming may actually have increased death and disease in developing countries.

In the name of caring for the environment, we have established fuel policies that given no “benefit” to the environment, but cause some 10,000 times as many deaths among the extreme poor EACH YEAR as the 20 students killed in Newport – all to buy a few green farm votes.

January 13, 2013 12:31 pm

Great article, excellent perspective.
I am convinced that Obama and his cronies are deliberately causing grief to the poor with their skyrocketing energy prices. Then at some point, the government will ride in on it’s white horse, and propose a “solution” that makes the poor totally dependent on …government! The very same government that deliberately caused the problem in the first place.
With the poor permanently on the dole, they are easily controlled.

Mario Lento
January 13, 2013 12:36 pm

@Steven Mosher says:
January 13, 2013 at 12:14 pm
Child survival is the new green…
Quite a nice video until the the guy mentioned the “The right green technology”. It’s as if you folks don’t understand the CO2 is green. What you cannot seem to intellectualize is that you have been duped towards not understanding what CO2 is. It’s hard for me to believe you would not have been one of the people to have believed in witches back in the day. The new witch, that will prevent poor from rising, is your people Mosher.

Bruce Cobb
January 13, 2013 12:49 pm

@ Steven Mosher. I don’t know if child survival is “the new green”. Frankly, the whole concept of “green” is problematic. It’s certainly a worthwhile humanitarian goal, though, and we already know one of the key concepts behind it; cheap, readily available energy.

January 13, 2013 12:56 pm

Joe Grappa:
I was the first to reply to your first post. I hope this will be the last reply to any of your posts whether or not there are more of them.
I was moderate in my first reply to you. Clearly, that was a mistake.
You are sick and demented. Your misanthropy is eating you. You need help. Please seek it.
I hope nobody continues to discuss with you because that could give you the impression that your evil notions are worthy of discussion: they are not.

January 13, 2013 12:57 pm

At it’s heart, the AGW scam has always (much like the DDT ban) been an attack on the poor.

January 13, 2013 1:03 pm

In a comment to “Rud”, Willis writes, “At present there are enough known reserves of fossil fuel to power the world for a couple hundred years with ease.”
The Potential Gas Committee, in their latest assessment, estimated that the U.S. has a total
natural gas resource base of about 2,074 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). The US consumption is 24.4 Tcf/year, giving a life index of 85 years. This resource base exclude methane hydrates.
A frequently quoted estimate of the global methane hydrate resource is 700,000 Tcf. The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement estimates there is 21,000 Tcf in-place methane hydrate resources in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with about 6,700 Tcf of this resource in relatively high-concentration accumulations in sandy sediments. At 35% recovery factor, this would deliver 2,350 Tcf recoverable gas, increasing the US life index by a further 96 years. There is a further 85 Tcf recoverable on the north slope Alaska, 70 Tcf recoverable in high quality sandstone reservoirs around the Arctic Islands (Canada). Methane hydrate in marine sands is estimated to contain 1,000’s to 10,000’s of Tcf, and hydrate dispersed through marine muds is estimated to contain 100,000’s of Tcf.
Alberta Oil Sands have reserves of 170 billion barrels. Production is forecast to rise to 1.2 billion barrels per year by 2019, giving a life index of 140 years.

January 13, 2013 1:05 pm

Thanks Willis for recalibrating our humanity sensors. Your piece is brilliant shaft of reality sunshine that washes out the monitor images of virtual reality generated by our “awareness raising” activists and their priests stirring the computer modelling entrails.
Time for a walk in the real world for us all.

January 13, 2013 1:09 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
January 13, 2013 at 11:29 am
Wllis- maybe you should move to North Dakota residential gas rate is 7.31 cents / kwh. Natural gas is $7.21/ thousand cu ft . Unfortunately it is 7 degrees F. out side right now

John Scogin
January 13, 2013 1:15 pm

I am even richer for having read this. Thanks

January 13, 2013 1:16 pm

To those who seek a governmental solution every problem i offer this bumper stick on
the back of Nez Peirce friend’s Pickup:
“trust the Government-ask an Indian.”
Taken father, that governmental solution can result in the “Final Solution.”
Plenty has to be plenty and development for all. The green agenda is an agenda of
death-especially for those of color. Period… The monies given to the “Poor” will be funnled into the Kleptocrat’s pockets their 1%…

January 13, 2013 1:17 pm

sorry meant to say electricity rate is 7.31 cents/ kwh

John West
January 13, 2013 1:19 pm

Joe Grappa says:
“I would have thought that people would at least believe that reducing the population is a good thing; instead, I see here an incredible, to me almost insane, yowling about how awful it is to suggest that getting the population down to 500meg is a good thing.”
That’s probably because you normally interact with the ethically and mentally challenged! And with that I’m going to heed Richards’s advice and leave you to your fantasies.

January 13, 2013 1:26 pm

All I can say is amen. I am from a much poorer background than my current state. I still remember shacks in the company coal mining towns in Alabama where the wind would flow through like the stings of icecicles when you were there.
When I laugh at the whining of my liberal brothers and sisters whining about the poor in the United States I remind them that the poorest American is likely richer than 99.95% of all humans in the history of the human race. I am almost universally scoffed at. However, I have seen the skeletons of the Indians (before it was not PC to display them) at Moundville Alabama where the arthritis spurs were over an inch long and after hearing this and asking how old they were, to be informed that almost no one lived past the age of 35-40 years.
I have read the reports of the scars on the backs of the workers in ancient Egypt that carried heavy burdens from their childhoods to their deaths before the age of 30.
I read stupid books like Kirkpatrick Sale’s “Collapse” where they extoll the virtues of pre-industrial society and how people might work half a day and then drink beer the rest of it. The incredible and audacious ignorance of these people is beyond astounding.
Fossil fuels have done more to lift the world out of poverty than all other resources, technologies, and techniques of our entire human history. This had to be coupled with capitalism and individual freedom before the critical mass that has brought us to this day could be reached. Read the book “The Lunar Men” about the ten men who helped bring the industrial revolution about.
Thanks for your post Willis as it is absolutely critical that such observations be out there…..

January 13, 2013 1:27 pm

Here is an idea for providing the world’s poor with low cost energy: Dispatch: Gobar Gas.

January 13, 2013 1:27 pm

Joe Grappa says:
Too many people. Get the population down to 500 million or a billion or so and everyone would live like a king.

Who lives?
Who dies?
Who decides?
What if they don’t want to go?

Have you decided that you and yours are one of the ones who should live?
Are you especially deserving in some way?
If they decide you and yours will have to go, will you just let them come and kill your children, kill you?
Will anyone else?
So, you want to kill more than 90% of the worlds people so that you can be a little more comfortable?
You apparently have not thought this thing out. First, for everyone to live like a king, you have to assume that we have the total worldly wealth we now have but spread only among 500 million people. However, with 500 million people, we now have vastly less producers of wealth. With less than a tenth the producers of wealth, we would have less than a tenth the wealth. Result, we would not live like kings.
What you are therefore really saying is that you wish to kill 90% or more of the people on this planet and take their stuff.
With less than a tenth the people, we would also have less than a tenth the people to dream up new ways to produce that wealth. Result, we would have a far lower level of technology, about the level we had when we did indeed have only 500 million people. People then definitely did not live like kings. We would end up right back where we were before and go through all this yet again.
How do we reduce population growth?
There is only one way known to actually work, modern, high tech society.
That takes lots of cheap and abundant energy.

john robertson
January 13, 2013 1:30 pm

Willis, re the free market, yes some regulation, using agreed upon rules, is necessary.
But our current situation is akin to lawlessness, too many rules, contradicting each other and defying reality
Multi-layers of Regulators fighting over who has the power to regulate the minutia of our lives.
There are so many senseless laws that we effectively have none.
Our economy and society is being deliberately destroyed by this regulatory abuse.
I’m late to the party, I had blamed stupidity for our current malaise.

J Broadbent
January 13, 2013 1:31 pm

The Helena story would be incomplete without adding that the shanty was the family’s world headquarters for a labour hire network. Helena in the brothel, Roberto on a ship in the Mediterranean, Miguel on an oil rig of Borneo. The money would be coming back to put selected children through education and to get Aunty a flat screen TV.
The interesting link is the reason the father of one of poor single mother’s children is sitting around drinking instead of home being abused by the bitch milking the welfare state’s effort to buy her vote, is that Miguel and nine others sleep in the cabin his union feels he would be entitled to as part of his employment package. At least Helena has family and hope, the drunk has nothing but a bottle.
The funny thing is many of your western civilization audience will be sitting around wondering
“How can I send some of my chickens to Senegal?” God bless America of it’s generosity to those outside family.

Climate Ace
January 13, 2013 1:49 pm

Oh dear. Good stories but they stopped just where it got interesting…
I wonder whether Helen’s shanty town is one of the ones that gets flooded regularly? A lot of them are only just above sea level so we know that flooding will occur more regularly.
Or was it one the shanties blown away when 350,000 were rendered homeless by a single cat 4 typhoon that sort of hit a bit south of the normal typhoon tracks last year? (It was not quite as well-publicised in the US as Sandy was but, hey, we can’t trust the MSM to get any sense of proportion about anything, can we?) I wonder whether Willis’ farming families is one of the ones who has been driven away by desertification or who are increasingly suffering from what is by now regional and chronic famine along much of sub-Saharan Africa?
The point that Willis left out of his stories is that while economic and political systems foster huge disparities of wealth, poverty will not be fixed. Poverty will not be fixed under BAU, because it is BAU. But wait, there is more. Under the same maldistribution of wealth, under the same political and economic systems, AGW will affect the poor and the least resilient far more than it will affect the wealthy. They will be able sail their yachts to the least-affected places plus they will, in any case, have more ocean around which to sail as sea-levels continue to rise.
So, we have yet another attempt by Willis to conflate poverty with AGW-response. Poverty is a global issue under BAU at a time when the globe is more burning more fossil fuel than ever before. If Willis wants to address poverty under BAU he should come up with something a bit more sensible than burning more fossil fuel.
Poverty inherited from, and inherent in BAU, is a global issue under AGW-response. It is also an issue for each nation. It is why the Australian Government provided financial support to those least able to afford rising electricity prices consequent to AGW-prevention policies.
The correct policy response is to address poverty as part of the AGW-response. Disproportionate impacts on the poor should be offset by differential payments for AGW-prevention by those of us who have benefited most – the very, very wealthy.

January 13, 2013 1:50 pm

Bruce Cobb.
Of course you dont know if child survival is the new green. Stating one’s ignorance of the facts doesnt change them.

January 13, 2013 1:51 pm

Thank you for that, Willis. Three wonderful stories in a great article. The rich have no idea of the lives of the poorest of the poor. The affluent ‘concerned’ people are concerned about possible future problems or benefits that might emerge from a vague computer programme’s guess. It may or may not occur and probably will not. However the problems of the poor in their energy poverty are real and current. These ‘Green’ polices are absolutely and totally devastating to the poor of the World.

January 13, 2013 1:53 pm

“The new witch, that will prevent poor from rising, is your people Mosher.”
my people? you mean libertarians?
my people? you mean people who think taxing carbon is a bad idea?
As Feynman said the easiest person to fool is yourself. un fool yourself about who I am and who my people are.

Gunga Din
January 13, 2013 1:55 pm

rgbatduke says:
January 13, 2013 at 6:51 am
I grew up in India in the 60′s, living in New Delhi. In the US we were middle class citizens, not rich, not poor. In India we were the moral equivalent of multimillionaires.
I remember reading somewhere that the US was one of the few countries where someone living “in poverty” might still have AC and cell phones.
People talk of “wealth” as if it was a finite amount. It’s not. What is of genuine value can change and grow. It can also be artificial. A loaf of bread has genuine value to the people Willis recounted (and to the rest of us).
To produce that loaf of bread takes energy, even if that energy is via a person pulling a plow. How many more loaves of bread can be produced if that person is driving a tractor instead?
I know what I just said is an over-simplification but, how would restricting energy help? Subsidize an alternative? Those paying the subsidy will go broke themselves. Then what?
It only needs to be subsidized if it has no genuine value in itself.

Reply to  Gunga Din
January 13, 2013 3:20 pm

At 6:51 AM on 13 January, rgbatduke had written: “I grew up in India in the 60′s, living in New Delhi. In the US we were middle class citizens, not rich, not poor. In India we were the moral equivalent of multimillionaires.”
At 1:55 PM on 13 January, Gunga Din had responded: “People talk of ‘wealth’ as if it was a finite amount. It’s not. What is of genuine value can change and grow. It can also be artificial. A loaf of bread has genuine value to the people Willis recounted (and to the rest of us).
To produce that loaf of bread takes energy, even if that energy is via a person pulling a plow. How many more loaves of bread can be produced if that person is driving a tractor instead?”

In Tramp Royale (published in 1992), SF writer Robert A. Heinlein observed that:

“True prices depend on wages and salaries — how many minutes a journeyman carpenter has to work to earn a kilo loaf of standard bread.”

I’ve heard this referred to as the “Heinlein Index,” and when corrected for government controls established to disguise this and other reflections of currency debauchment and market derangement, the principle behind it is robust.

January 13, 2013 1:56 pm

Climate Ace:
Your many posts on several WUWT posts demonstrate your ignorance of AGW. So, there was no need to do it again on this thread (at January 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm).
This thread is about poverty and not your delusions.

January 13, 2013 1:57 pm

Yes willis, Rosling is a great resource. So many people have a knee jerk reaction when they hear a guy say one thing they dont like that they reject everything the person has to say. I would recommend that folks listen with an open mind and take away the good and leave their disagreements aside.

Logan in AZ
January 13, 2013 2:15 pm

The green-agenda website is up at the moment, and it shows that a Malthusian worldview is not unusual at a high social and political level — Mr. Grappa is in ‘good company’, so to speak.
It is a puzzle to me that the exotic energy claims are not even mentioned in this thread. After years of dismissal, it now seems that radical concepts are developing some support. For example, LENR based technology is not limited to the controversial claims by Andrea Rossi. There are several other R&D groups and confirmations that LENR has some reality. There are probably still some fools and knaves, of course, but it appears that undeniable advances will appear this year.

January 13, 2013 2:19 pm

Climate Ace says:
“So, we have yet another attempt by Willis to conflate poverty with AGW-response.”
Ah, but it is ‘Climate Ace’ who is conflating poverty and AGW, not Willis.
To the extent that AGW exists, it is a non-issue. Any putative effect of AGW is so minuscule that it can be completely disregarded for all practical purposes. AGW is not the same thing as rising energy costs. They are completely different animals.
AGW is so small that it cannot be measured. There is no measurable, quantifiable ‘human signal’ in the temperature record. AGW is a tiny, 3rd order forcing that is swamped by second-order forcings — which in turn are swamped by first-order forcings. In short, AGW just does not matter. Its primary use is as a scare tactic to frighten money out of the populace. That is the one thing it is good at.
Climate Ace continues:
“AGW will affect the poor and the least resilient far more than it will affect the wealthy. They will be able sail their yachts to the least-affected places plus they will, in any case, have more ocean around which to sail as sea-levels continue to rise.”
Climate Ace is once again conflating ‘AGW’ with skyrocketing energy costs. Expensive energy — not AGW — whacks the poor. No one has been able to measure AGW. Why not? Because AGW is too minuscule to measure.
Because AGW is too small to measure, it’s very existence stops at the ‘conjecture’ step of the Scientific Method [Conjecture, Hypothesis, Theory, Law]. A conjecture is an opinion. It is not testable or falsifiable. Yet $Billions are wasted on the AGW conjecture every year.
However, we can measure the impact of fast-rising energy costs. More expensive energy is a deliberate tactic employed by the government as part of it’s plan to make the poor totally dependent on government. The government will dole out energy assistance funds, putting the poor on the dole — with the implied threat that their energy welfare can always be cut off. Thus, government controls those most affected by rising energy costs. That is the plan, and it is proceeding apace.